How does our past impact who we are today?

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What lessons can we learn from the experiences of Elwood?

Evaluate how society destroyed Elwood.

What form of resistance is the most effective?

What effect did the youth have on changing history?


Summary: It is important to be aware of how history impacts the oppressed people even after it ends in the textbooks. In this unit we will study the effects of racism and race history in the United States. Our first case study focused on the harsh conditions of a reform school and the racism and violence young Black men faced during the post Jim Crow era. This unit will allow us to explore how racism takes on different forms in the modern and post-modern era even after the end of slavery.


Task: Write a literary analysis paper that explores at least one of the guiding questions AND one prompt above. The foundations of your argument must come from Nickel Boys.

Consider elements such as conflict:

What internal and/or external conflicts are faced? How do characters deal with these conflicts? Why? Should they have done anything differently? What would the end result have been if they did?

Consider characterization:

Evaluate the personality, appearance, mindset of the characters. How do they react in the face of oppression? Do they oppress others? How? Why? How does characterization impact behavior or reaction to circumstances? Who is the protagonist? How and when does the character change? What causes the change? What do readers learn from the individual’s dynamic characterization?

Consider setting:

How does time and/or place affect perception and/or behavior? Would things unfold any differently in a different time or place? Explain.

Consider in medias res:

What is the effect of starting the story at the excavated gravesite? Why do you think the author chose to begin here and not at the beginning? Was this effective? Explain.

Consider imagery:

What images stand out most? What feelings are evoked from those images? What is the effect on the reader’s understanding of the story?

Consider theme:

What does Elwood’s story teach his readers? What should the audience take away? Why is this important?




MLA formatted (all quoted and paraphrased information must be properly cited in-text and on the Works Cited page, quotation marks must be used when copying words verbatim, and add the page number or chapter number in parentheses at the end of the sentence but before the period)

Whitehead, Colson. The Nickel Boys: a Novel. Doubleday, 2019.

A minimum of 4 typed pages PLUS a separate Works Cited page

Times New Roman, 12pt Font, double spaced

Thesis statements must be approved

Sources must be approved (The novel itself must be cited)

Evidence must come from various sections of the text (beginning, middle and end)




Brainstorm Dec. 7

Thesis proposal Dec. 9

Evidence and Citations Dec. 16

Draft 1 Dec 21

Final Draft Jan 14



Checklist: Please check off and respond to the following where necessary

Paper has a heading which includes Class, Date and Full Name (Single-Spaced on the top left corner of the document)

Paper has a header with the author’s last name and first initial followed by the page number

Paper is typed in Times New Roman, 12 point Font, double-spaced

Paper has an epigraph that makes sense because it’s thought provoking and clearly relates to the argument

There is background information related to the topic being discussed

For example, historically relevant information pertaining to the setting of the novel(s)

Briefly introduces the characters to be discussed later in the paper

An introduction to the power structures or oppressive behaviors to be discussed

The information presented in the introduction directly addresses the prompt

There is a clear thesis, stating what literary technique will be used to support what argument about the text

There is a clear thesis that is debatable and insightful stated at the end of the introductory paragraph

The introduction introduces the title of the work in italics OR underlined and the full name of the author

Each body paragraph has a topic sentence that relates to the thesis: either supports it or breaks it down into steps

Each quote is introduced by context that clarifies who is speaking to whom about what OR what was happening in or before that moment that led to the quoted section

There is direct evidence (quoted or paraphrased) to support each topic sentence in each paragraph.

There is more than one piece of evidence in each paragraph to support each claim

Each piece of evidence is supported with an MLA citation (page number written in parentheses with the period at the end).

Ex. “…” (16).

Evidence includes evidence of the literary technique

There is analysis after each piece of evidence that explains the implication of the quote or paraphrased example explaining how it’s related to the topic

The conclusion sums up the main arguments and states a central lesson that is learned throughout the text. This lesson is applied to what we can learn about people in the world or the world around us

There are real-world connections between the text(s) and life in general.

There are supplementary texts included for comparative purposes or to further the central argument

The essay is a minimum of 4 pages plus a Works Cited page

The Works Cited page includes all referenced materials including the book, articles, songs, films, online sources, etc.

The cited sources are not bulleted or number, but listed in alphabetical order on a separate page

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