My initial step in the writing process is always to read the novel with a pen in hand. As I read, I underline significant quotes, recurring symbols, ironies, and inconsistencies. I even write questions in the margins. I find I am a less passive reader with a pen, and, when it comes time to choose a topic, I am well prepared, already having a collection of questions I am genuinely curious about. Once I have chosen a topic, I repeat the process with potential sources, marking the authors’ main ideas and noting any weaknesses in their arguments. Sometimes, when searching for a topic, it can be just as effective to work backwards, letting the sources spark some initial questions. Such was the case with this paper.
I became interested in religious allusions in We after my professor required the class to read Richard Gregg’s essay. After a discussion with my professor, I was convinced that I had enough support to argue the role of I-330, and not D-503, as the Christ figure. In my rough draft, I attacked Gregg’s essay and provided a list of allusions that supported I-330 in the role of Christ. My professor gave two important criticisms of my draft, and fixing them proved my greatest challenge. First, my argument lost its credibility because it was guilty of the same faults I had attacked in Gregg’s essay. I couldn’t criticize Gregg for ignoring religious allusions that pointed to I-330 as the Christ figure and simply list those allusions. My argument was equally guilty of ignoring allusions that indicated D-503 was the Christ figure. Rather, I needed to explore why Gregg was wrong, and it was his approach to the novel that I eventually chose to attack. Secondly, my thesis was supported by a list. I learned that paragraphs should not be lists of evidence proving the same point but should each contain smaller arguments that build upon one another. What started out as my rough draft, a list of allusions pointing to I-330 as Christ, in the end was just one point in my final paper.
RACHEL FOGLEY, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a member of the class of 2011. A student in the College of Arts & Sciences, she plans to receive her undergraduate degree in biology. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys playing the piano, gardening, cooking, watching films, and going to the theatre. This essay was written for Maria Gapotchenko’s WR150: Masterpieces of Russian Prose.