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English A1 - Having a problem with structuring

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Hi guys,

I'd like to ask some feedback on how to structure the arguments in my essay.

Topic - The Role of Dysfunctional Father-Son Relationship

My research question is: How and why do Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949) and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (2001) use the intricate father-son relationship in their works as a vehicle to explore the themes of familial and civic breakdown in America?

Now, if you are familiar with the works I chose, you will know that each one of them has two distinct father-son relationship. In Death of a Salesman, the relationships are between Willy-Biff and Willy-Happy while in The Corrections, the relationships are between Alfred-Chip, Alfred-Gary. My main question is, how should I frame my arguments? In other words, how should I categorize my body paragraphs? Should I go through the father-son relationship one by one and discuss the two themes (as well as sub-themes) each relationship tries to convey, or should I pick the two themes and then expand on the relationships in question? I consulted with my supervisor two weeks ago, and she feels that I risk reiterating my points if I adopt the character/relationship approach to the essay. She advised me to take the latter approach, using specific themes as the headings and then discuss how each relationship tries to convey the theme in question. For example, if I take the latter approach I would use let's say, the theme of Status/Glory as the heading, and then discuss how the Willy-Biff relationship conveys that theme. Then, I would proceed to compare it with the Alfred-Gary relationship and come to a synthesis(?) of the two.

What do you guys think?

Feel free to comment on my research question if you feel it is (still) too broad a scope to cover in less than 4,000 words, or if you feel something is (still) not quite right about it.

Many thanks!

P.S. Should I stick with a comparative EE, or focus on one of the two works instead? I have a gut feeling that I won't have enough space, but I just thought a comparative between a famous play and a recent, critically acclaimed novel would be much more of an original research paper. I think if I did a one-work focus, I would take Franzen's since I'm sure many people have done English (as well as Theatre Arts) EEs on Death of a Salesman.

Edited by Azfar

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I think you're supervisor was right, list the two main themes or any other themes there are and expand on it using the father-son relationship. The other one will create a big mess. And i think you should do a comparative instead because it's better analyzing two books then one. And also you can try adding some literary devices in there to enrich your essay because my supervisor is an EE examiner for english and he said if you put in a few literary devices, you might make you examiner smile lol. But i think it's okay, you're research questions seems specific to me :) Hope i helped.

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Your research question as it stands is fine, it might be streamlined a little more when you're actually done with the paper, but that's neither here nor there.

I would also suggest that you adopt the latter approach of dividing your paper up by theme(s), rather than characters/relationships. The primary reason for suggesting so is because the central focus of your paper is "the father-son dynamic," which is a thematic point, illustrated by characters of course, but thematic at its core in the manner that you want to utilise it. Furthermore, it will help you be much more concise in your text and overcome the otherwise brevity that would inevitably creep in when covering characters/relationships individually.

I am of the view that mixing plays and novels is not a good idea. However, this is your EE and your decision to make, so do what you want to do. My honest opinion is that Death of a Salesman is a terrible choice of play for an EE because (as you stated) it is horrendously and notoriously overdone and overused in the IB, not only as a World Lit text, but also as a Paper 2 work sometimes when covering plays in schools. Examiners look for novel analyses in EEs, that's what makes the outstanding EE's reach that level of outstanding that I assume you too aim to achieve with your paper and efforts, that will be difficult with a play that has already been done to death and then some in the afterlife. This dislike for your play is further compounded by my own personal view on the no-no of mixing genres. It is very difficult to compare a play and a novel for obvious reasons while trying to give each equal attention. While I think with your specific topic, a novel and play analysis can be acquired, I don't think your analysis will possess the adequate depth required.

When analysing a play, a slightly different set of skills is used, the emphatic effects in dialogue, stage directions(!), blocking descriptions, background scores and descriptions, set designs, playwright forewords, et al. However, the ball game with novels differs as more of the ability to take back from the text relies on you instead of the novelist. With plays you spend majority of your time making a claim and then scouring the text, reinterpreting specific sections of the play's dialogues, etc to prove that claim. With novels, by simply critically analysing and breaking down the words, the style of writing, the tenses, the punctuation, the paragraphs, the structure, and so on, any meaning whatsoever can be arrived at. There is a definite friction in the way you approach these two different genres and that glaring difference would (perhaps) make the examiner feel that you've attempted a similar topic but done two different EE's rather than one grand one.

Whatever you wish to take from my drivel is up to you. I would drop Death of a Salesman and just focus on the novel if I was you; or, at the most, pick up another novel with a similar theme to go along with the one at hand.



Edited by Arrowhead
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