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Everyday Use Character Analysis ______________(Fill in blank with EITHER “Comparison” or “Contrast” based on
your thesis – DO NOT INCLUDE BOTH)
Everyday Use Character Analysis Contrast Essay Assignment
Write a contrastive character analysis of Maggie and Dee, two of the main characters in the short story
Everyday Use by Alice Walker, to demonstrate how their different personalities and values work to support
the theme of the short story. You should develop a careful analysis that is well supported with evidence
from the text. This assignment is not a research paper but seeks to test your reading and interpreting skills;
therefore, do not use outside secondary criticism.
Following are the steps to follow to complete this assignment:
STEP 1: Read Chapters 2 and 48 from your textbook. Be sure to take notes in your reading journal,
highlighting the key points that should be included in a literary analysis and information on how to
structure the paper.
STEP 2: Read Everyday Use and be prepared to begin discussing the story in class on Tuesday, February
20, 2018.
STEP 3: Draft an outline of your paper to organize your ideas, which you can then follow as you’re
drafting your paper.
Content and Structure: Your first step is to develop what you believe to be the theme of the story.
Remember, some clues to help guide you to identify the theme include the title of the story, the conflict
within the story (a character’s goal and the obstacle that prevents her from reaching that goal), and, if the
character changes in the end or not and how or why. [In this case, you can consider either Maggie or Dee
to be the character with a goal (getting the quilt), and the other sister as presenting the obstacle to that
goal.] Be sure to write out the theme before you develop the rest of your paper. Take time to review and
revise your theme until it clearly and accurately reflects your interpretation of the life lesson demonstrated
through the story.
Once you have established the theme, consider the choices the characters make, their major physical
and mental traits, their childhood experiences, what the characters say or think about themselves, how they
are perceived by others, what the characters do, the value they place on the quilt, and whether they grow
or remain the same. Perhaps you feel that the character is controlled or determined by the eyes through
which she is perceived (the narrator, their mother). Try to be original but do not go beyond what is in the
text. Do not try to imagine the character outside the context of the story and do not include ideas or
situations the author does not include. (Remember our discussion on the topic of temptation as it relates to
Young Goodman Brown.)
After brainstorming ideas on character development, identify a central idea for your paper that
expresses how Maggie’s and Dee’s differing personalities, values and lifestyles work to support and develop
the theme of the story. This is a contrast essay – therefore, do not address any similarities (comparisons)
other than possibly a brief reference used in the introduction or conclusion (not required).
Once you have developed your central idea, draft a clear thesis statement that is expressed as an
assertion and includes reference to the theme of the story and three supporting points that demonstrate
how the sisters’ characterization supports that theme. An analytical thesis is a statement of content not
merely intent.
Introduction: The introduction must include the title of the short story being analyzed and the name of the
author. Include a brief summary of the story that logically leads into your thesis statement. Be sure the
thesis statement flows smoothly from the sentence previous to it. Use transitional terms where needed to
enhance coherency. The last sentence of the introduction is the thesis statement. The only place any
supporting points should be referenced in the introduction is within the thesis statement.
You can organize your supporting points in one of two ways:
Block Style: provide all information about one character in the first body section (without referencing the
other character), then provide the same categories of supporting details as they apply to the second
character, but in the second section, you DO reference the other character to draw the contrast. To do this
you will use terms and phrases such as “Unlike Character1, Character 2…” or “While Character1 prefers…,
Character2 favors…” Beware, however, of the Tennis-Ball method, where you feel you have to make a
connection in every sentence. You should feel comfortable enough to develop a point about a work in
several sentences before you bring in the contrast with the other. In other words, reference the contrast for
each general supporting point, but not for each sentence or supporting detail.
Point-by-Point Style: Organize your content according to the supporting points, not the characters. In the
first body paragraph, provide information about one supporting point, first for one character, and then for
the other. For each supporting point, draw the contrast for the reader. To do this you will use terms and
phrases such as “Unlike Character1, Character 2…” or “While Character1 prefers…, Character2 favors…” Here,
too, avoid the Tennis-Ball method.
REMEMBER: Whichever style you use, be sure each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence that
does both of the following:
1. Introduces main idea of paragraph
2. Relates that idea back to the thesis
Generic Examples:
• Jack and Jill reveal their different maturity levels in the way they manage their finances.
• Bert and Ernie show their different personality types in the way they handle their responsibilities.
ALSO REMEMBER that you MUST interpret your evidence for the reader to ensure they understand
how the evidence demonstrates the assertion. Therefore, each supporting point should be expressed
following this method:
Assertion of supporting point >> evidence from text that supports that assertion >> interpretation
of the evidence that explains how it supports the assertion
The evidence will be in the form of direct quotes from dialogue or narrative in the story, or indirect quotes
of dialogue or summary of plot points or action in the story. The interpretation should clarify the connection
between the evidence and the assertion – it should not simply give a simplistic explanation of the obvious
or literal meaning of the text.
The paragraphs in the body of your paper need to be analytical and developed (topic sentences and
supporting evidence/ideas). You are not summarizing – you are including references to what is in the text
(narrative and dialogue through direct and indirect quotes/summary) to support the claim you make in your
• Follow the format at the top of this assignment sheet for essay heading (Name, Date, etc.)
• Use 1” margins, 12-point Times New Roman font, single space heading
• Double space the rest of the paper (from the title on – only the heading is single-spaced)
• Indent the first line of every paragraph five spaces
• Do not include an extra line between paragraphs
• Give your paper an original title – the title should NOT simply be Everyday Use
• Center the title but use regular font (no underline, italics, larger size, etc.)
• Use the same font for title and essay throughout
• Double space only after title = no extra lines
**Short story title should be written in italics whenever referenced.**
Word Count Requirement: Minimum 800 and Maximum 900. Papers that are too short or too long by 25
words or more will be marked down.
A Works Cited page is your source record and is required for all sources referenced, even if you only use
one work. For this paper, your only source will be the short story itself.
The quality of your paper will reflect the time you spent on reviewing and revising
the content, and proofreading and editing the grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.

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