Literary Research Essay on Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin


For this 4-6 page essay, you will write a literary analysis on Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin. Your essay should focus on plot, in relation to the story, you can, as another option, discuss how one or more of the other elements work with that particular one to contribute to the story. As you consider what you want to write about, please keep in mind that you are not selecting a story to then discuss a larger social issue. For instance, let us say you wanted to write about “Sonny’s Blues.” You cannot then say you want to discuss drug addiction. That is a social issue, not a literary term that can lead to literary analysis. Instead, you can analyze the characters and/or conflicts of the story. Your thesis could be Sonny’s and the narrator’s different characters cause conflicts between the two brothers. Then, you would analyze both of their characters, explaining how they cause the brothers to disagree and eventually stop talking with each other. Once you decide the story and element of fiction you will write about, you are required to do research on both in relation to the story and find relevant information from outside sources that you can and will use within your essay to support your analysis. Most of your outside sources will provide other people’s analyses of the story that you can use to support your interpretation. To successfully complete this assignment and receive a passing grade, you should follow the steps and guidelines in Writing a Research Paper as well as Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing within MindTap Lit. 2.0 and also meet the following requirements. I have included a link to a website entitled Research Paper that may be helpful to you as you work on this research paper. You can find this link by clicking on External Links in the Course Menu. You can also find example research papers from my previous students by clicking on Course Documents. Required Preliminary Assignments First, your story, topic, and sources must be approved by me in advance. You can choose any short story or stories in Compact Literature or MindTap Lit. 2.0. (This does not include any of the poems or dramas.) However, you cannot choose either of the short stories you wrote about in your literary analysis essays. In addition, you should try to choose a story or stories that have several outside sources already written about it or them, for this will make your research and attempts to find outside sources to support your analysis much easier to do. To make sure the story and topic you have chosen are appropriate, you will have to complete a prospectus that will give me an idea of what you are hoping to do in your research paper.  There are several sources that you can and cannot use in your paper. Encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia and Encarta Encyclopedia, are not acceptable. On the other hand, you can use such reference books as Short Story Criticism and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism and such databases as General Reference Center Gold and Literature Resource Center. At least three of the sources on your works cited page must be from journals, reference books, and/or databases that offer literary criticism or books that provide information regarding the author of the story or stories you chose. If at least three of your sources do not come from one of these, you will lose points. You can also use sources from the Internet. However, you cannot use unreliable sites or sites that contain essays used for plagiarism, such as,,, and (If you have any doubt about whether or not an Internet site you are using is acceptable, contact me.) Also, do not use book reviews in your research paper. Since your bibliography page should be converted to your works cited page, you should keep the guidelines for the types of sources you can use in your research paper in mind as you develop your bibliography page. In order for your essay to be considered a research paper, you must quote, paraphrase, and summarize from the outside sources you included on your works cited page. (If you do not include any properly documented outside sources within your essay using one or more of the three methods in the previous sentence, you will receive a zero for the assignment since you did not follow the directions and it will not be a research paper.) However, keep in mind that this research paper is your paper. The outside sources are only there to back up your argument, not overwhelm your own thoughts and ideas. There should not be more space in your essay for outside sources than there is for your own interpretation and literary analysis. In addition, this is not a history report, book report, or biography for the author. Rather, it is a literary analysis essay that incorporates research into it. Also, do not submit a plagiarized essay. Your essay will be considered plagiarized even if it is just a small portion of the essay that you took from someone else and did not give that person credit through an in-text citation and/or works cited page entry. If your essay is just a report on what your outside sources say; a history paper, book report, or biography; or if you plagiarize, you will receive a zero for your grade. Essay Format   Your essay must be computer generated.  Do not include a title page.  On the first page of your essay, an inch from the top of the page, you should type your name, my name, course name, section number, and the date in the left-hand corner.  The title should appear right below this information, and your essay should begin right below the title.  While you should center your title, the text of your essay should be set to the left of your page, not right aligned, justified, or centered.  Your entire essay should be double spaced, including the information in the top left-hand corner.  (Rather than hitting the enter key twice to create double spacing, please use the tools provided by your program to make your essay double spaced.  For example, in Microsoft Word 2007 or a later version of the program, in the home tab, look at the section labeled “Paragraph” to set your document to double space.)  Besides the space caused by your double spacing the entire essay, do not include extra space after the information in the top left-hand corner, between your title and your essay, and between your paragraphs.  (To ensure that Microsoft Word does not add extra space whenever you hit the enter key, select or highlight your entire essay, click on the spacing tab in the section labeled “Paragraph” on the home tab, and click Remove Space Before and After Paragraph if these options appear.  If they do not, your essay is probably spaced correctly.)  Your last name and the page number should appear a half inch from the top of the page in the top right-hand corner of each page, even the first page.  (You can accomplish this by using the Header and Insert options in your word processing program.)  All four margins should be one inch wide.  You are required to use Times New Roman and 12 pt. font for all of your writing assignments.  If you do not follow these guidelines, you will lose points towards your grade.     Your essay must be 4-6 pages long (no shorter than 4 full pages and no longer than 6 full pages, not including the work cited page).  If your essay does not meet the minimum page requirement, your grade will be lowered based upon how short your essay is. For instance, if your essay is half a page short, it will be lowered half a grade.  If it is one page short, it will be lowered one letter grade.  (Make sure you save your essay done on a computer on a flash drive or in a cloud, such as Google Drive.)

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