Write a research paper on Roadside Picnic (or another sci-fi-related topic that you have discussed with me), incorporating at least five outside sources into your essay. You can use more than five sources, if you like. The paper should be 7-9 pages in length (minimum of 2,500 words), not including the Works Cited Page, and it should be double-spaced, employing standard type-size, font, and margins. You will need a Works Cited page to cite your outside sources (You can use any of the major citation styles for your paper, but most students choose MLA style.). Also, do not forget to supply an effective title for the final draft of your paper.
Prompts: You are encouraged to discover on your own what topic or topics you would like to discuss in your essay on Roadside Picnic. However, I have provided some general prompts below for you to consider. You can also combine the prompts in different ways, if you like. If you want to write a paper that takes a different approach to the novel than any of the following prompts, just let me know what your idea is before you begin. Remember to include specific examples and quotations from the novel during you discussion, as well as effective quotations from your outside sources.
1. At one point in the novel, the character Richard Noonan ruminates on the Zone’s mystery: “And now no one has a clue what it is―a sore, a treasure trove, an evil temptation, Pandora’s box, a monster, a demon . . . .” Why do you think the writers wanted the Zone to be so mysterious and problematic? Can the Zone, in its mysteriousness or seductiveness, be considered a symbol of anything? What points might the writers be making about the limits of knowledge?
2. The Zone represents the Unknown, as well as the “Other” or “otherness.” At times, it appears to be a gateway to learning about extraterrestrials and their technologies, but the Zone can also serve as a mirror in which humans are forced to examine themselves. Where do we see this type of self-examination in the novel? What, if any, conclusions are reached, about individual characters and/or about humanity in general?
3. Redrick “Red” Schuhart is a man that struggles with the difficulties of life. He is tough, but also sensitive to the world around him; intelligent, but perhaps also overly-driven by his emotions of anger and dissatisfaction. How should we judge Red? Does he develop positively or negatively as a character over the course of the novel? Where do we witness these developments? What does the nature of his relationship with the Zone tell us about him? What does his last trip into the Zone tell us?
4. Frustrated at the criminal culture that is drawn to the Zone, Richard Noonan concludes, “The world is just like that. Man is like that. If it wasn’t the Visit, it would have been something else. Pigs can always find mud.” Throughout the novel, we come across expressions of both hope and despair, for the Zone and for humanity itself. Where do people appear weak and ignoble in the novel, and where do they possess signs of dignity? Does the novel as a whole seem to express either optimism or pessimism, or does it find a mature balance somewhere in between?
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