English 102: Proctor (Analytical Essay Guidelines)                                       

Analytical Essay Guidelines


Assignment: For our next assignment, you are to write a 4- to 6-page analytical essay on Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989); this thesis driven essay should answer an interpretive question regarding the film. Generate a thesis that addresses this prompt.  Please include a title, heading, margins, and page numbers in proper MLA format.  The paper should be double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman font. The essay must be submitted to Canvas by the posted due date. Analytical Essay Guidelines


***Secondary Source Requirement: You must use multiple direct quotations from the secondary source material supplied by the instructor: “Crimes and Misdemeanors: A Retake on the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg” by Dianne Vipond. The best use of quotations is to develop your analysis through supporting claims in the body of the essay. Use of a secondary source is required; be sure to list all sources (secondary and primary) in a Works Cited page. Proper MLA citation format is also required.***

Analytical Essay Guidelines


  • You may explore the role of a single motif.
  • You will want to explore how the motif shapes the nature of an idea; more than identifying a theme, how does the text define a concept or promote a viewpoint?
  • You have latitude to self-determine here. But, yes, you will want to watch the film again while taking careful notes. The film is available on Swank and is on reserve at the SCC library.


Potential topics:

  • During class discussions, many students note that the two storylines of the film treat the issue of marital infidelity; that said, the stories frame marital infidelity quite differently. What does the film seem to suggest about morality and ethics through its various framings of marital infidelity? Analytical Essay Guidelines
  • Eyes are a dominant motif in the film, and yet the symbol is quite malleable, suggesting a set of related symbolic potentials for the motif rather than one coherent symbol. For example, the film is concerned with the judging eyes of God, the symbolic myopia and blindness (bad eyesight) of many characters, and the dead, soulless black void of Delores eyes. What idea is Allen attempting to define with this motif? How?
  • The film is highly aware of film as an art form: after all, the film’s director plays a film director within the film. What does the film suggest about the significance of filmmaking storytelling and art? The film brings together not only two plots but two genre—a remarkable task that requires grand shifts in tone. It will be helpful to consider professional ethics and the film’s postmodern metanarrative (especially at the end) and reflexivity (especially the use of movie clips) as motifs. Analytical Essay Guidelines
  • The film also deploys a motif of the doppelganger, the uncanny double. Siblings feature prominently, many scenes echo other scenes, Judah wrestles with the discrepancy between two senses of who he is, etc. What idea is Allen attempting to define with this motif? How?
  • Unlike the Clifford in the subplot, Judah’s narrative often relies on representations of his interiority: memories, fantasies, etc. What idea is Allen attempting to define with this motif? How? You may combine this with an examination of Judah’s essential duplicity (dishonesty regarding his double-life).
  • A topic of your own development…

Introduction and Thesis: Bottom line: the essay MUST have a thesis. A thesis is a statement that comes as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. It is not a statement of fact: it is a claim that you will support with the body of the essay.

  • So, “In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris is able to outwit all of the adults” is not a thesis.
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is about rebelling against authority” is not a very good thesis.
  • Something like, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off uses an idealized teen hero to model what a meaningful, productive—rather than merely lazy—rebellion against flawed authority might look like” is much better. Of course this thesis could be improved to define what effective rebellion “looks like.”


Form: This multi-paragraph essay should begin with an introduction culminating in a thesis statement, present a series of body paragraphs that begin with topic sentences, and end with a conclusion.  You must support claims with specific evidence from the text: this means that you will have to specifically describe formal elements of the film and use quoted dialogue from the film. Imagine that your reader has seen the film a year or so ago; you will have to describe evidence to give your reader a vivid mental picture of the evidence.


A Word on Style: Style is a complex concern, but as the most basic level we want to employ formal collegiate prose.  Analyze using the present tense; avoid slang or casual phrasing; use the third-person and do not use personal pronouns (I, you, me); choose active verb constructions whenever possible.


Feel free to visit my office hours for help developing a topic or evidence, or even just to run an idea by me.  The ACE is also available for assistance; be sure to take this assignment sheet to any ACE appointment.

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