April Icsman

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English 11 Our Town Essay


Mrs. Icsman

American Literature


Information on turnitin.com:

This essay should be submitted to turnitin.com twice. The rough draft should be submitted so you can get ideas on improving your paper before writing the final draft. Click on originality to see where you have plagarized. It will highlight those areas . Sometimes the area highlighted is a direct quote, so if you have cited that quote properly, you are not plagarizing. Then click on grademark. This will highlight possible grammar, spelling, and mechanical errors you may have. Go through each of the comments and make revisions if necessary.

The final draft should also be submitted to turnitin.com. You will note the separate assignment on your account. You will receive feedback immediately from turnitin.com, but the final point determination may not be posted on RenWeb until Nov. 16 (midterm of 2nd quarter). For earlier grades, you may schedule an individual conference. I will not be posting comments on turnitin.com as I did for the My Defining Moment essay. You will receive a holistic rubric form back as well as general comments. More specific comments and evaluation may be requested or you may schedule an individual conference at any time. I would suggest receiving as much feedback as possible BEFORE the final; after the final is not as effective and , in fact, useless if you do not refer back to it for the next assignment.

Must be submitted to turnitin.com by Friday, October 28 at 3:30 p.m.

Hard copy by Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at beginning of period


This assignment will accomplish several goals:

1. introduce you to literary criticism

2. reinforce MLA rules

3. develop signal phrase skills

4. help you to synthesize and analyze themes of Our Town










MLA format ____________(up to 10 points)


Use of direct quotes ______( up to 10 points)


Thesis in first paragraph and use of transitions________(up to 10 points)


Length and development_________________(at least 300 words, 2, 3, pages with Works Cited as last page-up to 10 points)


Mechanics, spelling, grammar______________(up to 10 points)


Total points _________________(up to 50)


You will choose one essay to answer in at least 300 words. Your thesis will be in the first paragraph and you may use other sources if you wish, but you must paraphrase and cite them properly with parenthetical citations.


Questions to choose from:


  1. How does Wilder use the hymn "Blessed Be The Tie That Binds" to reinforce the themes of the play? Do you think the reference is religious?
  2. Thornton Wilder once wrote: "I've always thought [Emily should live]. In a movie you see the people so close to that a different relation is established. In the theatre they are halfway abstractions in an allegory; in the movie they are very concrete. So in so far as the play is a Generalized Allegory she dies - we die - they die; in so far as it's a Concrete Happening it's not important that she die. Let her live - the idea will have been imparted anyway."

How do you interpret this quote? What implications does it have for your reading of the play? If you were directing a film of Our Town, would you let Emily live? Why?

  1. Although there is no direct, specific reference to Christianity or God in the play, Our Town can be read as a Christian play, if you interpret the Stage Manager's statement that the dead are waiting for something big to mean that they are waiting for the second coming. But Wilder did not identify himself as a Christian. Do you think Wilder intended the end of his play to be religious, non-religious, neither or both?
  2. Many see an element of nostalgia and sentimentalizing in the portrayal of Grover's Corners, but the town is also shown as stifling for people like Simon Stimson. Is Our Town a celebration of small town life, or is it a criticism?
  3. How does Wilder dramatize the passage of time? Aside from standard dramatic elements like the changing seasons and the Stage Manager referring to his watch, what other techniques does he use to show the advance of the life of Grover's Corners?
  4. The use of the pronoun "our" in the title of the play encourages inclusiveness for the audience - Grover's Corners is the town of the Webbs and Gibbs, and also the Stage Manager, and also the audience. What other cues does Wilder use to encourage audience identification with the town and its inhabitants?

7. Why does Wilder separate the three acts as: Daily Life, Love and Marriage, Death?        Why not other options, such as birth, marriage, and death?

8. Why does Wilder follow George and Emily, and not other characters?

9. Is this a quintessentially American play, or would people from other countries and            cultures also appreciate it? Why?


Signal Phrase


A signal phrase lets us know that a quote and a paraphrase are coming; they may also occur after the quote to connect it to a new idea.  It is  essential that the quotes enhance your writing instead of disconnecting your ideas. It is your paper, not Wilder’s.

There are three techniques that are useful in integrating quotes into your own sentences; ALL require contextual set-up beforehand.  In your Our Town essays, you will be required to  use of at least TWO of the techniques reviewed here (so you need at least two pieces of textual evidence).


Technique #1: Full sentence set up for a full sentence quote


Best for:

·        Block quotes (quotes of more than three lines)

·        Quotes which are best explained when one or more full sentences of text are required


Long quotes require different MLA rules. See example below:


Nick makes it clear to us in retelling Gatsby’s first kiss with Daisy that though the act accomplished his dreams, it also destroyed them:


            He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something,


            some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been


            confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain


            starting place and go over it slowly, he could find out what that thing


            was…(Fitzgerald 110)


Technique #2: Partial sentence set-up completed by full sentence quote


Proper punctuation and set up: 

·        a verb such as “says,” “writes,” or “indicates,” followed by a comma


Fitzgerald connects the realization of the Daisy image with a simile during their first kiss, saying, “At [Gatsby] lips’ touch [Daisy] blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete” ( Fitzgerald 111).


Technique #3: Partial sentence set-up completed by partial quote.


Proper punctuation: same rules apply as to any full sentence. Set up and quote, together, must read as a complete, non-run-on sentence.


Nick suggests, no matter how much Daisy might love Gatsby, he will never be satisfied until “she had obliterated four years with that sentence: ‘I never loved you’” (Fitzgerald 109).

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Last Modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011
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