English IV: World Literature
For your last essay of the semester, identify an important area of human life, human nature, or human values and write a paper of six to eight pages discussing the theme you have identified. In your discussion, refer generously to three or four of the seven authors we have studied. (If you use your summer reading novel, please include three others from the semester.) Your papers are due Tuesday, December 18 by noon, hard copy with turnitin receipt number (turnitin title: 2007-Final Paper).
Sample Questions (develop your own variations):
What does it take to be a successful human being in the world? Is “success” a matter of getting what one wants, of attaining a desired result—love, money, power, freedom, social status—or is it a question of character, of developing within the self those qualities most essential to a complete human being: virtue, wisdom, compassion, spiritual enlightenment, moral insight, ethical depth, duty, honor?
Can social institutions, cultural traditions, or rituals help develop successful people, or does the literature portray these customs more as impediments to growth?
What is a “complete” human being? What components are most important in defining what a human being “should” be?
Under what conditions do the characters’ worlds become traps, bringing out the worst in people, debasing their lives and stripping their existence of meaning or purpose? What happens to the hearts and souls of those who live in such worlds?
Professor Robert George of Princeton says, “the conquest of the self is part of what it means to lead a successful life.” Which characters have inner demons or parts of themselves they must conquer? How successful are they?
William Faulkner said that literature is composed of “old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” Which of Faulkner’s truths find most powerful expression in the literature we have read this semester.
Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, a psychiatrist, writes, “Mental health . . . can be described as having your head, mouth, and heart in a straight alignment. Mental health happens when what you believe in your heart is the same as what you say with your mouth. You are mentally healthy when what you feel is something you also believe. . . .You have to keep in balance if you want to stay healthy.” In these terms, which characters are healthiest? Which are not? How do they achieve balance? What are the costs of not finding it?
Many works we have read center on characters who, because of their personalities, beliefs, or personal circumstances, find themselves in conflict with their society. Choose three important characters from different works and discuss the ways in which they are out of synch with the world around them. For each character you discuss, say whether the conflict primarily reveals a flaw in the character or in the society’s assumptions and moral values.