What I wrote in my paper proposal:
The answers to these questions will serve to further our knowledge of Jack London and his particular interpretation of Darwinism, as portrayed in The Sea Wolf. They will also enhance our understanding and appreciation of London’s novel as a carefully constructed social statement, as well as an excellent seafaring tale.
What I wanted to write in my paper proposal:
The fate of the known universe is at stake, and this paper will make everything finally okay. The prose shall be so luminous, the insights so great and so witty, that even AIDS patients will have but to look on it to be cured. I will not only answer questions about The Sea Wolf and Charles Darwin, but solve humanity’s oldest puzzles, about the universe and our place in it. You will have to invent a new grade to give this paper, because even A+++ will not cover it. Read it out loud, and prepare to hear birds fall from the trees, stunned by my magnificent observations and conclusions. Watch in amazement as the very face of all scholarship will be changed forever. And make sure that you have a box of kleenex available when you reach my momentous, unexpected, and wholly stirring conclusions.
Let’s be realistic: absolutely nothing is at stake here. I am going to expend a great deal of effort writing a paper that will be read by one person. My analysis will be thorough but utterly boring. My conclusions will be unsurprising. I will soon forget what I said, and so will you. I will receive a grade that is decent: neither abysmal nor spectacular. My graded paper will be relegated to a folder in my room with dozens just like it, where it will remain, unread, in perpetuity. And by and by I will graduate, and as my essay gathers dust, so will my memories of this place, where I learned a great many things that will probably make no discernible difference to my future life. Now please excuse me while I go shrivel up.