English 1102 Topics for Essay Three



Choose one of the following topics and write a well-developed, unified, coherent essay of approximately four (4) full typewritten double-spaced pages. I want four full pages.   Be sure that somewhere within your introductory paragraph you include a clear, concise thesis statement that explicitly articulates your essay's main purpose.  Remember to write unified organized paragraphs that develop one topic each with transitions within and between the paragraphs. 


Remember that this is a research paper (unless you incorporated research into essay two).  Your job is to look over material written about your subject, then integrate some of that material into your paper.  Your thesis must be your argument about the text, which is then backed up by a scholarly secondary source.  If you are not sure if a source is scholarly, seek my preapproval as discussed in class, which will require preplanning on your part.  You must correctly integrate a total of five substantial quotes.   Three must come from the primary text while the other two must come from the secondary sources or sources.  While you must use at least one secondary source, no other minimum or maximum number of sources is required.  You will find that little to no scholarly literary criticism exists on Praying for Sheetrock.  Therefore, your research will consist of some element that contributes to meaning in the text.  Consider the course reserves in your search for secondary sources.  As discussed in class, remember that a scholarly source does not include Wikipedia, Cliff Notes, Sparknotes, dictionaries, or book reviews.


Remember that a thesis statement must consist of more than a restatement of the topics below.  Take a stand, adopt an attitude, or argue for a position on the topic.  Include the “so what” element in your thesis.  Your introduction must focus on the text as it sets up your thesis. 


  1. The tragic hero must be the main character in a text.  According to class links and course reserves, the tragic hero must exhibit hamartia, the tragic flaw, among other characteristics.  Analyze Thurnell Alston as the tragic hero.  When does it all start to fall apart for Alston?  Does he contribute to his own fall?  What is his hamartia?  It may help here to think about what you think he wants as a result of his actions.  Does he want change for himself or his social group?  What kind of change?  If these changes occur, what might he expect in the aftermath?

  2. Some characters in Praying for Sheetrock lose their position or stature in McIntosh County as a result of Thurnell Alston's rise to power while others may benefit from his actions.  They may not be the main character, but they have their own role to play in the story.  Choose one character from the text to analyze.  How does the author "use" the character to create meaning in the text?  Does the character undergo a significant change in the text?  If so, in what way?  If not, why?  Your thesis must make some assertion about the importance of the character in the overall text.  How can we better understand the text by analyzing this character?

  3. Human frailties and shortcomings abound in the text: physical, mental and spiritual.  The abundance of frailties suggests that there is no such thing as human perfection.  (If humans are always less than perfect, there can never be a perfect hero.)  Write an essay exposing the shortcomings of humans as revealed in the text making an assertion about the consequences of the shortcomings or the overall effect in the narrative of human frailties.  Are we all doomed to failure?  Does the external (tangible/body/literal) function as a metaphor for the internal (abstract/intangible/figurative--mental or spiritual), or do the physical frailties result from outside pressures (society/constraint/compression/oppression)?  For this topic you should focus your essay on human frailty and not the flaw of the tragic hero. 

  4. Many signs and symbols contribute to meaning in Praying for SheetrockWrite a semiotic essay in which you choose one symbol to interpret from the text.  Possibilities include, but are not limited to, a Christ figure, a child, the highway, a recurring color,  the weather, geography, illness or deformity (a version of topic #3 that uses the body figuratively), acts of eating (communion or failed communion).

  5. Icarus poems:  revisit the Icarus poems discussed at the beginning of the semester.  Write an essay that compares or contrasts one of the Icarus poems to Praying For SheetrockExample:  In the Edward Field poem, Mr. Hicks finds it difficult to return to an average life after the experience of soaring to great heights.  Could we say the same for Thurnell Alston?  After he becomes an elected official, does the text become anticlimactic?