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Essay Prompts, ENG200 Fiction Exam, Winter 2020

Prof. Trish Lindsey Jaggers page 1

O’Connor’s “Revelation”

Thinking about Mrs. Turpin’s thoughts/dialogue and the setting, in what way are religious inferences/symbols effective in driving the plot, in essence, leading to the climax?

If we read literature for the “universal message” it contains, what are some “messages” being successfully conveyed via this story?

(You are welcome to bring in another story for support of your assertions. A theme-based thesis works exceptionally well when discussing stories such as this one.)

Tan’s “A Pair of Tickets” (Lost in translation?)

While Jing Mei and her father are talking about her mother, at the hotel, after she’s met the twins (and they are asleep), he prepares to tell her (in English) about her mother’s running away, leaving the twins. Jing Mei tells him, “No, tell me in Chinese” . . . “Really, I can understand.”

Why is her statement particularly significant? What does she mean by understand? In what way will his speaking in Chinese aid in her understanding?

(Thinking about “identity” being a word in the theme will help you formulate a theme-based thesis and help you with this essay.)

Ellison’s “Battle Royal” (Trust me?)

Note on narrator “reliability.” Being an unreliable narrator, as we discussed, does not mean the narrator is lying. It’s a “technique” used by the author to actually force the reader to question the assertions made by the narrator. There are always a few “clues,” when something the narrator says seems off, and you, the reader, “catch” those statements, thus making you look at other things the narrator says or comments on in the story and wonder if they, too, might be slightly (and intentionally) misleading.

Given this, how, in fact, is the narrator much like his grandfather in the telling of this story? What message(s) is the grandfather trying to convey? Is the story itself trying to convey that same message? How does the story’s narration style better convey those messages?

Hint: The “message(s)” are the theme(s).Your essay’s thesis can and should include the theme you decide the story conveys and how narration style contributes to its delivery.

Updike’s “A & P” (Excuse me. I AM dressed.)

The girls who come into the A&P spark a bit of controversy (as well as hormonal excitement) over not only the way they are dressed but also the way they are perceived. Social norms vs. desire vs. objectification.

While Sammy demonstrates his unhappiness over his boss (Lengal’s) comments to the girls, Sammy’s “thoughts,” however, do not necessarily make him a “hero.” Why? What do these girls represent in the larger scheme of the oppression of women—both then and now?

Essay Prompts, ENG200 Fiction Exam, Winter 2020

Prof. Trish Lindsey Jaggers page 2

Open Prompt: Imagination=none

Choose one (or more) of the stories we read for, or in, class for this prompt. (If choosing more than one, this will be a comparison, not a contrast.)

Imagination, rather lack thereof, contributes significantly to character errors resulting in myriad conflicts (maybe even death) for those characters. Discuss this in a thesis-driven essay. Several of the stories will work here.

Discuss protagonists’ errors only. You may mention supporting characters/antagonists in the essay, but the conflicts caused by lack of imagination belong solely to our main characters.

Excellent stories from which to choose here: “To Build a Fire,” “Greasy Lake,” “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” though others might work.

Open Prompt: Oppression is the key here

Several stories we read introduced us to main characters suffering from some form of oppression—gender, race, age, poverty.

This oppression may not have been clear to them at the onset of the story, but changing their lives—and the stories themselves—rely on the main characters’, in some way, recognizing it and/or pushing back against it.

Discuss the role the particular oppression you choose plays with regard to the main character of your selected story (or stories). In the case of one story, both race and gender are working against our main character. While these stories may have other themes, this can be (and is) a conflict- causing issue. There are several stories which share a common oppression if you wish to discuss more than one.

Open Prompt: Who Am I, Really? (Identity, discovering it)

The search for identity and self-actualization goes back to the beginning of human interaction. (Wonder if we care about identity if we live alone?) Several of our stories feature protagonists in the throes of inner-conflict as they discover (whether looking for it or not) something about themselves they did not know. Some may have created a façade—a fake ID they used when trying to impress others—a façade that causes more harm than had they just been themselves.

Discuss a protagonist who suffers from such an identity crisis and how this drives the plot/theme, etc. You may use more than one story to illustrate a particular “identity crisis” theme you identify. Focus on main characters (though you may mention antagonists/supporting characters).

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