[This is only a "test." Had it been an actual test I would have given you four or five questions like the ones below, & asked you to pick any one or 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. This question asks you to think about how writers use secondary characters to help express or develop the meaning of a work's central character's story.|
The subtitle of Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is (Tom Sawyer's Comrade). The title of Flaubert's Madame Bovary points implicitly to Monsieur Bovary (Mrs. Bovary's husband). What role do Tom and Charles play in Huck's and Emma's stories? How do their characters compare to Huck's and Emma's characters? How does the presence of this other character help us appreciate each novel's main character?
2. Prejudice and prejudice?
All the characters in Austen's novel belong to the same "race," so what does Austen mean by the word Prejudice in her title? Talk about how Elizabeth's perceptions and interpretations of Darcy and Wickham are controlled by her prejudices. And talk about how she becomes aware of her prejudices, how she learns to re-view Darcy and Wickham, and see what each is "really" like. Twain's novel is about a specific kind of prejudice, racial prejudice — the way Huck's ideas about Jim are shaped by what he has been told about "niggers." How is his story organized around the way he reads or misreads Jim? Does the novel suggest Huck can or does learn to see through his prejudices, and see Jim as he "really" is?
3. Books play a big role in almost all the books we've read so far. Elizabeth Bennet is called "a great reader," and Tom Sawyer often gives Huck a hard time for the books he hasn't read, but for this question I want you to focus on two other readers — Mary Rowlandson, who is delighted to be given a copy of the Bible during her Captivity, and Emma Bovary, who is described as a devoted reader of novels and romances. What role do these two different kinds of books play in each woman's story? What is the relationship between the world each woman finds herself in and the one she finds in the book(s) she turns to?
3a. A variant question on reading:
In Pride and Prejudice, after Mr. Collins agrees to read to the Bennet's five daughters, "a book was produced; but on beholding it (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library) he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels." In Madame Bovary Charles' mother tells the local circulating library that Emma has discontinued her subscription, in an effort to "to stop Emma reading novels." Discuss both Austen's and Flaubert's novels as novels about novel-reading. Do you think they are arguing for or against reading novels?
4. Emma Bovary is the character we've met who most longs to take a trip, but she never gets further from the farm she was born on than Rouen. On the other hand, both Mary Rowlandson's and Huck Finn's stories are journeys, hers into the wilderness and back, Huck's down the river. What role does movement play in these narratives? What do the journeys mean? How far do the characters get? or do they get anywhere?
5. Art is about what isn't said or shown, as well as what is. One of the most perplexing things about Morrison's "Recitatif" is the way we're told right away that Roberta and Twyla are of "different races," "black and white," but we're never told which character belongs to which race. Why not? What difference would it make to the story if we were told? And one of the biggest surprises at the end of Huck Finn is that Jim has been keeping a secret from Huck ever since they were on Jackson's Island, before the raft trip even begins — i.e. Jim has known all along that Huck's Pap is dead. How does knowing about that secret change or not change the way you read Jim's character? and the story Twain is telling?