Travels with Charley

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Travels with Charley

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November 27, 2016

Travels With Charley Research Essay
Choose one of the following topic areas for your essay on John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley.  Each topic is related to issues raised by the story, but many things have changed since Steinbeck’s journey in 1960. For this essay, you’ll do your own research on an issue that is related to ideas raised by Steinbeck’s book.  In your essay, introduce and discuss the issue, and include your own view of the information you have found in your research. This paper is focused around your research, but it does contain a thesis – your own feelings about the topic, based on the information you have found.
Essays should be at least 8-10 pages double-spaced, with a Works Cited page, and documented in MLA style. Topic options and research requirements are below.

Topic Option 1: Defining America
American culture has long been defined by concepts of individual freedom and self-reliance; at the same time, the famous motto on American coins, e pluribis unum, is a Latin phrase meaning “from many, one” and speaks to our commitment to the different states coming together as one nation. Using your research and Steinbeck’s tour of the country as a guide, create a definition and/or new motto for the U.S.A. that shows how these contrasting aspects of American identity fit together. How can we define our identity, based on Steinbeck’s experiences and reflections? Which, if either, is more dominant: individuality or community? If you like, you may also address whether you think our culture has changed substantially in this regard since his book was published. In addition to your research, discuss examples from the text and use at least three quotes from Travels With Charley to support your discussion. Research areas to support your discussion might relate to immigration and demographic shifts, political climate and election results, rural vs. urban culture, etc. If you would like to explore an issue that stems from our recent elections, and how we might unify a nation that seems so divided, that’s fine too!

Topic Option 2:  Things, Not People
Although Steinbeck is focused on meeting and talking to the American people on his journey, he also makes many observations about various items and things — what we own, what we buy (and where), and how we dispose of our things when we’re through with them. What role (or roles) does Steinbeck seem to find between physical objects and society? You might also make connections with Cheryl Strayed’s story, where things were a very important but limited part of her hike on the PCT. Use at least three quotes from Steinbeck’s text to discuss and support your thesis. Research areas for this topic might include psychology of marketing and “need creation,” waste management, recycling, air/water pollution, or other environmental issues related to mass production of goods.

Research Requirements:
*At least seven outside sources must be used (encyclopedias or our assigned class texts don’t count as research sources!! ). You may, of course, use more than seven.
*Only two of the seven sources may be web-only sources (i.e., sources that don’t exist in printed form anywhere). In general web-only information is considered less solid/reliable, because it can be removed at any time.
*Note on web-only sources: “web-only” does NOT apply to most of the Library’s database sources, which do come from print journals/newspapers.  Also note that you are welcome to use more than two web-only sources, if you still have a total of at least five print-based sources
*Information, quotes, or statistics from at least five of your sources must be cited in the text of your paper and properly documented in MLA format (Check Purdue’s OWL site for updated MLA information & format details)

Key rule of thumb for good research: Go Deep, Not Wide!!  In other words, choose one specific issue or idea to focus on, and find as many sources/perspectives on it as possible, to help you explore and form your views about it. The more you narrow your topic down, the more you’ll be able to find useful information to discuss.  As an example of the process:
Broad topic: Pollution
Narrower: Air Pollution
Narrower: Air Pollution from automobiles
Research Question: Are California’s Smog Laws Really Helping Reduce Air Pollution?

 

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