Letter Essay Examples using Percy Jackson 1. Background knowledge- information that is necessary and helpful for a stronger understanding of the book. While reading Percy Jackson, I realized how important it was to have an understanding of myths and especially Greek mythology. It seemed that Percy was always fighting monsters and he learned to defeat them by remembering who had defeated that monster years ago and how he/she accomplished such a feat. For example, when Percy fought Medusa, Grover and Annabeth told Percy that he had to kill her because he was the only one with a weapon that could get close enough to her. I had to understand that Medusa didn’t like Annabeth because her mother, Athena, caused her to look the way that she did. On the other hand, Medusa was fond of Percy because his father was the one that she was “meeting” in Athena’s temple. Characters- A character is a person, an animal, or an imaginary creature that takes part in the action of a literary work. Generally, a work focuses on one or more main characters. Less important characters are called minor characters. Character Change-Characters that grow or change during a story are said to go through character development. A character that changes significantly is called a dynamic character. Main characters often develop the most. Characters that change only a little or not at all are said to be static characters. Direct vs. Indirect Characterization by Terry W. Ervin II Characterization is an important element in almost every work of fiction, whether it is a short story, a novel, or anywhere in between. When it comes to characterization, a writer has two options: 1. DIRECT CHARACTERIZATION - the writer makes direct statements about a character's personality and tells what the character is like. 2. INDIRECT CHARACTERIZATION - the writer reveals information about a character and his personality through that character's thoughts, words, and actions, along with how other characters respond to that character, including what they think and say about him. An alert writer might recognize that the two methods of characterization fall under the decision to “show” or to “tell”. Indirect characterization “shows” the reader. Direct characterization “tells” the reader. 2. Example of Character One main character in the story is Annabeth. The author works to develop her character through her actions, her dialogue, and how other characters respond to her. One example is when she leads her team to win in the capture-the-flag. She had a definite strategy and she carried it out leading her team to be the winners. Annabeth is proud of her mother, goddess Athena, and she shows it by making several comments about her mother. She stated that Athena wants her children to build things, not destroy them (pg.202). She shows this interest by wanting to see the Gateway Arch –a monument that would be interesting for an architect (Annabeth’s desired job). Annabeth demonstrates her wisdom through telling Percy that is is not wise to ignore what the gods are asking him to do (getting Ares’ shield) and also tells Percy not to talk to Ares that way (Percy was talking sassy to Ares) . Percy tried to listen to Annabeth , but he also realized that was Ares power-to stir up other’s emotions. Clarisse is a minor character. She is first introduced to Percy as she begin running her mouth about beating Annabeth’s cabin in capturing-the-flag. Annabeth introduces Percy to Clarisse and she responds negatively to Percy. She then proceeds to call Percy “Prissy,” and offers to give Percy “a proper initiation ceremony.” Clarisse then halls Percy into the girls’ bathroom to dunk his head in the toilet and give him a swirly. The reader makes quick judgements about Clarisse through this incident and also knowing that her father is Ares, the god of war, it gives the reader an idea about her aggressive and hostile behaviors. You get the idea that many people don’t give Clarisse a difficult time or challenge her like Percy does in this instance. 3. Conflict-Conflict is a struggle between two opposing forces. In an external conflict, a character struggles against some outside person or force. Internal conflict occurs when the struggle is within a character. External conflict Character vs. character Character vs. society Character vs. nature Internal conflict Character vs. self- a character has a struggle within himself There are many examples of external conflicts throughout the book. Percy faces many external conflicts. Several people that Percy had a conflict with from the book are: Mrs. Dodds, Zeus, Ares, Nancy Bobofit, Gabe Ugliano, Clarisse, and Luke. These of course are just a few who go after Percy in one way or another, and they are all examples of person vs. person. Percy even struggles with internal conflict at the beginning as he is unsure about who he is. He thinks that he is losing his mind when he could have sworn that Mrs. Dodds was his teacher, but no one else knows who she is. He wants to believe that she did exist, but none of the other students even remember a teacher named Mrs. Dodds. The other students don’t remember her and that makes Percy feel as though he is losing his mind. Another example of a conflict from the book is Percy vs. society. Society expects Percy to be able to read and write and from the very beginning of the story, Percy lets us know that he is dyslexic. Reading is a struggle and so are most subjects. He doesn’t have a very strong image of himself because of his poor grades. 4. Genre-the term used to identify the major categories of literature. The main literary genres are fiction, nonfiction, poetry, folk tales and drama. Types of Fiction include: realistic fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy/fairy tales, mystery. Types of nonfiction include: biography, autobiography, informational, newspaper, & reference. The text is an example of fiction writing with ancient Greek myths intertwined throughout many chapters. Looking at the type of fiction writing, I would say that this is an example of fantasy fiction. As you read, your imagination gets to stretch as you read about characters from myths such as Procrustes, and even the Minotaur. Percy described this monster as, “seven feet tall, easy, his arms and legs like something from the cover of Muscle Man Magazine-bulging biceps and triceps and a bunch of other ‘ceps, . . . . He wore no clothes except underwear-I mean, bright white Fruit of the Looms- . . . . His neck was a mass of muscle and fur leading up to his enormous head, which had a snout as long as my arm, and horns- enormous black-and-white horns with points you just couldn’t get form an electric sharpener.” This example of text is an example of the fantasy that we see in the Percy Jackson series. Another reason that I know that this is an example of fantasy is that there is magic involved in the book. Percy’s sword, Riptide, changes from a pen to a sword and even returns to his pocket if its lost. 5. Mood- the atmosphere or feeling created in the reader by a work. One of my favorite pieces of text is when Percy meets the god of war, Ares. The mood of the text is very tense. Ares approaches Percy, Annabeth, and Grover with a proposition. Ares needs his shield returned and he asks the group to assist in this. Percy responds with, “Why don’t you go back and get it yourself?” As Percy talks with Ares in the diner, Percy finds that he gets angrier and shorter with this god of war. The narrator tells the reader that Percy even wanted to punch Ares, and Ares fiery eyes shows evil things like battle and death. Percy talks disrespectful towards Ares and the mood seems very tense between the two. “Ares bared his teeth,” to Percy is another example of the tense mood between the two. In the end, Percy doesn’t want to help Ares, but Annabeth reminds him that he can’t turn down a god’s request. 6. Plot diagram- the Plot is the sequence of events that make up a story; it is the action, or what happens in the story. Most plots follow a regular pattern. The exposition introduces the characters and the conflict they face. Complications set in as the characters try to resolve the conflict. Eventually, the plot reaches a climax, the highest point of interest or suspense. The final stage is the resolution, in which loose ends are tied up and the story is brought to a close. One piece of text to examine for the plot diagram would be the Gateway Arch scene and chapter titled, “I Plunge to My Death.” The exposition is where we find Annabeth, Grover, and Percy on the train arriving in St. Louis. Because Annabeth really wants to be an architect, she convinces Grover and Percy to spend their free time viewing the St. Louis Arch. Our characters ventured into the underground museum and we find that underground always smells like monsters. They finally arrive at the top of the arch and Annabeth is thrilled with the architecture, but Grover and Percy are bored. When it is time to leave, Percy sends Annabeth and Grover ahead in the elevator car, but he gets a bad feeling soon after they depart. A large lady and her small dog a waiting with them and Percy realizes they are not what they seem. The climax of this chapter happens when Percy fights the Chimera and he jumps from the Arch to the Mississippi River. On his way down to the river, Percy doesn’t expect to live, but realized that he hit the water and survived. Then he realized that he had special powers that allowed him to breathe under water and communicate there as well. The resolution happens when Percy is able to find Annabeth and Grover and they dodge the press and quickly leave for the departing train to Denver. 7. Point of view- the perspective from which a story is told. The most common points of view are: First person-the narrator is one the characters in the story and uses pronouns such as I, me, and we. Third Person- the narrator is not in the story and relates the story using pronouns such as he, she, and it. There are 2 types of third person: Third-person omniscient- or all-knowing point of view- the narrator knows everything about the characters and can see into their minds (knows the thoughts about 2 or more characters) Third-person limited-the narrator brings us into the mind of only one character. The book is told from Percy’s point of view. In viewing the text and not the quotations of those speaking, I was able to see examples of “I” being used. On page 168, Percy begins telling the reader, “So there we were, Annabeth and Grover and I, walking through the woods . . . .” Another example of this first person point of view would be, “I was pretty much in shock myself.” Actually, the first sentence of the book begins “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.” Again, I was able to see that the author used first person. As the reader, I always get Percy’s thoughts and feeling s. 8. Setting- the time and place of the action of a story, poem, or play. Setting may include geographic location, the historical period (past, present, or future), season, time of day, and customs and manners of the society. The overall setting for this book is present times in New York City. Of course, Percy leaves NYC to go on a quest and his quest takes him to many places along the way. Important things happen in several places including at camp half-blood, Montauk, the bus, Medusa’s lair (Garden Gnome Emporium), St. Louis (Arch), the diner, Las Vegas & the Lotus Hotel, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Crusty’s Water Bed Palace, DOA recording studios & the Underworld. These are not all of the places, but a great number of them. One of the most important scenes in the book is the fight between Percy and Ares, god of war. This fight takes place on the beach right after Percy returns from the underworld. The setting is important because Percy is exhausted both physically and mentally and he has to face another god who has it out for him. The scene takes place on the beach and very close to water-ocean water-which is a huge benefit for Percy. He begins fighting with his feet in the surf, and he keeps them there. It as if his father helps him with moves, thoughts, etc. through the water-ocean. Percy and Ares continue with the battle on the beach and Percy is able to use the ocean waves as a huge advantage when trying to defeat Ares. Percy was able to leave his mark on Ares because of his ability to control the ocean. 9. Symbolism-a symbol is a person, a place, an object or an action that stands for something outside itself. A flag, for example, may symbolize a state or country. Symbols of characters often are powerful expressions of the personality or nature of the character. One such example of a symbol in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the lightning bolt of Zeus. Zeus is the head of all the Greek gods, and his lightning bolt is the source of his power. While it is gone, Zeus is more vulnerable and the hidden world of ancient Greeks is on the brink of war. Once Percy is able to restore the bolt to Zeus, power shifts back enough to the gods that they are able to defeat their enemy and keep the mortal world in balance. 10. Theme-a theme is the message about life or human nature communicated by a work of literature. In most cases, the reader must infer the theme. One way of figuring out a theme is to apply the lessons learned by the main character. I would say that one theme for this book is that family is important. Another theme is friends are also important. Percy wants to bring his mother back from the underworld throughout the entire book. This stresses how important family is to Percy and even when Percy is faced with saving his mother or friends, he picks his friends to save from Hades’ realm. This demonstrates how important Annabeth and Grover have become to Percy. He really cares for both of them. Another theme would be trust in yourself and what you know is right. Percy learns to trust his own gut and also rely and trust on his two friends, Grover and Annabeth. Percy tried to always do the right thing even 11. Vocabulary-important words or phrases. There are several important terms to know about when beginning this book. For example, in this book, on page 46, Grover explains the Fates are three old ladies who appear when someone is about to die. It is important for the reader to know this word since the Fates appear again in the book. Without this knowledge, the reader will be confused every time they appear.
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