Topic: Memoir analysis

final essay (memoir analysis, 5-6 pages due April 6, 25%)
Your final paper will be marked for logic, clarity, and neatness, as well as content and the quality
of your argument. Your paper should analyze AND describe the memoir, and it should have a
clear, appropriate, and well-argued thesis. If you are focusing on one theme or section of the
memoir, please explain it in relation to the entire book.
Developing an argument: Pick one main point for your thesis. You might, for example, analyze
the memoirist’s experience of or views on race, class, religion, or gender (including masculinity);
sexuality; the self; family; the political process; violence; or the meaning of “America.” In
formulating your thesis, avoid imprecise or obvious arguments (e.g., Baldwin’s essay is about
racism in America or Baldwin experienced racism). Instead, explore the author’s understanding
of racism and consider why he narrates his experiences in the way that he does). Also avoid
making statements that cannot be supported from your evidence (e.g., O’Brien’s book
demonstrates that the U.S. war in Vietnam was wrong).
Outline: Once you have developed your thesis, begin drafting an outline. Since the purpose of a
history essay is to build an argument and support it through concrete examples, doing an outline
before you start writing will help you think more systematically about your material. If you
aren’t sure how to structure your paper, consider following the organization of the memoir.
State your argument (thesis) AND introduce the memoir at the beginning of your paper. In the
body of your paper, use topic sentences to state each paragraph’s main idea and move your
overall argument forward. Make good use of transition sentences, and pay careful attention to
grammar. Use tenses and commas correctly, avoid run-on sentences and dangling clauses, and
write in the active voice.
Quotations should be used sparingly to support your argument, not make it for you. Make sure
you transcribe quotations correctly and cite them properly according to the Chicago Manual of
Style method of citation. See the History 3618 Style Guide for details.
As always, check for spelling errors and typos, and number the pages.
Why did the author write the book (and when)? Who is the intended audience? What is the
central message?
How did genre (eg political memoir or self-help book), historical context, or memory shape
the story?
What passages, quotations or scenes help you know why the memoir was written? Hint:
think about structure. How does the book begin & end? What are the most important
scenes? The most important characters? The main themes, metaphors & symbols?
Think about “story-truth” and “happening-truth” –What
people & events are emphasized, misremembered, or avoided?
Analyze visual images where appropriate.
Develop your thesis — ONE main point; avoid generalities, the obvious, yes-or-no questions,
and arguments that go beyond the text
Analyze AND describe the memoir; if you focus on one theme or section, briefly explain it in
relation to the entire book
Introduce the memoir AND your thesis in your introduction
Use the body of your paper to build your argument, keeping your main thesis in mind
Use topic sentences to state each paragraph’s main idea and move your overall argument
Make sure paragraphs are in logical order (the order of the memoir?) and connect to your
main argument (eg with transitional words & sentences like in addition; in contrast, etc.)
Use your secondary sources where appropriate; but focus mostly on the memoir