The Bowl Game: Literary Analysis

The Bowl Game: Literary Analysis

Short Fiction

Topic 1:  Discuss how certain characters, settings, images, or symbols, stand for something in addition to themselves (that is, are they symbolic?) in the following short stories:

Topic 2:  Discuss the function of one or more literary devices (settings, characters, images, symbols, etc.) as it/they reveal/relate to theme in the following short stories:

  • Jesse Rae Archibald-Barber’s “The Bowl Game”


The word “explication” comes from a Latin word that means “unfolding.” When you explicate a story or novel or poem, you “unfold” its meaning in an essay by interpreting or analyzing a portion of it. You can analyze a character, a single incident, symbols, point of view, structure, and so on. No explication can take into account everything that goes on in a story; the explication would be longer than the story itself. So your paper should focus on one or two elements that you think contribute to the overall meaning or purpose of the story. A good explication concentrates on details: you should quote portions of the story to show how the text supports your thesis. Then you should offer comments that show how the portion you’re interpreting contributes to the story as a whole.

Suggested Approach:

(1) Use the story we have already read and discussed semester from the text, KIVa.

(2) Read the story several times, until you think you have an idea of its overall theme or thesis or meaning. Jot down notes as you read.

(3) Choose an element of the story (incident, character, style, symbol, structure) that seems to you to enhance or define the meaning as you understand it.

(4) Construct a THESIS that indicates (a) your focus, and (b) the relation of that focus to the story as a whole. A thesis represents your conclusion or opinion about the story. Thus your thesis is argumentative; it should not be an obvious point, but should be a thoughtful statement that indicates some of the complexity and depth of the story and that takes a point of view on the story–a statement that needs support to work as an argument. Don’t settle for the first generalization that comes to your mind; that approach almost always leads to trite responses and poor grades. I’m always on the lookout for the “So what?” factor in paper topics. Ask yourself: “Could my thesis or opinion cause a reader to respond, ‘Yes, that’s true, but so what?’ Or will my thesis illuminate for the reader some point that he/she might not have noticed at first reading?” Some examples:A Non-Argumentative (and Therefore Bad) Thesis: “The characters in “the Bowl Game” are Canadians.” This thesis is not an opinion; it’s a fact. Facts can’t be argued, so the paper is finished before it’s been started. The reader will ask, “so what?”

A Too-Vague (and Therefore Meaningless) Thesis: “The Bowl Game”’ is about Nationalism.” This statement is a little more argumentative than the one above (a story could give many different perspectives on Nationalism), but it’s still primarily factual, and it gives no indication of the author’s focus or opinion.

A Better Thesis: “In his story “The Bowl Game,” Archibald-Barber examines the complexities of identity as a struggle of the human condition. Because the narrator is oppressed by anxiety over the denial of his identity, he eventually enables this inner turmoil to leave through the power and help of his ancestry.”

A Somewhat Good Thesis: In “The Bowl Game” Archibald-Barber uses recurring symbols and images as setting to elucidate his tale of a young man’s discovery of his own unique identity as an Indigenous man in a divisive world”

(5) EVIDENCE: Find quotations and examples in the story that support your thesis, and organize the rest of your paper around this evidence. In a paper based on the “Better Thesis” above, the reader will expect evidence that shows how the narrator’s mother lets herself and other characters become aware of her Blackfoot identity, and more importantly, how she stands her ground and what she proves by her strength. Reading the last thesis above, the reader will expect

(a) that the paper will examine symbol and image as it relates to both character and plot,

(b) that the writer will offer quotations from the text that incorporate specific symbols and images that reveal theme, and

(c) that the paper will conclude by showing how this symbol and imagery  contribute to the meaning of the story as a whole.

(6) CONCLUSION: Your paper should conclude by summing up your argument so that

(a) the reader sees that the evidence you’ve given does in fact support your thesis, and

(b) you offer some indication of how your focus/thesis fits into the whole of the story.

Other Important AdviceUSE MLA FORMAT: use TCWH or The Style Sheet

  1. Put short story titles in quotation marks. See TCWH or Style Sheet
  2. Follow your direct quotations with the appropriate page number from your textbook in parentheses. TCWH or Style Sheet
  3. Somewhere in the first paragraph of your paper, mention the story you are explicating by title and author.
  4. When you write about literature, it is conventional to write in the present tense:

“The narrator drives to the Custer monument” not “The narrator drove to the Custer monument.”

  1. MAKE SURE YOUR PAPER IS NOT MERELY A SUMMARY OF THE PLOT OF THE STORY. I already know what happens in the stories. If you wish, you may offer some brief plot summary in and around your own thoughts in the paper in order to provide background, but the majority of your paper must be analytical.
  2. Include a title for your paper. “Explication of The Bowl Game'” is not enough. Give some indication of your topic (for example: Repatriation in Archibald-Barber’s “The Bowl Game”). For first, and subsequent, formatting of essay pages, see TCWH or Style Sheet
  3. A decent explication takes some time. Don’t wait until the last minute and then rush to complete the assignment. That way lays stress and questionable grades.
  4. No research of secondary sources is necessary for this paper; however, you are required to cite your primary source on a “Works Cited” page. If you do use additional secondary sources in the preparation of this paper, you must indicate this through proper documentation. Not acknowledging or giving credit of/to internet sources will be considered plagiarism.
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