Scott Hardie | December 7, 2001
I have a question that is best answered by fellow English majors, but I'll take advice from anyone. Should I write a critical essay after discovering something about a novel?

In October, I had to give a presentation to the class about Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I realized that seven supporting characters in the book clearly personify the seven deadly sins (Macon is greed, Pilate is sloth, Guitar is wrath, Hagar is envy, Ruth is lust, Corinthians is pride, and Hospital Tommy and Railroad Tommy together are gluttony). On top of that, the central protagonist, Milkman, demonstrates all seven of the sins at various points in the book. The class seemed about as enthused as they usually were, but the teacher loved it. She said that she'd never heard of that reading of the book before, and suggested that I write it down as a critical essay and submit it to the Modern Language Association, which catalogues (and thus canonizes) critical essays about literature. Today, as we had a conference about my performance in the class, she brought it up again, and said that her husband, one of my favorite teachers and one with whom I have two classes next semester, agreed that it should be written down.

My idea isn't flawless. The two Tommies are a weak example of gluttony, but except for Milkman, nobody else demonstrates it. The teacher said that this would be a good place to see how the theory unravels, to say that Morrison leads us down a path to thinking that the characters represent sin but then doesn't complete the list. (We both doubt that Morrison planned this line of thinking when writing the book; it's an inherent theme instead of an intended one.) Anyway, whether I argued for the seven deadly sins or against them, I'm considering actually writing this essay. I could find out from my teacher or her husband how to submit it to the MLA, and if I needed a sponsor, I'll bet that either of them would support it. I would only need to quote Morrison's text and Dante's list of the sins, but I could find extra quotes to support almost all of my claims if I went to the trouble of doing the research. So, should I do it? I'm a habitual committer of sloth (all of the sins actually), so it'd take some convincing, but I might go through with it if anyone else thinks it's a good idea.

Kris Weberg | December 7, 2001
I'd say go for it. No matter what your major is, it always looks nice to have an undergrad publication.

Plus, it may convert you to the dark path of lit studies :)

Anna Gregoline | December 8, 2001
Scott, that's fabulous. I COMMAND you to write it. What a wonderful opportunity.

And you can do it...I can't wait to read it.

K. R. | December 8, 2001
[hidden by request]

Angela Lathem-Ballard | December 8, 2001
Scott--if you need extended examples, Toni does appear to demonstrate several examples of Christian themes in other novels. I think you have a good argument for this, and can support it beyond this representation. FAB! (Also, congrats on finishing the book; her work drains my soul! - but I love her!)

Scott Hardie | December 8, 2001
Wow, thanks everybody, for the kind words and also for giving them so quickly. I think I will indeed write this paper, but after I get back from Christmas vacation.

Kris - Lit studies? Noooooooo!! ... Although, it would be nice to at least dabble in that in college, you know, once.

Anna - I will post it on my site when its done, unless that somehow jeopardizes publication elsewhere, but first they'd have to know about my site.

Daniel - Excellent.

Anjular - Toni Morrison rules! I'm finishing Paradise now and plan to borrow Beloved from my mom when I see her in a week.

(Mental note: When I start writing this critical essay, I should avoid phrases like "Toni Morrison rules.")

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