The End of the World

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Literary Analysis of Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World

Overview:
We have been reading Yuri Herrera’s novel, Signs Preceding the End of the World, and discussed the text, as well as the
various approaches toward literary analysis, in class at length. We have gone from summary to analysis, applying the
elements of fiction (see handout) to the text in order to address larger analytical questions about the text’s components
which, by answering, help us understand not only the text as a whole, but what it can tell us about our world.

Assignment:

Write your own literary analysis essay of Herrera’s novel.

In order to do this, first focus on an “issue” that the novel brings up (in overt or subtle ways), such as, but not limited
to, the following: gender, immigration, migration, nationalism, language and communication, racial and ethnic
discrimination, class, and education. Pick an issue that interests you, and about which you believe you can write a well-
constructed essay.

Then, begin thinking of HOW and WHY questions (or analytical questions that aren’t how or why questions) that you
can ask the text about the “issue” you’d like to focus on. For example, if you decide to focus on gender, good questions
might be, “Why does Herrera name his female protagonist after the word “machine”? Why is it significant that she is, in
various ways, a messenger?” Here are some of the questions we’ve brought up in class (and more will come up as we
work our way through it), which you can use and write your essay about (but I highly encourage you to come up
with and answer your own):

-How does/doesn’t Makina fit the common portrayal (or stereotypes) of women in Latin American culture (or
American culture in general)?
-Why does Herrera use flashbacks (and flash-forwards) in the novel to disrupt the flow of the narrative?
-How does the scene at the baseball stadium represent and discuss larger issues relating to American identity,
nationalism, etc.?

-How does the novel represent men, and what does this representation say about our world?
-Why does Herrera use vague, non-specific names for towns, countries, and languages, and what might this
have to do with issues such as nationalism, immigration, immigration, etc.?
-How does Herrera portray the Spanglish language?
-How is this novel addressing the end of the world—what does the end of the world mean for Makina, and
what are its signs?
-What is the significance of holes, the underworld, caves, basements, etc. in the novel?
-Why doesn’t Makina want to stay in the “U.S.”, in the beginning, and how does this change throughout the
novel?
-How does the narrator’s portrayal of Makina’s home country (Mexico?) differ from the portrayal of where she
ends up (the U.S.?)?
-How does Makina live up to the meaning of her name (or how doesn’t she)?

After coming up with an “issue” that interests you and fertile questions that address it, begin looking through the text
for evidence that helps support and answer your questions.

So, your thesis will essentially be your answer to your central question(s), and your body paragraphs will “prove” your
answer to the question by analyzing the text according to specific elements (see handout and class notes) that you find
throughout the novel to back up your claim.

Then, begin filling out the outline handout (due with your draft), and once you have a complete (but tentative—it can
always change as you begin the drafting process), construct an essay of three double-spaced pages (12 pt. font, header,
title, MLA citations).

-develop an analysis of the novel that exhibits an understanding of and critical thinking about the text; and,
-convey your thoughts in clear, focused, and organized writing.

The final draft is due at the end of class on 5/2. For draft instructions and dates, see separate Blackboard post.

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