Fiction Essay

(Total value: 150 points)


Due Date: 10/2/08

General Guidelines:



Choose ONE of the following works of fiction from our course book, The Norton Introduction to Literature 9th ed., and answer ONE of the corresponding questions:


Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”

1.    Various critics have read the ending of this story as either a victory for the narrator or as a resounding defeat for her.  Which interpretation do you see as more compelling?  Provide plenty of textual evidence to support your reading.

2.    “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a 19th century story that is concerned, among other things, with the institution of marriage.  Argue for what Gilman is saying about marriage in this story.  Analyze the nature of gender roles in 19th century American marriages.

3.    The wallpaper becomes, obviously, the most important symbol in the story.  What does the wallpaper symbolize?  What does the narrator see in it, and how do you account for her extreme responses to it?


Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers”

1.    The question of ethics arises in the "A Jury of Her Peers" in regards to the way the men and the women approach the crime. Compare the approach of the townsmen to Minnie Wright to that of the townswomen who accompany the men on their search for evidence of the crime. What drives the women to make the choice they make?

2.    What causes the men to overlook the evidence found by the women in the story "A Jury of Her Peers"? Why would Glaspell set up the story in this way? In other words, what is her point for having the men fail in their task where the women succeed?

3.    Although "A Jury of Her Peers" was written almost one hundred years ago, it possesses contemporary attitudes about women that has led many people to refer to it as a feminist or pro-woman story. What elements or occurrences in the story would produce this response in a reader?


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”

1.    In the Puritan setting of Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," what do the woods symbolize? How does Hawthorne's use of this symbol reflect Puritan mores? How does it reflect his knowledge of the culture that he describes?

2.    Explain Young Goodman Brown's character development in the story. What does he begin the story like? What is he like at the end of it? What causes the change in him? What does this development represent for the reader?


Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”


1.    How important is the southern setting for understanding the characters and their motivations? How much are the grandmother's pretensions of "being a lady" and her attachment to the past keys to the action?



Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”


1.    The subtitle of Melville’s "Bartleby the Scrivener" is "A Story of Wall-Street." Describe the various "walls" that Bartleby may be trapped behind and what you think Melville might be saying about mid-nineteenth-century life in America.


A.S. Byatt’s “The Thing in the Forest”


1.    The story begins, "There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in the forest." Describe, in your own words, the "thing." Do you believe what they saw was "real"? What evidence is there in the story for that reality? Are there clues to suggest that it might not be real? Does the fairy-tale quality of the first sentence influence your reading of the story?



How to turn in this essay: a paper copy is due during class on the due date. Additionally, an electronic copy is due, prior to the beginning of class, on the due date, and it must be turned in to as a MS Word doc or docx file. Use the “file upload” method on the submit screen. You will be instructed during class about how to create a account, and how to turn in your work. Your essays will be considered late until both the paper copy and the electronic copies are turned in. All other rules for late work, as delineated in section fifteen of the course syllabus, also apply. Moreover, your electronic turn-in must be an exact duplicate of the paper copy. In other words, no further corrections or revisions will be accepted. Also, if the electronic and paper copies do not match up it will have a negative impact on the assignment’s grade.



Due Date: 10/2/08