Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard t


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Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” Flannery O’Connor, excerpt from “Mystery and Manners” Author biographies for O’Brien and O’Connor (optional) Supplemental critical articles from Bob Dowell (161-63), Michael Clark (163-65), and Joe Fassler
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Directions:
As individuals, we all face challenges in our lives that shape the kinds of people that we become. In some cases, we might be described as “heroic” for the way that we face these challenges or for the actions we take when we encounter a difficult situation. Joseph Campbell describes two types of heroic deeds: the physical and the spiritual. The physical, he says, focuses on the hero saving a life or sacrificing him/herself for another person. The spiritual, on the other hand, happens when a hero “learn[s] or [finds] a way to experience the super-normal and [comes] back to share his/her revelations.”
In this section, we are reading two stories that deal with these two types of heroic deeds: “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. As you answer these questions, offer examples and quotes from one of the stories to support your answers. Who is the hero, or protagonist, in one of these stories? What does this character do that seems heroic in terms of the way that Campbell describes the two types of heroic deeds? (Keep in mind that there may be some element of both the physical AND the spiritual in each of these characters. Analyze the protagonist in both ways if it seems appropriate.)
Do you consider the individual presented as the protagonist in this work to be a hero? Why or why not? Explain. Consider the flaws that are evident in each of these protagonists: what effect does it have on your perception of the character to see that the hero/protagonist is not perfect, that he/she makes mistakes as well? Does a character have to be flawless to be a hero?
Which of the three types of hero journeys do these characters find themselves in: being lured into the journey, intentionally setting out on the journey, or being pitched/thrown into the journey? Support your answer with evidence from the stories.
What internal and/or external conflicts does the hero face? How is this character’s conflict representative of a conflict that readers may encounter in their own lives? Review your lesson notes for information on internal and external conflicts if you need more information.
What enlightenment, or knowledge, comes to light as a result of the conflicts the character faces? (Note: the enlightenment may not happen in the story but may be, instead, the enlightenment that the reader comes to understand as a result of reading the story.) How does that make the protagonist who is described in the work to be a “heroic” individual?
In one sentence, then, state what you think the theme of each of these works might be. Look to the title for a clue about the message that the writer is trying to communicate, and focus on that idea as you write your statement of theme
Why is conflict important?
• At the heart of every great story, there is a conflict or problem. The main character (protagonist) wants something and is being prevented from getting it.
• Conflict makes a story interesting. Most of the action and suspense in a story centers around the main character or characters trying to find a solution to the conflict.
• Without conflict, there is no plot. It is essential to every part of the story’s action:
• The plot moves forward as the conflict builds.
• Conflict is introduced in the rising action.
• The protagonist faces the conflict head-on at the climax of a story.
• The protagonist works through the conflict in the falling action.
The conflict is typically resolved during the resolution to the story.
Identify the Conflict
• The most effective way to identify the conflict is by writing a conflict statement.
• A conflict statement is a sentence that briefly states what the main character wants and what is preventing him/her from achieving that goal or attaining that desire.
• Example: Elizabeth Bennett desires a man who complements her, as a person, by his recognizing her intellect and appreciating her strong will; however, the one man who might fulfill that role, Mr. Darcy, seems repugnant to her when she meets him.
Types of conflict: external
• External conflict occurs between a character and an outside force.
• Types of external conflicts:
• Man vs. Man
• Man vs. Nature
• Man vs. Society
• In all conflicts, we are examining protagonist vs. antagonist, but the antagonist is not always a person.
External conflict: man vs. man
• A character experiences a struggle with another character who prevents him/her from achieving a goal.
• It usually shows up in literature as the classic “good guy” vs. “bad guy” story; however, “good” and “bad” are relative, and sometimes we have a “bad guy” vs. a “less bad guy.”
• Examples: Red Riding Hood vs. the wolf, super hero vs. villain, Katniss Everdeen vs. President Snow
External conflict: man vs. nature
• A character struggles with a force of nature (natural disaster, desolation, animal attack, etc.)
• Usually, the character is struggling to survive
• Some of these stories focus on a theme of “survival of the fittest,” while others challenge the notion that mankind has control over nature. More recently, you will see stories that deal with climate change: the conflict between man’s survival and the needs provided by the planet.
• Examples: “To Build a Fire” by Jack London
External conflict: man vs. society
• In this kind of conflict, a character or group of characters fight against the society in which they live, focusing especially on social traditions or rules that the writer may find oppressive, unjust, or misguided.
• These stories revolve around ideas of freedom, equality, human rights, etc., and society becomes a character of its own, either literally or figuratively.
• You might see a conflict between a character and the city in which he/she lives, for example.
• This type of conflict is typically used by an author to comment on positive or negative aspects of a REAL society.
Types of conflict: internal
• An internal conflict is between a character and him/herself.
• These will always be presented as Man vs. Self, but there are several different ways to look at “self.”
• What is it about ourselves that might cause us conflict? A sense of religious duty and/or morality, a desire to do what is right, confusion over what we want vs. what is best for those we love, internal fears or concerns, etc.
Man vs. self
• The character’s struggle takes place in his/her own mind.
• This conflict usually has to do with a choice that the character must make (often between right and wrong), or it may have to do with overcoming mixed feelings or emotions.
• Examples: Goodman Brown, Elizabeth Bennett, Luke Skywalker (in fact, most characters in literature and popular culture)

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