Comments on the examples of questions given for Exam 1
(1) Note how for this particular story, the question here is complementary to Question 22.
(3) It's worth noting how sometimes noticing that a certain common choice has not been made can lead us to important insights. For example, what's striking about the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" is his failure to arrive at insights on the basis of an experience that surprises him: throughout the telling of his story, he remains convinced that the heart he heard beating when the officers were present is the heart of his victim. Here he had an opportunity to learn something important on the basis of this unanticipated turn of "events" that has upset his careful planning, but does not do so. We eventually attribute this not to an "inability" (weakness of his intellect), but to intensity of desire (his determined refusal to acknowledge that he is subject to the promptings of conscience).
(4) Here's a sample answer. (I've put in Ariel narrow font passages that contribute enhancing insights but that could be dispensed with in even a full-credit answer on an in-class exam.)
Poe has drawn his narrator/protagonist as round but static. He's round, because he's torn by an intense internal conflict (one that is so intense, in fact, that he doesn't notice it is internal, but experiences it as external -- between himself and his "vengeful" victim!) -- between his insistence on thinking himself as completely free (and thus not subject to the presumably degrading constraints of common morality) and his conscience, which strongly disapproves of his decision to kill the old man. But he's static in that he never learns from his overthrow by the beating heart that what he's hearing from is his own "heart," not that of his dead victim.
[Having noticed what we have so far, there are various specific insights we might reach about his motivation. Here are some. Any one would suffice.]
- He is caught between two equally strong motivations -- the wish (repressed) to confess wrongdoing and the wish (consistent with his conscious picture of himself) that his desires, whatever their nature and wherever they lead, be entitled, right, justified.
- He judges conscience to be degrading; but his conscience insists on judging him for what he has done.
- He pretends to be something he's not (a man free of the hobbles of conscience). And he succeeds in this pretense, but with only partial success (since it repeatedly drives him to distraction).
- His conscience refuses to let him off the hook. And it succeeds in this, but only partially (since he manages not to hear its voice as its voice).
- His conscience drives him to confess, but his repression of his conscience enables him to stop short of confessing what he really needs to, what his conscience insists on his confessing (i.e., that he feels guilty, that he recognizes what he has done as atrocious), and to "hear" only the beating of someone else's heart, supposedly motivated by personal vengeance.
Let's break the basic stuff into the individual moves:
Poe has drawn his narrator/protagonist as round but static. Succinct statement of basic thesis (i.e., the answer to the opening question). He's round, because he's torn by an intense internal conflict Explanation of Sub-thesis 1. -- between his insistence on thinking himself as completely free (and thus not subject to the presumably degrading constraints of common morality) and his conscience, which strongly disapproves of his decision to kill the old man. Specifics that make the case for the above.
[It would have been OK to use just this with the intro, "He's torn between" -- skipping "He's round because..."]
But Transition setting up paradox. (After all, internal conflict carries the potential that a resolution will be reached. This potential, however, is thwarted in the present case.) he's static in that he never learns from his overthrow by the beating heart that what he's hearing from is his own "heart," not that of his dead victim. Re-direction now to Sub-thesis 2. in that he never learns from his overthrow by the beating heart that what he's hearing from is his own "heart," not that of his dead victim. Specifics that make the case for that claim. [Any of the bulleted passages above.] On the basis of the answer to the opening question (i.e., what's been said up to now), we address the follow-up question.
(5) The expository portion of the plot in this story is what precedes Dee's arrival, which precipitates the rising action of the story. So there are lots of different things that you could cite as part of the exposition. Among these are:
Each of these offers a platform for saying something significant in response to the follow-up task, which is to "explain a couple of ways in which this is essential to the audience's appreciation of what follows." For instance, the first expresses the intensity of her wish to be acknowledged, in her own mind and Dee's, as worth that daughter's respect and affection. But the outcome of Dee's visit will both frustrate this wish -- Dee will prove a hopeless case (she has not returned home after all with a new respect for her family) -- and take the mother beyond it: she'll prove to her own satisfaction that she's Dee's equal, and justifiably invulnerable to Dee's continued contempt for her. (She's thus worth Dee's respect and affection, though Dee is not capable of extending either. Realizing this, she's no longer dependent on Dee's respect and affection.)
Even just the gist of the italicized part would deserve full credit. But if you had time, the rest would constitute an enhancement you should allow yourself.
(6) If we focus on the part of the story that constitutes the narrative past, the precipitating incident is the protagonist's experience of his benefactor's "vulture eye," which he takes as expressing a malevolent intent that determines him (in his conscious experience) to take the old man's life.
We could follow-up this answer with a remark about what we take to be the real motivation for the murder that this account disguises not only from the narrator's audience (the person he's telling his story to) but from himself. For example, we could say that this is a projection of his own hostility towards the old man, which (since no other fact about this person is mentioned) is evidently grounded in the protagonist's resentment (fiercely denied) of the fact that he has been the protagonist's benefactor. (Why would someone resent this? Perhaps because he harbors an assumption that it's degrading to be dependent upon anyone else. [Note that we've seen something like this -- expressing itself in different ways -- in the Dee of "Everyday Use."])
If we focus on the story that constitutes the narrative present, the P.I. is the listener's previous remark that led the narrator to understand that this person takes him to be mad, thus stimulating him to tell the story as a way of demonstrating that he's in fact sane.
We could follow this up with a remark about, say, the irony of trying to prove oneself sane when insanity would be a defense in a criminal defense against a charge of murder: the man must be insane -- and is indeed, since, although he acknowledges he has killed the old man, he doesn't acknowledge that this is murder, because in his view what he did was justified. But perhaps this way of proceeding, against his will, will end up getting him acquitted by reason of insanity after all!
Or we could offer our understanding of what we see as underlying the insane behavior and experiences of this fellow. (If we do this, we want to be sure we avoid merely begging the question by saying that he does and senses what he does because he's insane. Rather, we'd want to mention some of the things that could play a role in our answer to  above.)
(7) Here are a couple of things that function as foreshadowing in "Everyday Use." Note that these don't do this prospectively (as in some stories), but retrospectively: we appreciate them as "pointing forward" (from the writer's point of view) after we've finished reading the story, and can see what they were pointing towards.
(9) The climax of this story is the sexual climax between Calixta and Alcée. This moment is not functioning as an epiphany, either for the protagonists or for us, the reader. (If there is an epiphantic moment, it comes in the narrator's final sentence. But does this sentence really cause us to see what went before in a new light? [If not, it's not doing what an epiphany does!] Isn't it rather just driving home -- confirming, with the help of explicit editorializing help on the part of the narrator -- what the dénouement up to this moment has already made clear?)
If you were to address this question, then in addition to saying what's in the first 2 sentences above, you'd want to address the follow-up question. One answer: we're shocked, and set up to wonder what will be the exact nature of the damage this will do to the principals' marital relationships. This sets us up for the surprise that follows. (Mention this, in summary form.)
(12) The key in a question of this nature is to be sure to address in clear fashion the requirement to explain how what you cite functions as an epiphany. Since what makes a given moment (fact, detail) in a story epiphantic is that it throws significant new light on something that went before, it's essential that you
(13) Obviously if you pick the wrong story for this, you'll end up getting a zip for the whole item, since the answer can't possibly be on-point.
For example, among "Everyday Use," "The Tell-Tale Heart," and "The Storm," you cook your goose if you decide to discuss "The Storm." (Either of the other two, of course, would supply you ample material for a good answer.)
(14) For the same reason as with (13) above, you've got to be sure you know what omniscient narration is!
For example, among "Everyday Use," "The Tell-Tale Heart," and "The Storm," you are sunk if you decide to discuss "Everyday Use" or "The Tell-Tale Heart." ("The Storm," though, would supply you ample material for a good answer.)
(19) The recipe is: pick some subordinate character and explain how the traits attributed to this individual enable him to perform some function important to the story as a whole. Possibilities:
Subordinate characters are frequently (though not always) both flat and static. This should not necessarily lead you to draw the conclusion that they are deficient in personality (though in particular cases this may be so). The key is: what do they need to exhibit in order for them to do the job they're invoked to do in this story?
(20) There's lots to be extracted for a short answer to this question from the following:
(22) See how Bierce's "The Moral Principle and the Material Interest" functions allegorically, while his "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" does not?
What two other stories covered on our exam function allegorically? (Hint: one is a genuine short story. The other is much more in the nature of a traditional allegorical tale, though the message it's made to convey is hardly traditional!)
(23) The two most important distinguishing features have to do with how short stories differ from traditional genres of short fiction in respect of theme and emphasis on characterization.
For more on these points, read through the sources cited here.
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