[Prompt] Literary Argument Practice

Poet and philosopher Criss Jami wrote:
“Being the odd one out may have its temporary disadvantages, but more importantly, it has its permanent advantages.”

Select a novel or play with a character who lived as an outsider, or on the fringes of society, and encountered both positive and negative consequences. Then write a thesis and a well-developed paragraph about the temporary disadvantages and permanent advantages the character experienced due to this position in society, and how those outcomes illuminated your interpretation of the work as a whole.

In the thread below, write:

  • a thesis that establishes
    * your novel or play of choice
    * your argument about a character in response to the prompt
  • a well-developed paragraph with
    * at least two points of evidence from the novel
    * commentary connecting your line of reasoning to the evidence

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 11:59pm EDT

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, Gatsby is the clear representation of an outsider encountering with both positive and negative consequences: fulfilling himself by following his dreams and getting killed for doing so. This is clearly seen throughout the novel.
It is seen how Gatsby is in love with Daisy, confusing him into an obsession with wealth and power making him believe that it would lead him to eternal happiness. Gatsby being trapped in this bubble, makes him feel like he has the opportunity to pursue his dreams (fulfilling him) which is dedicate his life into being the wealthiest man. What more does someone want than having such opportunity? Gatsby gets to feel a mix of the the best feelings in life which are success, happiness, fulfillment, pride, and love. Unfortunately, society still doesn’t recognize his success since they still see him as an outsider with “new-money”. His obsession gets toxic to the extent that it kills him. When he gets killed by George Wilson due to something done by Daisy is life pricking the dark, consuming bubble Gatsby was living in and telling him that he just doesn’t fit in it.

As we grow older, there comes a point in life where people truly discover themselves without regarding all of their society’s expectations. Similarly, in the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier rediscovers herself through a journey meeting outsider characters that help her “awaken” from a long-term “dream” which was her current life. One of these crucial “outsiders” was Adele Ratignolle, which becomes her foil as Edna begins to realize that she did not want to become like her… Thanks to Adele, Edna is able to make a new friend and open herself to someone; however, Adele’s character also makes Edna realize that her purpose in life was not to be a housewife and that she was not happy in her marriage.

Over the course of the novel, the audience is able to speculate that Edna is more of an introvert since she does not mention having many close friends. However, Adele becomes one of her close friends since they were both young, married, had kids, a beach house, and were neighbors. Adele is considered to be the “perfect woman” under society’s eyes - a housewife that dedicated her whole existence to her husband and children. As the novel continues, Edna begins to doubt Adele’s character and begins to distance herself from her. By reaching to Adele’s foil, Mademoiselle Reisz, Edna begins to see her own true colors and purpose in life.

Thesis: The author conveys Edna Pontellier’s role of being an outcast during these sexist times by portraying her as a sprouting independent woman, realizing the advantages and disadvantages of becoming determined to live for herself and not her husband nor her children, yet eventually bringing her to a graceful suicide.

Paragraph: As Edna became more independent, she started to grow as a person. At first, the author mostly shows the positive aspects of her rebellion against the norms. One of the earliest forms Edna reached her independence was through learning how to swim all by herself; she finally felt the freedom to walk into the ocean all alone. Another huge step she took to independence was deciding to buy her own house in the city. This decision allowed Edna to escape her demanding husband and children, which eventually led her to falling in love with another man. All of these things made Edna an outcast in the society she was living in at the time; people worried about her and even thought she was seriously sick. But it didn’t bother Edna at all because she was finally being herself.

In The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Mademoiselle Reisz is a foil to the main carachter- Edna Pontellier. By being considered an outcast to their society, Mademoiselle Reisz stumbles upon conflicts- being alone and left out- but also encounters benefits: she was able to be herself without the need to please other people.
The first introduction the reader gets of Mademoiselle Reisz is that she is a bitter woman with music as her only passion. This was seen by her society as unacceptable because women were all suppose to get married yet Mademoiselle Reisz never did. Therefore, they thought of her as an outcast. She did not pay any attention to them. Mademoiselle Reisz tells Edna that she was the only person worth playing for in a room full of people. She knows how they think of her but she also has her own judgement of them. Mademoiselle Reisz is a woman that encountered the ups and downs of being considered an outcast, but in the end, she at least knows who she is and what she values.

Within Ralph Ellison’s novel “Invisible Man”, the narrator describes his journey finding his identity in a world that refuses to “see” him for who he was. As a black man in society, he was constantly being stereotyped and defined as “what he ought to be.” At the beginning of the novel, the narrator’s grandfather, in his death bed, states if he wants success, he should “conform to the white man’s expectations, but in doing so, you’ll be a traitor to your race.” These words have haunted him as he blindly accepted other people’s orders. Unaware that others are merely using him as a tool, the narrator was constantly betrayed by people he thought highly of. The college principal he admired, Dr.Bledsoe, expelled him to simply keep his power; His boss, Brother Jack, used his influence to destroy the black community in Harlem. Although all these experiences led the narrator to live in a basement, unknown to society, he gained something success may not give; self-awareness and acceptance.

In the novel,The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier forms part in a society for her heritage but at the same time, she is an outsider due to the way she thinks and her realization of women empowerment throughout the novel. This contrasting way of thinking with the rest of women in her society allowed her to break the oppressive thoughts that she was failing as women but also was the cause of her demise. This can be seen when Edna moves to another house alone and when she takes her last swim in the ocean totally naked.

Edna’s decision to move out of her house, marks a turning point in the novel. It shows how each time she cares less about forming part of her society and caring less what people will say. In a way, this freed her but it was not enough her husband covered up for her. The ideas of women empowerment where freeing her from the suffering of having to conform to society and living a miserable life but then we see that when she takes this ideas to the extreme, going swimming naked, it’s like she crossed a line and was given too much freedom that ended killing her. Through this two events in the novel, Chopin shows how the ideas of freedom and women empowerment that made Edna an outsider freed her, but also killed her.

In the Novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, brilliantly illustrates the transformation of Jimmy Gatz into becoming Jay Gatsby; an outcast who has tried so hard to fit in into a broken society that eventually accomplishes his American Dream but gets killed in the process.

Gatsby’s first love, Daisy, consumed him. His infatuation over Daisy was making him forget all of his principles and morals. From once being a poor soldier he became the richest man in the “Old Money Society”. Living on the fringes of society and from one day to another turning into such a wealthy man made him an outcast. Those old money aristocrats saw him as the man who dressed up with a pink suit and lived in a huge mansion and everyone knew he wasn’t “enough” to fit in into such high class. His determination into becoming the man that Daisy always wanted him to be, made him forget that he was part of an infidelity. Gatsby being in such position in society, transformed him into the greatest of them all but such desperate actions made were the cause of his assassination . Even if he did not live to enjoy it, he finally got all he wished for; a significant identity.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsbyemphasized text** effectively showcases how living in the fringes of society can have both positive and negative consequences- considering how Gatsby’s hard work allowed him to live in luxury, yet people used him for their own benefit.

Aside from living in one of New York’s most wealthy towns -West Egg- Gatsby dwelled in a mansion comparable to a royal castle. He made sure to keep his palace full of people during the weekends by throwing grandiose and wild parties. In highsight, this might make Gatsby’s life look life like a fulfilled and fascinating one. However, since he was considered “new money”, he did essentially live as an outsider in the social network of the New York elite. People exponentially swarmed his parties, yet they never really bothered to meet him or get to know him. Massive parties were lonely for Gatsby, making his existence a living oxymoron.

Being an outsider as everything, has its advantages and its disadvantages. In the novel The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gatsby, although having all the money and being the one that does the parties ends up being an outsider because he doesn’t even enjoy his parties. This position in the long run brings him joy when he finally gets Daisy but also brings him sadness when he finds himself dying alone.

Although Gatsby is the one that does the parties, he never forms part of them. While the parties didn’t bring him gratification, finally getting Daisy’s attention did. Showing that although being an outsider he did obtain a glimpse of happiness. This happiness was short lived because being an outsider proofed to also make him not connect with anyone and ended up dying alone. He thought he had everything including Daisy but when his final hour came, he ended up realizing he was alone with his butler. Fitzgerald shows through this events the illusion of happiness that Gatsby obtained out of being an outsider but also the sadness that he ended not having anyone at the end.

In Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, James Gatz-the protagonist-is an outsider to the wealthy, old-money society. Gastby was not born into money and this served to both his advantage and disadvantage. His lack of refinement served as a disadvantage, yet his empathy is a permanent advantage that was left by his past.
Being born into a poor family, unlike Tom Buchanan, Gatsby was not taught anything involving manners or living a “respectable” life. His lack of etiquette is shown when he bursts into an argument with Tom Buchanan at the Plaza Hotel, after losing his temper. Despite trying to control these impulses, these bursts come out and threaten to reveal the real James Gatz. This disadvantage can also be seen in his tacky extravagance. In the efforts of being a seemingly proper person, Gatsby tends to go a bit overboard. It is after all his bright yellow car that leads Mr. Wilson to his home and the murder he committed.

Countries and states can be divided into different cultures. If you were to go to a completely different city on the other side of the country, you could see the large amount of differences between both societies. In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the narrator/protagonist, Nick Carraway, decided to move to New York and continue with his job despite not having any social connections nor aristocratic pedigrees; he’s the odd one out due to his introversion and reserved judgement as he fails to see any enjoyment of living an aristocratic life or having luxurious parties in the house of Jay Gatsby. However, his restrained opinion benefited Nick in his trust with the other characters in the novel, collection of info, and his final yet well-informed opinion about the society of New York and everyone in it.

Nick Carraway claimed at the beginning of the novel that he was seen as a trustful person because he’s a reliable listener. This ability becomes extremely useful as Nick is capable of slowly building bonds with different individuals that he trusts to a certain extent. He hangs around with the Buchanans despite not liking Tom’s personality, he can easily eavesdrop new information about certain individuals, he even befriended Jay Gatsby and learned about his surprising past. All of these events that Nick is allowed to see turns him into a very reliable narrator and witness as he sees all of the events unfold in front of him. Additionally, this enormous amount of information led Nick to form his own opinion about how New York and the Eastern society in general was uninhabitable for someone like him.

Whether we admit it or not we live by a set rules. Rules that tell us what is wrong and what is right. In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Kurtz decided to break the rules and live by what he believes and wants to be. As a result he is treated as a savage but is also able to find his purpose in life.
We tend to settle down in a place where one feels comfortable, just like Kurtz did. When Marlow comes back to get Kurtz he doesn’t want to leave. This shows how we has found the true meaning of his happiness which is not in an image of a European wearing clothes so clean that almost shined while looking at them, but living in the wilderness with no boundaries. Every action or decisions, that people make are based off their happiness meter. Which is what Kurts found trying to fit in in the not-so-perfect world, which no European would bother to explore\ . Another example of this are Kurtz final words when he says “the horror the horror”, showing that he has realized and figured out the hidden truth of life. The significance of his last words being told to Marlow is that he dies with this satisfaction of spreading his word to others that will lead to further realisations.

Every person goes through a phase of the life of feeling lost, confused or even angry with their community. In The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield’s whimsical and egocentric character leads him to be rejected by his classmates and be frowned upon by his parents but preserves his innocence in the world. Throughout the novel, we can see how Holden has left apart in school activities and how he feels lonely through those hallways. He no longer finds his classmates having a “real” personality so Holden defines them as phonies. However, the reader gets to see Holden’s tender side and the advantages of his personality when he wants to protect the innocence of his little sister Phoebe. Not only that but has a special insight with people and a great desire to protect all the children from becoming phonies.

In the novel “Invisible Man,” the narrator faces many challenges based on his race. He becomes “invisible” to society because they don’t see him for who he truly is but only see his skin color. With society judging and stereotyping the narrator, he tries to find his identity and accept where he comes from.

The narrator has always been told that if he wants to become successful, he has to listen to the white man. In the beginning, the narrator’s grandfather advises him to “conform to the white man’s expectation.” The narrator takes this advice and applies it to the Battle Royal to receive his scholarship. Throughout the story, the narrator does what the “white man” wants. Mr. Norton tells the narrator to take him to Jim Trueblood, resulting in expulsion from the university. When the narrator joins the brotherhood, he does what Brother Jack wants, not what he thinks is best for his community. Conforming in the white man’s expectation, the narrator was denying himself and his people. Towards the end, the narrator states “place me in a hole …. I reluctantly accepted the fact.” While he was underground, the narrator was able to use his time to analyze himself. He realized that he had to accept the fact that he was African American. Sure he will face many challenges because of his race, but it’s part of his identity and accepting it will help him grow as an individual.

Living in the shadows has seen to positively and negatively impact people. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is seen how Gatsby is a sensation and constantly referred to, yet disgraced by the upper class due to his sketchy business.

Fame, money, and love was all Gatsby seeked for, but everything comes to an end. Having millions of dollars and throwing the best parties did not fulfill Gatsby’s biggest desire: love. Daisy brought Gatsby happiness, allowing him to lurk from the shadows and enjoy the beauty of the world. Sadly, while trying to achieve to have everything he ended up with nothing. Fitzgerald perfectly depicts the idea that an outsider will always stay outside no matter how hard he or she works.

Poet and philosopher Criss Jami wrote "being the odd one out may have its temporary disadvantages, but more importantly, it has its permanent advantages.” This idea can be applied to the character of Mademoiselle Reisz in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Despite living her life as an outcast who is shunned from society, she seems to be the only person in this novel who has successfully escaped the societal convention of the time.

In the late 1800s, the expectations of tradition coupled with the limitations of law gave women very few opportunities for individual expression and independence. Expected to perform their domestic duties and care for the happiness of their families, Victorian women were prevented from seeking the satisfaction of their own wants and needs. When the reader is introduced to Mademoiselle in Chapter 9, she is described as the complete opposite: “…a disagreeable little woman, no longer young, who had quarreled with almost every one, owing to a temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others.” As the chapter continues, it’s revealed that she is not particularly rich, lives alone in a dingy apartment, and is unpopular in the insistently uptight Creole society. Although she leads a solitary but humble life with no friends/family, Mademoiselle is able step away from societal expectations and devotes her life to her passion: music. Specifically, her definition of an artist as a “brave…soul that dares and defies” becomes a major theme in the novel. While Mademoiselle Reisz herself undergoes little to no discovery throughout the course of the novel, she plays an integral role in the protagonist’s (Edna’s) journey as Edna achieves her own awakening.

Great character choice!

I see your first sentence as your thesis – it establishes Gatsby as the outsider and the consequences he enjoys and suffers. That earns a point, since you responded directly to the prompt in this way.

One tip for your paragraph – be more specific about your textual evidence. While most AP Lit teachers have read The Great Gatsby, make sure that you give the plot details in your essay that are necessary to create context. For example, what happens in the novel that makes Gatsby believe wealth would bring him happiness, and how is he established as an outsider?

Thanks for your response!

Hi Rebecca!

I think it’s interesting, the twist that you took on the prompt. It’s on the brink of not quite answering, however, since your line of reasoning is not how the outsider herself encountered consequences. Be careful to make sure that you’ve addressed the task of the prompt.

However, that aside, you have a strong thesis that establishes Adele as an outsider, and makes clear the consequences of her interaction with Edna.

Your paragraph is thin in commentary and connection to the prompt. You could include what causes Edna to distance herself (more evidence), and what “true colors” Edna sees in herself (more commentary). These details would help to more fully explain how friendship with Adele brought clarity to Edna.

Hello Anna! Thanks for participating in our community prompt!

This is a strong thesis – it answers all of the parts of the prompt (outsider + positive and negative consequences) and establishes a line of reasoning.

You have solidly established points of evidence that show Edna as a woman becoming independent. To some extent, you have flipped the prompt in reverse – you show how her actions make her an outsider. I think that you can stay within the bounds of answering the prompt, though, by showing the behavior and discovery as a cycle: since she was different, she was able to pursue independence, which made her more of an outsider, which had positive consequences.

Make sure that your evidence and commentary are as strong as your thesis – be very clear about how your interpretation of the work matches the prompt.

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