Writing about Literature
Essay #3: Analysis of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
DESCRIPTION: We are now at the beginning of our discussion of Jesse Andrews’ Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Over the next three weeks, we will cover many topics in our conversations on this text, and, in this intellectual journey, we will be guided by a series of points made by Bruno Bettelheim in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales:
Point 1: Understanding the meaning of one’s life is the greatest emotional need of human existence (3).
Point 2: Gaining that understanding is the product of a long process of development (3), a process of mastering the universal psychological problems of growing up (6).
Point 3: This final, mature understanding depends upon achieving some measure of understanding of the “existential predicaments” (6) associated with each developmental stage consistent with “how our emotions and understanding have already developed” (3).
Point 4: Literature can communicate an understanding of the psychological problems of maturation at whatever level the mind is functioning at the time (5-6).
Point 5: Fairy tales communicate an understanding of these problems to young children and of the possibilities of solving them.
These points are made within the “Introduction” to Bettelheim’s text.
I am providing you with two prompts for this assignment. You may choose either option. Whichever option you choose, this third essay demands that you demonstrate your ability to look at Me and Earl and the Dying Girl from the perspective of Bettelheim’s text:
Option 1— This writing situation adopts the stance of thematic analysis.
You will be starting from a basic interpretive question of theme: What is the author suggesting about the nature of human experience through the text?
• You must frame this question in terms of Bettelheim’s principles and of Jesse Andrews’ novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. By making you use Bettelheim, I am forcing you to look on “the nature of human experience” from the perspective of human maturation and the concept of “existential predicaments.” Therefore, your analysis must focus on the “universal human problems” that young adults experience (6). These problems must be associated with a major character within the novel. You can choose to use Greg, Earl, or Rachel. You can only use one.
• Your analysis must interpret the text’s understanding of your character’s “existential predicament” dramatized in the novel and its implications for maturation.
• If you need a specific question to help frame this essay, here are two. Choose one:
o What is Jesse Andrews implying about the maturation of a type of Young Adult through the experiences of Greg or Earl or Rachel in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl?
o Or, what is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl implying about the maturation of a type Young Adult through the experiences of Greg or Earl or Rachel?
o The type of young adult will be associated with the character’s existential predicament.
Option 2—The second option offers a different point of departure for analyzing a text:
• The first option assumes that what Bettelheim says about Fairy Tales and their contribution to the development of young children also applies to the Young Adult Novel and its contributions to the development of adolescents. This essay prompt does not make that assumption.
• Once again, I am forcing you to use Bettelheim’s perspective; you still must interpret the text’s understanding of the “universal human problems” that young adults experience (6). However, here you must work with Greg and Earl and Rachel.
• Your analysis must now interpret the text’s understanding of the “existential predicaments” dramatized in the stories of all three characters and the implications for maturation.
• Here, you have a different question to respond to:
o Can a Young Adult Novel act in a way comparable to the way a Fairy Tale acts according to Bruno Bettelheim?
PURPOSE: This essay assignment is designed to help you develop the ability to
1.) Describe an existing text’s literary and/or cultural content;
2.) Apply academic literacy skills—specifically, interpretation, synthesis, critique, and design/redesign—to respond to and to compose texts that integrate the writer’s arguments with those from appropriates sources;
3.) Compose written and multimodal texts that respond effectively to a range of texts from various disciplines/discourses, including literature, by making appropriate choices about content, organization, style, language, and modality;
4.) Develop compositions over multiple drafts by incorporating relevant classroom instruction, peer feedback, textual support, and knowledge of personal writing strengths and weaknesses;
5.) Apply principles of MLA citation in order to respond to secondary research materials and incorporate sources into an original argument; and
6.) Identify the intellectual and emotional complexities of more than one cultural perspective or worldview .
These are six of the seven outcomes of the course.
Work cited page
REQUIREMENTS: The following list gives you a more precise descriiption of what I will be looking for with the content and the form of your essay:
• The essay must begin with a problem that responds to the writing situation of the assignment and to the conversation that it focuses on (They Say).
• The essay must have a thesis that precisely and concisely states your controlling idea.
• The essay must have a title that clearly reflects the content of the thesis.
• The body of the essay must argue for the validity of its thesis through a sequence of logical steps. Each of these steps must be focused on a secondary idea and on the coherent presentation and explanation of evidence that supports that point.
• Quoted material should be clearly introduced, presented, explained, and documented.
• Summaries and paraphrases must be clear and precise and must be directly linked to the original source.
• The essay must be at least four full, typed pages of your original thinking (preferably in 12-pt. Times New Roman). The essay should not exceed six typed pages.
• It must be double-spaced and use indentations to establish new paragraphs, not the placement of additional space between the paragraphs.
• Sentences must be clear and precise.
• Word choice must be clear and precise.
• Punctuation must be effective.
• Number the pages
Writing about Literature