Conclusion: Make sure to leave the reader with a satisfying conclusion. You may want to end your essay with your final thoughts on how texts taken from our popular culture convey or reflect or shape American experience/identity.
Introduction: It is important that your opening paragraph introduce and briefly summarize/describe your primary text. It should also convey why your primary text is representative of the American experience/identity. The introduction should end with a thesis statement that controls the focus of your essay and makes a claim about what insights your primary text makes about the American experience/identity.
Body Paragraphs: The body of the essay should consist of your thorough analysis of the text. It should contain only enough summary for background and context. Here, you should focus on relevant, specific details from the text, providing direct quotes when needed to support/illustrate a point. Analysis consists not only of describing what something says but how it says it. Rule of thumb: There should always be more analysis/interpretation than summary. Assume that your reader is basically familiar with your chosen texts. Be sure to move smoothly from one idea to the next by drawing significant connections and utilizing transitional phrases and topic sentences.
For this essay, you will be required to think deeply about how a “text” taken from American popular culture reflects, depicts, or conveys the American experience/identity to an audience. The primary “text” that you choose could be an example of one of the following genres: an advertisement (TV, print, or billboard ad); an episode of a television show; a comic book character; a dramatic film; a work of art (such as a painting, a sculpture, a multi-media piece, a poster); a music video; a piece of literature (poem, short story, etc.). Your job will involve interpreting the significance of your chosen primary text, its theme/message, and the implications of what and how your primary text depicts the American experience/identity.
For example, you may want to choose a car commercial that plays upon our desire to achieve the American Dream. Think about how the product, the car itself, represents a status symbol, the use of patriotic music, and key images. If you enjoy comics, you could examine Superman, who interestingly fights for American ideals despite the fact he comes from another planet and that his powers/identity keeps him separate from others. You may want to take a look at a quintessential American image from one of Ansel Adams’ photographs or one of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. In your analysis you should not rely simply on general observations of your primary text. Focus on specific examples and details from your primary text in order to fully develop and illustrate your analysis of the text. Due to the essay’s relatively short length, choose no more than one comic book character, one television episode, one advertisement, one work of art, one music video, one piece of literature, etc.
For this project, we are also guided by the original This I Believe series and the to those who wrote essays in the 1950s. Their advice holds up well. Please consider it carefully in writing your piece.
The purpose of this essay is to analyze, evaluate, and reflect on the possible meanings, intended or unintended, of your primary text. Ask yourself the following questions: Does the text rely on almost mythic ideas of what it means to be American? What symbols or motifs does it use? Does it utilize stereotypes (class, race, ethnicity, gender)? What messages—implicit or explicit, accurate or not so accurate—does this text produce or promote concerning American experience/identity? What language and/or visual images are incorporated into this text and for what effect? Who are the characters presented in the text, and who/what do they represent? Does the primary text celebrate being American and present a positive depiction? Is the text’s message jingoistic? Does the text convey a negative image and criticize what Americans stand for? Is such a criticism valid and what is its source? Overall, what does the text reveal about the American experience/identity (or its author’s understanding of it)?
Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Tell a story from your own life; this is not an opinion piece about social ideals. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.
Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief.
I. Introduction: Below are some questions to get you started with your analysis of your chosen text. In your essay, your introductory paragraph should introduce the text, briefly describe it, and present an arguable claim about the text in the form of a thesis statement.
Although we are no longer accepting new essays on our website, we thought we would share these essay writing suggestions in case you wished to write an essay for your own benefit. Writing your own statement of personal belief can be a powerful tool for self-reflection. It can also be a wonderful thing to share with family, friends, and colleagues. To guide you through this process, we offer these suggestions:
Write your tentative thesis statement here:
II. Supporting paragraphs: Write a topic sentence in your outline that will show the supporting point to be explored and what you will use from your own ideas/analysis, from the text itself, and from source material to build that supporting point. You don’t have to use both sources in each supporting point.
A. Supporting paragraph #1 topic sentence that shows the aspect of your claim that you’ll be expanding on in your supporting point—write it here: (Don’t forget this step!)
It is useful to follow some standard conventions when writing about poetry. First, when you analyze a poem, it is best to use present tense rather than past tense for your verbs. Second, you will want to make use of numerous quotations from the poem and explain their meaning and their significance to your argument. After all, if you do not quote the poem itself when you are making an argument about it, you damage your credibility. If your teacher asks for outside criticism of the poem as well, you should also cite points made by other critics that are relevant to your argument. A third point to remember is that there are various citation formats for citing both the material you get from the poems themselves and the information you get from other critical sources. The most common citation format for writing about poetry is the .
All the components of the essay should be centered around the writer's reaction to the text. Think of an orchestra. In an orchestra, there are not just cellists, but an array of musicians that contribute. Each musician's contribution is cohesive and harmonious, meant to enhance or to fatten the sound of a piece of music. When one listens to an orchestra, one does not hear all of the different components separately, but all components together, speaking to each other in order to produce one cohesive sound or theme, as it were. Like an orchestra, all of the components of one's essay must speak to one theme. That theme or claim must be continuously supported throughout the text.