Essay Assignment 1: Documented Literary Analysis
Your literary analysis essay will be on the novel Sula by Toni Morrison. You can
choose from any of the topics listed below (recommended) or explore further topics
in the chapter on Sula, pp. X to Y in the book How to Write about Toni Morrison (linked
here for your convenience).
Your literary analysis should be between 2 ½ and 3 pages (600 to 750 words), not
including the Works Cited page, should be double spaced in Times New Roman 12-
point font and must include:
• A clearly articulated thesis that states, somewhere in your introduction, the
assertion (position, interpretation) that your paper will prove
• An introduction, a minimum of 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion
• At least two quotes from the novel itself that are integrated into your
• At least two citations of outside sources (such as literary criticism on the novel,
preferably from articles from the MDC databases)
• Topic sentences that focus the discussion in the body paragraphs
• Examples, details, explanations in the body paragraphs that clearly support
• Clear connections between ideas from paragraph to paragraph and within
• Proper MLA style format in the heading, in the in-text citations, and in the
Works Cited page (see the template for the heading and margins in this lesson)
• Works Cited page includes articles from two sources and from the novel for a
minimum of three total listed sources
• Standard usage, grammar, and mechanics
➢ You will submit your final draft through the Turn-it-in drop box designated for
this purpose in the course. Please be aware, that although Turn-it-in does allow
for similarities for quotations up to 24% of your paper, any similarity above
24% is considered too high for an original paper and will be flagged as
➢ You can get help with your paper at any of the campus writing centers (see the
link in the course with this information), and you can also receive online help
via SmartThinking, the online tutoring service provided by the College. This
service is available by clicking on SmartThinking in the left-hand menu bar of
the course under Tools & Resources.
Choose from the following topics:
1. Analyze the ending of the novel. What are the “circles of sorrow” that Nel
experiences? Is the ending pessimistic, optimistic, or something else altogether?
2. Nel and Sula’s friendship is central in the novel. What role does this friendship
play in Nel and Sula’s lives and what point is Morrison making about the role
of life-long friendships in the formation of identity?
3. How do people who are intensely individualistic fare in the novel? Is it possible
to break away from the values of the community and to be one’s own person?
Answer the question with reference to at least two of the novel’s characters.
4. How and by whom is love expressed in the novel? In what ways is the love in
the novel a ease the suffering of the characters? How is love not enough to
appease the characters in light of their suffering?
5. In what ways are the various characters in the novel alienated from the
community? How do they cope with their loneliness, their preoccupations, and
other after effects of feeling abandoned?
6. Compare and contrast the journey of self-discovery for two characters in the
book. Remember to take a position in your thesis that establishes the
significance of the comparison and contrast.
7. Contrast Nel’s relationship to her mother and Sula’s interaction with her
mother. Remember to take a position in your thesis that establishes the
significance of the contrast.
8. Trace the use of three symbols in the novel and explain their connection to a
theme in the novel.
9. What does Shadrack’s character teach us about the after effects of war and the ways mentally ill people can be ostracized from a community?
10. Although no one has ever joined Shadrack on National Suicide Day, in the
chapter titled 1941, much of the town marches toward the tunnel where they
have not been able to get work and in their rage, the try to “kill, as best they
could, the tunnel they were forbidden to build” (160). What is the significance
of the event at the tunnel and the resulting deaths there?Samantha Novoa