3690: A Journal of First-Year Student Research Writing

Author Image

Caroline Paley Photo


MLA, American culture, English, Literary analysis


Overview: Margaret Atwood captivates her readers as she spins the tale of a futuristic version of our own world after a totalitarian regime takes over. She welcomes the readers to the new, radical society, formerly the United States, known now as the Republic of Gilead. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood tells the story of a woman in this dystopian future who, like so many others, has been stripped of all her liberties and whose sole purpose is to reproduce for the overall good of society. Birth rates have declined and many citizens are sterile due to environmental pollution and rampant outbreaks of sterilizing STD’s and STI’s. The result is a nation starving for children. The religion-based totalitarian government has no tolerance for dissent and reprimands offenders swiftly, with lethal methods of punishment.

Author's Reflection: My name is Caroline Paley, and I am an English Writing and American Studies double major at St. John Fisher College. I am also a Peer Colleague for one of the freshman learning communities and am training to be a tutor in the campus writing center beginning in Spring 2018.

The most rewarding aspect of the writing process in my 199 was probably the final few days before the final draft was due. The paper was finished, all requirements had been met, and I was able to simply proofread for small errors while marveling at the fact that a research paper had stemmed from a single thesis. The most challenging aspects of the writing process were probably accepting feedback, both positive and negative, and being open-minded about the direction the paper was headed. Although I struggled to be open-minded with peer and professor suggestions and was at times adamant about which direction my paper was headed, moving past these challenges ultimately strengthened my paper.

I have found that the skills I honed in my 199 such as synthesis, effective academic research, and analysis are incredibly useful in assignments I am completing this semester. I also have become more confident in my ability to write. I used to believe that I was barely capable of crafting a six page essay let alone a complete research paper. After completing the 199 course, I can honestly say I have never been so confident in my writing abilities and my choice in pursuing writing as one of my majors. I have no doubt that the skills I have learned will continue to benefit me both in college and whatever career path I choose to pursue.

Dr. Uman's Summary: Caroline’s paper is a powerful example of literary analysis that shows us how fiction can help us confront some of the most difficult questions of our time. Caroline was motivated by the Women’s March on Washington that followed the 2016 presidential election. She saw in the marches potential for resistance against forces of hatred and domination , a theme that is frequently explored in dystopian literature such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This personal connection gave Caroline energy and enthusiasm throughout the writing and revision process, a process that she approached with great seriousness. I can’t tell you how many drafts Caroline wrote in addition to those required, but I can tell you that her final version is insightful, well-researched, carefully organized, and, finally, hopeful.

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