ENGLISH 101–RickardReaction Paper Assignment


What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Each of you will present two "reaction papers" to the class on dates selected from the schedule I will hand out in class. We will use your reaction papers to begin discussion of the work you have selected. You must hand each reaction paper in to me after you have read it to the class.

Be sure to use the title of the literary work and the author's name in your title. Please put a date on the paper. Your response should be thoughtful and articulate; the more specific and thought-provoking you are, the more useful your reaction paper will be for generating discussion. Reaction papers should: 1) NOT be summaries, and 2) provide at least one question or "starting point" for discussion of the story. Your reaction paper presentation should be approximately ten minutes long; you should follow all of the rules for effective oral presentations (we will discuss these in class), and your grade will include an evaluation of your performance in the oral presentation.


1. Use the following questions to stimulate your thinking about the work you've just finished reading. Then write your paper responding honestly to any one question, several of them, or all of them–whatever you find most appropriate in light of your own reading and thinking:

What were my expectations of this work?

Were these expectations met, disappointed, or exceeded? How? Why?

What was most interesting to me about the story? Why?

Did anything in the author's biography provide insight into the story and its meaning?

Was there anything especially remarkable about the style or presentation?

Is there anything relevant to the time period or place in which this work was composed that provided insight into the story and its meaning?

Would I recommend this work to other readers? Who? Why?

Did this work change my mind about anything?

Did this work remind me of other literary works, films, etc.?

2. Pick a short passage from the work and quote it. Then explain what words in that passage are most important and why. Discuss what you do not understand about the quoted passage or what you found compelling about it. Analyze the relationship of this passage to another story we have read or to some event, idea or problem you may have encountered outside of this course.

3. Focus on a literary element–character, conflict, plot, setting, point of view, theme, symbol, etc. Pose questions about this element in the work under consideration and attempt to answer your own questions. Explain how this element of the story makes you feel. For example, in the course of your reading, did you change your mind about a character? (Don't forget to keep minor characters in mind, as well). Do not simply analyze this element as you would in a typical English paper!

4. Respond as Holden Caulfield suggests. Write the phone conversation you would have with the author or write the author a letter.

You are free to come up with your own strategy for developing your reaction paper. Start with your honest reaction and then try to figure out why you reacted the way you did. Remember that organization of ideas, clarity of expression, and overall coherence are principles of a good paper regardless of the model employed. Remember also to support your views with specific references to the text.

A Reaction Paper is NOT a summary!

A Reaction Paper is NOT a detailed, passionless analysis!