Literary Analysis of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge


Write a six to seven-page (1500-1750 words) analysis of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge. In addition to the novel, you are to reference at least four outside sources (for a total of five). Your analysis should be based squarely on the techniques of “Chapter 4: Analysis.” Note in particular the “How to Write an Analysis” section and the two parts to formulating an analytical thesis. Rely on the “Guidelines for Writing Analyses” box, and the sample student analysis by Linda Shanker, “The Case of the Missing Kidney: An Analysis of Rumor” (pg. 160 in What It Takes). Also review the student sample literary analysis: “Caspian’s Narnia: An Imperialist Nation?” before continuing with this assignment. Choosing an analytic topic lens soon will help you to focus your efforts. After the next section, you will find some suggested analytic approaches frequently used in literary study. Choose the one that is most fascinating to you. MORE ON WHAT IT MEANS TO ANALYZE  Synthesis with a Twist. An analysis is basically a synthesis with a very specific kind of focus. To analyze the novel The Razor’s Edge, you first need to find a thoughtful source that you feel can help illuminate the novel in a clearer and deeper light than a casual read-through yields. Think of your goal as showing a casual reader just how deep the novel really is. After you find your analytical tool (in an external source such as a cultural context document, a critical approach essay, or an essay on a specific aspect of psychology, philosophy, or history, for instance), you must be able to explain the central concept of that source very clearly. Once you do this, you can then apply that tool to scenes, experiences, images, characters, and symbols in the novel. You are synthesizing your analytical tool/source with the novel in a very specific way—shining it like a specific kind of light from a specific direction on the subject of the novel in order to see the novel’s details, cracks, crevices, and patterns. Student Example of Analysis: Be sure to review the student essay titled “Caspian’s Narnia: An Imperialist Nation?” This essay is a clear example of literary analysis. In the essay, the student explains Johan Galtung’s theory of imperialism, explained in his article, “A Structural Theory of Imperialism.” After clearly explaining this analytical tool, the student then applies the tool to C.S. Lewis’ children’s novel to help readers better understand the construct of Lewis’ magical world. Lewis never mentions Galtung’s theory in the novel, and it is likely that Lewis didn’t even have these theories in mind when writing the novel—novelists usually just want to tell a compelling story. Nonetheless, the concept helps us to understand the experiences of the characters in a deeper way, and so it is an excellent choice as an analytic tool. I highly recommend that you reread this student essay now to see how it develops this analytic pattern, for this is what I will be looking for in your analysis of The Razor’s Edge. SUGGESTED ELEMENTS OF AN ANALYSIS (from Behrens and Rosen) Create a context for your analysis. Introduce and summarize for readers the object, event, or behavior to be analyzed. Present a strong case about why an analysis is needed: Give yourself a motivation to write, and give readers a motivation to read. Consider setting out a problem, puzzle, or question to be investigated. Introduce and summarize the key definition or principle that will form the basis of your analysis. Plan to devote an early part of your analysis to arguing for the validity of this principle or definition if your audience is not likely to understand it or if they are likely to think that the principle or definition is not valuable. Analyze your topic. Systematically apply elements of this definition or principle to parts of the activity or object under study. You can do this by posing specific questions, based on the elements of your analytic principle or definition, about the object. Discuss what you find part by part (organized perhaps by questions linking the principle to the subject), in clearly defined sections of the essay. Conclude by stating clearly what is significant about your analysis. When considering your analytical paper as a whole, what new or interesting insights have you made concerning the object under study? To what extent has your application of the definition or principle helped you to explain how the object works, what it might mean, or why it is significant? SUGGESTED ANALYTIC APPROACHES (Choose One) Prompt 1: Happiness. What is happiness? The articles presented during the Summary and Critique units reveal several different approaches to the pursuit of happiness. Consider Larry’s journey throughout the novel. Can we classify his journey as a search for happiness? How? What about the other characters’ journeys in the novel? Are they seeking happiness, or something different? Does Maugham’s ending leave us with the feeling that anyone ends up truly happy? Is true happiness even possible? Use Maugham’s novel and its various characters to define, analyze, and discuss happiness. Prompt 2: The search for spiritual truth/rejection of materialism. What is involved in a search for spiritual truth? Does spiritual truth equal happiness? Possibly more important, what is spiritual truth? Is there one spiritual truth or is it different for everyone? How does one’s search for spiritual truth affect others? Even though Larry’s description of his search for spiritual truth is only a small portion of the overall narrative, we can very clearly see how his search affects all of the characters around him. Think about what steps Larry went through to find his truth. Also, consider how each step affected those around him. You may also consider addressing Larry’s discussions on Christianity, rejection of materialism, the Absolute, and enlightenment and how each played a role in his search. Be sure to also think about spiritual journeys as a whole and how Larry’s can be seen as a possible model. Prompt 3: Narrative structure. Think about what makes a good story. Obviously, the characters and plot play a large role in the success of any story. However, consider how a good story with interesting characters and an engaging plot can be quickly derailed by poor narrative technique. As we have discussed, The Razor’s Edge’s narrative structure is rather unique. How is Maugham’s narrative style different from more traditional narrative structures? How is it similar? Obviously, these are not random occurrences throughout the novel; rather, they are deliberate choices. So, what purpose do these similarities and differences serve in Maugham’s story? How do they influence our reading of the novel? Prompt 4: Open topic: This last prompt is meant to allow you to be creative. If your interest is not piqued by any of the previous suggestions, I am open to your suggestions. Maybe you are interested in exploring Maugham’s use of India. Or, maybe you would like to look at the settings in the novel—years, places, etc. As I said, I am open to suggestions. However, if you are interested in writing about your own topic you must run it by me first. I do not want you to get too far down the wrong path with this essay then have to start over as the deadline approaches. Therefore, if you have a topic you want to use, please talk to me as soon as possible. As you are constructing your topic and writing, be sure that you are staying grounded in the novel. Remember that you are writing a literary research essay and that the focus should stay on the Maugham’s work. You are certainly permitted to take Larsen’s ideas and apply them to other walks of life, but always come back to the novella. Your evidence and support should come from text. SOURCE REQUIREMENTS You are required to use five sources in this essay: SOURCE ONE: Integrate short quotes of the primary source from which you have drawn your analytic tool. You will be referring back to the ideas of this source frequently. SOURCE TWO: Integrate Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. This source should feature prominently in your essay as it is your subject. SOURCES THREE, FOUR, & FIVE: In addition, synthesize three other complimentary academic quality sources to help support your points. These sources may be from one of the LAC’s useful databases such as Infotrac Expanded Academic ASAP, Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, Literature Resource Center, or InfoTrac Psychology ( (Links to an external site.) > “Article Databases (Indexes).” You might use a source from our eBooks collection or from the physical library. It’s up to you. These sources should complement (add complexity, depth, and/or confirmation) your analysis of the subject.  Requirements:  A minimum of 1500-1750 words (roughly six to seven pages typed, double spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman font, 1” margins). Includes an arguable thesis statement. Remember, a “thesis is a claim about which reasonable people could disagree” (83). Additionally, it should state and establish you use of a certain principle or definition that will be your analytic tool. The body of you synthesis should be organized logically, developed using a paragraph-by –paragraph logic throughout the paper. Carefully chosen quotations and/or paraphrases from the source you are using as your analytic tool. Carefully chosen quotations and/or paraphrases from Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. Carefully chosen quotations and/or paraphrases from at least three additional academic sources from the Cerro Coso databases, the Cerro Coso library, and/or Google Scholar. All quotations should add complexity and/or to bolster a point you are making. Additionally, all quotations used must include a properly formatted and punctuated parenthetical citation as well as a properly formatted entry on a works cited page. Careful adherence to MLA Style and format. This includes proper format and punctuation of class information. An intriguing, appropriate, and creative title properly capped and centered. Adherence to Standard American English, which means that grammar shows very few, if any, major errors, such as fused sentences, run-ons, and comma splices, and few minor errors. Additionally, essays use capitalization, spelling, apostrophes, semi-colons, colons, and other punctuation correctly. Final draft uploaded to by the due date.

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