This first essay asks you to consider The Castle of Otranto and produce a close reading.  You will analyze a detail (a short passage or several related short passages) of the story and argue for how the detail develops the story’s meaning or significance. In close reading, we “work out of the various tensions … [which] achieves a resolution through this working out of tensions, not necessarily a logical resolution but a satisfactory unification of different ‘attitudes’, or dispositions towards experience.” (Brooks, A Well-Wrought Urn). Close reading is also a skill that “begins with a sensitivity to the words of the text and all their denotative and connotative values and implications” (Guerin, A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature). Denotation refers to what something is (definition) and connotation refers to what something means beyond its strict definition. Because this assignment is focused on your own skills of analysis, no secondary source should be used.

Students should be able to:

  1. Construct an interesting and insightful thesis that reflects a sophisticated reading of the text
  2. Use specific textual evidence to support a claim (deductive analysis)
  3. Develop rigorous analysis of specific textual details (inductive analysis)
  4. Construct an authorial voice through variety of language and strong organizational strategies

Optional Topics:

In this assignment, you have the freedom to choose your own topic. However, you can also choose one of the following topics if you want. Referring to the following topics also help you to structure your own topic and thesis.

  1. Is Bianca a stupid or clever character? Please conduct an analysis of this character based on the scenes related to her and compare her with other female characters, e.g. Matilda.
  2. Is Manfred a victim or not? Conduct an analysis on this character and suggest how the characterization contribute to the theme of the novel.
  3. Analyze the scene of Matilda’s death at the end of the novel. How does her conflict with her father contributes to her death? You may recall the scenes about the two characters.
  4. Jerome (the monk)’s involvement in the story suggest the power of religion in the text. How is religion represented? Is religion a positive or negative force in the novel?
  5. Conduct an analysis of the armor in the novel. Besides being a representation of Alfonso’s ghost, what does it also symbolize?

The above topics only suggest a direction with which you develop your own thesis (remember the issue/claim distinction). Your thesis should display an original perspective. For example, rather than just arguing that “Manfred is a victim” which lacks originality and sophistication, you can instead write “Manfred’s underlying victimhood indicates Walpole’s view on…”.


  1. Accurately describe your argument in a clear thesis sentence.
  2. Signal each topic and give a clear indication of how the paper will proceed.
  3. Locate evidence (directly from the text) to smoothly integrate into each body paragraph.
  4. Analyze this evidence in order to show how it illustrates your arguments.
  5. Present a strong overall argument and conclusion using active verbs and avoiding vagueness.
  6. Use an effective structure that carefully guides the reader from one idea to the next and is thoroughly edited so that sentences are readable and appropriate for an academic paper.
  7. Include new terms introduced in class, as well as a working knowledge of how to apply them to the text.
  8. Use correct MLA format, including size 12 Times New Roman font, 1” margins, internal citations (Walpole 89) and correct pagination/headers.  It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with MLA format.
  9. Length: 12,00-1,500 words (4-5 pages).
  10. Outside Research: None (no Works Cited page for this assignment).

What are you supposed not to do:

  1. Mistaking summary for analysis
  2. Clichéd or obvious readings of details
  3. Organization by example rather than by sub claims – usually due to a simplistic thesis


While this is definitely not a five-paragraph formulaic essay, you may follow this general framework: The first paragraph introduces the text and your focus.  This paragraph should conclude with a clear thesis that argues a theme (example: In Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the castle serves the important symbol for X).  Body paragraphs should begin with topic sentences that argue a part of the thesis.  These paragraphs should prove their claims by quoting the text and then analyzing the quotes to explain how they function as support.  Each body paragraph should end with a concluding sentence that explains how it relates to the thesis.  The essay should conclude with a final paragraph that explains: 1) how the body arguments come together to prove the thesis; and 2) the significance of the claims made in the essay.

Keep in mind you are writing an essay that is analytical and persuasive; you need to take a position and argue a point of view, not merely summarize the text without offering evidence to support your own argument (an original position/opinion) about its meaning or significance.  Evidence comes from the text itself.  Please remember that grammatical, coherent, logical writing is the minimum requirement for a passing grade; points will be deducted from essays that are incoherent and make significant numbers of grammatical errors.

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