Creating the Living Present

You have considered all semester how the effects of history create the living present. Though the Caribbean is advertised as a ‘paradise’ we know better than to accept this simple-minded tourists’ myth because we know how the original populations of Tainos, Arawak, and Caribe were wiped out by a horrible genocide and replaced with a population of Africans who were traumatized kidnap victims and chattel slaves, a population later joined by economically oppressed Irish and debased, exploited Asians and East Indians like Mr. Biswas’ ancestors, who were called ‘coolies’ (a racial slur).

In reading V.S. Naipaul’s book, “A House for Mr. Biswas,” we will have gotten to see the fictional representation of an Indian descendant of the oppressed indentured workers of India whose children an grandchildren like Biswas, grew up in the class divided and racially divided Caribbean. Biswas is a character who is angry, depressed, unloved, dissatisfied, awkward, self-hating, anti-social, exploited, and alienated from and disrespected by his family and his society. In many ways he is unable to find peace, self-respect or love. Why?

PROMPT: You will do research on the ‘Coolies’ of India and Asia, and find two books (or journal articles) that address the economic, psychic, and social effects of slavery, indentured servitude, uprooting, and the dislocation that Indians went through in being taken to or migrating to, the Caribbean, which even in the present has class and race inequalities.

IN FORMING YOUR THESIS you will analyze the passage below and use your research sources to SUPPORT a thesis that EXPLAINS, this passage from Naipaul’s book:

“He read political books. They gave him phrases which he could only speak to himself and use on Shama. They also revealed one region after another of misery and injustice and left him feeling more helpless and more isolated than ever. Then it was that he discovered the solace of Dickens. Without difficulty he transferred characters and settings to people and places he knew. In the grotesques of Dickens everything he feared and suffered from was ridiculed and diminished, so that his own anger, his own contempt became unnecessary, and he was given strength to bear the most difficult part of his day: dressing in the morning, that daily affirmation of faith in oneself, which at times for him was almost like an act of sacrifice.”

-from roughly page 359 of “A House for Mr. Biswas”

You should explain the Naipaul quote in your topic sentence and your thesis sentence should argue a very aggressive claim that must be supported with three supporting details, then expand on those supporting details in body paragraphs that use your research sources and several other course text and lecture sources. Your thesis sentence will thus reflect the deepest understanding you take away from this course.

Just a suggestion to form supporting details:

Present at least two supporting details showing that your two books or articles support your thesis, as well as one supporting detail in addition that uses other material from the research you’ve done. BEWARE: your body paragraphs must begin with topic sentences taken from your summary of support NOT with research. In your body paragraphs, in addition to expanding on your supporting details you must explain the quote you are responding to. Your three supporting details are the point of your body paragraphs, which you ought to understand by now, is the meaning of college essay form. It might be best to focus mainly on one specific chapter from each research source, and a chapter from one of the course texts, as well as quotes from the lectures and the course supplement as you present your expansion in the body paragraphs.


Required: 5-7 pgs., not including bibliography (which is required); 4 research sources. Three supporting details in your intro’s summary of support that form an essay map at least three PRINT research sources NO WEB SOURCES (except FULL TEXT) Full bibliography listing everything you’ve quoted and cited and all research sources

I. Introductory Paragraph (no quotes or citations in an intro; 3 sentences is all you need)

Topic Sentence (first sentence) Thesis Sentence (second sentence) Summary of Support (third sentence–essay map)

-no quotes in your intro

-no rhetorical questions in your intro

-no statistics in your intro

-no plot summary in your intro

-at least three supporting details in essay map

II. Body Paragraphs (two body paragraphs for each supporting detail)

-expand on your essay map

-quotes, statistics, footnotes, citations, rhetorical questions, block quotes, etc.

-examples, sub-topics, etc.

-comparisons, contrasts

III. Concluding Paragraph (two sentences only) 1. Restate your thesis

2. Summarize your entire argument

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