The Microessay

The purpose of the microessay is to give you practice in the fundamentals of writing arguments about literature. Follow these guidelines:

This assignment will be graded by the following criteria:

Choose one of the topics below:

  1. After Olympia's true nature is revealed in "The Sandman," the narrator takes a few paragraphs (218-219) to describe the response of society at large to the imposture before going on to finish Nathaniel's story. There is surely a satiric edge to this section. But who or what is being satirized, and what is this paragraph saying about them or it?
  2. After Clara tells Nathaniel to throw his poem in the fire, Nathaniel calls her an "inanimate, accursed automaton" (209). This is clearly ironic, as Nathaniel will later fall in love with a real automaton, Olympia. What is the point of this irony?
  3. There are references to eyes throughout "The Sandman"--so many, in fact, that they almost have to be symbolic. Explain one of the meanings of eyes in the story. (A full discussion of eye imagery in "The Sandman" would require a lengthy paper, but you should be able to sketch out an argument about eyes and support it in a single paragraph; your claim doesn't have to cover all the meanings of eyes in the story, just one important one.)

An example of a micro-essay, with commentary, can be found here.