Exam Review

Your course portfolio is due today at 4:00.

I have left feedback on your Evidence of Learning Document: Final Edition. If you would like to speak to me about your course mark, please use this form to book time with me. Or you can email if you feel that better suits you.

Today, we will begin the exam review.  I will take some time today to go over how to write a good essay-style exam answer. You can see that there are two exam questions that ask you to write in an organized, methodical manner. This means that the answer is organized around a thesis statement and that there is evidence to support your thinking integrated into the answer.

Let’s consider the following prompt:

Your character undergoes a hero’s journey in this story. Select at least three of the steps of the hero’s journey and prove that the plot of this story is, in fact, a hero’s journey, by proving that the story matches up with these steps.

Content marks or what combination of general and specific comments will give me 12 marks?

  1. 12 general points—very unlikely
  2. 6 general points, with an illustration for each point—ok
  3. 4 general points, with 2 examples or 1 lengthy illustration—better
  4. 3 general points, with at least 2 examples both with explanations—best

Plan an answer to this prompt using one of the above formulas. Be prepared to share your thinking with the class. You have 15 minutes.

Put your thinking on chart paper and share.

Finally, we will review the True Grit essay and annotate it for content and style.

Style marks:

  1. Introductory sentence/Hook                /1
  2. Sentence variety                                      /2
  3. Spelling and grammar                           /2     
  4. Word use and rhetorical use                /2
  5. Concluding sentence                              /1

Continue to review for the exam tonight, and be prepared to ask me questions about it tomorrow.


Course Portfolio: The essay

Your portfolio will reflect your analysis of the book you read from a particular theoretical point of view (i.e., reader response, archetypal, or formalist) through a series of writing and media texts. You will need to develop a thesis statement that identifies something significant and interesting about your text that your analysis revealed.

I have only seen a few of your thesis statements. You need to submit your thesis via the Assignment Submission page.

Assignment: Planning for your Portfolio Post

This blog post will be slightly different from your other blog posts. Essentially, you will use this post to map out a plan for your portfolio. You will identify the different writing/media texts you plan to create for your portfolio and explain why each writing/media text is an effective choice for communicating your ideas about your book and how each text connects/supports your thesis statement.


Today, I would like you to think about your essay choices. Which essay format will best help you connect your ideas about your book to your overall thesis statement?

  • narrative essay
  • persuasive essay
  • argumentative essay

Below is a sample ENG4U essay that views True Grit by Charles Portis through the Archetypal Hero Journey lens.

What type of essay is this an example of and how do you know?

What might the over-arching thesis statement for the portfolio be given the thesis of the essay?


True Grit as the Perfect Example of the Monomyth

The elements of the monomyth are clear, and through True Grit, Charles Portis constructs its perfect parody, turning almost every single element of it on its head.  In this essay, the three most prominent distinctions between Portis’ novel and the monomyth will each be deconstructed in turn: the reluctant hero, the final ordeal, and the transformation.  Far from being a perfect example, these elements are used by Portis to subtly mock the concept of the “perfect story”.

I would first like to clarify that there are two heroes in this story, both of whom are used to mock the concept of the monomyth in their own ways, but the focus will be kept on the unquestionable protagonist of the story as well as its narrator: Mattie.  She presents herself as a child who is not only set in her ways, but who is also far from being reluctant to embark into the unknown, one of the many obvious ways in which she differs from the cliché ideal of a hero.  While she does present herself as a strong, resilient and courageous character she is, after all, only fourteen years old, and at that age she has not yet outgrown her childhood.  Mattie is the antithesis of the “classic” hero in that everything she represents juxtaposes the image of a masculine young man driven by divine forces into a journey of self discovery.  I believe Portis did this on purpose, as is hinted at during humorous situations Mattie finds herself in:

           “I do not drink coffee, thank you.”

           Rooster said, “What do you drink?”

           “I am partial to cold buttermilk when I can get it.”

           “Well, we don’t have none,” said he. “Nor lemonade either.”

(Portis 61)


Immediately following this exchange, Rooster makes a point of pouring himself a whiskey.  While he is no perfect hero himself, Rooster makes her stand out as a child who is not even old enough to drink coffee, much less embark on a perilous journey.

Second, the novel’s final ordeal is a literal version of the dark cave: a hero’s worst nightmare.  During the climax, Mattie falls into a deep pit floored by “[…] a black and bottomless pool of water where the fish were white and had no eyes to see” (Portis 209) and complete with venomous snakes, bats, and a skeleton.  The exaggeration of the expected ordeal is there to subtly mock of the concept of the perfect story.  Portis uses this exaggeration not to represent an important struggle within the main character, but rather to underline the fact that the only ordeal Mattie goes through is a physical one.  She is not battling some deep psychological turmoil, and even seems unemotional when she believes she has killed the man who murdered her father.  In fact, she seems relieved to have it over with, “The charge exploded and sent a lead ball of justice, too long delayed, into the criminal head of Tom Chaney” (Portis 204).  By making Mattie’s  darkest moments the ones where she has to physically fight to keep herself alive, Portis pokes fun at the idea of heroes needing to go through psychological ordeals to reach their goals in order to give the story depth.

It is, thirdly, important to note that there is no doubt the ordeal Mattie goes through is a traumatizing experience.  However, her resilience and hard-headedness makes her character impervious to change as she is seen in the last few pages of the novel acting exactly like herself, claiming “[…] it is nobody’s business” (Portis 224) what she does with her life and stating she “care[s] nothing for what they say” (Portis 224).  Staying true to herself, Mattie does not marry, takes selfless care of her mother and siblings, and continues to openly speak her mind regardless of the consequences.  Although she becomes a woman of considerable means, she remains fair and tough, even going so far as to publicly put an old man in his place; “I thanked the courteous old outlaw for his help and said to James, “Keep your seat, trash!” and took my leave” (Portis 222).  The transformation, in my opinion, is the most important part of the monomyth, and its absence in True Grit is absolutely intentional.  After all she has seen, after everything she has been through, after all the suffering she has endured, Mattie remains unquestionably the exact same person she was at the beginning of the novel.

This is a story in which the characters choose their own destiny and make their paths out of their own volition, and fate, being the central element around which the monomyth revolves, is nowhere to be found.  Therefore, True Grit cannot be an excellent example of the monomyth, nor even an example at all.  I believe Portis meant it to be this way, playing on elements he well knew existed to make a parody of the most perfect story ever told.

Works Cited

Portis, C.  True Grit.  New York: Overlook Press, 2010.  Print.