500 word paper | Early Humanities | University of Memphis


Project 1: Story Essay

Submit to Assignments dropbox.


We all love stories. From childhood to adulthood, we all learn best when we listen to stories – stories from our parents, our grandparents, our aunts, our uncles, our teachers, our leaders, our friends. The fact is that all humans – from whatever country, whatever culture, whatever age, whatever gender – all of us love stories.

There are all kinds of stories and many names for categorizing them. We have literature, folk tales, legends, myths, sacred texts, and biographies. But what do they have in common? They wrap us up in a narrative that means something to us, that helps us understand the world and know how to live in it. They help us understand what it means to be human. All of us have certain deeply held beliefs, and most of us have many fundamental beliefs in common.

There are many ways to hear stories. Of course, you can read a book. But you can also just keep your ears open and hear dozens of stories each day from the Internet, the TV, your phone, your friends, your family, your preacher, your mailman. Are you addicted to fantasy fiction or mystery novels? Are you fascinated by the ancient Greek and Roman myths of gods and goddesses and their interactions with mortals? Is there a television show you cannot bear to miss? Maybe there is a film you saw a long time ago that you have never forgotten. What stories did you grow up with? Did you have a favorite book as a child that you still remember and think about from time to time? Did your grandfather tell you stories of his childhood? Did you grow up listening to your uncle telling tale tales? What did you learn from the stories you read, watched or heard? What are some of the stories that are most meaningful to you? 

What to create

You will write a 500 word essay that showcases a story that has meaning for you. You will tell us that story, analyze its meaning, and then compare its meaning to that of a story from another culture that you have read about in this class.

Who you will create it for 

You will be writing to your instructor and classmates to help us to get to know you better. In telling one of your favorite stories and explaining why it is meaningful to you, you will provide a window into your life and the common humanity we all share. We will picture ourselves sitting around a campfire on a dark winter’s night, listening to you.

How to create your project step-by-step

Step 1: Set your paper for DOUBLE-SPACE. In the upper left-hand side of your essay, put your name, professor name, class name, and date. Below that, center your essay’s title. 

Step 2: Begin your paper by telling, in your own words, the story you have chosen to share.

Step 3: Next, give the background of your story. Did you read it, hear it, or see it performed? Who told it or wrote it? When did you read or hear it? What initial impression did you have of it? How did your first impressions evolve and grow?

Step 4: Explain the meaning and the value of the story. What values and beliefs does your story express? What is the theme or point of your story? Explain the relevance of the story’s meaning to your life and beliefs. Does it define a value you hold? Does it set an example for behavior? Does it define your family in some way? Does it capture a relationship that you hold dear? Does it capture your zest for life and adventure?

Step 5: Compare your story to a story that you have read for this class. Do your story and the ancient story have similar characters? Similar themes? Similar meanings? In your comparison, you should show that you understand that basic human stories are the same regardless of time or culture. Here are some possibilities:

  • Bromance! – Gilgamesh and Enkidu (Gilamesh)
  • Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned – Ishtar (Gilamesh)
  • Death before dishonor – Achilles (Iliad)
  • Pride goeth before a fall – Oedipus (Oedipus the King)
  • A person can be too clever for his own good – Odysseus (Odyssey)
  • The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates (Plato’s Apology)
  • Even your best friends can turn on you – Julius Caesar
  • Duty to the gods, duty to country – Aeneas (Aeneid)
  • Brokenheartedness – Dido (Aeneid)
  • The hero’s journey – Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Beowulf, etc.
  • A mother’s fierce love for her children – Beowulf

Step 6: Conclude your essay by explaining how your story and the ancient story illustrate the universality of the human condition.

Step 7: Make your Works Cited page a separate page at the end (see below).

How to make your Works Cited page

At the end of your essay, make a WORKS CITED page. Put “Works Cited” at the top and then list the sources you used in alphabetical order.

  • You may use a book you have read as your source. Document it this way: Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
  • You may use information from any of the lessons in our course. Remember to document those lessons this way: Destination M106: Ur, “Reading: The Sumerians and Mesopotamia.”
  • You may use Internet sources if you document them and provide a link. Document web pages like this: “Gilgamesh and the Cedar Forest.” Mesopotamia. The British Museum. http://www.mesopotamia.co.uk/geography/story/sto_set.html
  • You may use another person as your resource. If you do, be sure to explain in your paper who the person is, how you knew him/her, and when you heard his/her story. (If it was a long time ago, just make a good guess as to when it was.) Also, write a brief citation at the end of your paper, like this: Scarborough, Maurice. Personal Interview. 16 August 1964.

Helpful hints

The questions listed in the topic above are not intended to be answered one by one. That would be a shopping list, not an essay. Please organize your response to the topic in a way that supports a single, overarching theme (thesis).

Your Dropbox Project should be around 500 words in length and should be formatted using MLA guidelines. If you are not familiar with these guidelines, visit Purdue OWL’s MLA Formatting and Style Guidelines (new window)

Use your own words in your paper. Even if you have gathered your information from a source that you will cite, still explain the information in your own words. A paper that lists quotation after quotation will not get a good grade. You need to show that you have internalized and synthesized the information. For good advice on how to use your own words, or “paraphrase,” study Purdue OWL’s Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words (new window)

Use MLA style for documentation. If you do not know how, study Purdue OWL’s Documenting Sources: Overview (new window). You may need to visit your home campus’s Writing Center if you are not experienced with source documentation.

When you upload your Dropbox Paper, the Turnitin software will automatically check it against a database of papers that have already been submitted on the web and to other campuses. This is called an “originality check.” Once the check is finished (it takes a while, so you may want to go get a cup of coffee), you should go in and make sure that any quotations or paraphrases in your paper have been properly cited. You are welcome to make any changes you like and upload a new version of your paper all the way to the due date.

Please review the concepts in the Purdue OWL’s Avoiding Plagiarism (new window) to make sure that you understand academic integrity and its importance in the college classroom.

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