• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Tips and Guidance for Essay 2

Page history last edited by David Walter 2 years, 1 month ago

We read a lot of material and we need to find a way to limit our focus in these essays, so as to make the investigations deeper! Do you know how many paragraphs are in a 5-6 page essay? Not many! That means you have to be laser focused on the target of your investigation-- to the exclusion of a zillion other points you might have floating around your head.


Most of writers begin by settling on something to examine, which we will call a “subject of interest.” The theme of marriage, the idea of monogamy, the role of women, relations between men and women, the inner life versus the outer life, etc.


Now the central question is: Through WHAT will you examine your subject of interest. You need to TRACK something—an element—that has to do with the construction of the stories, their engineering, the way they are built.


Here are some examples of elements you might TRACK to try and uncover insights regarding your subject of interest. Some of these are redundant. Forgive me in advance for that.


  • A pattern of corrections/edits between the script and the screen versions.
  • A rhetorical pattern that recurs in a striking way to you.
  • Rhetoric can be verbal (e.g., the patterns of men referring to women as “sweetie”, and taking to them like children).
  • Rhetoric can also be visual, a position the camera takes, whether it moves or stays still, framing (such as when the camera makes use of mirrors or windows in the shot), the lighting, the color palette. The fashion, dress choices of the characters.
  • The way something is staged, e.g., the hangouts of Greenwich Village hipsters versus the suburban households.
  • A grouping of scenes, such as all the scenes where Gregg and Savage talk about love, or scenes in the pitch rooms.
  • A pattern of expressing desire or attachment in one or more related characters.
  • Visual or verbal cues throughout the works.
  • The presentations of cycles or seasons, holidays, historical events such as elections, etc, as an organizational principle.
  • The way storylines are interwoven or juxtaposed—whose story gets more prominence? Whose is there for comic relief?
  • Escalating pressures advancing a plot or sub-plot, such as Caroline’s career aspirations coming into greater and greater conflict with the reality of Eddie. Or Pete’s need for a promotion before Trudy gets the money from her parents.
  • The way the conscious or unconscious desires of a character (or characters) express themselves, or the way a conscious desire changes as a character develops.


Remember to confine, limit, restrict your investigation to tangible patterns that you can track IN THE WORKS we studied. If you do this you will save yourself a lot of trouble, because your task will be defined, which is to go through the material, the actual physical materials, and gather data, make a chart, or groupings. Then analyze that data.


Pin your subject under a microscope and look hard at it. Force yourself to push out all other influences.


Then, your thesis will emerge as a natural conclusion of this process! As a writer, the leg work is in your concrete investigations. The big thoughts follow.




A couple sources of a good essay:


  • Use one of your discussion boards. The dating profile, for instance— great idea to start and essay! You can find a fun premise; as long as it supports a serious study.
  • Use your slide! You did all the work!
  • The lines you memorized!
  • Can you think of any others?


Random topic examples I came up with off the top of my head. (NOTE: These are just for Mad Men, but you could do the same thing for TBOE, or Beauvoir or Friedan)


  • During an episode of MM we see Don reading TBOE— strongly suggesting this is a source text. How and Why introduced in this episode? What kind of discussion does it provoke between Don and Betty and how does this relate to the content of TBOE. (For this, you might have to track down the film with Joan Crawford!) Why, in the end did the writers choose to feature it, as opposed to keep it as one unnamed source of many?
  • Peggy refusing her child— what does that tell us about her object of desire and what she is willing to give up to obtain it? When do we see signs of her forming emotional attachments to this objective, and investing value into it? How can we see the men in her life as motivators?
  • Sal’s fashion. How does it express his identity, how does it help him communicate and hide his sexuality, and other sides of him? Fun research project for anyone who wants to investigate the fashion of the time.
  • The idea of Manhattan. How does it acquire value or meaning for the characters? Since we really rarely get to see much of the actual cityscape, how is it communicated through other means— fashion, the drama (I’m thinking of scenes like Betty’s date with Ben). Is it expressed through contrast w rich suburbs, or Peggy’s Brooklyn? What does it represent to people like Francine, who learns it serves s a place for her husband’s bad behavior. Even think of the cut lines from the final episode where Betty talks about the kind of restaurant where a man would go out with another man, versus with another woman. Make a map of mad men’s Manhattan— the village, mid town. Actually make the map!


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.