Some writers and philosophers have argued (in a philosophy or world view known as Existentialism) that the fundamental condition of human beings in the twentieth century is a sense of disorientation and alienation (i.e., confusion; estrangement; disillusionment) from a seemingly meaningless or irrational world. Arguably, all of the twentieth century texts listed below reflect this theme of disaffection—though in very different ways. Some present the result and repercussions of such a condition; others demonstrate the process of the protagonist’s growing awareness. Some characters’ estrangement arises from political conditions; others’ isolation is more personal.
For your third and final paper, you are to write a thesis-driven essay that argues for or against the assertion that alienation is the condition of modern humans. You will select two works from the list below and, using textual evidence from both works, construct an argument and essay that make a case about how characters in two different texts inhabit (or do not) the modern condition. The texts will provide you with the examples that your essay will read closely and interpret; in your essay, you will draw insight from those examples that will illuminate and make your case. Please note that your argument will arise from and be supported by the texts you choose and by your close reading of the textual evidence—an essay supported by personal opinion or by unsupported assertions will not be successful nor adhere to the conventions of academic, literary analysis.
Moreover, this is a thesis-driven essay, not a compare-contrast essay. Although you are using two texts, you are making only one argument. The same argument must apply to both texts. Your quotations must be cited correctly and completely, using MLA format. In this essay, you will demonstrate your ability to detect and examine a single theme in two literary texts. Furthermore, you need to put the two texts into conversation with one another in the essay. The essay should not proceed by focusing entirely on one text and then entirely on the second text. In other words, an essay that discusses one work and stops, then moves on to the second will be unsuccessful.
Select two works from the following:
Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi
Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”
Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
One of the three stories from The Slate of Life
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