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The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Late in Laila Lalami’s novel The Other Americans, Nora and her boyfriend, Jeremy, get into a fight that comes close to ending their relationship. Nora blames Jeremy for an ugly incident in which his buddy from the Iraq war peered through her bedroom window. Jeremy, in turn, questions Nora’s innocence by reminding her of a past affair with a married man: ‘All this talk of innocence . . . . And you messed around with a married guy for months. What does that make you?’ (264). In a novel that is a part murder mystery or police procedural, questions of guilt and innocence are obviously central. But as the exchange between Nora and Jeremy demonstrates, these questions also go well beyond the legal ones raised by the hit-and-run killing of Nora’s father, Driss Guerraoui. Write an essay that examines and takes a stand on the question/problem of guilt and innocence in Lalami’s novel. Is any character in this novel completely innocent? Is any character simply guilty? If our answer is no, why does it matter? What might the novel be saying about our ideas of guilt and innocence and about the people to whom we apply them? Be sure your introduction includes a clear, debatable thesis statement. Support your analysis/argument with specific examples and quotations from the narratives of at least two but no more than three of the characters. Additional Instructions: Literary analysis essays are arguments for the validity of the writer’s interpretation, so make sure your essay has a clear and debatable thesis, is well reasoned and well organized, and contains sufficient evidence from the novel to develop and support your main point. Avoid the common mistake of simply retelling the story—what is called plot summary. No reviews or commentaries on the novel should be consulted for this essay. Do your own thinking and writing. No Works Cited page is required, but be sure that you follow MLA guidelines for in-text citations. For example, you should introduce quotations by identifying the speaker and the narrative context: e.g., Early in the novel, Efrain, an undocumented immigrant who witnessed a hit-and-run accident but fears deportation, tries to rationalize his decision not to contact the police: “No, I told myself, I hadn’t witnessed the accident. . . . . All I saw was a man falling to the ground” (Lalami 13). You should use quotation marks around language that comes directly from the novel and provide the author’s last name (unless it appears in the sentence already) and a page number in parentheses either directly after the quoted material or at the end of the sentence.