Read the following topic and write a 1000-word essay on Jorge Luis Borges’s “Death and the Compass” and Michael Chabon’s “The God of Dark Laughter.”

Length:            1000 words

Value:              25% (Summative assessment)

Format:            Double-spaced, MLA documentation

Sources:           Jorge Luis Borges’s “Death and the Compass,” Michael Chabon’s “The God of Dark Laughter”

Each of these short depicts a crime or series of crimes and the efforts of characters to make sense of the crime, either by “solving” it or by achieving some deeper insight in response to it. Considering the two short stories mentioned above, discuss how the crime alters, threatens, or disrupts a character’s sense of meaning and order, and explore how the character responds to that challenge. In other words, how does the crime depicted in the texts lead to a change in the character’s view of himself, his sense of life’s meaning, or our view of the world?

In answering this fairly general question, you may also find it useful to consider the ways in which the texts fit (or don’t fit) into the genre of the detective story. If nineteenth-century detective fiction offers us a consoling vision of the brilliant detective solving mysteries and defeating crime, how do these much more recent texts view that possibility? What can we know for certain? Can we defeat evil?

A few reminders

  • Your essay must offer an analysis, not merely a plot summary. It must make a claim in the form of a thesis statement and offer detailed discussion and quotation to support that claim. It must have an introduction, coherent support paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Use present tense consistently to discuss the events in the story.
  • Put the title of the story in quotation marks.
  • Refer to the author by last name.
  • Set up quotations by giving the context of the quotation before you quote.
  • Use formal English. Avoid contractions (isn’t, doesn’t, won’t), comments about the reader as “you,” or lots of emphasis on “I.”

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