Essay Prompts

Prompts for the 2018-2019 NEHS Merit Scholarship Competition based on The Samurai's Garden, by Gail Tsukiyama and Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng.

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

  1. Briefly describe the diverse standards of the multiple “societies” in which Stephen exists or which he encounters and analyze how he is affected by and responds to these standards, thus gaining insight about himself and about others.
  2. Analyze the significance of the titleThe Samurai’s Gardenand how this significance is developed through the authors' use of devices such as contrast, repetition, allusion, and point of view, keeping in mind “garden” may be actual and metaphoric.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

  1. The impact of parents, both positive and negative, is impactful. Trace the effects Marilyn’s mother’s life—her choices, perceptions, behaviors, words—had on her daughter. How did Marilyn’s fight to be different set the course for her own mothering, and eventual loss, of Lydia?
  2. Compare and contrast the setting and the societal norms presented in the novel and current day settings and societal norms. What has changed? What has remained the same or made minimal progress? What do these changes or lack of change say about our progression as a society? Your analysis might consider such issues as interracial marriage, gender roles, belonging or being isolated, perceptions about homosexuality, parenting, or stereotypes.

Either Novel

  1. Alienation from a family, friend, group, or society is very difficult for almost all humans. Select a character(s) from either novel who is alienated from community and discuss how the character reacts to, adapts to, learns from, or is broken by such alienation.
  2. Characters in each novel deal with secret(s) they hide from those who know them. The secret, once revealed, changes the perception a character has about another. Select a secret(s) from either novel and explain what the character is hiding and how the revelation of the secret changes the perception of the character by others in the novel as well as for the reader.
  3. Craft a personal thesis appropriate for either novel and write an essay responding to that self-designed idea. The prompt must be of sufficient significance to generate quality writing that presents important analysis, one that engages the reader in reflecting on the serious topics springing from either Everything I Never Told You or The Samurai’s Garden. Make sure your essay is clearly about one or the other of the texts, not both.