Immigrant Predicaments in My Life as An Undocumented Immigrant Literature Analysis

In this project, we will analyze a piece of literature. You will choose ONE of the following literature essays for your analysis.

  1. Zhang, Jenny, “Why Were They Throwing Bricks?”
  2. Roanhorse, Rebecca, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience”
  3. Machado, Carmen Maria, “My Body, Herself”
  4. Vargas, Jose Antonio, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” 

Once you have read the essay you chose, think about what you have read and encountered in the essay. What do you think about it? Begin with an interpretive question about the essay: “What does ___ mean?” Meaning, how does it connect with your real-world experience? Then frame a thesis which answers that question. Your goal is to provide a greater understanding of the essay for future readers, so they can better enjoy it.  

How to do I approach the assignment?

First off, you should write about anything in the essay that interests you. There are many ways to approach this assignment, but please be sure and begin with your personal response. Remember, although your personal response will help you form an analysis, in order to for you to be thorough and rigorously critical, you must examine your response analytically. You must interpret the story and develop ideas about it in light of a consciously formulated response.

Here are some approaches to this assignment:

These are intended to help you begin your analysis, not to frame your complete argument. Please be sure and use these as a way to begin thinking about your own interpretation. 

  • How do the elements in the piece (characters, setting, incidents, ideas) fit into your ideas about life, your values?
  • Which values, beliefs, ideas of your own does the story challenge or cause you to reevaluate? How do you think the author wanted you to respond?
  • What in the story gives you pleasure? What do you find disturbing? What do these responses tell you about author’s intentions? What do they tell you about yourself?

How do I conduct research for this essay?

I don’t want or expect you to do outside research for this essay. I want to hear your voice, to formulate your own ideas and thoughts about the reading. The only entry on your “Works Cited” page should be the essay chosen. You should use the it as your sole support.

What should the essay include?

As with all essays from here on out, you should have the following:

Your title

For an essay about literature, you need to have these elements in your title:

  • Your own unique title suggesting your key insight.
  • The name of the author(s) of the work(s).
  • The title(s) of the work(s)

For Example: The Gluttony of Ignatius in A Confederacy of Dunces by Toole

Thesis Statement

You need to include a clear and concise thesis statement. It should include:

  • Your limited subject
  • Your distinctive approach to the to that subject
  • The name of the author(s)
  • The work(s) of literature being discussed

For Example: In A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole ironically exaggerates Ignatius’ intelligence to reveal his lack of perception.

Essay Body

Divide your thesis into component points, at least three but more likely four or more. Each point should develop the thesis further. The topic sentence in each paragraph should make an arguable claim which supports the thesis and furthers your analysis. Then provide evidence from the text to support each of your claims in all of your body paragraphs. Conclude the essay by reiterating your thesis in light of what you discovered in your analysis.  

  • Three to five points in the thesis to support your analysis
  • Topic sentences that directly support each point from the thesis statement introducing each body paragraph
  • Evidence from the text which supports each paragraph claim and globally supports the thesis in each body paragraph
  • Analysis after each piece of evidence that explains the significance of the evidence and its support of the paragraph’s claim and thesis
  • A conclusion that reiterates the thesis and explains the discoveries made through the analysis

Specific Requirements 

  • Word count: 500-600 words (3 – 4 pages)
  • Rough Draft Due middle of Week 2
  • Final Draft Due End of Week 2

What to be sure to do. . .

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  • Use solid evidence. You must support your claims with solid evidence. That only comes from one place—the story itself. Be sure to quote, paraphrase, and summarize thoroughly. You can argue anything you want as long as you support it with textual evidence.
  • Use MLA format. You need to cite all outside evidence in MLA format. You need to construct a “Works Cited” page. Page formatting must also follow MLA guidelines. Please refer to the MLA guide handouts and resources.
  • Use the third person point-of-view. You are the writer. You are the author of the thought behind the page, so there is no need to say “I.” It is stronger to use declarative sentences than including the personal pronoun “I.”
    • For example, which sentence carries more force: (1) “Toole breaks barriers and uses his characters reveal social injustices,” or (2) “I think Toole breaks barriers and uses his characters reveal social injustices.” The second suggests that the writer is unsure of his/her position. The first is strong and forces the reader to listen and consider the argument.
  • Use the historical present tense. When writing about literature, we always want to use the historical present tense. Even though the literature may have been composed in the past or an author may be deceased, they both (work and author) are part of the living art, so they should be discussed as so.
    • For example, we say, “In A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole describes [not described] Ignatius and illustrates [not revealed] his physical features to the reader vividly.”

What not to do. . .

  • Make generalizations about the literature: what are the larger issues the author is trying to display? What is the author saying about people, the human condition in general? Why? What conclusions can you draw from them?
  • Do not outline the plot. We have already read it. Assume your readers have already read the plot; do not spend time explaining what, but rather why? And what it all means.  You readers may need help understanding what the events in the story mean but not what they are.

Major Goal 

Your goal is to provide a greater understanding of the reading for future readers, so they can better understand the complexities of it. You are adding to the current conversation on the reading.   


Step 1 Choose your Essay

  1. Zhang, Jenny, “Why Were They Throwing Bricks?”
  2. Roanhorse, Rebecca, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience”
  3. Machado, Carmen Maria, “My Body, Herself”
  4. Vargas, Jose Antonio, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” 

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