Virtual Midterm

[This is only a "test." Had it been an actual test I would have given you four or five of the questions below, & asked you to pick any two to answer in essays where you could develop your own ideas. I'm "giving" you this virtual midterm so you can have some notion of the kind of test I give. The questions on the final exam will look a lot like these.]

1. When Fleming runs away from battle, he breaks one of the army's first commandments, and could be shot for desertion. When Carrie sleeps with Hurstwood, when Hurstwood takes the $10,000 from the safe, they break two of the original 10 Commandments — she commits adultery and he steals. But how do Crane and Dresier present these acts? Are we supposed or allowed to blame the characters for these "crimes" or "sins"? Why or why not? If they aren't to blame, for example, what is?

2. Both Huck Finn and Henry Fleming are "youths" who experience new worlds — the river with Jim, the battle. Conventionally that kind of story involves a growth — toward knowledge, or maturity, or adulthood, etc. Discuss whether you think these characters are changed by their experiences. Do they grow, and if so in what specific ways? Or if you think they remain essentially the same, what does their lack of growth suggest?

3. What is the relationship between the narrators of The Awakening and The Red Badge of Courage and their central characters? Do they share the same point of view? How would Edna's and Henry's stories be different, for example, if they were written in the first person by Edna and Henry themselves?

4. On the first night of the march, scared about the upcoming battle, Crane's "youth," looking for comfort, "lays down in the grass." That's where Whitman locates himself at the beginning (and end) of "Song of Myself." How does Whitman's poem locate the human self in nature? And how is that different from or similar to what Crane is saying about the relationship between humans and nature in (pick one to discuss) The Red Badge or "The Open Boat"?

5. Compare May as a character in Marcher's story with Robert as a character in Edna's. How do Marcher and Edna "see" these others? What do they miss? And how is their relationship to and understanding of the "others" connected to the larger theme of each work?

6. At the beginning of "Song of Myself," Whitman's "I" goes outside to become "undisguised and naked." Carrie goes instead into the new department stores of Chicago, where fashionable jackets and new shoes seem to speak to her. Compare the idea of "nakedness" as Whitman develops it with the meaning of "clothes" as Dreiser develops their significance for the people in Sister Carrie. What does the difference say about the way each writer defines the human self?

7. "The Love-Song of J. Alfred Marcher"? — compare the story James tells in "The Beast in the Jungle" with the poem T. S. Eliot wrote a decade later. What kind of characters are Marcher and Prufrock? What happens—or doesn't happen—to them? What comes between them and the possibilities of life?

8. How's your sense of direction? Why does Twain send Huck and Jim south throughout his novel? Why does James' story about Daisy Miller depend on bringing her east? What are the thematic implications of these directions?

9. Neither Whitman nor Dickinson read each other. Suppose they had. Write a review of the Whitman poetry we read "by Emily Dickinson" — or, write a review of Dickinson's poetry "by Walt Whitman." You don't have to try to sound like either poet, unless you want to, but discuss what either one would have found to like, dislike, praise or criticize in the other — based on her or his own project as a poet.

10. Of all the characters we've met so far, who would be the happiest on the raft with Huck and Jim? Why?


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