Read either Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House OR August Wilson’s Fences. (Both plays are in our Introduction to Literature text.) (See a very brief plot synopsis for each play at the end of this section.)
Answer the following questions about your play. (Again, you are not doing both plays—only one.) The questions are designed to get you to look at the details the author uses to communicate to us.
Questions for A Doll’s House –Answer all five questions listed.
- Describe the relationship between Nora and Torvald. In your analysis consider who you think is most responsible of the two for making the relationship what it is. Or are they both responsible?
- Consider the choices Nora and Torvald make. What causes these choices and what are the results of these choices?
- Describe the roles of men versus women in the play.
- How does Ibsen use symbols to help communicate his themes? (A symbol is an object, a character, an aspect of setting that represents both itself and some reality in addition to itself. For example, if an author uses roads prominently, the roads are actual roads in the setting, but they can also symbolize the journeys we are on.)
- What do you see as the theme of the play. That is, what is Ibsen trying to communicate about human relationships? What details about plot, character, setting communicate this theme to you?
Questions for Fences –Answer all five questions listed.
- Describe the relationship between Troy and Rose. In your analysis consider who you think is most responsible of the two for making the relationship what it is. Or are they both responsible?
b. Do you see the characters as victims of the circumstances in which they find themselves or are they victims of their own choices, or both?
c. What do you see as the theme of the play. That is, what is Wilson trying to communicate about human relationships? What details about plot, character, setting communicate this theme to you?
d. How does Wilson use symbols to help communicate his themes? (A symbol is an object, a character, an aspect of setting that represents both itself and some reality in addition to itself. For example, if an author uses roads prominently, the roads are actual roads in the setting, but they can also symbolize the journeys we are on.)
e. Choose any character from the play and evaluate that character’s behaviors and attitudes. What positive qualities do you see in your character, in that person’s attitudes and behaviors? What deficiencies do you see?
A Doll’s House dramatizes the relationship between men and women in general and a married couple, Nora and Torvald, in particular. This relationship ultimately forces Nora to make a choice that shocked audiences over 100 years ago.
Fences dramatizes the socio-economic conditions of an African-American family as well as their interpersonal relationships as these proceed, especially from the protagonist, Troy Maxson. I personally find him and his wife, Rose, fully realized and very interesting fictitious characters—a good play.
Poetry is condensed language that is imaginative and rhythmic. It can be narrative (tell a story), it can be dramatic (such as the plays of Shakespeare), or it can be lyric (a short poem that presents the personal emotions and ideas of a single speaker). It can be very long, such as an epic poem which is book length or a Shakespearean play such as Hamlet that takes over four hours to perform. Or it can be short such as the lyric poems that I am including in this exam question. Its province is the entire universe and all experiences, and it can communicate anything to us, from philosophical considerations on our place in the universe to simply saying “this is what an autumn day feels like.”
Poetry has much to offer. While circumstance this semester kept us from examining those aspects fully, I will try to draw your attention to some of those through this exam question.
IMPORTANT: I will not grade you on how right or wrong you are about what you say about the poems. I want to see from your answers that you have read each poem three or four times, that you have thought about the poems and have something to say about them, and that you support what you say with examples from the poems. It’s the support that is important.
Read “Snake,” “Sir Patrick Spens,” “The Chimney Sweeper,” “Fern Hill,” and “Dulce et Decorum Est,” all of which are in our Introduction to Literature text. As you read each poem, look at the questions following the poem. Even though you are not answering those questions, they will help you sort out what is going on in the poems.
For each poem, answer the following:
1. State its theme. Like drama and short fiction, a poem has something to say, some point to make. Keep in mind that this point does not have to be some “lesson” that the poem has for us. As I said above, the point may be as simple as “Isn’t this beautiful?” or “Isn’t this pitiful?” or the like.
2. Examine the different things the poet does to communicate this theme to us and to make us “feel” the theme, internalize it. Ask yourself the following about each poem (“a” and “c” may not apply to all five poems; “b,” “d,” and “e” will):
- Is the speaker someone besides the poet? If so, how does this speaker help make the poem what it is?
- What kinds of words does the poet use? Pleasant and positive words? Negative words? Imagery? (in other words, words that appeal to our senses of sight, hearing, touch, etc?)
- Does the poet use any comparisons? If so, how do these help shape what the poem says?
- What is the tone of the poem? (Happy? Joyful? Depressing? Fearful? Gentle? Mocking? Sarcastic?) So that you don’t go astray, I’ll tell you up front that Auden in “The Unknown Citizen” is being very sarcastic. The poem is verbally ironic; it is not a praise poem at all!
- How is this tone created by the images and by the sounds in the poem? (Read the poem aloud and notice what you hear both rhythmically and in the sounds of words themselves. Some words are harsh sounding such as “dark, dreaded thud” and others are pleasant sounding such as “Little lamb, I love thee.”)
Do not give me a summary of the poems’ contents. I want analysis according to the questions above.
Answer each of the following questions about your own research project. Be sure to give specific examples from your project to support what you say about it as you answer these questions:
1. Write your full sentence proposition.
2. What background do you provide in order that we might understand your proposition? If your argument needs no background, explain why it does not need any background.
3. What are the admitted issues in your argument? Why do you include these?
4. What are the crucial issues in your argument?
5. What constitutes the “logos” portion of your argument? In other words, what evidence do you supply for each of your crucial issues?
6. Have you included mention of what your opponents to your argument believe? If you have, what and where are these in your project? If you have not, explain why you have not included these.
7. What constitutes the “ethos” portions (authority/reliability) of your argument?
8. Where do you use “pathos,” that is, where do you use persuasive devices?