Text Analysis Assignment

(note other possible primary source pairings, available below.)

Text Analysis Essay

For this project, you will explore two films, Little Miss Sunshine and Gattaca by writing a paper presenting an interpretive problem you find in the texts and exploring possible solutions. Rather than only report on your thinking, you will write in a more focused manner to explore an interpretive problem in the text(s). Ideally, in the course of working on this paper, you will resolve the problem in a way that is satisfying for you and convincing to the reader. However, it is possible—even likely—that your work on the problem will advance your understanding of the problem and clarify its dimensions for your reader, but that your paper will still not reach any conclusions that might be called a solution or a resolution for the problem you have examined.

In finishing Part One of this project you’re not expected to locate and use outside resources, but it might be useful to look up biographical details about the films’ screenwriters and directors. In addition, it would make sense to quote from the text you are examining so that you may illuminate passages for readers or use them to make some interpretive point.

You will complete the project in two stages. In the first, you will produce a two-page draft as described above. For Part 2 you will be adding other voices to the discussion through the peer review:

  • You’ll be talking with others in class; and
  • In addition, you might wish to conduct some additional research to find out what scholars in the field have said about your text. You might consider <imbd.com>.


Project Objectives 

This project will give you a chance to work toward achieving some of the following course end competencies as stated in the syllabus.


Additional Guidelines

Successful papers will:

  • Be between two and three pages of actual writing. This page count excludes works cited/references page material and title page material if using APA. Papers not meeting the minimum length will receive a failing grade.
  • Set up a clear context for the discussion. They will show attention to readers by mentioning the title and author of the work, and introducing the basic topic of the paper or the perspective that is the focus of the interpretation. They will follow the Jigsaw Puzzle format of constructing their topic sentence and use Street Signs to show how they have chunked like information together.
  • Express why the interpretive problem is worth examining (the “so what?” factor). They show how the question the writer is pursing is an important one to consider when reading the text, and that the discoveries made in response to the question have significant implications.
  • Logically and thoroughly present responses to the interpretive problem. They attempt to answer the question posed in a logical, careful, and detailed manner, and spend time developing and “mulling over” the problem and its various interpretive solutions.
  • Refer specifically to the text according to MLA or APA style. They refer to specific words and lines in the story, so readers can see how you moved from the lines in the story to the interpretive statements offered about those lines. They refer to specific words and lines from other sources, and do more than simply drop such quotes into the text; they go on to explain why the quote is essential to thinking through the interpretive problem. All quotes and paraphrases are documented carefully and consistently according to MLA or APAstandards.
  • Consider the implications of the findings. They reflect on the interpretive question posed and on the discoveries made in response to it to state further conclusions and present the implications of those findings.
  • Construct a thoughtful and scholarly title: Determination: A Look at Little Miss Sunshine and Gattaca, rather than Little Miss Sunshine Vs Gattaca.
  • Incorporate an MLA Works Cited or APA References list of, at minimum, the two films utilized in this project. Accordingly, TWO CITATIONS ARE REQUIRED; i.e. the two films.
  • Edit successfully eliminating grammatical and mechanical errors.


Other text pairings have successfully been used, including:

  • Mike Nichol’s HBO Film of the Tony Kushner’s play, Angels in America and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and the concept of ‘the other.’
  • Tom Cruise’s character T.J. Mackey from the Paul T. Anderson’s film Magnolia and Ted Levine’s character, Buffalo Bill from the Jonathan Deme film of the Thomas Harris novel, Silence of the Lambs and the connection between victimization, monstrosity, and misogyny.
  • Washington Irving’s novel The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and M. Night Shyamalan’s film, The Village and the concept of fear as a tool for societal control.
  • Ernest Gaines’ novel, A Lesson before Dying and Jonathan Demme’s film of Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved and the concept of emerging understandings.
  • Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s novel, Don Quixote: The Man of La Mancha and Gary Marshall’s film Pretty Woman and the idea of overcoming odds.
  • Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and David Fincher’s Fightclub and the idea of responsibility for one’s actions.


Peer Evaluation / Rubric

(A .docx version of this Peer Evaluation Form can be downloaded here.)

Author’s Name:

Evaluator’s Name:

Presentation: This paper is formatted correctly according to APA/MLA standards (i.e. 12point font, double space, page numbering etc)? (Circle one) YES    NO.

Title: This paper uses an effective title like – Jumping Hurdles: A look at Dayton-Faris’ Little Miss Sunshine and Niccol’s Gattaca rather than the ineffective Gattaca vs. Little Miss Sunshine (Circle one)    YES    NO.

Thesis: This main idea of this paper is ____________

There is a topic sentence, somewhere in the first paragraph, like ones we’ve worked on in class? (Circle one)    YES    NO.

This paper has chunked related bits of information and given the reader GPS/MapQuest like directions through the upcoming ideas? (Circle one) YES    NO.

Little Miss Sunshine: The support developed in this section is ______

Gattaca: The support developed in this section is ____________

Tone: This paper shows an appropriate academic/professional tone? (Circle one) YES    NO.  Why?

Transitions: This paper uses effective transitions moving from one element of support to the next: (Circle one)  YES    NO.  Examples:

Conclusion: This paragraph satisfactorily establishes this idea as a valid concern without alienating readers? (Circle one) YES    NO.  How?

References/Works Cited: Research

This paper utilizes at least the two required correctly formatted citations (MLA or APA) of the films utilized for this assignment?

(Circle one) YES    NO.

Additional citations, if any, are convincing and of the level expected in the professional setting? (i.e. the absence of Wikipedia, Answers.com, dictionary definitions, etc.): (Circle one) YES    NO.

To Consider: Could additional examples be used? Do we need to look at this from a different perspective?

Does all this make sense together? Does the first paragraph connect with the last? Why is this idea important?

Sample Essay

(a .docx version of this essay can be downloaded here)

ENGL 111 TEXT Analysis: Peer Evaluation/Rubric

Anyone Student

Professor Riddle

ENG 111-32A

26 October 2015

The Fatherless Monster: A look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein &

David Fincher’s Fight Club

           According to The University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, studies show that because of a father’s absenteeism, 24% of all U.S. children are at higher risk of growing up poor, becoming unwed parents, school drop outs, gang members or victims of suicide. Indeed, 85% exhibit behavioral disorders and 74% suffer from emotional neglect (16). I suggest that if we look a bit deeper into Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and David Fincher’s Fight Club, we might better understand that the explicit behavioral actions of Tyler Durden and the Monster played by Robert DeNiro are a result of a father’s absenteeism and neglect.

            Taking a look at the two films, we can see an array of these same attributes mentioned above in these two characters. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, when Victor died at the end of the film, the character played by Robert DeNiro was weeping. When the captain of the ship asked him as he sat by Victor’s lifeless body, “Why do you weep” – he replied, “He was my father.” Therefore, we might understand that since Victor created the Monster, we can agree to some degree that Victor was his father. The character’s father gave him life yet neglected to teach him about life – where he came from, how to deal with different emotions, how to deal with his physical appearance, how to love, how to forgive, how to deal with people, and all of the things that you learn in life. Because he did not do this, it resulted in three violent deaths – including the death of Victor’s new wife.

                 Likewise, in David Fincher’s Fight Club, Tyler Durden played by Brad Pitt, who we know is one and the same as the narrator played by Edward Norton was asked, “who would you fight”? He replied, “I’d fight my father!” suggesting that the relationship he had with his father was not good. Tyler mentioned that he made yearly calls to his father for advice about life, looking for direction and guidance as he began his walk down the road to manhood but was unsuccessful. Thus, Tyler‘s father walked in and out of his life leaving it up to him to learn about manhood on his own.

            As a result, Tyler became violent using the fight clubs to act out emotions held inside. Perhaps, we might understand that if the fathers of the two characters had been present in their lives, they would have turned out differently. Indeed, considering the two characters, upon close inspection, they were not a bad people at all; they had qualities that if brought out would have made a major difference, perhaps dissuading the monster.

                They were confused and did not have their fathers to help, teach, or give them direction on how to survive in the world as a man. Rather, they had to learn every thing on their own. These two characters were emotionally and physically scared by the fact that their father gave them life then bailed out on their responsibility and left them to die. In the end, these two characters were forever changed. Heartbroken with no one to talk to, no one to lean on, they turned to their anger and took out their frustrations on everyone around them. Certainly, we can see that a contributing factor, if not the cause, of their transformation into monsters was because they were fatherless.

Works Cited

Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meat Loaf. Fox 2000 and Regency Pictures. 1999. DVD.

Frankenstein. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Robert DeNiro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, and Tom Hulce. American Zoetrope and Tri Star Pictures. 1994. DVD.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. Screens play Jim Uhls. 24 June 2000. Movie-page.com. 22March 2005. Web.

Shelly, Mary Wollstone craft. Frankenstein 1818 ed. M.L. Grant Hypertext Pub.1995. 22 March 2005. Web.

University of Pittsburg Office of Child Development. Developments. “A Little Help During The “Terrible Twos” May Curb School-Age Problem Behavior” 5:2. June 2001. Print.