Sample Essays with Commentary from Professors

It may help you to take a look at other students' writing and what a professor would say as critique when writing your own papers. To that end, we have included two sample papers from introductory-level SPCS English classes.

First, David Donaldson's persuasive essay, "Full Disclosure: Why Labeling Genetically Modified Organisms Is Necessary" is a strong example of a paper that developed over the course of a semester to become an analytical and well-researched argument. Professors Princiotto and Stevens include their comments in red throughout the text.

Next, we have below a copy of an English essay by a former SPCS student, with commentary from the professor set in italics next to the essay. This exemplifies some of the common issues found in expository papers, such as thesis accuracy, confusingly-worded or vague sentences, and organization.

"That's Ms. Riding Hood to You!"

Authors Rohini Chowdhury, Roald Dahl and Angela Carter have each composed different renditions of the classic fairytale "Little Red Riding Hood." The original story is readily recognizable within all of the rewrites, since each of them contains major elements of the memorable tale. Each writer maintains the original plot and includes the three main characters of long ago. Although varying descriptions are applied to the wolf in each author's writing, the wolf is no less the same deceptive, dangerous predator in all three stories. However, there are striking differences between the three fables. These differences are epitomized by the archetype of Little Red Riding Hood from one writing to the next. In Chowdhury's writing the young girl retains a childlike and gullible personality. Dahl moves toward the other end of the spectrum, presenting Little Red Riding Hood as a shrewd young woman, who is wise to the ways of the deceitful creature. Dahl's character executes premeditated murder to rid herself of the deceptive wolf. However, in Carter's adaptation, Little Red Riding Hood is a quick-witted young lady, on the cusp of womanhood. Although she seemingly falls into the wolf's snare and is robbed of her knife (216), she decisively abandons her fear. She is equipped with something far more powerful than a knife, or the speeding bullet discharged from a loaded revolver. In this allegory Little Red Riding Hood has her virginity to offer (215), and she uses it to save her life (220).

Each retold version of this classic fairytale is important, in that each of them appeals to the needs of modern day readers. Chowdhury's favorable ending delivers a miracle and revenge. Many individuals enjoy the sweet taste of revenge, or the comforting thought of happily-ever-after. Yet, the world is often not filled with happy endings. Death, disaster and hard times befall many in life. As Arthur Schlesinger reveals in his essay, "What Great Books Do for Children," "life is harsh before it is happy.." (618). Nonetheless, the hope of miracles in such trying times is held on to by almost anyone finding him or herself in dire straights. All-is-well fairytale endings serve the purpose of keeping the possibility of miracles alive, providing comfort in a world of trouble.

However, just as life sometimes delivers unexpected and unpleasant endings, some fairytales do as well. These endings are also valuable, as they assist readers in bridging the gap between make believe and real life. In Dahl's finale, the character of the young girl is transformed into an astute young woman, who has anticipated the danger that awaits her, and is prepared to handle the situation. In the moment in which the wolf prepares to pounce on his prey, Little Red Riding Hood whips out her gun and blows the deceptive predator away (Dahl). He never saw it coming.

While it is difficult to imagine shooting someone, it is natural to desire the ability to stand up for one's self, as did the young girl in Dahl's tale. Surely, remembrances of instances in which each reader wishes she or he had defended themselves more effectively comes readily to mind. The inner vow to do things differently the next time is a promise only sometimes kept. After all, fairytales are not written to foster better behavior, they are written to broaden one's imagination (Schlesinger 618). This applies to adults as well as children. Through Dahl's writing, the reader experiences the follow-through of self defense delivered.

Consider however, that although Dahl's ending involves murder, it is not the most controversial of the three fables retold. His solution of murder as the ultimate punishment for the cunning wolf does not shock the senses of today's readers. Television, movies and real life events have made violence and death commonplace in this society. The wolf in Dahl's story is easily representative of a deceptive lover or business partner who has become the victim of murder.

It is Carter's story that is most worthy of discussion, as it is surely the most controversial. Many are repulsed by the notion that sex is used as leverage against the devious wolf. In processing the events of this adaptation, the reader must reconcile thoughts of bestiality. This topic is not as main stream as murder. It has not commanded the evening news or the plot of prime time television on a nightly basis. The senses of those taking it in have not been dulled by inundation. To the contrary, such consideration is shocking to the senses of those seeking to be entertained by the printed word. This story removes readers from their comfort zones. Now the reader must give witness to the unthinkable. She or he must digest what these unspeakable actions feel like for the story's subject. In order to further comprehend, the reader must then imagine him or herself in the subject's position. Upon doing so, one's inner dialog becomes anxious; all peace has exited one's thoughts. The idea of offering sex in such despicable circumstances is rejected as behavior of which one could ever be capable.

However, such reactions do not render Carter's depiction any less valuable. Wayne C. Booth points out that ethical reading encompasses acceptance, as well as rejection (136). He further advises that ethical readers are best served when celebrating an author's writing for what it is, aside from oneself, and in taking a stance when one believes that the writer has gone too far (136). Booth's enlightenment calls out the responsibility to give further consideration to Carter's writing.

It must be acknowledged that Carter's retelling of the story is not for the eyes and ears of children. It should also be understood that her writing is not one regarding bestiality. In keeping with Jack Zipes' position in "Breaking the Magic Spell," it is worth noting that fairytales are not innocent children's stories. Rather, they are declarations of the system by which they are produced (21). In this society, there are many dishonest people. The wolf in Carter's fable is representative of any person displaying charm in one minute and deceit in the next. The main point is that this dishonest character, or young man, intended to harm the young girl, but she wooed him with her sexuality. Considered in this light, the story's conclusion is not so shocking at all. Rather, it is in direct alignment with adult behavior in modern day culture.

Women use sex appeal and sexual intercourse to persuade men to act in their favor on a regular basis. In motion pictures, romance novels and in real life, a woman who wishes to regain the favor of her man frequently does so by preparing a seductive meal, donning sexy lingerie and planning an evening of sexual activities. These tactics are employed when seeking to gain forgiveness for overspending the family's budget, staying out late with the girls on one occasion too many, and a host of other minor infractions. Both parties involved know the score, and the approach is not met with criticism. Indeed, a wife's ability to influence her husband's responses through the use of sex is the subject of much humor amongst girlfriends.

If sex is an acceptable bargaining chip for regaining a husband's favor after overspending the family's budget, surely saving one's own life warrants sacrificing one's sexual virtue. Yes, the young girl is all too trusting in the beginning. However, she recognizes her mistakes. In this fairytale's ending there is no heroic woodcutter to rescue the girl and her grandmother from the belly of the big bad wolf, as in Chowdhury's story. Granny's bones are under the bed and there they will remain (Carter 217). In those moments, Little Red Riding Hood comes to full realization of the immense value of her virginity and its worthlessness in death. The choice is clear, she could die with her virginity intact, or she could live without it. The smart young woman wisely chooses to live. She uses the most powerful resource at her disposal to become her own hero. With the tossing of her scarf into the flames (Carter 219), she makes the final call: life is far more important than one's own virginity.




I am confused by "no less". What do you mean here? Perhaps no longer?






Is this your governing claim? The final sentences of an introductory paragraph should outline what is proven throughout your paper. It is unclear what exactly will be argued in this essay.

This quote is well integrated.

These sentences seem to be the purpose of your essay as you go on to discuss the various endings of the different versions of Little Red Riding Hood. Consider putting these sentences earlier in your paper to make it more clear to the reader.

The use of imagery in this sentence, "whips out her gun", sounds a bit colloquial. Consider re-phrasing this.

I'm confused by what "self defense delivered" means.

You bring up a lot of interesting points here. I am concerned, however, that it is not clear how the idea of a women's sex appeal directly relates to the points you are trying to prove. Consider directly relating your thoughts to the story as you do later in the essay.

The organization of this essay is a bit confusing. You begin by talking about 3 different versions of the story but conclude with one. Is this version you are recommending? If so, I know the prompt requires that you write in the 3rd person, but consider making it more clear that this is your recommendation.


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