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Hi guys! PLEASE be my guardian angel and help me with my English EE.  I'm just wondering what components I should have in my research question.  I'm doing my english EE on "The Handmaid's Tale" by Atwood.  Right now, I'm thinking about a topic that has to do with how Offred (the main character) and women continue to stay complacent in a society that subjugates them, because of the small instances of power they wield, which help them justify their lack of effort to break from the system and how that reflects on the current society today. Would that work??

My backup would be how language is power and used to manipulate in this novel.  But do I have to somehow relate it back to the meaning of the work as a whole or something? I'm honestly just really confused.  All I know is that for my world lit paper my teacher drilled into our heads, relate a literary aspect to the meaning of the work as whole for the Thesis.

 

Edited by Dianaa

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Hi @Dianaa. Welcome to IB Survival. I certainly hope I can help.

This is a copy of IB's 2018 EE Guide. Starting on page 111 is the specific guide for literature. First, let me say, if you are planning on doing a Category 3 essay (a.k.a. Language and Literature) then I can't help you because I'm not experienced with that and much of the subsequent advice I give you may not apply. 

Okay. You've certainly got a nice foundation with the first idea. A few suggestions: You probably want a concise, snappy theme; something along the lines of "Societal groups/Women are pacified/oppressed/subjugated through phantom/limited power". You get the idea. It's up to you whether you want to make use that in the RQ and make it how question: "How does Atwood show insert theme here in A Handmaid's Tale", another option is to disguise it (either way you typically reveal the theme/thesis at the end of the intro) "How does Atwood reveal her view of subjugation/oppression in A Handmaid's Tale", or if you later decide you want to only focus on specific literary devices then you could use "How does Atwood use/employ insert literary device to develop her theme revolving around subjugation/oppression in A Handmaid's Tale" You're spoilt for choice in this regard.

Now, if you read some of the guide I linked, you might have come across this passage on page 115:

Quote

Students can choose as their topic a philosophical, political or social issue arising from a work of literature.
However, the major focus of their essay should be the literary treatment of the issue. They must not treat
the literary work(s) simply as documentary evidence in a discussion of the particular issue.
In addition, students should not use the essay solely as a vehicle for their own thoughts on the issue.
Students must focus first on their analysis of the presentation of the author’s ideas. Then they can present
their personal views on the way the author has treated the subject.

In other words, do not talk about how a theme of Atwood's 

9 hours ago, Dianaa said:

reflects on the current society today.

This is not an approach that IB appreciate in any part of Literature A. In fact, they hate it. I know I'm kind of being a jerk really emphasizing this, but I want you to know not to try it.

So what should you do? Well, if you look at the theses that we came with, it might be a bit more clear. You want to talk about the novel, what it does, how it does it, and what is its message. There are tons of literary devices. Please don't feel limited by them. You can talk about plotting techniques with literary devices, syntax, structure, juxtapositions, diction,  paradigms, as well as the more basic and obscure ones. If you want to analyze something that Atwood did in her writing, there's almost certainly a literary device that will cover you. These aren't my rules, these are IB. A ton of kids (including me) have had to learn this to succeed in IB lit. I like to say that though you might not win awards for the most intellectual, multi-faceted think-piece with it, if you follow IB's formula, you will do well.

___________________________________________________________

My issue with your backup is that it seems like a Category 3 essay to me. That's what your essentially writing if you don't connect it to the work. You might be tempted to just sub in the lit. device diction and run with it but I would also caution that. Diction is not the effect of what one character says to another, it's the effect of language in the novel on the reader (I can expand more in-depth and give examples to make my thoughts clearer if that didn't make sense and you are seriously considering this option, but I have to get up early tomorrow so I'm going to wrap this up for now ;)). That's why I think it's more of category 3 essay. 

I'm also leaving the link to this thread (specifically on externals, but very helpful nonetheless because the same principles are applied) if you want to do some more reading on IB and their version of analysis/approved practices. Good luck. You'll do great.

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@Nomenclature

I'm so so grateful that you replied with everything you did.  I'd definitely like to stay in the category 1 type of essays because I'm more familiar with those type of essays (where they relate to some literary device) than others in IB lit. I'm just not sure if my topic, without the part about how it relates to the current society, already relates to a literary aspect or not.  Complacency is a definite theme in the novel, which I think is a literary aspect, but for a category 1 type essay use a literary device?  

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17 hours ago, Dianaa said:

@Nomenclature

I'm so so grateful that you replied with everything you did.  I'd definitely like to stay in the category 1 type of essays because I'm more familiar with those type of essays (where they relate to some literary device) than others in IB lit. I'm just not sure if my topic, without the part about how it relates to the current society, already relates to a literary aspect or not.  Complacency is a definite theme in the novel, which I think is a literary aspect, but for a category 1 type essay use a literary device?  

Of course.

Yes. Your topic unquestionably relates to a literary topic; you are opining on what you believe to be a theme of the novel. You can state that anything is the theme as long as you give evidence to support it. You don't have to show that the theme is pragmatic, reasonable, or even agree with it (That's kind of more what the TOK essay is).

Let's say I write a novel about manatees; you absolutely despise manatees, but a theme of my book that you're using for your EE is that manatees are the best species in the universe. You can argue that a theme of my novel is that "Manatees are the best species in the world" in your EE even though you totally don't agree (You normally shouldn't comment on your personal opinion of the theme in any IB lit. analysis).

Themes of novels can also be stupid, crass, or even untrue; it's not your job to say and prove whether they're brilliant and apply in real-life (like Atwood's A Handmaids Tale) or if they're claptrap that is a complete falsehood (anything Ayn Rand's written). You're analyzing literary features, not writing a review. You're telling us what the author (IB likes to refer to it as "the work" instead, because IB doesn't care about what the author originally intended but I find saying author makes it easier to understand) intended as his/her message; do not tell us if the message is good or bad.

Now, moving on to lit. devices, Category 1 essays use lit. devices. The brunt of your essay will be showing about how Atwood delivers her message/theme to readers. After all, Atwood's an amazing lady with lots of things to do and she wouldn't have spent hours crafting diction, metaphors, plotting, characterization, etc. if she thought that she could have just printed the theme on pamphlets and distributed it around Ottawa. If this isn't clear, please ask more questions regarding this.

Final note, this is nitpicking, but it could save you some points if you have an assiduous examiner. "Complacency" is not a theme. One words are not themes. Sentences with independent clauses are themes. E.g., "Love" is not a theme; it is a motif. To have a theme, you need an independent clause as in: "Love always wins", "Love is stupid", and "Love is the greatest thing since sliced bread" are all themes (please don't use sliced bread though as an example of formal writing).

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On 8/1/2017 at 5:16 PM, Nomenclature said:

Of course.

Yes. Your topic unquestionably relates to a literary topic; you are opining on what you believe to be a theme of the novel. You can state that anything is the theme as long as you give evidence to support it. You don't have to show that the theme is pragmatic, reasonable, or even agree with it (That's kind of more what the TOK essay is).

Let's say I write a novel about manatees; you absolutely despise manatees, but a theme of my book that you're using for your EE is that manatees are the best species in the universe. You can argue that a theme of my novel is that "Manatees are the best species in the world" in your EE even though you totally don't agree (You normally shouldn't comment on your personal opinion of the theme in any IB lit. analysis).

Themes of novels can also be stupid, crass, or even untrue; it's not your job to say and prove whether they're brilliant and apply in real-life (like Atwood's A Handmaids Tale) or if they're claptrap that is a complete falsehood (anything Ayn Rand's written). You're analyzing literary features, not writing a review. You're telling us what the author (IB likes to refer to it as "the work" instead, because IB doesn't care about what the author originally intended but I find saying author makes it easier to understand) intended as his/her message; do not tell us if the message is good or bad.

Now, moving on to lit. devices, Category 1 essays use lit. devices. The brunt of your essay will be showing about how Atwood delivers her message/theme to readers. After all, Atwood's an amazing lady with lots of things to do and she wouldn't have spent hours crafting diction, metaphors, plotting, characterization, etc. if she thought that she could have just printed the theme on pamphlets and distributed it around Ottawa. If this isn't clear, please ask more questions regarding this.

Final note, this is nitpicking, but it could save you some points if you have an assiduous examiner. "Complacency" is not a theme. One words are not themes. Sentences with independent clauses are themes. E.g., "Love" is not a theme; it is a motif. To have a theme, you need an independent clause as in: "Love always wins", "Love is stupid", and "Love is the greatest thing since sliced bread" are all themes (please don't use sliced bread though as an example of formal writing).

THANK YOU <3

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