Instructions How to Write

Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”

Describe the change in the way the narrator of Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” divides the world into good and bad. This change is most easily understood if you look closely at the narrator’s explicit opinions about the things he learns to appreciate at the end, and then go back to earlier episodes to see what he said about these things earlier. Then write the paper, beginning with a coherent description of his thoughts at first (as in. “Moonlight” ) citing specific passages in the text to support your point. Then describe the way these opinions change at the end, again citing specific passages. You may use critical literature, but you should avoid sites like Sparknotes, which are mostly written for those who don’t get it by those who don’t get it.


The introduction to your papers, which you should write last, should be at a level of generality that is no broader than the paper you wrote. It should identify the author(s), the approximate date(s) of publication, and summarize the action and how it is told, all in a sentence or two (or three). Briefly describe the content of the paper, but don't try to tell everything.
Watch out for runaway plot summary... if you find yourself writing along without thinking much, you may be merely describing what is happening. It is appropriate to briefly explain the context in which your quotes occur, but don't let it take over.
3. Be sure to connect quotations to your prose--don't leave quotes disconnected from your sentences, and be sure to make partial quotations grammatically complete.

4. Cite all sources within the text in minimal short form. Alphabetize the long form citations by author's last name. Steer clear of Shmoop, Sparknotes and similar "study" sites, which compile other people's ideas without understanding them.

5. Be sure to explain how the passages you cite support the ideas you find in them.

6. Rather than repeating yourself in summary at the end, try to sketch related considerations that could grow from your essay.

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