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Close Reading and Analysis - Exam Question on Literature

Part I: Close Reading and Analysis

Part I: Close Reading and Analysis
You must do a close reading and analysis of 2 of the 4 paragraphs below. You should explain key aspects of the quote, cite it directly in your answer, and explain its relationship to the larger topics/themes/ideas/contexts discussed in class. Each question will be marked out of 25 for a total of 50% of the exam grade.

1)“That Friday everything went wrong. The underground train lost its life current between two stations, and for a quarter of an hour one could hear nothing but the dutiful beating of one’s heart and the rustling of newspapers. The bus they had to take next kept them waiting for ages; and when it did come, it was crammed with garrulous high-school children. It was raining hard as they walked up the brown path leading to the sanitarium. There whey waited again; and instead of their boy shuffling into the room as he usually did (his poor face blotched with acne, ill-shaven, sullen, and confused), a nurse they knew, and did not care for, appeared at last and brightly explained that he had again attempted to take his life.”

2)“But instead of dying, she got sick. She threw up. Her officer – why should he have a name? he was the childhood sweetheart, and what more does he want? – came home from somewhere, found her, and called the ambulance. In time, she put it all on a tape and sent the tape to the blind man. Over the years, she put all kinds of stuff on tapes and sent the tapes of lickety-split. Next to writing a poem every year, I think it was her chief means of recreation. On one tape, she told the blind man she’d decided to live away from her officer for a time. On another tape, she told him about her divorce. She and I began going out, and of course she told the blind man about it. She told him everything, or so it seemed to me.”

3)“They poked into the straw with sticks and found him in it. ‘Are you still fasting?’ asked the overseer. ‘When on earth do you mean to stop?’ ‘Forgive me, everybody,’ whispered the hunger artist; only the overseer, who had his ears to the bars, understood him. ‘Of course,’ said the overseer, and tapped his forehead with a finger to let the attendants know what state the man was in, ‘we forgive you.’ ‘I always wanted you to admire my fasting,’ said the hunger artist. ‘We do admire it,’ said the overseer, affably. ‘But you shouldn’t admire it,’ said the hunger artist. ‘Well, then we don’t admire it,’ said the overseer, ‘but why shouldn’t we admire it?’ ‘Because I have to fast, I can’t help it,’ said the hunger artist. ‘What a fellow you are,’ said the overseer, ‘and why can’t you help it?’ ‘Because,’ said the hunger artist...’Because I couldn’t find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have stuffed myself like you or anyone else.’”

4)“Jim and Irene Westcott were the kind of people who seem to strike that satisfactory average of income, endeavor, and respectability that is reached by the statistical reports in college alumni bulletins. They were the parents of two young children, they had been married nine years, they lived on the twelfth floor of an apartment house near Sutton Place, they went to the theatre on average of 10.3 times a year, and they hoped someday to live in Westchester. Irene Westcott was a pleasant, rather plain girl with soft brown hair and a wide, fine forehead upon which nothing at all had been written, and in the cold weather she wore a coat of fitch skins dyed to resemble mink.”

SECTION II: Short Essay Question
Please write a short essay on 1 of the following 3 questions. Successful essays will have a clear introduction, arguable thesis, logical essay structure, and be grammatically sound. Strong papers will also be able to provide direct citation from the stories as supporting evidence for their claims. Essays should have a minimum of two body paragraphs and four direct quotes. A Works Cited is not required. Each essay will be marked out of 50 for a total of 50% of the exam grade.

1)In Alice Walker’s story “Everyday Use,” the subtitle of the story is for your grandmamma. With specific reference to examples from the story, please say how this subtitle is connected to the themes of the story. Do you think that fictional stories like Walker’s are a useful way to preserve culture and family traditions?

2)In her story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman illustrates the challenges facing women in a patriarchal culture. With as much specificity as possible, and by quoting the story directly, please discuss why Gilman’s story acted as a rallying cry for first-wave feminists, many of whom recognized themselves in her protagonist. How is the act of writing related to liberation and freedom?
3)In his story “Barn Burning,” William Faulkner reveals the vast differences in wealth that characterized the Reconstruction Era in the United States. With as much specificity as possible, and by quoting the story directly, please show how Faulkner’s story encourages readers to examine the conditions that gives rise to Abner Snopes’ profound rage and self-destructiveness.

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