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[This sample essay is used by permission of the student writer.]

Love and Licorice

1 In order for a relationship between a man and a woman to flourish and grow, both people should be reasonably mature and honest with one another. Their goals in life should be similar. Otherwise, it is difficult to maintain a substantial base in the partnership, and inevitably, it will wither and die.


2 Hemingway’s "Hills Like White Elephants" is a very short story covering less than forty minutes in the lives of the two main characters. It doesn’t take long, however, to discover that the relationship between them is not particularly deep or meaningful.


3 Jig and her lover lead a nomadic life, spending nights here and there, as the labels on their luggage indicate. All they really do, she laments, is "look at things and try new drinks." They bicker childishly; when he warns her to "cut it out," she retorts, "you started it."


4 In an attempt to make clever conversation, she observes aloud that the line of hills off in the distance "look[s] like white elephants." Instead of trying to make her feel "bright," Jig’s companion tells her flatly, he’s "never seen one." Annoyed by his lack of imagination, she attacks with "no, you wouldn’t have." It seems that they must really "try" hard to "have a fine time." This is not a mature relationship.

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Numbers below coincide with the paragraph numbers in the sample essay in the left column.

1 The writer’s thesis echoes the growth imagery that the main character sees in the setting: flourish and grow. But her skeptical tone reverses this imagery: wither and die. Her observation about human relationships links the story’s plot with her knowledge of the real world.

That is, she has captured the aspect of human nature that seems to inspire this story.

2 Part of her thesis is to characterize the relationship between Jig and the American as shallow. So her 2nd paragraph links the general observation about human nature in her first paragraph with the story.

3 Sentence structure tips: Although her first sentence aims at characterizing the lifestyle of the couple, she indicates that she doubts they are married by calling the American "her lover" instead of her husband. After characterizing their lifestyle as "nomadic" she refers to the details from the story that gave her that impression. Notice that she works quotations from the story into the structure of her own sentences. Also notice her vocabulary--instead of picking the simple "she says," this student chose the more specific "she laments" in order to preview Jig’s mood as shown in the quotation.

4 This paragraph exemplifies the conflict evident in the dialogue of the story, but it doesn’t get at the basis of that conflict. Essays should include hindsight: When we first read the story we haven’t figures out yet that Jig is probably pregnant and that the couple are apparently debating whether to have an abortion or not. By the time readers of the story come to this essay, however, the writers and the readers know it, so the writer should acknowledge that the American feels "worried" and that Jig feels pressured.

Also, the quoting in this paragraph is more awkwardly done than in the previous paragraph. The additional s in the brackets was edited in because the student had left the sentence ungrammatical. Perhaps some smoothness might be restored by paraphrasing the one-word quotations.

(These comments are continued on the next page--click the Next button below or #12.)

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