Lesson Tutor: Novel Study of So Big by Edna Ferber Through Creative Writing Assignments

So Big by Edna Ferber
By Elaine Ernst Schneider

Writing Assignments

Chapters 1-4:

There are three basic types of paragraphs in writing: narrative, descriptive, and expository. The narrative paragraph tells a story, just like a narrator in a play. The descriptive paragraph paints a picture. It gives details about a person, place, thing, or idea, much like an adjective. The expository paragraph “exposes” things about a subject. It is sometimes called an information paragraph because it gives information about a person, place, thing, or idea.

This assignment focuses on the descriptive paragraph. Choose three character traits that you feel best describe Selina DeJong. Title your paper The Character of Selina DeJong. Your paper will be comprised of five paragraphs. First write a paragraph in which you introduce the three traits you have chosen. Use the second paragraph to describe Selina in terms of the first character trait on your list. The third paragraph should be dedicated to the second trait on your list and the fourth paragraph should expound on the third trait. The fifth paragraph will be the conclusion and should summarize and “wrap up” the overall message of your paper.
Chapters 5-8:

Authors use tone (or mood) to establish a certain atmosphere for their works. For example, a piece might be written in a formal way, as if the author is speaking to a crowd OR the work might be composed in such as way as to make the reader feel as if he or she is in a room alone with the author, chatting over coffee. A piece might be ironic, solemn, technical, emotional, light-hearted, humorous, sentimental, triumphant, depressing, or satiric. Any of these would certainly change the overall presentation of what is written.

Edna Ferber has a definite tone for So Big. This tone is apparent from the onset of the book. Though circumstances have changed from what we have read in chapters 1- 8, the author’s portrayal of life’s challenges – and how people deal with them – has remained fairly consistent. Consider how Selina has faced the proverbial “bumps in the road.” What does Edna Ferber want the reader to glean from this? Write a paper (300-400 words) explaining Edna Ferber’s tone for So Big. Support your position with examples from the book.
Chapters 9-12:

Persuasive writing does exactly what its name implies – it attempts to sway the reader to agree with a certain position, belief, or philosophy. It is not uncommon for an author to convey a certain message in a fictional work, seeking to persuade the reader to see things a certain way. In chapters 9-12, Edna Ferber presents Selina as a strong woman, principled and firm, battling for survival by standing against the established and accepted way of doing things. Selina takes her place alongside the men at the Haymarket, bargains with Chicago’s influential businessmen, and determines that Dirk will be educated. What point, do you suppose, Edna Ferber is trying to make? Write a persuasive paragraph in which you try to convince the reader to “see things Edna’s way.”
Chapters 13-16:

Consider the following quote:

If those vague characteristics call (variously) magnetism, manner, grace, distinction, attractiveness, fascination, go to make up that nebulous quality known as charm; and if the possessor of that quality is accounted fortunate in his equipment for that which the class-day orators style the battle of life, then Dirk DeJong was a lucky lad and life lay promisingly before him.    (from chapter 13)

We have discussed that a narrative paragraph is one that tells a story. Your assignment is to create a “charming” character, using the definition set forth in the above quote, and then to write a short story about that character.
Chapters 17-21:

Another writing tool is comparison and contrast. Your assignment utilizes this technique. Title your paper Dallas and Dirk. In your first paragraph, introduce both characters in a general way. In your second paragraph, compare the two. In other words, how are these two people alike? You may talk about physical appearance, personality, ethics, goals, methods of attaining these goals – or anything else that you feel is relevant to a comprehensive comparison of the two characters. Your third paragraph should contrast Dallas and Dirk. How are they different? Be sure that whatever traits you compared in the second paragraph are treated equally in your third paragraph contrasts. For example, if you compared Dallas and Dirk physically, you should contrast them physically as well. A balanced paper would not compare them physically and then contrast them emotionally. Hint: compare them physically; contrast them physically. Compare them emotionally; contrast them emotionally. Compare their goals; contrast their goals, etc. Finally, your last paragraph is for conclusion, summary, and wrap-up.

General Notes:

Double space on a typewriter, word processor, or computer. Skip a line between each line of writing if your paper is handwritten. This makes for easier reading and leaves space for a teacher’s editing comments. If you type, use 12 font. Before turning in your assignment, check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Read your paper aloud. You will be surprised how many errors will surface.

Write, edit, and re-write. Do not turn in writing assignments that are messy and full of typos or cross-outs. No matter what you have to say, it is always received as more worthwhile if the presentation is neat, clean, and inviting. Be creative. Use unusual adjectives and strong verbs. Write, edit, and re-write.
And one more thing: write, edit, and re-write. Get the picture? Now go for it!

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