One of the assignments we had this semester concerned writing an essay on a literary work, ensuring that the work in question was analyzed from various viewpoints. Hence, I decided to write a critical analysis of Alice Munro’s short story named How I Met My Husband. Essentially, this short story is a writing piece that resonates with the overwhelming majority of the participants, as it dwells on the story full of unexpected turns a human can have and how these may potentially change one’s life once and for all. Because How I Met My Husband is a short story with a dynamic and gripping plot, I became invested in the idea of analyzing the story from different perspectives by collecting external data and critically appraising the work. For this reason, the notion of critical analysis seemed like a beneficial option for true evaluation and understanding of Alice Munro’s writing.
Prior to writing a critical analysis essay, I familiarized myself with the story, but my priority was to incorporate the knowledge I had into a bigger picture of human perception of the story presented by the Munro. One of the fundamental aspects of writing a critical essay is the ability to treat the analysis subject impartially and subjectively, which is hard when dealing with literary works, especially the ones addressing routine human feelings and issues (West et al. 609). Thus, in order to reach the desired level of subjectivity, I started collecting external data on How I Met My Husband, including reviews, analyses, and information about the author in order to place the writing in the context of her perception.
The first and arguably the most significant part of the assignment concerned conducting groundwork and running background research on the critical perception of the aforementioned writing. The primary sources I used for the research included the Triton College Library, Google search, and Wikipedia. Undeniably, the sources found via Triton Library were of great academic significance to the assignment, but the information collected was not enough to claim the analysis critical per se, as a critical appraisal of a phenomenon presupposes gathering as much different and controversial information as possible. For this reason, I decided to use the story’s Wikipedia page as a point of departure for the additional sources I could find. Additionally, I addressed Google in order to search for the most recent and relevant mentions of the story in the reviews, blogs, articles, etc.
Eventually, I managed to come up with an extensive mind map of the concepts I wanted to tackle throughout the essay, including such key topics as the history of the story creation, its historical context, and the plot’s correlation with the post-war environment. However, once I laid out all the facts and points to cover in the essay, I faced so-called writer’s block. The reason for this block was the fact that I needed to realize how to organize the ideas throughout the narrative. The essay sample provided for the assignment served as a true asset to my writing process. It motivated me to write the opening sentence of an essay and provided me with a clear vision of the essay structure. Since I started writing and describing the core structure of the essay, I realized how much I enjoyed immersing myself in the motivation of the story characters, as putting them into the socio-cultural context of the story helped me realize how those fictional characters, in fact, resonated with real life and experiences of the writer herself.
I tried to center my essay around the concept of the story’s relatability to the contemporary lifestyle. First, I dedicated a part of the essay to presenting the reader with the synopsis of the story by highlighting the person from which the narration took place, as well as the main down-to-earth incidents taking place throughout the narrative. Later, I used those incidents to display how they were motivated by the author’s experiences and perception of life, as such pivotal events in Munro’s life as witnessing World War II could not leave her literary heritage unimpacted. Then, I attempted to display how the chronology of events taking place in the story alluded to the process of one’s growth as a person, as people tend to explore the world around them by settling for new challenges and opportunities. Finally, I outlined the specifics of the historical context of the story along with its setting in order to define how the aspects might have influenced the story. The primary conclusion of the conducted research was the fact that How I Met My Husband could be regarded as a story that identified itself deeply with the lives of its readers through tackling the timeless issues of maturity and romance.
Undeniably, there were some challenges along the creative journey, with the most severe issue being the fear of not doing my best in the time given for the assignment. I spent much time trying to collect as much data as possible, but I later realized that sometimes I was simply postponing the need to sit down and start writing the actual words of the essay. However, the obstacles in the way made this assignment even more valuable, as learning from experience is one of the most insightful aspects of education.
After completing the final draft of the assignment, I was paired up with my colleague in order to reflect on the assignment and its significance for our current and future studies. My partner was also working on a critical analysis essay, but the story chosen for the analysis was Ray Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains. Unlike me, my partner had been familiar with the story for many years before she decided to explore it for the assignment, and her primary goal was to center the essay around the idea of the author’s intention to convey a hidden message through figurative literary images. While I was using Google and Wikipedia as a starting point, my partner became especially interested in exploring video and audio content related to people’s interpretations of the meaning behind Bradbury’s metaphors.
My partner and I both agreed that one of the most challenging aspects of writing the paper was to organize the throughs into a coherent and academically appropriate analysis. When discussing what we could have done differently while writing the essay, my partner mentioned that more attention should have been paid to the specifics of formatting, whereas I was more preoccupied with the depth of my analysis. However, despite some minor disagreements, my partner and I had a lot in common, especially as far as the overall positive impression of the assignment was concerned.
Considering all the aforementioned aspects, it may be concluded that writing this paper was a unique and rewarding experience for me, as I had the chance to take on a role of a scholar who investigates the roots and the depth of a literary work while connecting it to other works of the epoch, the socio-cultural context, and the author’s experiences. The ability to look at the same story from various perspectives allowed me to feel more confident about describing certain ideas, as I now realize that having an opinion on something, even if not obvious or contradictory, is a valuable tool in terms of perception of literature and culture in general.
West, Harry, et al. “Writing a Successful Essay.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education, vol. 43, no. 4, 2019, pp. 609-613.