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Eng 1123—English Composition II


Assignment: Essay 2 Fiction (Non-research)

Analysis of “Cora Unashamed” by Langston Hughes, a story from his collection of short stories called The Ways of White Folks.  It is not in your textbook but is linked to MODULE: THE CRAFT OF RESEARCH: LANGSTON HUGHES. You will have citation information.

Format: MLA –This includes an original title for your essay; do NOT use quotation marks for your title; do NOT put your title in Italics; do NOT make your title font larger than the rest of the font; do NOT make the title bold when the rest of the font is not bold.

Length: 5-7 paragraphs, not including introductory and concluding paragraphs, with each at least 5-7 sentences long. This is a general directive. A solidly developed topic, derived from a solid thesis, is the goal. It is possible that your paper may be slightly longer but it should not be much shorter than the prescribed length. You do not want to submit a paper that is three sentences long, one with no real direction because there is no thesis to support, and subsequently no detailed examples and no meaningful content.

Your paper will have a standard font of 10 to 12 points. You will double space your paper.

NOTE:  This essay is NOT your research assignment. Although your rubric has a research component this consists of the short story you will be analyzing. It is called your primary source. IF YOU CUT AND PASTE PHRASES FROM A SOURCE OTHER THAN THE STORY OR USE OTHER SECONDARY SOURCES THIS WILL BE CONSIDERED PLAGIARISM. Use just your own faculties of critical thinking. You will have a Works Cited page, however, in MLA format. This means that your paper will have the following:

  1. The standard MLA heading
  2. A Works Cited page
  3. Throughout the paper, you will use evidence from the story to support your thesis. You might use one or two direct quotations (short ones if possible) but most of your support will use paraphrases.
  4. You must include a Works Cited page. Do NOT use the word page in that designation.
  5. Avoid references to yourself, such as “ I think”, “I feel”, “I believe” , etc.

Materials Needed: 

Textbook:  Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing, Chapter 42, “Writing About a Story”, pp. 1908-1931—this chapter reviews some of the techniques you may have learned in English Composition I, such as brainstorming and the need for a strong thesis statement. You can look at the sample essays as models.

Course Site: 


See the first PDF file, FICTION, KEY TERMS (which you will also use for the Proctored Test)—access and/or print a copy to help you with terms.

From Films on Demand: Elements of Narrative: Video review of the components found in a narrative such as a book or short story. See the Library Password sheet for accessing the film.





Contains the short story “Cora Unashamed” as well as a film of the story and other helpful materials, including some study questions to help you brainstorm ideas.

Contains the “Language Arts Critical Approaches Quiz” which may be helpful in generating ideas

GUIDELINES: Your essay will be an analysis of a story element or elements. There are a number of ways to understand a story as shown by the different forms of literary criticism. Use this concept as you read “Cora Unashamed” and brainstorm ideas.


ASSIGNMENT:  In an essay 5-7 paragraphs long, answer ONE of the following questions. Make sure that you begin your essay with a specific thesis statement that you can develop with clear examples from the story to support it. After each question, there are some prompts to help you think about an answer.  You might also refer to the terms on the “FICTION: KEY TERMS” sheet and the study questions from The University of Iowa. As you will see, some of the questions overlap. Some of the critical approaches also overlap.

  1. Analyze the character of Cora Jenkins. (You might think of this as primarily Formalist since it concentrates on an analysis of character.) What sort of person does Cora prove to be?  This is your thesis question. To answer this question, think about the events in her life from the beginning to the end of the story and how she responds to each one.  What are Cora’s experiences in life, love, and work? What is her family life like? How does she interact with those around her?  Who or what does she value?  Do her values clash with the values of others? What are her work and social conditions? Is there a common thread to her responses? Does she evolve over time?
  2. Discuss the importance of Setting in “Cora Unashamed”. How does setting affect character? This is your thesis question. Remember that the Setting   of a story can include the country, the city/town, year or historical era in which the story is set. Where does Cora live? What are the circumstances under which she lives?  What seems to be important to those around her?   An analysis of Setting might include some elements of Historical or Sociological Criticism.
  3. What is the significance of the title of “Cora Unashamed?” How does the story reflect the concept of shame and why is Cora “unashamed?”
  4. Works of literature often reflect a certain THEME, a controlling idea or insight that can be seen throughout the story. One critic notes a theme of isolation in some of the short stories of Langston Hughes. How does the theme of isolation impact the events of “Cora Unashamed?” Who is isolated and how does this impact behavior? Think of Cora but also some of the other characters when discussing this theme.