This assignment, an analytical essay on Medicine River, is marked out of 100 marks and is worth 10 per cent of your final grade in the course. Please review the Strategies for Success section of the Course Overview for a suggested schedule and general guidelines for assignments.
Using the checklist on pages 174–176 of A Short Guide to Writing About Literature as an aid, as well as the sample essays in that handbook as models, select one of the five topics below and examine Medicine River in an essay of 500–750 words.
This assignment involves you in writing an analytical essay. This means you are examining selected elements of the novel through the use of reasoning, not merely retelling the story. I remind you to look at your audience as someone who has read the novel and is therefore interested, not in a plot summary, but in your insights into the work. Be certain to quote from the text (usually brief quotations of one sentence or less will be most effective) in order to develop and illustrate your argument.
Regardless of which topic you select, be certain to provide full statements of theme and to incorporate the relevant knowledge you have acquired from the commentary, the handbook, and other readings as well as the activities, while retaining your own individual insights into the work, of course. Analyze the novel as an example of what Thomas King calls “associational literature.” King, you will recall, tells us that such literature centres on an Indigenous community and eschews conflict, judgments, and the pattern of Freytag’s Triangle, opting instead for a concentration on everyday complexities and community.
Furthermore, it preserves Indigenous cultural values and doesn’t allow the outsider complete access into that culture. Select what you see as the most significant of these points, as outlined in “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial,” and apply them to Medicine River. Select major descriptions of photographs in the novel and examine them as symbols. What do the photographs and Will’s attitudes toward them reveal about his development as a character? Using specific incidents from the novel, show how Will’s profession as a photographer reflects his attitude toward his own past and present. Examine Harlen’s role in Will’s development symbolically. Is Harlen a trickster, a father, a mentor, or perhaps some combination of these, for example? Analyze the role of a female character in the novel. Through his depiction of this character, what is King suggesting about male-female roles? Note
Refer to the Assignment Instructions for guidelines on preparing and proofreading your essay, criteria used in marking the assignments, and submitting your completed assignment to your tutor.