Write 4-5 well-developed paragraphs (about 500-750 words, or 2-3 double-spaced pages) about the story, by responding to what you have read. You can use the pronoun “I” and trace your own reactions to what you read, but please remember to give your essay a coherent shape by remaining focused on your overall interpretation of the message and purpose of the story.
Reaction or response papers are usually assigned so that you will think carefully about what you’ve read, and determine how you feel about it. To know how you feel about it, you must first understand the story well.
The first step of your task is to think about the following questions:
· What is the story about? What message is it sending? In other words, can you identify the theme, or central idea, which the writer is trying to convey? To answer these questions, you should engage in technique of close reading while thinking about all the elements of fiction we’ve discussed in class.
To ground your discussion, avoid simple plot summary. Instead, formulate a few focused main points you would like to make. You might consider:
• The tone of the narrator. (Remember that narrator of a story should be treated as a character in themself, and should not be confused with the author). Find evidence (in the narrator’s choice of words, and in both what they say and do not say) about the narrator’s underlying attitudes. What does the narrator feel about the characters and about their situation? How can you tell? When is the narrator being ironic? How can you tell?
• The story’s concern with social justice or social critique. How is the story criticizing society? (Remember, it is easy to assume that the story is displaying the faults and failings of its characters. You could easily point out the mistakes the characters make. Try, instead, to see the bigger picture. What are the social and technological forces operating on the characters?).
• The story’s feminism. (What are some signs in the story that men are even more foolish than women? Where do women in the story display hidden feelings that we might admire? What are the hints that women are more socially confined and constricted?).
• Symbols. What are the major symbols in the story? What do these symbols tell us about what has value in life and what does not?
• Conflicts. What are the characters’ inner conflicts. How can you tell?
• Epiphanies. (What are the moments when characters realize a hidden truth about themselves, or we realized a hidden truth about them?)
Try to provide an overall interpretation of the text and the author’s motivations for writing it. What is the message? What elements of modern life are put on display? What does this story tell you about China in particular?
Remember to write your essay in the form of several paragraphs, unified by an overall interpretation you wish to discuss. Do not write it in the form of a list of answers to the possible topics/questions I have listed above. Each new paragraph should be indented. Please double space. Do not use headings. Give your response paper an interesting title that reveals your topic or highlights the story’s theme(s).
Remember: do not plagiarize. Do not use anyone else’s work, whether from the internet, a classmate, or a former student.