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The Sun Parlor as a Symbol of Contrast and Conflict: A Reflective Essay

Which Quantity Identifies the Sun Parlor as a Reflective Essay?

Have you ever read a piece of writing that made you feel like you were inside the author's mind, sharing their thoughts, feelings, and insights? If so, you might have encountered a reflective essay. A reflective essay is a type of writing that describes and analyzes the writer's own experience or observation of something. It is a way to share and narrate how an event or a piece of literature influenced the writer's life and perception.

which quantity identifies the sun parlor as a reflective essay

In this article, we will explore what a reflective essay is, how it is different from other types of essays, and how to write one. We will also examine a specific example of a reflective essay, The Sun Parlor by Dorothy West, and identify the qualities that make it a reflective essay.

What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of personal essay in which the writer examines a topic through the lens of their unique perspective. Reflective essays are more subjective about their subjects than an academic essay, use figurative language, and dont require academic sources.

The purpose of a reflective essay is to explore and share the authors thoughts, perspectives, and experiences. Reflective essays are often written for college applications and cover letters as a way to demonstrate how the writers background and personality make them an ideal candidate. For example, a college applicant might write a reflective essay about how moving every few years because of their parents military service impacted their concept of home.

Sometimes, reflective essays are academic assignments. For example, a student may be assigned to watch a film or visit a museum exhibition and write a reflective essay about the film or exhibitions themes. Reflective essays can also be pieces of personal writing, such as blog posts or journal entries.

Definition and Purpose

By definition, a reflective essay is an essay where the writer describes an event or experience (or series of events or experiences) and then discusses and analyzes the lessons they derived from their experience.

The purpose of a reflective essay is to help the writer understand themselves better, learn from their experience, express their feelings and opinions, and communicate their insights to others. A reflective essay can also challenge the writer to examine their assumptions, beliefs, values, and goals.

Format and Structure

A reflective essay has a similar format and structure to an academic essay. It consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. However, unlike an academic essay, it focuses on how the writers personal experience relates to the topic rather than solely on the topic itself.

The introduction of a reflective essay should introduce the topic and the writers main focus or thesis statement. The thesis statement should indicate what aspect of the experience or observation the writer will reflect on and what they learned from it.

The body of a reflective essay should explain how the writers experience or observation affected them. It should describe what happened, how it made them feel, what they thought about it, what they learned from it, and how they changed or grew as a result. The body paragraphs should use specific examples, details, anecdotes, quotes, or dialogues to support the writers reflections.

The conclusion of a reflective essay should summarize how the writers experience or observation influenced them. It should restate the thesis statement and highlight the main points from the body paragraphs. It should also show how the writers perspective or attitude has changed or evolved because of the experience or observation. The conclusion can also look ahead or backward, meaning that the writer can discuss how the experience or observation will affect their future actions or decisions, or how different they were in the past.

Examples of Reflective Essays

Some examples of reflective essays are:

  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin: A collection of essays that reflect on the authors experiences as a Black man in America, especially his relationship with his father and his views on race, identity, and violence.

  • A Room of Ones Own by Virginia Woolf: An essay that reflects on the authors thoughts about women and fiction, based on her lectures at two womens colleges. She explores the challenges and opportunities that women writers face in a patriarchal society.

  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: A memoir that reflects on the authors grief and loss after the death of her husband and the illness of her daughter. She examines how her memories, emotions, and beliefs shaped her response to the tragedy.

What is The Sun Parlor?

The Sun Parlor is a short essay by Dorothy West, an African American writer who was part of the Harlem Renaissance. The essay was published in 1988 as part of a collection called The Richer, The Poorer: Stories, Sketches, and Reminiscences.

The Sun Parlor is a reflective essay that narrates the authors experience of visiting her aunts house in New Jersey and discovering a beautiful sun parlor that was reserved for special occasions. The essay explores the themes of family, class, beauty, and freedom through the authors personal perspective and interpretation.

Summary and Analysis

The essay begins with the author describing how she used to visit her aunts house every summer when she was a child. She recalls how she loved everything about the house, except for one thing: the sun parlor. The sun parlor was a large room with windows on three sides, filled with plants, flowers, books, and furniture. It was the most beautiful room in the house, but it was also the most forbidden. The aunt never allowed anyone to enter the sun parlor, except for herself and her guests. She kept it locked and covered with curtains, preserving it for special occasions.

The author expresses her frustration and curiosity about the sun parlor. She wonders why her aunt would waste such a lovely room by keeping it closed and unused. She imagines what it would be like to sit in the sun parlor and enjoy its beauty and warmth. She also resents her aunt for being so strict and snobbish about the sun parlor. She thinks that her aunt is trying to imitate the rich white people who live in big houses with fancy rooms. She feels that her aunt is ashamed of her own family and background, and wants to impress others with her wealth and taste.

One day, when the aunt is away, the author decides to sneak into the sun parlor. She finds the key to the door and opens it. She is amazed by the sight of the sun parlor, which looks even more beautiful than she imagined. She feels a sense of joy and freedom as she walks around the room, touching everything and admiring everything. She sits on a couch and reads a book, feeling like she belongs there. She forgets about time and stays in the sun parlor until she hears her aunt returning home. She quickly leaves the room and locks it behind her.

The next day, the aunt discovers that someone has been in the sun parlor. She is furious and accuses everyone in the house of breaking into her private room. She interrogates them one by one, but no one confesses. Finally, she confronts the author, who admits that she was the one who entered the sun parlor. The aunt scolds her harshly and tells her that she has no right to touch anything that does not belong to her. She says that she worked hard to earn money and buy things for herself, and that she does not have to share them with anyone. She says that she does not care about anyone elses feelings or opinions, and that she will do whatever she wants with her own property.

The author feels hurt and angry by her aunts words. She thinks that her aunt is selfish and cruel, and that she does not understand or appreciate the value of beauty and happiness. She thinks that her aunt is wasting her life by locking herself away from others and from nature. She thinks that her aunt is missing out on the true meaning of life by focusing only on material things and appearances.

Themes and Symbols

The Sun Parlor explores several themes and symbols that relate to the author's experience and reflection. Some of the main themes are:

  • Family: The essay shows the contrast between the author's love and respect for her family and her aunt's indifference and disdain for them. The author values her family's history, culture, and traditions, while her aunt rejects them and tries to distance herself from them. The essay also shows how family relationships can be affected by class differences, expectations, and conflicts.

  • Class: The essay examines how class influences the way people view themselves and others. The aunt belongs to a higher class than the rest of her family, and she uses her money and possessions to assert her superiority and authority. She looks down on her relatives who are poorer and less educated than her, and she does not want to associate with them. She also tries to emulate the lifestyle and manners of the rich white people who live in her neighborhood, hoping to gain their acceptance and admiration.

  • Beauty: The essay explores the different meanings and expressions of beauty. The sun parlor represents beauty in its physical form, as it is filled with natural and artificial objects that create a pleasing and harmonious environment. The author appreciates beauty in its aesthetic sense, as she enjoys looking at and experiencing the sun parlor's features. She also appreciates beauty in its emotional sense, as she feels happy and peaceful in the sun parlor. The aunt, on the other hand, does not appreciate beauty in either sense. She does not use or enjoy the sun parlor, but only keeps it as a display of her wealth and taste. She does not share or spread beauty, but only hoards it for herself.

  • Freedom: The essay contrasts the author's sense of freedom and the aunt's sense of confinement. The author feels free when she enters the sun parlor, as she escapes from the rules and restrictions that her aunt imposes on her. She also feels free when she expresses her thoughts and feelings about the sun parlor, as she challenges her aunt's authority and perspective. The aunt, however, feels confined by her own choices and actions. She isolates herself from her family and friends, and limits herself to a narrow and rigid way of living. She also confines herself to a false and superficial identity, as she tries to fit into a society that does not accept or respect her.

Some of the main symbols are:

  • The sun parlor: The sun parlor symbolizes the contrast between appearance and reality, between surface and depth. On the surface, it looks like a beautiful and inviting room that reflects the aunt's success and sophistication. However, in reality, it is a cold and empty room that reflects the aunt's loneliness and insecurity. It also symbolizes the contrast between nature and culture, between life and death. The sun parlor contains elements of nature, such as plants, flowers, sunlight, and air. However, these elements are controlled and manipulated by human intervention, such as curtains, locks, pots, and books. The sun parlor is not a living space, but a dead space.

  • The key: The key symbolizes the author's curiosity and courage, as well as her rebellion and transgression. The key allows the author to access the sun parlor, which is forbidden to her by her aunt. By using the key, the author satisfies her curiosity about the sun parlor, which she has admired from afar for a long time. She also shows her courage by defying her aunt's rules and risking her wrath. By using the key, the author also rebels against her aunt's authority and transgresses her boundaries. She challenges her aunt's claim to ownership and control over the sun parlor, and asserts her own right to enjoy it.

  • The book: The book symbolizes the author's connection to literature and culture, as well as her growth and change. The book is one of the objects that attracts the author's attention in the sun parlor. It represents her interest in reading and learning, which is different from her aunt's interest in material things. By reading the book in the sun parlor, the author connects with a wider world of ideas and experiences that enriches her mind and spirit. She also changes from a passive observer to an active participant in the sun parlor's beauty.

How Does The Sun Parlor Qualify as a Reflective Essay?

The Sun Parlor qualifies as a reflective essay because it meets the criteria and characteristics of this type of writing. It is a personal essay that describes and analyzes the author's own experience and observation of something. It explores and shares the author's thoughts, perspectives, and feelings about the topic. It also shows how the author has changed or grown because of the topic.

Personal Experience and Perspective

The Sun Parlor is based on the author's personal experience and perspective. The author narrates an event that happened to her when she was a child, and how it affected her relationship with her aunt and her view of the sun parlor. The author uses the first-person point of view, which allows her to express her feelings and opinions directly and honestly. She also uses figurative language, such as metaphors, similes, and imagery, to convey her impressions and emotions.

Exploration and Interpretation

The Sun Parlor explores and interprets the meaning and significance of the author's experience and observation. The author does not just tell what happened, but also explains why it happened, what it meant, and what it taught her. She examines the themes and symbols that emerge from her experience and observation, such as family, class, beauty, and freedom. She also compares and contrasts her perspective with her aunt's perspective, highlighting their differences and similarities.

Growth and Change

The Sun Parlor shows how the author has grown and changed because of her experience and observation. The author reflects on how her encounter with the sun parlor influenced her personality, values, and goals. She reveals how she developed a sense of curiosity, courage, rebellion, and appreciation for beauty. She also reveals how she changed her attitude toward her aunt, from admiration to resentment to pity. She also shows how her experience and observation shaped her future actions and decisions, such as becoming a writer and opening her own sun parlor.


The Sun Parlor is a reflective essay that illustrates the power and beauty of personal writing. It is a piece of writing that invites the reader to enter the author's mind and heart, and to share their experience and insight. It is a piece of writing that demonstrates how an event or a piece of literature can influence a person's life and perception. It is a piece of writing that celebrates the value of reflection, interpretation, and expression.


  • Q: What is the main difference between a reflective essay and a narrative essay?

  • A: A narrative essay focuses on telling a story about events in the author's life, while a reflective essay focuses on analyzing how those events affected the author.

  • Q: What are some tips for writing a good reflective essay?

  • A: Some tips are: choose a topic that interests you and that you have personal experience or observation of; write in the first-person point of view; use specific examples, details, anecdotes, quotes, or dialogues to support your reflections; use figurative language to create vivid images and emotions; organize your essay into an introduction, body, and conclusion; revise your essay for clarity, coherence, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

  • Q: What are some benefits of writing a reflective essay?

  • A: Some benefits are: it helps you understand yourself better; it helps you learn from your experience; it helps you express your feelings and opinions; it helps you communicate your insights to others; it helps you challenge your assumptions, beliefs, values, and goals.

  • Q: What are some challenges of writing a reflective essay?

  • A: Some challenges are: it can be difficult to choose a topic that is meaningful and relevant to you; it can be difficult to balance your personal perspective with an objective analysis; it can be difficult to be honest and open about your feelings and opinions; it can be difficult to avoid being too subjective or biased.

  • Q: How can I improve my reflective writing skills?

  • A: You can improve your reflective writing skills by reading examples of reflective essays by other writers; by practicing writing about different topics that interest you or that you have experience or observation of; by asking for feedback from others on your writing; by revising your writing based on the feedback; by reflecting on your own writing process and progress.


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