Setting Affects Character ●

Setting Affects Character ●

ENG 203 Online: Introduction to World Literature



All works of literature involve transformation. As we’ve seen in our course readings, transformations—changes—take place in characters, settings, environments, objects and technologies, and even styles and genres. Transformations can happen quickly or slowly, unexpectedly or expectedly; transformations can be desirable or undesirable, permanent or temporary, and cause a range of different emotions and responses. These transformations can be physical, external, internal, emotional, psychological, cultural, or stylistic, touching on different dimensions and themes of the human experience.

In this assignment, you will analyze two instances of transformation in two texts (one instance of transformation per text) and make an argument about how and why these transformations are thematically significant. How does a particular example of transformation give meaning to a text? In what ways are transformations different, leading to different themes and meanings? To be clear, in your essay, do NOT simply summarize the transformations that happen in two texts; rather, your task is to analyze, interpret, and compare two specific examples of transformation in literature, making an argument about how the process of transformation can be used to express themes in different ways. In this respect, think of your essay as a comparative analysis of how two texts represent and use transformation for different thematic purposes.

Choose 2 texts from the following choices:

●       Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

●       Matsuo Bashō, Narrow Road to the Deep North


1) Introduction & Thesis Statement: Your essay must begin with an introduction (1 paragraph) in which you introduce your two texts, your specific instances of transformation, and your specific thesis statement. Your thesis statement can be more than one sentence; indeed, sometimes two sentences are needed to articulate and flesh out your argument: in this case, how and why transformation is thematically significant in two different texts. Your thesis statement should be stated in the first paragraph and should be easy to identify by readers.

●       Note on thesis and argument: When constructing your argument, you should think about the differences in how your two texts represent processes of transformation. Remember that all of these texts involve different genres, styles, cultures, historical periods, and geographical regions. As you analyze their differences, remember that change and transformation—while universal—also take shape in different ways that reflect a work’s genre, geography, and cultural and historical context.

2) Analysis & Close Reading: Your essay should include several body paragraphs on each of your chosen texts. Use these paragraphs to analyze how each text incorporates transformation to explore specific themes. You can also include a paragraph that directly contrasts how the two texts utilize or represent transformation. In these body paragraphs, make sure to close read and analyze your textual evidence. Pay attention to specific words and details in your quotes and explain how they illustrate your claims.

3) Textual Evidence: Make sure to support your argument about transformation with evidence from both of your chosen texts. Evidence will include quotations from the text to demonstrate your argument, but also to provide you with passages to close read and analyze. When quoting a passage, be sure that you properly introduce it, cite it, and analyze it. Quotations should not be used for summary; they should be used as textual evidence and as an occasion for close reading and supporting your argument.

4) Engagement with Social and Cultural Context: Make sure that your argument and close readings demonstrate an awareness of the texts’ historical and social context. While we don’t expect you to be experts on any historical culture, we do require that you demonstrate a familiarity with the material covered in the lecture videos and that you engage with the historical, cultural, social, generic, and geographical specificity of each text. Commenting on cultural and historical context is a requirement (see category 4 in the Writing Assignment #2 Rubric).



All essays will be graded based on a rubric. The rubric evaluates four learning outcomes: thesis and topic development; language and conventions; engagement with social and cultural context; and close reading and interpretation (see Writing Assignment #2 Rubric for details). The rubric is available on Canvas and students are encouraged to look it over carefully during the composition of their essay. Each of the four categories will be graded on a 5-point scale (half points are possible), for a total of 20 points.


Essay must be a minimum of 1250 words in length, not including the heading/title and works cited page. We also request that essays be no longer than 1500 words in length. Any essay that does not meet the minimum length requirement (1250 words) will receive the following penalty: 1 point will be deducted for any essay just under the length requirement (1000 – 1250 words), and 2 points will be deducted for any essay more than 250 words under the requirement (1000 words or under). Please note that short essays also will likely lose points in other rubric categories; for example, papers under 1250 words typically will not be as strong in thesis and topic development as essays that are within the required word-count range.


Essay must be typed, double-spaced, written in 12-point Times, Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial font, and formatted according to standard MLA style (please review the MLA handout in the week 8 module). All essays must include a Works Cited page that includes the two texts you discuss, along with any additional sources cited or consulted. Secondary sources are not required for this assignment, but if you decide to consult or incorporate outside sources, you must cite them both in the text and in the works cited to avoid plagiarism.

All essays will be submitted to and analyzed by Turnitin, a plagiarism detection software used by the University to help identify plagiarism and to ensure academic honesty. To receive credit for the essay, students must submit the essay through the correct submission link in the Canvas modules (not as a comment). The student is solely responsible to make sure their essay has been submitted correctly. Students should keep a receipt of their essay submission by taking a screenshot of the “submission submitted” page as receipt of correct submission.


This essay is due on Sunday, October 16 at 11:59 p.m.  By this date and time, your essay needs to be submitted via the submission link in the Week 8 Module folder. To be graded and receive credit, every essay must follow the guidelines and requirements outlined in this assignment. Please read the guidelines carefully before submitting. Late essays will be accepted only for 72 hours immediately following the due date and time. All late assignments will receive a 1-point deduction for lateness.


If you have questions about this assignment, you can ask them in the designated Q & A Forum in the Week 8 Module in Canvas. Remember that you can earn extra credit by attending a Writing Center appointment to work on this assignment. Remember to have the Writing Center email the course coordinator, Ms. Marisa Mills, a record of your appointment.


Please note: These are simply meant to kickstart your thinking. Feel free to ask other questions and write about other issues not listed here, so long as they address the prompt.

●       Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

○       How might you interpret Gregor Samsa’s transformation into an insect as metaphorical? What details in his daily life suggest that he resembles a bug, and/or that he lives like a bug does? What is significant about this metaphorical transformation?

○       How does being an insect lead Gregor to experience internal (emotional or psychological) transformations? What relationship does the text establish between external and internal qualities and experiences? What connections can you make between the physical and emotional or psychological transformations that Gregor undergoes, and how are these connections significant?

○       Turning into a bug causes all sorts of trouble for Gregor. For example, his family treats him very differently than they used to. How, then, is his family in some ways responsible for the transformations he undergoes? Conversely, how do members of Gregor’s family change in response to his new bug-like condition?  Expanding on Dr. Jordan’s lecture, consider how Gregor’s father transforms seemingly into a different person. What is the significance of this change?

○       How do changes in point of view relate to the other transformations that we encounter in this text? When the point of view shifts from Gregor’s to his family’s in the final scene, what conclusion do you draw about how changing one’s perspective also changes your understanding of a situation, story, etc.? Also, how does the final shift in perspective transform the reader’s understanding of Gregor Samsa?

○       How do changes in the setting relate to character transformation in this text? Consider how most of the story occurs inside the Samsa apartment. In the final paragraph of the story, what does the text imply, then, about how environment or setting affects character?

●       Matsuo Bashō, Narrow Road to the Deep North

○       With Bashō’s text, the most obvious transformations are the physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological transformations undergone by Basho during his travels. His journey involves transformations to his physical body, his mental state, and his emotional and psychological well-being. Any of these could be analyzed in detail, with helpful context from the lectures.

○       How is enlightenment itself a transformation? Drawing on Dr. Carey’s lecture on Zen Buddhism, you could analyze how awareness, meditation, poetry, or other moments of enlightenment involve spiritual and mental transformation. Where in the text does Bashō describe these moments? And how do they occur—indirectly, through his relationship with people and objects, and/or through language? 

○       How does the form of haiku and/or haibun transform language and human experience? For Bashō, how does haiku create its own transformations? In what way does the haiku form transform language, poetry, or human experience into a vehicle of awareness and enlightenment?

○       Movement, change, and transformations are everywhere in Narrow Road to the Deep North, but they often involve states of awareness, emotions, and language. Think about the ways that Bashō uses language to both create and represent the process of change. This is a great text to analyze when thinking about how specific forms (haiku, haibun, travel writing) are themselves vehicles of transformation.

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