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Example Essay Plan for Personal Assignments

An Example Essay Plan for an essay on Robinson Crusoe

            Here is an example of a possible plan for a student who intended to write a personal assignment on Defoes Robinson Crusoe.  Under no circumstances should students follow this plan for their own assignments, as (a) it is only relevant to this particular novel, and (b) it is only relevant to this particular writer.  It is the students job to form his/her own arguments. 

Daniel Defoes Robinson Crusoe: In Defense of the WASP.

Introduction: Most novels in English Literature (until the middle of the 20th century) predominantly focus on White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.  Novels, due to their wide readership, play a major role in forming stereotypes in society, and this formation is undoubtedly deliberate, though perhaps not on a personal level.  Defoes novel is a fine example of a work of art designed to promote the interests of one group (Wasps) at the expense of others. (1-2 pages approx.) 

Part One: Biography. Focus on Defoe as a writer and the time that he was writing.  England was expanding rapidly, particularly overseas.  The success of the British was seen as a justification for the Protestant faith, which was firmly established as the religion of England.  Defoe, a tradesman, had a great deal of contact with various members of society and his vast experience allowed him to work with a wide range of subjects in his novels. (2 pages approx research required for biographical and historical facts)

Part Two: White Superiority.  Defoes views concerning white superiority are evident throughout the novel.  (Close textual analysis and quotations required for this section)  The main example is Crusoes relationship with Friday and the fact that this master-slave relationship develops naturally.  In addition to this, Crusoes experiences with the Moor emphasize the cleverness of the white man compared to the gullible Moor, while all references to unknown people generally use the word savage.  An extension of the introduction would be possible here emphasizing how such language and seemingly harmless plot strategies help to reinforce traditional stereotypes.  The novel is often more successful in this way, as the prejudice seems to be part of the story, and not an unfair political/social judgment.  (3-5 pages including many passages/extracts from the text)

Part Three: Protestant Superiority.  (a)  A discussion of the main attributes of Protestantism would be useful to begin this section.  Following this, one would focus on how the plot is used to promote Protestant ideas.  Individualism and Mans one-to-one relationship with God are stressed and this is the reason for using the single man on a desert island plot.  Away from distractions, man has the ability to find God, on an individual basis.  Icons and ceremonies are unnecessary; the religious feeling is far more important.  There are a great number of quotations which could be used to back up this point. (b) One would also focus on the opening pages of the novel, and the subsequent reaffirmation of the moral point of the story.  Defoe emphasizes the importance of accepting ones position in life and not giving into passions or taking risks.  Protestantism, as a religion with very little hierarchy, relies on such moral lessons to discipline individual behavior in society.  (c) One would also include in this section the obvious criticism of other religions, particular Catholicism.  Catholics are referred to with the same language used for foreigners and stories are told about Catholic barbarity.  (d) One would also analyze the way that Defoe uses the religious teaching of Friday to illustrate how good Protestantism is for civilization and all individuals.  Friday is miraculously transformed from a man-eating savage into a civilized human being.  (e) Finally, one could analyze Defoes discussions of fate and free will, although the unclear nature of Defoes (and Christianitys) opinions would mean that such analysis would not support the argument of this essay to a great extent. (5-8 pages including several quotations) 

Conclusion: Reintroducing the ideas mentioned in the introduction of the essay, one would stress the main points of the argument once again, using the text if appropriate, in order to round off the essay and leave the reader with a well-constructed argument.

The Rise and Development of the English Novel

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