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Grade 10/American Literature

Writing assignment on human (im)perfection

Due Date: In class on Friday, 4/3.

Late work not accepted unless you are absent on Friday due
to illness.
Having just finished reading Nathaniel Hawthornes short story, The Birthmark, I
would like you to think more deeply about the costs of pursuing perfection,
particularly in our modern society. Drawing on our class discussion from Thursday
and Friday, choose one of the following prompts to respond to in a five-paragraph
essay (minimum 2 pages, double spaced). We will have class time on Tuesday to
work on this, as well.
1. Physical beauty (whether masculine or feminine) is highly sought after in
our image-driven society. From the rampant use of Photoshop in
advertisements to the use of filters on Instagram, it sometimes seems like
we are constantly bombarded with unrealistic images of the human form
and of everyday life. Has social media played a role in the rise of imageobsession? Is there a connection to be made between altered images and
the rise in body-image issues and disorders in young people? Do you feel
that your life or your self-conception has been affected by advertising
images or images on the Internet? How? Why? What would you change
about image alteration or the prevalence of unrealistic images, if you could?
2. The intersection between nature and science has, for centuries, been a
topic for writers to explore fears or concerns about human agency and
human control over the natural world. We saw this notion at work in The
Birthmark and in the ways in which Aylmer and Aminadab seemed to
represent opposite ends of the spectrum, with Aminadab representing
basic, brutish human nature and Aylmer representing enlightened
scientific progress. However, we also saw how Aylmers obsession with
making Georgiana perfect seriously backfired on him. Consider the
benefits and drawbacks of scientific and technological progress in our
modern society by focusing on one issue or topic. Consider, for instance, 3D printing, cloning, military technology, artificial intelligence, GPS, cameraphones, or related issues. Does scientific or technological progress always
move humanity forward? Why or why not?
3. Because success is highly valued in our society, many people will do
whatever it takes to get ahead. Consider, for instance, the number of highprofile cases in the last ten years or so involving athletes taking steroids or
using other performance-enhancing, but illegal, measures in order to
achieve athletic success. Consider also the ways in which team leadership
(coaches, team owners or managers, etc.) may contribute to an

environment where nothing less than excellence is accepted. Feel free to

examine more than one area within this topic: pro sports, college sports, or
even high school sports. What do medical experts say about the use of
performing-enhancing drugs, from a health perspective? What happens
when an individual or a team is found to have engaged in illegal,
performance-enhancing measures? What is your opinion on the topic? Why
do you feel this way?

five-paragraph essay should include:

A snappy and engaging introduction that presents your topic well
A central claim or thesis that can be ARGUED
Three body paragraphs that provide evidence and information to support
your thesis (you will need to consult online articles, data, and/or statistics
and cite those sources in your essay and in the Works Cited list at the end
of your essay)
At least two vocabulary words (from either Vocab 1 or Vocab 2 lists)
A brief discussion of the connection you see between Nathaniel
Hawthornes The Birthmark and the topic or prompt youve chosen to
respond to
A conclusion that doesnt just re-state the introduction; a conclusion should
gesture toward the larger significance of your topic or opinion; So What?
A Works Cited list that includes properly formatted citations of all sources
you consulted (check out

Any questions? E-mail me at