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Essay About the Human Condition in Literature

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 8/2/2012

Literature teaches the reader much about the human condition. This essay assignment will help students understand the universal themes in literature throughout the ages.

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    Class Discussion

    With this essay assignment, students will review the literature they have read this year to find examples of information gleaned about how humans live their lives. The essay will include examples from at least three short stories.

    Discuss the phrase “the human condition" with students as class starts. Describe how throughout the ages all human beings share Winter Dreams by F Scott Fitzgerald similar experiences. We are all born and we all die. Almost everyone falls in love at least once. We all struggle with conflict over decisions about life choices. We all experience the joy and pain of family relationships. We all go about our lives making friends, having adventures, learning about good and evil in the world, and working to make a living.

    Discuss together examples from a short story that talks about life issues of the protagonist. Ask students what they learned from reading about certain events from the life of the protagonist. For example, in the story “Winter Dreams" by F. Scott Fitzgerald ask students what they learned by reading about Dexter Green’s transition from gold caddie to successful businessman. Also, what did students learn about love from Dexter’s ongoing off and on romance? After reading this story, how would they answer the question: “Does true love exist?"

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    Class Assignment

    Next, students will move to the computers to “Google" the phrase “the human condition in literature" and read articles on this topic. This will help them get an overview of how the human condition is depicted in literature before they start writing their essay. Students may write down brief quotes to use in their essay if they wish.

    Finally, students will begin skimming stories the class has read this year to decide which ones they will discuss in their essay. Put the following guidelines for the essay assignment on the board or using the overhead:

    • Use examples from at least 3 stories.
    • If you use quotes from the story or from an article provide a reference list at the end of the essay.
    • Use a clear introduction, body, and conclusion in your essay.
    • Use strong vivid language to discuss what you learned about the human condition via reading literature.
    • Refer to the story characters by name and give specific examples of events from the stories.
    • The essay must be at least 6 paragraphs in length.

    Discuss the writing rubric that will be used to grade the essay. Then have students begin writing the essay in class. This allows the teacher to circulate the room and give advice about the introduction of the essay. Remind students to be very specific in their essay. Use quotes from the stories to support the point they want to make about the human condition.

    To evaluate this assignment, grade the essays using the writing rubric that was presented to the students. Evaluate writing skill and adherence to the guidelines of the assignment. Also ensure that students included a reference list if they used quotes from articles.

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