Common Mistakes – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Presentation Handout

  1. Read the books.
  1. If you are not reading the books, it is very obvious from reading your essays.  There is nothing worse than you trying to demonstrate your understanding of something you do not understand because you have not read.  
  2. To best demonstrate your understanding, we are looking for authentic engagement with the text.  This is impossible if you have not read the text.
  1. Answer the question.
  1. This is your primary focus during our Paper 2 Assessment.  It is very hard to create a well-structured and organized essay if you do not work to answer the question.  Your direct response to the question should serve as the thesis of your essay, and you should connect back to this point as you move through your analysis paragraph by paragraph.
  2. Remember – your job is to tweak the answer to fit the question, not tweak the question to fit your canned or packaged answer.  Every time you write a Paper 2 it will look different, and you cannot package a response beforehand to fit with any question that comes up.  Remember, authentic engagement.
  1. Embedding contextual information and literary elements.
  1. This is the toughest part of your Paper 2.  
  1. Most questions will lend their response to either context or literary elements.  Your job is to find a way to address the other in your response.
  1. For example, if the question is making a blanket statement about characterization, your thesis will directly relate to characterization, and you should be covered on Criteria B and C if you give a detailed answer to the question.  Then, you must ask yourself, how can I incorporate information related to the context of composition into my response?  What is it about Conrad’s life experiences that led him to characterize the characters the way he did?
  2. This integration should be authentic and not forced.  The material you present must be relevant to how you answer the question.
  1. I saw a lot of forced responses regarding the contextual feature of modernism, and the literary element of frame story narration.  How can we shape our analysis to make this discussion authentic and relevant?
  1. We need to demonstrate a stronger understanding of symbolism.
  1. Be careful when stating that a character symbolizes an object or idea.  While characters can serve as symbols in literary works, we need to remember to differentiate between symbolism and characterization.  
  1. This happened a lot with analysis stating that Marlow represents a journey to awakening.  While he does change his views throughout the course of the novella, it would be difficult to separate this idea from characterization to state that he represents this.  His experiences change him as a character, he doesn’t represent the changes that his experiences cause.
  1. Consider biographical context.
  1. Rarely did we touch on biographical context, although many of the literary elements we discussed (characterization, setting, symbolism, etc) lent themselves very well to this type of contextual analysis.  How did Joseph Conrad’s biographical context lead him to write these literary elements in the way he did?
  1. Organization of our paragraphs.
  1. Far too much summary in your body paragraphs.  Make sure that your body paragraphs center on analysis, not summary.  Keep in mind that this is a literary essay, which is analytical in nature.  This should read differently than something like a book report, which is more summary based.  
  1. This means you still need PEA format in your paragraphs.  The largest part of your paragraph should be related to analysis, not evidence.  
  1. When discussing literary devices, do not forget to analyze the effect the device has on the audience.  Often times, this will relate to how your answer your question and relate back to the thesis, but not always.
  1. Language issues present in the essay.
  1. Consider the role that academic transitions can play in your writing.  Check out some examples here.  A quick Google search will provide you with many university writing centers that give lists of academic transitions.
  1. We need to work to move beyond firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc. at this point.  Dig deeper into your repertoires to represent yourselves as academics the way you want to be represented.
  1. Other than transition issues, I was quite satisfied with our growth in the language department.  Just remember the difference in register between analysis and summary.