#1 James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”:
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Analysis of a Short Story Assignment
ENG 250 – American Literature
Graded out of 55
Review the details for this paper assignment. Once you have completed the paper and saved as a Word
document, you must submit the paper to your instructor via Turnitin (see Short Story Analysis –
Submission in the Assignments for Week 4.)
For this assignment, please choose one of the following short stories in DiYanni:
“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver (pp. 313-323)
“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin (pp. 292-312)
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson (pp. 409-415)
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates (pp. 421-432)
After reading the story, analyze each of its elements according to the guidelines and questions
below. Note: This assignment is similar to the “Young Goodman Brown” Answer assignment, but this
assignment requires stronger, more detailed answers than that assignment. Make sure to reference the
text as part of your answers: use specific examples and quotes to illustrate your points, and make sure
to use in-text citations whenever you do refer to text.
1. Plot: Summarize the story. What are the main incidents in the story? What is the climax of the
story? How does the story end?
2. Structure: How are the incidents in the story arranged (for example, chronologically)? Are there
any instances of flashbacks and foreshadowing?
3. Characters: Who are the main characters in the story? What adjectives would you use to
characterize them? Who are the other characters, and what are their roles or impact on the story?
How would you describe the way that the characters speak (fast, slow, elegantly, lightly, angrily,
4. Setting: Where does the story take place? At what time does the story take place? Is the setting
symbolic? What adjectives would you use to describe the setting? Explain the setting vividly.
5. Symbolism and Irony: Are there any objects or events that serve as symbols in the story? What
do the symbols represent? Are there any instances of irony in the story? How do any instances of
irony impact the story? (Some stories may not use symbolism and/or irony.)
6. Point of View: Who tells the story? Is it written in first person, second person, or third person? If
it’s in the third person, is it limited or omniscient? How does this impact the story? If the story
was written from a different point of view, how would it be different?
7. Language and Style: How is the language appropriate for the audience? How is the language
appropriate for the story itself? How would you describe the author’s style (elegant, formal,
informal, harsh, cold, short, flowery, etc.)? Use specific examples to explain your answer.
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8. Tone: What adjectives would you use to describe the tone of the story (happy, sad, light, angry,
etc.)? In other words, what is the author’s attitude toward the story?
9. Theme: What is the theme of the story? How is it expressed? Does this theme/moral challenge
or confirm your values?
10. Reference Page: The last page of your assignment should be a properly-formatted APA style
references page. On this page, complete an APA style reference page citation for your story,
including the title, author, and all appropriate publication information.
Make sure to include a separate section, with a label, for each point listed above. You will lose
points for combining sections, or for not labeling each section. Separate your answers, even if you feel as
though you are repeating yourself. Answers that only refer to another section of the assignment, such as
“see the answer for Language and Tone,” are unacceptable. The lengths of each answer will vary;
however, be as thorough as possible, try to answer all of the questions within each category, and
apply the concepts discussed in your textbook and the course PowerPoints. Write as much as is
necessary to write to completely answer each question, but a 6-8 sentence paragraph will probably be
appropriate for the larger sections, like the discussion of plot and characters, and a smaller amount of
detail will probably suffice for sections that require less detail, like the discussion of tone.
Each question will be graded individually out of four, and the sum of those grades will make up the
bulk of assignment grade. A grade of 4/4 is reserved for thorough, well-developed answers; a grade of
3/4 means the answer very close to being thorough enough, but some small level of detail is missing; a
grade of 2/4 means the answer is missing a decent amount of detail, but is good overall; a grade of 1/4
means the answer deserves some credit, but needs some major work; and a grade of 0/4 means that the
section either is missing or doesn’t engage the questions.
Be certain to also revise and edit properly, as well as follow the formatting guidelines noted above.
Additionally, the assignment should include an APA formatted title page, Times New Roman 12 point
font, and 1inch margins. An abstract is not necessary.
Please see the rubric below for detailed grading information.
Analysis of a Short Story Rubric
Effectiveness of answers: The student answers all the questions
based on the lectures and textbook readings, providing clear support
and logic for his or her ideas. This is the sum of the section grades.
Assignment is edited and revised properly: The essay is written
with clear, interesting, sound sentences; appropriate tone; a lack of
grammatical, mechanical, typographical, and punctuation errors.
Assignment follows formatting guidelines: The assignment has
an APA-style title page, uses Times New Roman 12 font, has
appropriate margins, uses correct in-text citations, and otherwise
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acceptably meets APA standards. In addition, the assignment offers
correct headers for each section of the paper, and clearly delineates
one answer from another.
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