Daniel Orozco Orientation Essays On The Great

All semester long, we have discussed the idea of “cognitive closure”, which is, in Maria Konnikova’s words, “a drive for certainty in the face of a less than certain world”. Seeking cognitive closure is a process by which we find answers in a world where “answers” may seem impossible to find. Along those same lines, we have worked to “make literature matter” to us both individually and collectively, exploring the meaning behind words and symbols, the significance of setting, and tracing why we connect to certain characters and how they change throughout a story. This final paper is your application of everything we have done so far: the literary terms we have defined, the analysis we have done as a class, the writing you have done in your short papers, the personal connections you have made (or not made) to the various literary works we have read, and especially the thinking you have done about each work. For your final paper, select ANY work that has been assigned in English 112 and write a 4-6 page (of at least 1000 words) analysis paper focusing on the theme of the work. A theme is the main message/claim/moral that an author is making about a work. In trying to find a work’s theme, ask yourself this key question: What is this story trying to teach readers? Remember: There is not a right or wrong answer to this question! A theme is a reader’s interpretation of the messages present in the story… This means there might be multiple lessons! Your job is to pick the one that you feel is most important and present an argument that shows how this theme exists in the story. You may use any material from the three short papers you have written thus far in class. In fact, I encourage you to do so, and frequently, I have made comments in the margins of your papers while I graded them, suggesting areas where you might add more, clarify, or fine tune your ideas if you were to turn that into your final paper. Obviously, this is a longer paper, so you should certainly aim to add a great deal more than just what your short paper said. Further to that though, this paper is an analysis of theme, so your focus will be slightly different than it was for any of the short papers. You should still be able to use what you have written already and simply add more and edit what you have to fit the goal here: to explore the theme of a literary work. A few things you will need to include for this paper… This is a formal essay, so you need a thesis statement that makes a claim about the theme of the literary work you will be discussing. You will also need to place this thesis in an introduction that grabs your reader’s attention, introduces your topic, and presents your thesis. You will support your thesis with 3-5 body paragraphs that do the following: •Make a statement that helps prove the thesis •Find 3-5 pieces of evidence from the text to support that claim •Explain why this evidence is significant. (This is where you analyze… this is where you answer the question: “so what?”) Your paper should also have a conclusion that sums up what you have written, restates your thesis, and leaves your reader thinking (answer this question: why does this paper matter?). When using outside source material, make sure you are citing using the proper MLA standards and including a Works Cited page (even if the only work you are citing is the poem or story you are writing about). Please consult the Purdue OWL for help with citation: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/ While I have not been too picky about citations in your previous essays, I will be taking them into account on this final essay, so please make sure you are citing correctly. Other things to consider for this paper: Your job here is NOT to judge the story, its characters, or the lesson itself. If you are merely responding to the story (ie. “The Lottery” is barbaric, the mother in “Girl” is judgmental) that is not true analysis; that is response writing. Try to keep yourself from judging the work, and instead, focus on what it means and how it comes to mean this. How YOU personally have responded to the work – and by that I mean whether or not you liked it and what you thought of it – is not how others will likely find value in it. Think of when someone tells you whether you should or shouldn’t like something based on what they think of it. For example, if you ask someone how they liked a movie and they say “It was boring. You won’t like it”; that is making an assumption about your reaction. Now, depending on who is saying this, you might take their word for it. However, have you ever been told you wouldn’t like something only to find out that you did later? And weren’t you grateful that you still gave whatever it was a chance? Therefore, don’t tell your readers whether they should or shouldn’t like this work, and resist passing judgment on characters, plot, etc. Instead, show them what they can learn from the story. Give them something that they can’t get from just reading it themselves. Along those same lines, do not just summarize the work and call it a day. If all you are doing is repeating the events of the story, you are summarizing, NOT analyzing. You will need to do some summary throughout your paper, and you will be using facts, details, and quotes from the text itself, but you will use these details to support your own analysis and it will give you more material to work with. A good rule of thumb is to present multiple examples from various areas of the text in each paragraph as support. This way, you are focusing on the examples and what they mean rather than retelling the story itself. Assume your reader has already read the story; they already know the events of the story, the characters, etc. Tell your reader what the story and those events, characters, symbols, etc. mean. Also, something to keep in mind: make sure the bulk of the writing is your own. This means that you should aim to paraphrase details from the text rather than quote them. In most circumstances, quotes should be a sentence long or less (two sentences at most). If you have a quote that is longer, strongly consider paraphrasing (putting it into your own words) instead. The formatting for this paper is as follows: 4-6 pages (which roughly translates to 1000 words at the very minimum), double-spaced, with 12 point standard fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial, etc.), and standard 1 inch margins on all sides. Your name should be on every page. Remember to use spell check and grammar check before turning anything in. Reading aloud yourself, or having a friend (or writing tutor!) read your paper aloud is a fantastic way to catch small errors and edit for clarity. **If you go to the PIER Tutoring Center and have your paper looked at by a writing tutor, make sure you get a “Proof of Visit” form signed by the tutor you work with and attach it with your final copy. Do this and I will add 5 extra credit points towards your total grade for the assignment.** The Tutoring Center will close for the semester at the end of the day on Wednesday, May 7th. Therefore, if you plan to take advantage of the extra credit opportunity, make sure you do so before May 7th. Guidelines for paper submission: its a alot is this not what he wants


The following short story is excerpted from Daniel Orozco’s debut collection Orientation and Other Stories.

Those are the offices and these are the cubicles. That’s my cubicle there, and this is your cubicle. This is your phone. Never answer your phone. Let the Voicemail System answer it. This is your Voicemail System Manual. There are no personal phone calls allowed. We do, however, allow for emergencies. If you must make an emergency phone call, ask your supervisor first. If you can’t find your supervisor, ask Phillip Spiers, who sits over there. He’ll check with Clarissa Nicks, who sits over there. If you make an emergency phone call without asking, you may be let go.These are your in- and out-boxes. All the forms in your inbox must be logged in by the date shown in the upper- left- hand corner, initialed by you in the upper-right-hand corner, and distributed to the Processing Analyst whose name is numerically coded in the lower-left-hand corner. The lower-right-hand corner is left blank. Here’s your Processing Analyst Numerical Code Index. And here’s your Forms Processing Procedures Manual.

You must pace your work. What do I mean? I’m glad you asked that. We pace our work according to the eight-hour workday. If you have twelve hours of work in your in-box, for example, you must compress that work into the eight-hour day. If you have one hour of work in your in-box, you must expand that work to fill the eight- hour day. That was a good question. Feel free to ask questions. Ask too many questions, however, and you may be let go.

That is our receptionist. She is a temp. We go through receptionists here. They quit with alarming frequency. Be polite and civil to the temps. Learn their names, and invite them to lunch occasionally. But don’t get close to them, as it only makes it more difficult when they leave. And they always leave. You can be sure of that.

The men’s room is over there. The women’s room is over there. John LaFountaine, who sits over there, uses the women’s room occasionally. He says it is accidental. We know better, but we let it pass. John LaFountaine is harmless, his forays into the forbidden territory of the women’s room simply a benign thrill, a faint blip on the dull, flat line of his life.

Russell Nash, who sits in the cubicle to your left, is in love with Amanda Pierce, who sits in the cubicle to your right. They ride the same bus together after work. For Amanda Pierce, it is just a tedious bus ride made less tedious by the idle nattering of Russell Nash. But for Russell Nash, it is the highlight of his day. It is the highlight of his life. Russell Nash has put on forty pounds and grows fatter with each passing month, nibbling on chips and cookies while peeking glumly over the partitions at Amanda Pierce and gorging himself at home on cold pizza and ice cream while watching adult videos on TV.

Amanda Pierce, in the cubicle to your right, has a six-year old son named Jamie, who is autistic. Her cubicle is plastered from top to bottom with the boy’s crayon artwork—sheet after sheet of precisely drawn concentric circles and ellipses, in black and yellow. She rotates them every other Friday. Be sure to comment on them. Amanda Pierce also has a husband, who is a lawyer. He subjects her to an escalating array of painful and humiliating sex games, to which Amanda Pierce reluctantly submits. She comes to work exhausted and freshly wounded each morning, wincing from the abrasions on her breasts, or the bruises on her abdomen, or the second- degree burns on the backs of her thighs.

But we’re not supposed to know any of this. Do not let on. If you let on, you may be let go.

Amanda Pierce, who tolerates Russell Nash, is in love with Albert Bosch, whose office is over there. Albert Bosch, who only dimly registers Amanda Pierce’s existence, has eyes only for Ellie Tapper, who sits over there. Ellie Tapper, who hates Albert Bosch, would walk through fire for Curtis Lance. But Curtis Lance hates Ellie Tapper. Isn’t the world a funny place? Not in the ha-ha sense, of course.

Anika Bloom sits in that cubicle. Last year, while reviewing quarterly reports in a meeting with Barry Hacker, Anika Bloom’s left palm began to bleed. She fell into a trance, stared into her hand, and told Barry Hacker when and how his wife would die. We laughed it off. She was, after all, a new employee. But Barry Hacker’s wife is dead. So unless you want to know exactly when and how you’ll die, never talk to Anika Bloom.

Colin Heavey sits in that cubicle over there. He was new once, just like you. We warned him about Anika Bloom. But at last year’s Christmas Potluck he felt sorry for her when he saw that no one was talking to her. Colin Heavey brought her a drink. He hasn’t been himself since. Colin Heavey is doomed. There’s nothing he can do about it, and we are powerless to help him. Stay away from Colin Heavey. Never give any of your work to him. If he asks to do something, tell him you have to check with me. If he asks again, tell him I haven’t gotten back to you.

This is the fire exit. There are several on this floor, and they are marked accordingly. We have a Floor Evacuation Review every three months, and an Escape Route Quiz once a month. We have our Biannual Fire Drill twice a year, and our Annual Earthquake Drill once a year. These are precautions only. These things never happen.

For your information, we have a comprehensive health plan. Any catastrophic illness, any unforeseen tragedy, is completely covered. All dependents are completely covered. Larry Bagdikian, who sits over there, has six daughters. If anything were to happen to any of his girls, or to all of them, if all six were to simultaneously fall victim to illness or injury—stricken with a hideous degenerative muscle disease or some rare toxic blood disorder, sprayed with semiautomatic gunfire while on a class field trip, or attacked in their bunk beds by some prowling nocturnal lunatic—if any of this were to pass, Larry’s girls would all be taken care of. Larry Bagdikian would not have to pay one dime. He would have nothing to worry about.

We also have a generous vacation and sick leave policy. We have an excellent disability insurance plan. We have a stable and profitable pension fund. We get group discounts for the symphony, and block seating at the ballpark. We get commuter ticket books for the bridge. We have direct deposit. We are all members of Costco.

This is our kitchenette. And this, this is our Mr. Coffee. We have a coffee pool into which we each pay two dollars a week for coffee, filters, sugar, and Coffee-mate. If you prefer Cremora or half-and-half to Coffee-mate, there is a special pool for three dollars a week. If you prefer Sweet’N Low to sugar, there is a special pool for two-fifty a week. We do not do decaf. You are allowed to join the coffee pool of your choice, but you are not allowed to touch the Mr. Coffee.

This is the micro wave oven. You are allowed to heat food in the microwave oven. You are not, however, allowed to cook food in the microwave oven.

We get one hour for lunch. We also get one fifteen-minute break in the morning and one fifteen-minute break in the afternoon. Always take your breaks. If you skip a break, it is gone forever. For your information, your break is a privilege, not a right. If you abuse the break policy, we are authorized to rescind your breaks. Lunch, however, is a right, not a privilege. If you abuse the lunch policy, our hands will be tied and we will be forced to look the other way. We will not enjoy that.

This is the refrigerator. You may put your lunch in it. Barry Hacker, who sits over there, steals food from this refrigerator. His petty theft is an outlet for his grief. Last New Year’s Eve, while kissing his wife, a blood vessel burst in her brain. Barry Hacker’s wife was two months pregnant at the time and lingered in a coma for half a year before she died. It was a tragic loss for Barry Hacker. He hasn’t been himself since. Barry Hacker’s wife was a beautiful woman. She was also completely covered. Barry Hacker did not have to pay one dime. But his dead wife haunts him. She haunts all of us. We have seen her, reflected in the monitors of our computers, moving past our cubicles. We have seen the dim shadow of her face in our photocopies. She pencils herself in in the receptionist’s appointment book with the notation “To see Barry Hacker.” She has left messages in the receptionist’s Voicemail box, messages garbled by the electronic chirrups and buzzes in the phone line, her voice echoing from an immense distance within the ambient hum. But the voice is hers. And beneath the voice, beneath the tidal whoosh of static and hiss, the gurgling and crying of a baby can be heard.

In any case, if you bring a lunch, put a little something extra in the bag for Barry Hacker. We have four Barrys in this office. Isn’t that a coincidence?

This is Matthew Payne’s office. He is our Unit Manager, and his door is always closed. We have never seen him, and you will never see him. But he is there. You can be sure of that. He is all around us.

This is the Custodian’s Closet. You have no business in the Custodian’s Closet.

And this, this is our Supplies Cabinet. If you need supplies, see Curtis Lance. He will log you in on the Supplies Cabinet Authorization Log, then give you a Supplies Authorization Slip. Present your pink copy of the Supplies Authorization Slip to Ellie Tapper. She will log you in on the Supplies Cabinet Key Log, then give you the key. Because the Supplies Cabinet is located outside the Unit Manager’s office, you must be very quiet. Gather your supplies quietly. The Supplies Cabinet is divided into four sections. Section One contains letterhead stationery, blank paper and envelopes, memo pads and note pads, and so on. Section Two contains pens and pencils and typewriter and printer ribbons, and the like. In Section Three we have erasers, correction fluids, transparent tapes, glue sticks, et cetera. And in Section Four we have paper clips and pushpins and scissors and razor blades. And here are the spare blades for the shredder. Do not touch the shredder, which is located over there. The shredder is of no concern to you.

Gwendolyn Stich sits in that office there. She is crazy about penguins and collects penguin knickknacks: penguin posters and coffee mugs and stationery, penguin stuffed animals, penguin jewelry, penguin sweaters and T-shirts and socks. She has a pair of penguin fuzzy slippers she wears when working late at the office. She has a tape cassette of penguin sounds, which she listens to for relaxation. Her favorite colors are black and white. She has personalized license plates that read PEN GWEN. Every morning, she passes through all the cubicles to wish each of us a good morning. She brings Danish on Wednesdays for Hump Day morning break, and doughnuts on Fridays for TGIF afternoon break. She organizes the Annual Christmas Potluck and is in charge of the Birthday List. Gwendolyn Stich’s door is always open to all of us. She will always lend an ear and put in a good word for you; she will always give you a hand, or the shirt off her back, or a shoulder to cry on. Because her door is always open, she hides and cries in a stall in the women’s room. And John LaFountaine—who, enthralled when a woman enters, sits quietly in his stall with his knees to his chest—John LaFountaine has heard her vomiting in there. We have come upon Gwendolyn Stich huddled in the stairwell, shivering in the updraft, sipping a Diet Mr. Pibb and hugging her knees. She does not let any of this interfere with her work. If it interfered with her work, she might have to be let go.

Kevin Howard sits in that cubicle over there. He is a serial killer, the one they call the Carpet Cutter, responsible for the mutilations across town. We’re not supposed to know that, so do not let on. Don’t worry. His compulsion inflicts itself on strangers only, and the routine established is elaborate and unwavering. The victim must be a white male, a young adult no older than thirty, heavyset, with dark hair and eyes, and the like. The victim must be chosen at random before sunset, from a public place; the victim is followed home and must put up a struggle; et cetera. The carnage inflicted is precise: the angle and direction of the incisions, the layering of skin and muscle tissue, the rearrangement of visceral organs, and so on. Kevin Howard does not let any of this interfere with his work. He is, in fact, our fastest typist. He types as if he were on fire. He has a secret crush on Gwendolyn Stich and leaves a red-foil-wrapped Hershey’s Kiss on her desk every afternoon. But he hates Anika Bloom and keeps well away from her. In his presence, she has uncontrollable fits of shaking and trembling. Her left palm does not stop bleeding.

In any case, when Kevin Howard gets caught, act surprised. Say that he seemed like a nice person, a bit of a loner, perhaps, but always quiet and polite.

This is the photocopier room. And this, this is our view. It faces southwest. West is down there, toward the water. North is back there. Because we are on the seventeenth floor, we are afforded a magnificent view. Isn’t it beautiful? It overlooks the park, where the tops of those trees are. You can see a segment of the bay between those two buildings over there. You can see the sun set in the gap between those two buildings over there. You can see this building reflected in the glass panels of that building across the way. There. See? That’s you, waving. And look there. There’s Anika Bloom in the kitchenette, waving back.

Enjoy this view while photocopying. If you have problems with the photocopier, see Russell Nash. If you have any questions, ask your supervisor. If you can’t find your supervisor, ask Phillip Spiers. He sits over there. He’ll check with Clarissa Nicks. She sits over there. If you can’t find them, feel free to ask me. That’s my cubicle. I sit in there.

See Also:

Listen to a staged reading from “This American Life.”

Read Orozco’s story “Shakers” on Scribd

Listen to Orozco’s story “The Bridge” on Broadcastr
Daniel Orozco’s stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The Best American Essays, and the Pushcart Prize anthology, as well as in publications such as Harper’s, Zoetrope: All-Story, McSweeney’s, Ecotone, and StoryQuarterly. He was awarded a 2006 NEA Fellowship in fiction, and was a finalist for a 2006 National Magazine Award in fiction. A former Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford, he teaches creative writing at the University of Idaho.

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