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San Diego State University English Our Illusion Essay

Background: Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” captures a terrifying idea about humanity: humans prefer to live in ignorance rather than challenge or question the beliefs and knowledge that have been given to us. It could be argued that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and David Foster Wallace offer us modern interpretations of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Both authors urge us to see places, people, and even situations from other points of view. Ngozi Adichie asks us to add “and” to the stories that we are told to create a more complete picture and Foster Wallace wants us to break free from our default setting, the unconscious belief that we are the center of the world. Plato, Ngozi Adichie, and Foster Wallace want us to reject the shadows given to us, each for his or her own reasons.

Assignment: Using Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” as your conceptual framework, analyze Ngozi Adichie’s or Foster Wallace’s text to answer the following question: What, according to Ngozi Adichie or Foster Wallace, is our illusion? How and why should we break free from the illusion to leave the cave? Expectations:

You will write a unified essay with structured paragraphs and a clearly articulated thesis. You will need to turn to the language of both author’s arguments, to take key phrases and passages from these arguments and see how they might be used to investigate your case. If you use exact words or paraphrased passages from the text, cite responsibly using quotation marks and/or parenthetical in-text citations using MLA format.

Advice: Write so that someone not in our class could understand the topic. Assume your audience has not read these texts. That means you’ll need to briefly summarize them to provide contextual, introductory background for your topic and source. Also make sure to convey to your audience why these ideas are important. Why should we care about leaving the cave?

Purpose: This essay will help develop your skills in summary and analysis as well as your ability to draw connections between texts.

References: Plato – “Allegory of the Cave”; Foster Wallace – “This Is Water”; Ngozi Adichie – “The Danger of a Single Story” (TED Talk)

Audience and Style: Your audience is educated adults. Avoid slang, jargon, or overly informal writing.


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