There are a few different ways you could approach the writing of this essay:
The thematic approach: You will choose a theme or idea that you see in the play and then make an assertion about how and/or why that theme is being used. Consider the themes discussed in Unit 2:
The American Dream/Nightmare
The Quest for Identity/Coming of Age
Perform a character study. Discuss what motivates this character to do what he or she does or perhaps discuss how and why the character deals with the conflicts within the play. You could also choose to compare and contrast two characters.
Compare and contrast the play—or some element of the play—with another literary work. Please contact your instructor if you are planning to use a literary work for comparison that has not been covered in this class.
In addition to or in place of the approaches described above, you might want to employ a formalist’s approach to analyze and interpret the literary work you have chosen. You might consider the following questions and considerations:
How do paradox, irony, ambiguity, and tension work in the play?
Is there a central or focal passage that can be said to sum up the entirety of the work?
What are the key symbols in the play?
Once you decide on an approach and a topic:
If you have any questions or need guidance, discuss your choices with your instructor.
Make sure you have a strong thesis statement. This should not be a question or something “obvious” and undebatable like a synopsis of what happens in the play. Instead, it should be your own fresh idea that takes a firm stance on your chosen aspect of the play.
Set forth to prove your assertion about the text. To do so, you need to:
Analyze your primary source (Death of a Salesman) and find quotations that support your assertion.
Find secondary sources (scholarly articles) to back up your assertion. (Include these sources in your working bibliography.) This is your scholarly research. By finding scholars to support your ideas or even counter them, you are backing up your own thoughts using evidence from experts in the field.
Follow MLA Format:
Use MLA format for the paper: Purdue Owl: MLA info
Length: minimum of 1000 – 1500 words
Include a Works Cited Page, not to be counted in the 1000-1500 word minimum
Appropriate Scholarly Secondary Sources Included: minimum of 3 scholarly sources
Be sure to have an appropriate title for your essay (See Titling Your Essay)
Write with an analytical purpose: Do not spend too much space summarizing the text. Assume that your reader has already read or seen the play. Aim for an organized paper that offers your reader some new insight into the play.
You make an assertion.
You prove it with textual examples.
You back it up with other scholarly support from your research.