English 101, Spring Semester 2000, Papers on the Web

Assignment #1 (3 pp.), February 7

Congratulations on a fantastic bunch of first papers. I am very pleased with the progress all of you have already made over these first few weeks of the semester!

One of the (many) nice things about this particular class is that the quality of the papers does not vary too widely; the difference between the worst papers and the best papers is significant, but not excessively so. The highest grade is a B+/A- and the lowest grade a B-. In my experience, this range is very high. Great! The best thing about the narrowness of this range, though, is that those of you who wrote papers that received lower grades are well within reach of those of you who wrote papers that received higher grades. In other words, if your paper doesn't appear near the top of the list this time, there's no reason why your next paper shouldn't be one of the best. I mean this.

If you like, take the opportunity now to review the description of my grading policy.

Nearly everyone needs to work on topic sentences and transitions.

Please read through as many of these papers as you wish! The purpose of "Papers on the Web," as I've said in class, is to provide yet another way for you to get help with the problems you are encountering in your writing. Some of you will want to read through many or all of the papers below in order to see how other students handle different parts of the paper; others will only want to read through the ones I have singled out. All of you, however, should read my comments on the top papers and enough of the papers themselves to understand the assistance I am trying to provide. This method can work. Obviously, it takes quite a bit of effort from me; if it is to work for you, it will take some effort from you as well.

[Note: especially at the beginning of the semester, the distinction between higher and lower grades is largely on the basis of argumentation. Some of the lower papers actually have stronger ideas, I think, than some of the higher papers. The higher papers, however, present their ideas in a more effective and persuasive manner, and that will be our focus for much of this course.]

The following two papers are also among the top. Check them out!

I present the remaining papers in no particular order. All of them have excellent moments, though! Read through them, if you have the time and the inclination.


Assignment #2 (3 pp.), February 18

Again, great work! I'm so pleased with the way this class is going. Almost everyone has a good grasp of the methods we've been learning: thesis, topic sentences, transitions, and close reading. It is rewarding to see so much development in so short a time. The grades continue to be fairly high, averaging right around a B. The grades also continue to be fairly close together.

The top eight papers all have strengths that I would like to point out. Therefore, rather than go into the top two or three papers at length, I will comment briefly on each of the top eight. If you feel you are having trouble with your theses, look at any of the first three papers!

I present the remaining papers in no particular order. All of them have excellent moments, though! Read through them, if you have the time and the inclination.


Assignment #3 (5-7 pp.), March 9

Practically all of you did wonderful research for this assignment, and I continue to be very pleased with the spirit of this class! You threw yourselves into the work, and all of you clearly learned an impressive amount from your research. Along with knowledge about your subjects, you gained research and citation skills that will serve you well throughout your college careers. Only a third of you, however, transformed your research into the kind of papers I had hoped you would all produce. When it came to applying your critical faculties to The Diary, too many of you failed to push yourselves, settling instead for fairly obvious gestures to The Diary as further "evidence." Symptomatic of this problem is the fact that many of you chose to write about The Diary in the past tense! For examples of papers that did an especially good job of not treating The Diary as evidence but rather as a literary text to be interpreted, see the first two papers below.

The grades remain fairly high, averaging between a B- and a B. The range of grades is as follows: 5 papers earned a B+ or higher; 5 papers received a B/B+, B, or B-/B; and 6 papers received a B- or lower.

I am concerned that many of you are still failing to understand -- or to put your understanding into practice! -- the distinction between an argument and a mere observation or statement of fact. Far too many of the papers do not have a thesis! For the next paper, I will absolutely not accept any paper that does not have a thesis. If you've been having trouble in this area, I strongly encourage you to discuss your next thesis with me in advance during my office hours.

Also, far too many of you seem to have forgotten all the work we've done -- or forgotten to put that work into practice! -- on argumentation/organization: topic sentences and, especially, transitions. For the next paper, I will absolutely not accept any paper that fails to provide clear and specific transitions connecting the point, not just the subject, of the preceding paragraph to the point of the present paragraph.

You all continue to do wonderful work for this class, and it is now becoming especially important that you put into practice the techniques you have learned. Thanks for a great first half of the semester, and I'm looking forward to the remainder of our course.

Having read over these five papers and my comments, you should all have a good sense of what you need to do in your next critical paper. If your paper is not among the top five, take the opportunity now to review your paper and to compare it with the papers above and with my comments on them. The differences between your papers and the better ones are matters of practice, not of ability! All of you -- I mean this! -- are now capable of producing excellent college-level writing. If you are not satisfied with your performance thus far, make a list of the specific areas in which you need to improve, and then let's talk. At this point in the semester, your progress is largely up to you.

Four of you neglected to include your Works Cited list along with the electronic version of your paper. Please e-mail me your Works Cited list as soon as possible, and I will add it to your paper on the web.

As always, the following papers, which I present in no particular order, have many strengths. In this case, the research is generally excellent, so by all means, read over as many of the following papers as you can. I've been impressed by how much we have all come to respect one another this semester, and I hope these papers on the web give you further opportunities to know one another as critical thinkers and writers.

Assignment #4, April 7

Excellent work on a fine set of narratives and essays. Some of the stories are truly wonderful: don't miss "July Bug"!

The end of the semester is near, and everyone now understands the techniques of argumentation that we have learned, so I will only comment briefly on three papers. If you are still having trouble with your thesis, topic sentences, transitions, or close reading, look closely at these three papers and my comments on them.

The following papers and stories are presented in no particular order, but do look at them. As I said in class, I was particularly pleased with the insights your creative writing offers. We all know each other fairly well, but we will know each other better, and for the better, after reading each other's work.

Assignment #5 (5-7 pp.), May 3

"Never Judge a Book ... (part 2)": Victor’s imagination creates an increasingly grotesque image of the creation. This developed condemnation that Victor imposes onto the creation is similar to all of the creation’s other encounters with human beings. This repeated rejection causes the creation to realize that "All men hate the wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things" (Shelley 65). Eventually, therefore, the creation accepts its role as a monster based solely on the reactions it receives from other human beings. However, these spiteful reactions are inspired by irrational fears that result from the human nature of the characters to form preconceptions about the creation based on their prior experiences.

"The Being: Child or Monster?": Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a comparison of Nature vs. Nurture. Some critics argue that the Being is a monster from birth, while others claim that it cannot be limited to such a narrow category. The argument lies in the education of the Being. He is not a born killer, but is created by the rejection of society. The Being is born an innocent creature with ability to appreciate the sublime, but after learning about human emotions, he is transformed into a monster through the emotional rejection he receives from a human family.

"An In-depth Look at the Creation: Is it Man or Beast?": Milton’s Paradise Lost is studied by the creation as a guide to his own beginnings; he is torn between the two identities that it reveals, Adam and Satan; although he longs to be Adam, he is pushed by society to accept that he is Satan. Adam, man, was the desired creation, while Satan, the beast, is the hated monster.

"Identity": The domestic void in the creature’s life creates a barrier between him and the rest of civilization. Victor’s creation continually asks, "Who was I? What was I?" (86) and society answers with "wretch" (35) and "monster" (37); it is these responses that give the creature identity.

"The Nature of Power and Bonds of Relations": The fall of the ancient civilizations in many ways symbolized the downfall of two tragic figures in the novel, Victor, and the Creature. In Frankenstein, the absence of the mutual bonds within the feminine realm of domestic affections perpetuates the masculine passion for the sublime attributes of power. In pursuing their ambitions for power, both Victor and the Creature become slaves to impulse, perpetually binding themselves to one another in their hatred and vengeance.

"Frankenstein": The Creation ... is shaped by his first experiences in this world and by his own train of logic. As a result of this, the creation’s actions can often be explained by examining his early life. The Creation is not a thing of evil; he commits evil acts only because he perceives them to be the only available course of action. Therefore, the Creation is, at his core, a good and wholesome being, but his education and situation lead him to commit acts of cruelty and evil.

"The Reactions that Shape the Creation": Victor Frankenstein’s creation has a very well educated upbringing, mostly by his own hand. He is well mannered, and has good intentions at first. But because of his appearance, people react to him negatively. This drives him to perform evil deeds and acts, and turn against society. Victor Frankenstein’s creation has a chance at living a normal life, but the negative reactions of the cottage family, Victor, and society cause the creation to become a monster in all senses of the word, turn to murder, and live a solitary life.

"The Sublime & Aspirations of Grandeur": Victor is a complicated, receptive, impressionable individual; one for whom experiences directly shape his being. His attitude concerning the sublime is what ultimately directs his future. As Victor's obsession with the magnificent permeates his mind, his lust to command the unknown claims his body, and in creating that being of perfect sublimity, Victor requisitions his soul. It is not meant for humans to control the sublime, but simply to experience it. A close encounter usually proves tragic. Victor’s aspires to possess some aspect of the sublime, yet once he gains it he can’t control it; his demise is the final result.

"The Two 'Monsters' of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein":  Neither the creature nor Victor fully understands the complex relationships between people and the expectations and responsibilities that accompany any relationship. The two "monsters" in this book, Victor Frankenstein and his creation, are the only characters without strong family ties; the creature because Frankenstein runs from him, and Victor because he runs from his family.

"Frankenstein: The Power of Fire and Familial Bonds": Both "the creature" and Victor’s power become characterized by a tension between nature and nurture; therefore identifying each of their chaotic existence. The types of power which are represented by metaphors of fire in the novel, shed light on the nurturing power of familial bonds (hearth) and the uninhibited power of nature (wild chaotic fire). Therefore the presence of power as the existence of fire and the "domestic circle" represents the creation of an identity as the conflict between uncontrollable power and bounded/constrained power.

"A True 'Monster'": The creature is in fact a cold-hearted wretch whose vindictive nature is brought through the killings which take place throughout the story. Regardless of his unfortunate upbringing and life, however, the creature is a being determined to ruin the life of Victor, through being the master of Victor’s life and every day existence, almost in a slave and master scenario, who feels remorse but continues to kill anyway and is therefore deserving of the title, "monster".

"The 'creature' of Frankenstein": The creature of Frankenstein is a caring, compassionate being that is forced into the barbaric way that he lives his life through the prejudices of his creator, Victor. The term that best represents this being is, as Victor originally states, a "new species," and through the neglect by Victor and others around him who couldn’t overlook the crude design of the bodily features, this "new species" was forced to find its place in the world only through revenge, primarily targeted at Victor.

"To Be a Monster": Through his contact with humans the creature "[becomes] fully convinced that [he is] in reality the monster that [he is]" (Shelley 76) but endeavors to change his status as a monster to that of a human.

Daniel E. White