Instructions: For this paper, construct your own ideas about Toni Morrison’s nov


Instructions: For this paper, construct your own ideas about Toni Morrison’s novel Sula. Support your ideas with evidence, examples, and quotes. Be detailed. Use precise language.
Your paper should have a clear structure and few if any grammatical errors (discipline) but it should also explore new ideas and potentialities (creativity). Below is only a limited list of topics. You are free to write on another topic of your choice so long as it is related to Sula and you have an engaging, central idea.
Guidelines: 1000 – 1,500 words (about a 4 to 6 page paper) double-spaced in MLA format… you will lose credit if your paper is under the length requirement.
You must use at least three direct quotes from Sula. Blend all quotes into your writing grammatically (see Modules for help). Always cite the page number.
You may structure your discussion however you see fit, but please:
– Assume the reader has not read the novel, so I recommend one or two sentences of summary somewhere in the first page of the paper (including author and title).
– Start each paragraph with YOUR idea. You need not have formal topic sentences, but use Morrison’s words, or any other evidence you may want to use, as backup to your position. Avoid starting paragraphs with summary.
– You may use outside sources for this paper, but you are not required to do so.
Topics:
1. Although they meet only once in the novel, Sula and Shadrack are deeply connected, symbolically and otherwise. Write an essay about the roles Sula and Shadrack share in the larger community, about their “intimacy,” about their first meeting (and Shadrack’s “always”), and/or about the importance of each to the other.
2. What do you think Morrison is saying about the power of the maternal in Sula? Focusing on Eva’s relationship with Plum, write an essay about the role of mother, or matriarch, in the novel. Consider the “meaning” of Eva’s determination to “save” Plum’s life in the outhouse scene as it relates to the scene of Eva’s burning of Plum later on. Consider Eva’s symbolic significance as it relates to Morrison’s treatment of the false good/evil binary (and other binaries in the novel–love/hate, life/death, etc.).
3. Write an essay about the traumatic and devastating impact of (institutionalized) racism on the experiences of one or more characters in Sula. You may want to consider the history of redlining, white flight, suburbanization, and other systemic forces.
4. Write an essay about the significance of Chicken Little’s drowning in Sula. You might, for example, consider the thematic importance of the scene and/or the roles Nel and Sula play before, during, and after the event. Or you might focus on Nel and Eva’s communication on the event towards the end of the novel. You might also focus on the thematic significance of Chicken Little’s funeral (in the funeral scene, for example).
5. Write an essay in which you analyze the “twig ritual” in Sula, focusing on the scene’s symbolic significance, on how the scene foreshadows what is to come, on the way the scene symbolically signifies issues of (female) sexuality, and/or on the “meaning” of Nel and Sula’s “behavior” throughout the scene.
6. Morrison intensifies the impact of the novel with symbolic references and images – fire and ice, for example, or fire and water, windows, light and darkness, hot and cold, Sula’s birthmark, birds, names, among others. Choose one or more of such images/symbols/pairings and explore how Morrison uses such references to say what might not be possible to articulate in words alone.
7. Betrayal is an important theme in Sula. Write an essay about the theme of betrayal as it applies to the friendship between Sula and Nel; be sure to address the question of who betrays whom and how.
8. Write an essay about the role Shadrack plays in the novel; be sure to include a discussion of National Suicide Day, his connection to Sula, and/or the drowning scene towards the novel’s end.
9. Write an essay about the mother/daughter relationship between Helene and Nel in Morrison’s novel.
10. Trauma and shame play out in devastating ways in Morrison’s novel. All of the characters in Sula must cope with the destructive legacy of trauma and the inevitable shame that follows in its wake. We see these patterns at work in individual families, passed on from one generation to the next. Morrison also suggests, however, that the destructive legacy of shame and trauma occurs because of the history of racism in this country, a history which includes slavery and racial violence. Write an essay about Morrison’s treatment of shame, trauma, and race in Sula. Give your essay focus by concentrating on one character, for example, or on one scene, one relationship, etc.
11. Write an essay on Morrison’s treatment of the theme of good vs. evil as it applies to a particular relationship.
12. In Sula, Toni Morrison challenges conventional wisdom and values in part by re-imagining binary thinking. Morrison offers new ways of looking at binary pairs such as right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate, self and other, and life and death, for example. Write an essay about how Morrison challenges readers to re-consider social conceptions of morality when she redefines one or more binary pairings. Be sure to narrow your focus; for example, consider the question of good and evil or guilt and innocence as it applies to Sula and Nel; or, you may focus on love and hate or life and death as either pair applies to Eva and Plum or to Sula and Nel.
Evaluation standards for this paper:
1) The paper includes an engaging title.
– Is my title interesting? Does it introduce my argument appropriately?
2) The paper has a clear and coherent thesis that details your position.
The thesis is an argument, not a summary of your sources.
– Does my thesis take a position? Does it make a definite claim? Is it clearly stated on the first page? Is it interesting? Is my thesis too broad?
3) The introductory paragraph outlines the scope of your paper.
– Does my intro frame my paper? Do I avoid broad or reductive statements? Do I avoid statements such as “in a world where” or “people everywhere” or “it is human nature to…”? Does it avoid the “watered-down” lead-in?
4) The paper is organized clearly with a clear structure. Each paragraph begins with a topic sentence that signals the paragraph’s intent.
– Do my topic sentences highlight the importance of each paragraph? Do they make a claim that supports my thesis? Are there transitions both within each paragraph and between each paragraph, maintaining a “readerly flow”?
5) The paper is supported by ample and appropriate evidence.
– Has my paper remained focused on the topic, the passages and their context? Are my claims supported with carefully chosen evidence or quotes? Have I followed through by explaining and expanding on each quote? Are my claims convincing and intelligent?
6) The paper properly paraphrases and cites information from its sources. It uses MLA style guidelines.
– Have I cited my sources correctly? Are my sources reliable and scholarly? Do I confuse other authors’ voices for my own (plagiarism)?
7) The paper is written with a scholarly style.
– Is my writing concise? Have I omitted needless words or phrases? Is the tone correct for an academic paper? Does my writing “flow”? Does it use scholarly diction?
8) The paper properly uses grammar and mechanics.


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