For your final essay, you will analyze a theme in Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues, and support your
analysis with outside research. You can address any theme that interests you, but the following questions/topics
might help you get started. The answer to any of these questions can be your thesis.
1) How does Sherman Alexie depict life on a reservation? In other words, what is he asking outside readers
to understand about life on a reservation?
2) What is Robert Johnson’s role in the novel? Is he there to teach the characters or the readers something?
3) What is the effect of Alexie’s use of magical realism? What idea, theme, or message does it help
4) How does each character cope with particular challenges they face on or off the reservation? (The best
papers will focus on one character and trace his or her development, rather than trying to talk about
5) There are many references to Rock & Roll and Blues throughout the book. What purpose do these
references serve? Do they symbolize something? Do they help Alexie convey something about Native
Tips for writing a successful essay:
• Think of a creative title for your paper that reflects your argument.
• Make sure that your introduction is developed (4-5 sentences). Depending on your paper topic, you
could provide some background on Sherman Alexie, Native American history, Robert Johnson, rock &
• Craft a thesis that makes a specific claim about a theme in Alexie’s novel (see the prompts above). Your
thesis statement should be placed at the end of your introduction.
• Use transitional topic sentences to begin each of your body paragraphs. These topic sentences should
state the main idea of your paragraph and tie back to your thesis. Do not begin paragraphs with
quotations or summary.
• Try to use at least one direct quotation in each of your body paragraphs. Introduce quotations rather than
just “dropping” them in; in other words, signal to the reader what they are being used for (e.g. “For
example…” or “This is evident when Victor says…” or “By contrast, Alexie writes…”). Make sure to
follow up all quotations with your own explanation of their significance.
• Make sure to explain each piece of evidence you include: don’t end paragraphs with quotations, or
assume the reader will simply understand what you mean.
• Remember to cite page numbers, and avoid block quotes when possible.
• You must use at least five credible secondary sources in your essay. Try your best to use sources from
the Harper Library database. These sources should provide additional evidence and/or necessary
historical and cultural background context for your argument.
• Make sure that your conclusion is developed (4-5 sentences) and that it does not simply restate your
thesis. Instead, use your conclusion to say something new and place your paper in a larger context.
This paper must be 8 full pages minimum in order to be considered for a passing grade.
Your essay should be written in MLA format with the following regulations:
• Your name, instructors’ names, class names, and in the left corner of the first page
• Include your last name and the page number 1⁄2” down from the top right on every page
• Title centered
Hemmer & McKinley
• Entire paper should be double-spaced
• Times New Roman 12-point font
• 1” margins around the entire text
• Spacing before and after each paragraph should be 0 point [Paragraph→Spacing]
• Works Cited on the bottom of the last page
This essay is due on Blackboard before midnight on
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