Critical Essay


Upon successful completion of this assignment, students will be able to

  • Write a critical essay about a novel or novella that demonstrates well thought out arguments and
  • Analyse the way writers use work choice in complex characterization

Students are asked to write an integrative, critical essay of at least 2,000 words (+/- 200 words) on either Last Night at the Lobster or Keep the Aspidistra Flying. The essay should connect the workplace themes of the course, such as lack of work opportunities, lack of fulfillment in work, conformity based on necessity, search for freedom as balanced against social awareness and commitment to family, society, and nation.

The overall intent is to discuss the construction of a workplace identity in the main character and to show how this individual is able to negotiate a reasonable compromise between success and failure. The thesis statement could well draw attention to bigger historic and social issues, such as the role of the artist in the contemporary world and the effects of franchise and big business on blue collar workers.

The essay must analyze the characterization, focusing on character change and development, in the chosen novel. The essay may draw on secondary sources, as long as they are documented correctly using APA formats.


  1. Choose the novel that resonates with you, your program of study, and your own work experiences.
  2. For example, if you wish to explore a concept such as the effect of space and environment on people’s daily lives, then the Orwell novel might suit you.
    b. Consider the text you have the strongest reaction to, whether positive or negative. Since it is clear that Last Day at the Lobster is shorter than the Orwell novel, (and a recent publication from a writer yet to be established in the literary canon, and also a novella (short novel) with the characteristics of that subgenre of fiction), it may seem the easier choice. However, the Orwell novel has much to say about the writer’s life that is linked to the business world, in terms of the book business, and takes a wider view of experiences that may be more accessible to readers, especially to those who have read 1984. One text can be related to food issues in our culture today and the other to the place of creative people in the workplace.
  3. Compose a working thesis statement that shows your view of the main character in the novel. Then add a list of your own readers’ statements.
    3. Working from you’re the notes you took as you read and class discussions, inserting quotations from the novel and drawing from examples.
    4. Consider whether secondary sources such as academic journal articles might be helpful. In the case of Orwell, the supply of information and scholarly analysis would be endless. Bear in mind that these sources are only useful if they help you to answer your own readers’ questions.
    5. Organize your essay carefully.
    6. Write your essay that is structured, with arguments and subtopics set out.
    7. Check for accuracy in quotations and documentation of key scenes. Add page references.
    8. Edit to correct spelling, punctuation, sentencing, and final working of the thesis.
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