Love Stories

Paper 3—Assignment

On the next page are some prompts for your final paper, along with some guidelines for writing. The paper should be 5 pages, double-spaced, and in Microsoft Word format. It should be sent, as an e-mail attachment,


Four of the below prompts take up themes discussed this term and are intended to help you compare love, in Silas Marner or Their Eyes Were Watching God, with romantic love as we’ve encountered it elsewhere. While the essay invites comparison, your primary focus should be on Silas Marneror Their Eyes Were Watching God. Following these prompts are two prompts for Brokeback Mountain. These are not explicitly comparative in nature but could be made so if you wish. Last of all is a prompt for a creative dialogue. As you write, be sure to consult either “Elements of Successful Arguments” or “Elements of Successful Creative Dialogues,” both of which are also below. As always, if you’d like to write about a different topic or approach a prompt somewhat differently, feel free to do so; just run it by me or your TA beforehand.


  • Robert Solomon, as we’ve discussed, argues that “the experience of love tells us so unambiguously that we ought to and can be ‘better’—better for her or for him, worthy of her or his love, the best that we can be” (About Love, 155). Compare Silas Marneror Their Eyes Were Watching God with one other work we’ve encountered this term to arrive at a conclusion as to whether parental love is, in comparison to romantic love, more likely, less likely, or equally likely to inspire us to become “the best that we can be.”


  • In The End of the Affair,Maurice Bendrix declares that “Anyone who loves is jealous” (43). Of Silas Marnerand Their Eyes Were Watching God, we might say the following: “Any loving parent is possessive.” Compare the form that possessiveness takes in parental love in either Silas or Their Eyes Were Watching God—its sources and its outcomes—to the form that possessiveness takes in one other work that we’ve read this term. Is possessiveness always a vice in love, or are there instances in which it is a virtue?


  • In The Art of Loving, ErichFromm describes the development of love as involving a movement from narcissism to objectivity, which Fromm calls “the faculty to see people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and fears.” Compare Silas’s developing view of Eppie to the view that, say, Orlando develops of Rosalind (in As You Like It) or that Janie develops of Tea Cake (in Their Eyes Were Watching God). Do we tend to be less narcissistic, or more objective, when passionate desire does not figure prominently in love?


  • Compare the role that fantasy plays in Their Eyes Were Watching God to the role that fantasy plays in Madame Bovary. Is Janie’s fantasy of love underneath the pear tree less destructive than the fantasies of love that Emma draws from her readings? If so, why so? If not, why not?


  • Examine “Brokeback Mountain” in order to define the salient differences between Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar’s relationship with each other and with their respective wives. Give a clear, persuasive description of what drives these characters away from their families and to each other, and what the story suggests about the nature of “true” love. In writing, you might consider the kinds of interaction (verbal and physical) that Jack and Ennis seek out, and why some kinds appeal to them whereas others do not.


  • Consider the relationship between love and the social world in “Brokeback Mountain.” Here you might discuss whether Jack and Ennis’s relationship with each other is portrayed as harmful to the social world, and whether the story places blame. To what extent can the problem that love poses for community be attributed to Jack and Ennis—to erositself as they experience it—and to what extent can the problem be attributed to the society of which they are part?


  • Write a creative dialogue that compares forms of love that we’ve seen this semester. The simplest way to do this would be to dramatize a disagreement in which 2-3 speakers champion different forms of love (e.g., young, passionate love in Romeo and Juliet, more experienced love in Their Eyes Were Watching God, and parental love in Silas Marner). Should you choose this option, your purpose should be, at least in part, to illuminate the most important similarities and differences between these forms of love.





Elements of Successful Arguments


1) Craft an arguable thesis. By this, I mean a thesis that does not state something obvious, a thesis that could, by contrast, be argued about. If almost anyone would agree with your thesis, be sure to modify it to make the thesis more complex, to make a more subtle point. And be sure not to repeat too many points made in lecture.


2) Back up assertions with argumentation.  Be sure to point to evidence when you make claims; that is, do as much as you can to prove your thesis rather than ask the reader to accept it on faith.  When you know that your assertions require argumentation, you also know that you are on track.


3) Use at least some space to deal with counterarguments. Since I am asking you to supply an insight that wouldn’t be immediately apparent to a casual reader—and that isn’t incontrovertible—be sure to consider what someone who might disagree with you would say in response to your argument. Explain what that response would be, and why you think your argument still holds.


4) In your analysis, treat details. The general plot arc is important, but invoking the deployment of specific images, metaphors, symbols, and formal features—whose meaning may not be immediately obvious—will enable you to make subtle observations. Be sure to avoid plot summary.


5) Include transitions, between thoughts and between paragraphs. If you could transpose sentences or paragraphs without making any changes, you could probably work on transitions. If not, you are probably on the right track.


6) Write your introduction and conclusion as efficiently as possible.  Because these are short papers, it is very important not to circle around your thesis too much in the intro, and to write a conclusion that doesn’t simply repeat points you’ve already made. Conclusions should, by contrast, develop the significance of the thesis that, by this point, you will have done your best to prove.



Elements of Successful Creative Dialogues


If you choose the “creative dialogue” option, you should have 2-3 figures champion different views of love. At least one of these figures must represent a view articulated in either Silas Marner, Their Eyes Were Watching God, or Brokeback Mountain. One way to structure this would be to imagine a dramatic or fictional conversation between 2-3 characters from the works we’ve read this term. But you could set things up differently. While I want these dialogues to show mastery of concepts that we’ve explored this term, I also see great potential for humor. Below are some elements that we’ll be looking for if you choose the “creative dialogue” option. To this message I’ve also attached a well-known short story, Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” that shows one way that an insightful dialogue about love could unfold.


1) On form: the dialogue could take the form of a dramatic scene (think Shakespeare) or a fictional scene. It really depends on what you think will best suit your exploration of love. Also, don’t feel that if you use a character from Shakespeare, that character must speak Elizabethan English (though, if he or she did, this would present certain possibilities). If you choose this option, the dialogue should be at least 1500 words.


2) Make sure that your speakers back up their assertions with argumentation—or, if they don’t, make sure someone else points this out. So, for instance, if Bendrix starts asserting that anyone who loves is jealous, he had better have some reasons to back up that assertion. If he doesn’t, Silas or Dolly Winthrop or Ennis del Mar (or whoever) should call him out.


3) Be sure that your speakers address each other’s arguments. Just as we, in your analytical essays, have asked you to grapple with counterarguments, make sure there is some disagreement as the discussion plays out.


4) In your dialogue, have your speakers use details in order to try to prove their points. If your dialogue has a narrator, include details that require interpretation. Images, metaphors, symbols, clever sentence structure—the meaning of which may not be immediately obvious—will add subtlety to your work. Just as we have asked you to close read literary texts, so you should include some details that we might close read.


5) Dialogues do not have to arrive at a definitive conclusion about the disagreements that arise over the course of the discussion. One or another speaker may appear to have the upper hand by the end, but the main purpose of the dialogue is to highlight the pitfalls and possibilities of different views of love.

Last Updated on February 10, 2019