Analyzing Death of a Salesman

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Essay 3: Analyzing Death of a Salesman

This assignment is worth 10% of your overall course grade. Your essay should be approximately 3 double-spaced pages, formatted in MLA style.

Your essay will build on your discussions of the play Death of a Salesman. One thing that you will be practicing in this essay is relating your own interpretations to others’ interpretations or viewpoints about the play. You have three options for your essay that are described below. Whichever option you choose, your essay should do the following:

  • take several viewpoints into account as directed in each prompt, relate your own claim to these different viewpoints, and support your own claim
  • develop a claim and support that claim with details from the play
  • include details from both the first and the second act of the play
  • show how your ideas come from specific details and use page numbers to reference these details
  • include a Works Cited entry that gives all of the information about your edition; this is especially important if you are using an edition other than the one assigned for this course – your page numbers cited in your essay will need to match the page numbers in the edition listed in your Works Cited entry

The assignment does not ask you to use any sources other than our own discussions and the play itself. When you refer to your classmates’ ideas, you should cite them by giving them credit by name in your sentence. If you have used any other sources in developing your ideas, you will need to cite those sources in your essay, in addition to citing the play itself and the discussions. If you are unsure of what needs to be cited, first review the lecture on Writing about Literature Ethically.html then ask me any questions that you have.

Option 1

Develop an essay that makes a claim about Willy’s relationship with Linda. There were a few questions in Discussion 11 that addressed their relationship. The questions addressing their relationship that had the most replies were these:

  • JinKyo Suh asked, “Why do you think Willy cheats on Linda?”
  • Nicholas Flatt asked, “Since Linda is always worried about Willy’s accidents, do you believe being in a relationship with Willy is hurting Linda emotionally? Why or why not?”
  • Yukun Zhang asked, “Linda admires Willy so much that she seems not to realize how exhausted and desparate Willy is being, but does she really have no idea about his husband’s incapability?”

First review the discussion posts that focus on this relationship. Choose one of these questions to be the focus of your essay. Your essay will likely address some of the other questions too, but only one of these questions will be your focus. Your essay should (1) develop a thesis statement that answers the question you chose; (2) summarize the different claims that others made in their discussion responses to these questions and relate them to your own thesis (in other words, explain the extent to which your own thesis agrees and/or disagrees with each of these posts); and (3) support your own thesis with details from both acts of the play. When you refer to your classmates’ ideas, you should cite them by giving them credit by name in your sentence.

Option 2

Develop an essay that makes a claim about the significance of how Willy talks to himself. A question in discussion that prompted a lot of response was this:

  • Michael McLain asked “Do you think Willy talking to himself is a relatively significant part of these scenes? Why/ why not?  What do you think it is supposed to mean/ symbolize?”

First review the discussion posts that answer this question. Your essay should (1) develop a thesis statement that answers the question; (2) summarize the different claims that others made in their discussion responses to these questions and relate them to your own thesis (in other words, explain the extent to which your own thesis agrees and/or disagrees with each of these posts); and (3) support your own thesis with details from both acts of the play. Be sure that your essay addresses both what this talk tells us about Willy’s character and what it contributes to our understanding of an issue or theme that is important in the play. When you refer to your classmates’ ideas, you should cite them by giving them credit by name in your sentence.

Option 3

Which is more responsible for Willy’s failure: society or Willy himself? In order to answer this question in your essay, start the body of your essay by explaining how each of the two viewpoints could be supported: in what ways does the play show society as responsible (be specific about what aspects of society may be responsible and how), and in what ways does the play show Willy himself as responsible? Then, evaluate these two viewpoints by explaining where you think the ultimate responsibility lies and why you think that way. This option does not require you to refer to ideas that came up in discussion. However, you may choose to include ideas either from Discussion 11 or the Small Group work; if you do, when you refer to your classmates’ ideas, you should cite them by giving them credit by name in your sentence.

Successful essays will

  1. Introduce and identify the focus of the essay in the introduction.
  2. Employ a clear thesis statement that states your claim about the story and forecasts the organization of the essay.
  3. Address an audience of reader that are familiar with the story and author’s work but unfamiliar with your interpretation of it (in other words, you need not summarize the stories but you do need to be specific about which parts of the story you find important for supporting your claim).
  4. Follows the conventions for writing about drama.
  5. Organize the paper and each paragraph effectively, given the purpose and audience. See the lesson on The Essential Moves of Literary Analysis in Topic 3 for more information on organizing your paragraphs.
  6. Show your critical thinking about the story by supporting your ideas and paragraphs with
    1. Textual evidence in the form of quotations and details from the story to support interpretations, and
    2. Explication (explanation of your reasoning—how you understand and interpret the evidence).
  7. Use Standard Edited American English.
  8. Follow MLA formatting conventions.
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