Writing Work

I find that it’s helpful to hand out sample body paragraphs to students every so often to get them thinking about what works and doesn’t work about literary analysis. The two paragraphs below came from research papers on Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night. Most students know which sample is more effective. The next steps are two-fold: uncovering and articulating WHY it’s more effective and HOW students can replicate its strengths.


  1. Campbell’s real ideal for love is the relationship he has with his wife Helga.
  2. Together they constitute what Campbell thinks of as a “nation of two.”
  3. While it may seem that this metaphor makes something abstract like love into something concrete like a nation, Campbell points out that nations themselves are products of the human imagination.
  4. When Resi asks him whether or not he loves America, Campbell responds, “[R]eal estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies” (103).
  5. Romantic love is just as real as the United States, perhaps more so because this kind of love is unconditional and includes the choice of two real people instead of “imaginary” borders.
  6. Campbell’s art develops this idea, and in his most famous play “The Goblet,” the Holy Grail grants the knight and the lady a happy life “because Heaven does not despise love like theirs” (148).
  7. Human beings are at their best, Campbell implies, when they are in love
  8. Whereas in the Vonnegut novel Player Piano, the characters become like robots, “responding only mechanically to offers of love or affection” in Lawrence Broer’s words (4), the opposite is true in Mother Night.
  9. In this novel, characters never receive love mechanically, especially Campbell.
  10. Love always provides human connection.


  1. To deal with his spiritual anxiety from the stress that being an American spy in the war had caused, Howard put all of his devotion in his love for his wife to help cope with his spiritual anxiety.
  2. As stated from the book Nursing Diagnoses from 2009 to 2011, “Spiritual distress is a diagnosis meaning impaired ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life through connectedness with self, others, art, music, literature, nature, and/or a power greater than oneself” (Nursing Diagnoses 301).
  3. To cope with the way Howard was feeling, he used his wife and their love as an escape.
  4. Campbell incorporated their love into his writings.
  5. Campbell states, “The book is not only a report of an experiment, but a part of the experiment it reports- a self-conscious experiment by a man and a woman to be endlessly fascinating to each other sexually- to be more than that.
  6. To be to each other, body and soul, sufficient reasons for living, though there might not be a single other satisfaction to be had” (Vonnegut 128).
  7. This quote is a clear representation of how he used his love for her as an escape from Mother Night when Campbell explains one of his writings about their intimate relationship.
Writing Work

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