Critical Response Essay

ENG 2351 – Paper 1: Critical Response Essay – The Short Story

As you read a text critically, you try to understand it and develop a sound response to it. Interpreting a text means digging into the text to figure out what it’s about and what it means to you. Although you might not know why an author wrote a particular work, other clues—such as the cultural and historical context in which the work was written—will factor into your interpretation. Your own experiences and the other texts you’ve read will also affect how you interpret a work. In this way, you can connect with the texts you read both on a personal level and on a level that resonates with the broader contexts in which they were written and continue to be read.

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For this assignment, begin by choosing at least one short story from our assigned readings in Weeks 1-3. Be purposeful in your selection; the story should be one in which you felt connected or drawn to, or one that you want to delve into more deeply. NOTE: you may choose more than one story if you want to make connections or comparisons among them. However, only one story is required.

Your response: Once you have chosen a story, your goal is to offer insight into the meaning behind the story. What is it about? Why is it significant? Why is it impactful? Your goal is not to offer plot analysis, but instead to delve deeper into the story by discussing themes, interpretations, and significance. Please note: your response is inherently unique to you. While your ideas may certainly be impacted and shaped by class discussions, know that you will have a different response than your classmates.

Supporting your response: Another key component of this paper is to support your response with textual evidence from the story, as well as any important historical/social/political impacts. This will require you to do some research to understand when the story was written and how the time period impacts the theme (think about any political, social, or historical aspects of the time period). Any outside research that you use in your paper must be cited with APA in-text citations and in the References page.

Additionally, you should consider the literary terms we have explored during the short story unit to help you investigate your response.


A clear thesis statement that succinctly states an insightful and unique response.
Clear organization, including a brief introduction ending with the thesis, body paragraphs that support the thesis, and a conclusion that leaves a lasting impression of the overall significance. Any outside research (not considered common knowledge) must be documented using APA style.
Textual support that demonstrates strong knowledge of the short story itself, as well as explanation of assertions being made.
Demonstrated knowledge of social, historical, and/or political context that may have impacted the story.
3-5 pages not including the Title Page and References page.
APA formatting, including Title Page formatting, running heads, page numbers, double-spacing, 12-point Times New Roman font, in-text citations, and full references in the Reference Page. NOTE: An abstract is not required.
Use of at least two literary terms you’ve learned so far that help guide and support your response.

Resources for Support:

Essay writing is a process. The first step in getting started on this assignment is to understand the assignment and begin to brainstorm the approach you will take. Because you will read the short stories over the course of three weeks, it might be helpful to preview them early so you can choose your subject as soon as possible. In other words, skim them and spend time pre-reading those that look most promising to you. In upcoming weeks, you will be guided through the writing process with supplemental resources, instruction, and ideas for exploration. Our process steps include:

Week 1: Critical Response Assignment Instructions
Week 2: Planning and Organizing the Critical Response
Week 3: Supporting the Critical Response
Week 4: Finalizing the Critical Response

**IMPORTANT** All students have access to the Smarthinking Online Tutoring service via Canvas. Please take advantage of this service by submitting your draft here for feedback from a writing tutor. Submit early and often for best results!

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