Narrative Analysis Paper on Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman


Narrative Analysis Paper on Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman

In this short paper, you will analyze Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman in order to explain something that needs to be explained. But this time, rather than focusing purely on close reading, you should explain how a narrative element of a short story (an aspect of character, plot, narration, or structure) contributes to its meaning or impact. As in the previous paper, you will back up your claim with details from the text.

For this paper, you don’t need to worry about citations—you’ll only be writing about one text, and it’ll be pretty obvious where your quotations come from. All ideas in the paper should be your own—I’m not interested in what anyone else but you has to say about this poem. Just be sure to use quotation marks correctly when you include language from the poem.

In other words, the paper should make a clear argument about what the story means AND how it communicates that meaning—what it says and how it says it.

Like other academic papers, it must have a thesis statement supported by evidence and developed through a clear structure.


Pick one of the short stories we have read for class and make an argument about how some formal aspect of the story contributes to its meaning. Your argument should have three aspects:

1. It should identify a specific aspect of the story. (By looking at…)

2. It should make a claim about why that aspect is the way it is. Ask yourself, why is the story written this way? (By looking at…we can see…)

3. It should explain how understanding this aspect and the reasons behind it contributes to our understanding of the story. (This is important because…)

***Your thesis statement need not be in the form of the magic thesis statement—in fact, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. However you phrase it, though, your argument should have all three parts.

For example: “The two narrators of Lu Xun’s “A Madman’s Diary” display very different perspectives on life in the village, but both comment on the competitiveness of the feudal society. By comparing them, we can see that the madman’s obsession with cannibalism actually reveals a perfectly rational horror at his community’s willingness to sacrifice some people for the benefit of others, at both the level of the village and the nation.”


The rest of your paper should use textual evidence to support your claim. Evidence might include:

1. Formal description. <link is hidden> “Lu Xun’s story is divided between two first-person narrators, inviting us to contrast their conflicting worldviews and decide whose perspective is more reliable.”

2. Close readings. Here you can/should use the same level of attention to details such as word choice and sentence structure that you employed when writing about poetry. <link is hidden> “The first narrator uses formal, overblown language, explaining that the younger brother “repaired to other parts to await a substantive official appointment” (244). While this

language seems to establish his rationality, by the end of the story, it is revealed as a euphemism that conceals unfairness and suffering.”

The strongest papers will include both kinds of evidence.


Your paper should include:

1. An introduction that establishes the context for your thesis statement and states the argument.

2. Body paragraphs that lay out the subpoints of your argument and establish supporting evidence.

3. A conclusion that suggests how your argument changes our interpretation of the story, hammering home the “so-what?” part of your argument.

Your paper should be 700-900 words long. In terms of formatting, I prefer that essays use 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced with 1-inch margins.


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