Book and Film Analysis Paper

You will read one or two novels or biographies for this class. See the syllabus for specific titles.  You will also watch at least one of two possible films: Raise the Red Lantern or To Live.  Your paper will be due after we have seen the film in class, check the syllabus for the due date.  It should be 5-7 pages, double-spaced, typed in 12 point font—no cover pages, just your name, the course number, and the date in the upper left hand corner.

Use a good essay format. (see the History Department Writing Guidelines for help)

For this paper I want you to think about the various themes we’ve been discussing in class and about which you have been reading:

  • the roles of women in Chinese society
  • filial piety and duty owed to the family
  • Confucian thought and family as the cement of Chinese society
  • the shift from Imperial China to Modern China
  • land ownership and land reform
  • corruption in government
  • the civil war, the CCP vs the KMT
  • the effect of Communism on women, on family, or on community
  • class labeling (Leftist, Revolutionary, Rightist, Capitalist Roader, Counter Revolutionary)
  • The veneration of Mao by the Chinese
  • the Cultural Revolution

You may find other themes—be creative.  Talk to me if you have concerns about the validity of a theme.

Once you’ve chosen your theme, you will compare and contrast the film with the books. Your job is to tell me how the book and the novel each deal with the theme you’ve chosen. Points you should consider include both the author’s & director’s messages (what do they want us to think) and their agendas (why do they want us to think that). You must also show how various scenes in the books/film demonstrate the theme.  Especially look for scenes and characters to compare that demonstrate how things in China have changed or not changed. This is NOT merely a report on the film and/or book.  I do not want a long summary of what happened, I want a close look at how both texts dealt with a particular issue of Chinese culture.

Your format should be something like this:


Begin by making one strong claim (thesis) about the theme you’ve chosen.  Define the theme and state how the film and the text each demonstrate this theme. Briefly introducing the author and summarizing the plot of the novel (no more than a few sentences). For information on the author (if different from the main character in the book) you should use preface material in the book. (Since the only books suitable for this assignment are biographies you will NOT use the internet!) Mention how this relates to the film.  Briefly also introduce the director and summarize the plot of the film (again, no more than a page) For information about the film see: (Spell the names correctly!) 

Body of the Paper:

Describe a scene/event/character from the book and compare or contrast it with a comparable scene/event/character from the film explaining how that supports your thesis.  I want a side-by-side comparison here, so repeat this task at least 3 times (in other words use at least 3 such examples—be very specific with detail.)


Sum it up.  Restate the thesis and tell me why is all this important to our study of China—what do we learn from it?  This is a critical point in your paper and should restate your claim about the theme you are discussing! (Note: "This is important to China because it happened in China." is NOT an acceptable "why"!)

Last but not least:

Be sure to include a Works Cited page (use MLA style citation guidelines: see: ) listing your book and the film as well as any other materials you chose to refer to (like your textbooks or the class readings).  Be sure to use appropriate citations when quoting or paraphrasing from the texts! Be sure to give your paper a title that is relevant to your theme.  NO COVER PAGES are necessary.


Contact Ms. Russ if you have questions about the paper by email or