Can you help me with an English essay assignment that I don't understand because the assignment says "I believe" but my teacher says "character"?I just don't understand the chart on page 6 that...

Can you help me with an English essay assignment that I don't understand because the assignment says "I believe" but my teacher says "character"?

I just don't understand the chart on page 6 that follows the essay on page 4, because the chart says you write what you believe but my teacher says to write about the character.

Asked on by ib1995

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Your confusion stems from the use and meaning of the word "character." In literature, "character" refers to an imaginary individual written about in a work of fiction. This character has traits that can be analyzed; emotional, psychological, and/or cognitive growth that can be developed; and attributes and physical qualities that can be described. However, "character" has another meaning and this is the one at play in your assignment. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines this use of "character" as being the personal qualities an individual possess. Examples would be how you respond to danger; to praise; to friendship; to pressure etc. This is often referred to as inner character or character traits or even inner character traits. The instructions for your essay are to write your own version of Holmberg's essay in which she is prompted by an offhand remark to examine her inner character and come to some new conclusions about herself and how she understands herself.

What you are asked to do is write under "I believe" or "I doubt" a conclusion or understanding you have come to as a result of some event, remark, influence, epiphany, person's experience, etc. Then you are asked to think of the originating event that led to or precipitated this awakening of knowledge, understanding, or doubt. For comparison, Holmberg tells the event that affected her conclusions and understanding about herself, then tells what her new conclusions and understandings are. She ends with a "brainstorming" list of what might have been the catalyst for the changes in herself: "Maybe it was the impact of my grandfather’s death, or my high expectations, knowledge and experience which is gained with time." In summary, read "Spend a few minutes discerning the values, attitudes, and doubts that may serve to define your character" as "Spend a few minutes discerning the values, attitudes, and doubts that may serve to define your inner character traits."

dtc10106's profile pic

dtc10106 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

It would be best to speak to your teacher directly in order to get some clarity regarding his/her instructions, but if that is not practical a couple of observations may help you get started.

The selection does appear to be a short story.  It seems to be a memoir written by Melissa Holmberg.  This distinction helps because the messages in memoirs are usually more  obvious than the themes in fiction.  In this selection the author is presenting her understanding of the concept of maturity.  It seems clear enough: maturity means understanding that good and bad / right and wrong are not absolute; that they exist on a continuum.  A single bad personality trait does not make a one an evil person any more than a single positive trait necessarily makes one a good person.

That is her message: Now, why not write what you believe about the author's beliefs?  Additionally, you might explore what you question or doubt regarding the author's beliefs? This is just a suggestion, but it seems reasonable.

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