cite at least two scholarly journal articles located in our library databases.

Research Essay: Character & Motive

The Ancient Greeks believed that a person’s character—his/her “daimon” or personal spirit—determines that person’s destiny or fate.  This sense of character-driven destiny was related to the Greek concept of arete: a duty to cultivate one’s particular excellence.  A person should be careful of pride or immoderation because carrying one’s excellence too far might produce a “fall” or lead to a tragic mistake.

As with real people, fictional characters often present a complex array of motives that are subject to interpretation.  The sample Research Essay by Jackie Izawa on page 1609 of your textbook explores two different interpretations of Antigone’s character and motives (Is Antigone so bent on justice that she is insensitive to the feeling of others OR does Antigone care so much for the feelings of others that she tries to shield Ismene and Haemon from the pain of her loss).  Both interpretations are present in the ambiguity of the text.

PROMPT: Below are a number of stories we’ve read this semester that feature round and dynamic characters.  Select ONE character from the list of stories and explore two contrasting interpretations of that character (usually one interpretation will be more sympathetic to the character’s motives and the other will be more judgmental, just as an individual’s friends might interpret his/her character differently than an enemy would).  In the manner of the student sample, you will support the plausibility of each interpretation with your own textual analysis and the analysis of other literary scholars.  I recommend that you select a character whom you found to be very puzzling.


Sonny’s Blues

Barn Burning


The Birthmark




A Good Man is Hard to Find

Good Country People

Everything that Rises Must Converge

A Rose for Emily


Research Requirement: your essay should cite at least two scholarly journal articles located in our library databases.  Literary encyclopedia entries and online materials do not satisfy this requirement.  All sources (wherever located) that are used in the formation of your interpretation must be cited.

Other Requirements: Essay and Works Cited should be in MLA format.  Essay should be between 1200 and 1800 words in length (not including scholarly quotations and works cited).

You are strongly advised to consult chapter 28 in your textbook; it is assumed that this essay will conform to the general requirements of essay writing—title, introduction, thesis, body, conclusion, thesis, paragraphing with strong topic sentences, and in-text citation of evidence matched to works cited page.  Throughout the writing process, I encourage you to take advantage of writing tutoring offered by the Learning Commons and online via Smartthinking.  And, of course, you are also welcome to conference with me in my office during any stage of the