Hamlet “Perfect” Intros

Pre-AP Lit test, I’m posting some old school-work. Maybe it’ll help someone else out?

Also, don’t use my work as your own, teachers have plagiarism checkers.


Prompt 1 (2001)

One definition of madness is “mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it.” But Emily Dickenson once wrote, “much madness is divinest sense – / To a discerning eye – …” Novelists and playwrights often have seen madness with a “discerning eye.” Show how the apparent madness or delusional behavior of a character in Hamlet plays an important role. Write an essay in which you explain what the eccentric behavior consists of and how it may be judged reasonable. Explain the significance of the “madness” to the work as a whole without merely summarizing plot.

A primary part of Hamlet’s revenge plot against Claudius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare is pretending to be mad, and luring Claudius into a false sense of security. Hamlet’s artificial madness begins to appear true, as he speaks to his father’s ghost, which his mother cannot see or hear; though he claims to be of sound mind, he gets more desperate as the play moves along. His madness manifests mainly in his dialogue with Polonius and others, and is explained as heartbreak over Ophelia’s rejection, when really, it is a ploy to murder Claudius and save him father’s doomed soul from purgatory.


Prompt 2 (2000)

Many works not readily identified with mystery or detective genre literature nonetheless involve the investigation of a mystery. In these works, the solution to the mystery may be less important than the knowledge gained in the process of investigation. Identify a mystery in Hamlet and explain how the investigation illuminates the meaning of the work as a whole without merely summarizing plot.

Hamlet’s pretend madness stems from a wish to be underestimated, in order to investigate the claims of his father’s specter that Claudius had murdered him in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. King Hamlet’s death was a great mystery to his son, and verifying the specter’s claims, before killing Claudius in revenge is Hamlet’s main goal in pretended to be mad, an artifice that slowly begins leading him deeper into his own madness, consumed by his investigation of Claudius, and unable to bring himself to act until his last moments.


Prompt 3 (1988)

In many distinguished novels and plays some of the most significant events are mental or psychological – for example, awakenings, discoveries, changes in consciousness. In a well-organized essay, describe, describe how Shakespeare managers to give such an internal event or events the sense of excitement, suspense, and climax usually associated with external action in Hamlet. Do not merely summarize plot.

With vivid imagery and deeply affecting metaphor, Hamlet has a pivotal, emotional, and nearly entirely mental scene as he delivers his “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Physically in this scene, Hamlet is alone in a room with his thoughts, but internally he grapples with the nature of life and death, contemplating suicide and the fate of his immortal soul. Ultimately, after this scene is when Hamlet finally begins to act, having decided to live, after an arduous battle with his own consciousness, and do what needs to be done.


Prompt 4 (1994)

In some works of literature, a character who appears briefly or not at all is a significant presence. Show how such a character functions in Hamlet, discussing how the character affects action, theme, or the development of other characters. Avoid merely summarizing plot.

Hamlet the king, though only appearing in two scenes throughout the play of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, is the driving force of the play. His ghost speaks to the titular Hamlet, the prince, encouraging revenge for his murder and thus beginning Hamlet’s long, deliberative revenge plot, the very essence of the play. King Hamlet’s ghost guides Prince Hamlet’s actions, including Claudius’s murder, and serves to heighten his madness when Gertrude cannot see the specter her son claims is his father. Though appearing briefly, King Hamlet is Prince Hamlet’s motivation in everything he does throughout the course of the play, a literal ghost of the past hanging over his head.

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AP Lit Review: Hamlet

Title: Hamlet by William Shakespeare   

Date of Publication: 1603, first performance in 1609                      

Genre: Tragedy


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories and these works remain regarded as some of the best work produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.

Shakespeare’s plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

He wrote about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, of which the authorship of some is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Elizabethan literature, body of works written during the reign of Elizabeth I of England (1558–1603), probably the most splendid age in the history of English literature, with writers such as Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Roger Ascham, Richard Hooker, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare. Elizabethan is merely a chronological reference and does not describe any special characteristic of the writing.


Plot summary:

Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. He returns home from school for his father’s funeral, and his mother’s marriage to his uncle Claudius, which enrages him. He learns (from the ghost of his father) that Claudius poisoned his father. Hamlet pretends to be insane to lure Claudius into a false sense of security, while he plots revenge. He tests the ghost’s sincerity by staging a lay, in which a man poisons his king brother the same way Claudius poisoned the older Hamlet. He determines the ghost was truthful. Hamlet struggles with killing Claudius, and has a monologue where he considers killing himself. He ends up killing Polonius (stabbing him through a curtain) thinking him to be Claudius. Polonius is the father of the love of his life, Ophelia, who rejected him at her father and brother Laertes behest. Claudius sends Hamlet to England with Rosencratz and Gildenstern, ordering Hamlet’s death. Hamlet intercepts the letter and alters the instructions to killing the other two. Ophelia, distraught over her father’s death, drowns herself, prompting her brother to challenge Hamlet to a duel. Laertes poisoned his sword, but the swords are switched in battle, both Hamlet and Laertes are nicked by the poison tip. Gertrude the Queen) drinks wine poisoned by Claudius intended for Hamlet. Hamlet kills Claudius finally in retaliation for him mother’s death. Everyone dies except Horiatio. The Prince of Norway, Fortinbras comes to claim the kingdom.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

1 – “Doubt thou the stars are fire;

Doubt that the sun doth move;

Doubt truth to be a liar;

But never doubt I love.”

 

  1. “To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;

 

  1. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

 

4- “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

 

  1. “Conscience doth make cowards of us all.”

Significance of opening scene:

The opening scene shows guards witnessing the ghost of Hamlet the King, showing that Prince Hamlet is not the only one who sees the specter, lending to the credibility that his madness was pretend as he claimed.


Significance of closing scene:

The closing scene has virtually every named character not already decreased die, including Laertes, Hamlet, Gertrude, and Claudius. Horatio lives to tell their story, and Fortinbras claims Denmark for Norway.


Characters

        Name       Role in the story and significance       Adjectives

  1.  Hamlet – The prince of denmark. Protagonist. Depressed, pretending to be mad, may actually be mad. Plots revenge against Claudius, but slowly and deliberately. In love with Ophelia.
  2. Claudius – Hamlet’s uncle and stepfather. Killed King Hamlet, married Gertrude. Plots to kill Hamlet the prince as well.
  3. Ophelia – Hamlet’s love. Daughter of Polonius, sister of Laertes. Listens to her family’s warnings and rejects Hamlet. Drowns herself after her father’s death, prompting Laertes to kill Hamlet.
  4. Laertes – Ophelia’s brother. Spends most of the play in France. Quicker to act than Hamlet, a foil to him. Immediately demands revenge. Is convinced by Claudius to poison his sword in a duel.
  5. Rosencratz and Gildenstern – Two of Hamlet’s best friends from school/childhood. He is excited to see them until they reveal that they only came to visit on Claudius’s orders. When Hamlet intercepts Claudius’s letter to the king of England ordering his death, Hamlet orders the death of Rosencratz and Gildenstern.

Setting: Denmark, early 1600s


Symbols:

Yorick’s Skull – Hamlet’s realizations about death and life; where everyone ends up

Ophelia’s flowers – Representations of the characters she gifts them to.

Poison – leads to many deaths, many accidental

The ghost – Hamlet is concerned if it really is his father or a specter meant to trick him into dooming his immortal soul. Initially the guards can see it, but later, when Hamlet is entrenched in his pretend madness, Gertrude can not.


Themes for discussion:

Revenge – Hamlet is deliberative, while Laertes is brash.

Death and the afterlife – Hamlet is fixated on death, purgatory, and what becomes of a person when they have passed.

Family and invest  – Hamlet insists Claudius and Gertrude’s marriage amounts to incest.

Suicide – which Hamlet contemplates and Ophelia commits

 

Major Works – AP Lit Review: Frankenstein

Title: Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus

Author: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Date of Publication: January 1, 1818

Genre:  Gothic science fiction


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Mary Shelly was raised by her father after the death of her mother when she was a month old. Her father was an author himself, which inspired Shelly. She married Percy Shelly, a friend of her father’s after his first wife committed suicide. Their daughter died prematurely. Frankenstein is her most famous work, first written when she was 19.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Frankenstein is one of the most famous novels in the Gothic genre, it was written at a time when the Gothic novel was slowly giving way to the literary movement of Romanticism, and the novel shares the Romantic emphasis on the “sublime” power of nature.


 Plot summary:

Robert Walton, on a ship bound for the North Pole, writes letters to his sister back in England. Walton finds Victor Frankenstein, and brings him aboard the ship to bring him back to health. Frankenstein describes the circumstances that brought him to the ice and near death. Victor describes his childhood in Geneva, his “cousin” Elizabeth and best friend Henry Clerval. Victor enters the university of Ingolstadt to study natural philosophy and chemistry. There, he is consumed by the desire to discover the secret of life and, after several years of research, becomes convinced that he has found it.

Upon completing his creation, he finds he has made a terrible mistake and runs away, falling ill with a fever. Henry nurses him back to helath. Victor returns to Geneva when a letter comes informing him that his youngest brother, William, has been murdered. While passing through the woods where William was strangled, he catches sight of the monster and becomes convinced that the monster is his brother’s murderer. Arriving in Geneva, Victor finds that Justine Moritz, a kind, gentle girl who had been adopted by the Frankenstein household, has been accused. She is tried, condemned, and executed, despite her assertions of innocence.

The monster approaches Victor. The monster begs Victor to create a mate for him, a monster equally grotesque to serve as his sole companion. Victor refuses at first, horrified by the prospect of creating a second monster. The monster is eloquent and persuasive, however, and he eventually convinces Victor. Horrified by the possible consequences of his work, Victor destroys his new creation. The monster, enraged, vows revenge, swearing that he will be with Victor on Victor’s wedding night. The next morning, Clerval is found murdered. Victor marries Elizabeth. He fears the monster’s warning and suspects that he will be murdered on his wedding night. To be cautious, he sends Elizabeth away to wait for him. While he awaits the monster, he hears Elizabeth scream and realizes that the monster had been hinting at killing his new bride, not himself. Victor vows to devote the rest of his life to finding the monster and exacting his revenge, and he soon departs to begin his quest.

Victor tracks the monster ever northward into the ice. Walton encounters Victor. Victor, already ill when the two men meet, worsens and dies shortly thereafter. The monster tells Walton of his immense solitude, suffering, hatred, and remorse. He asserts that now that his creator has died, he too can end his suffering. The monster then departs for the northernmost ice to die.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

  1. I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.

  2. Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
    To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
    From darkness to promote me?

  3. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light?

  4. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.

  5. I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.

Significance of opening scene:

The novel opens with letters from Robert Walton to his sister. Walton has set out on a sea-faring venture after failing as a poet, and writes to his sister back home of his experiences – such as finding a man we learn to be Victor Frankenstein who recounts his story to Walton, which Walton then transcribes for his sister to read. This lends credibility to the story, as it sets the story of Frankenstein in the real world.


Significance of closing scene:

The end is told in Walton’s letters just as the beginning is. Walton tells his sister he is returning to England, at his crew’s insistence after nearly perishing in ice. Frankenstein dies, and Walton meets the monster, hears the monster’s tale of misery, and pities him before remembering his friend’s tale. The monster leaves, with the intent to die alone, Walton being the last human to ever have to see him.


Characters

 

  1. Victor Frankenstein – The doomed protagonist and narrator of the main portion of the story. Studying in Ingolstadt, Victor discovers the secret of life and creates an intelligent but grotesque monster, from whom he recoils in horror. Victor keeps his creation of the monster a secret, feeling increasingly guilty and ashamed as he realizes how helpless he is to prevent the monster from ruining his life and the lives of others.
  2. The Monster – The eight-foot-tall, hideously ugly creation of Victor Frankenstein. Intelligent and sensitive, the monster attempts to integrate himself into human social patterns, but all who see him shun him. His feeling of abandonment compels him to seek revenge against his creator.
  3. Robert Walton – The Arctic seafarer whose letters open and closeFrankenstein. Walton picks the bedraggled Victor Frankenstein up off the ice, helps nurse him back to health, and hears Victor’s story. He records the incredible tale in a series of letters addressed to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England.
  4. Elizabeth Lavenza –  An orphan, four to five years younger than Victor, whom the Frankensteins’ adopt. In the 1818 edition of the novel, Elizabeth is Victor’s cousin, the child of Alphonse Frankenstein’s sister. In the 1831 edition, Victor’s mother rescues Elizabeth from a destitute peasant cottage in Italy. Elizabeth embodies the novel’s motif of passive women, as she waits patiently for Victor’s attention.
  5. Henry Clerval–  Victor’s boyhood friend, who nurses Victor back to health in Ingolstadt. After working unhappily for his father, Henry begins to follow in Victor’s footsteps as a scientist. His cheerfulness counters Victor’s moroseness.

Setting –

Time – Eighteenth century

Place – Geneva; the Swiss Alps; Ingolstadt; England and Scotland; the northern ice


Symbols:

Light –

In Frankenstein, light symbolizes knowledge, discovery, and enlightenment. The natural world is a place of dark secrets, hidden passages, and unknown mechanisms; the goal of the scientist is then to reach light.

Fire –
The dangerous and more powerful cousin of light is fire. The monster’s first experience with a still-smoldering flame reveals the dual nature of fire: he discovers excitedly that it creates light in the darkness of the night, but also that it harms him when he touches it.


Themes for discussion:

Knowledge –

The pursuit of knowledge is central to Frankenstein. Victor attempts to find knowledge beyond that of human limits – such as the secret to life. Walton has similar pursuits of knowledge in his quest towards the North pole. Knowledge can be dangerous, and lead to ones ruin.

Monstrosity –
Victor Frankenstein creates a monster – literally bringing it to life, and makes it monstrous by ignoring its creation, taking no responsibility for the life he creates. The monster is not monstrous until he is repeated denied love and acceptance and so becomes as monstrous as all assume him to be. Victor himself is a kind of monster, as his ambition, secrecy, and selfishness alienate him from human society. Ordinary on the outside, he may be the true “monster” inside, as he is eventually consumed by an obsessive hatred of his creation.

Major Works Data Sheet – The Metamorphosis

Major Works Data Sheet

Title: The Metamorphosis

Author: Franz Kafka

Date of Publication: Originally published in 1915, first english translation in 1933

Genre: Absurdist fiction, novella, slipstream fiction


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):
Born to Jewish parents in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kafka lived through the turmoil of the First World War. The death and destruction which ravaged Central and Western Europe most definitely had an impact on Kafka’s aesthetics. He actually never completed a full-length novel, and is most famous for his novella The Metamorphosis.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

20th century Existentialism. Existentialism is characterized by the absurd and isolated nature of human existence.


Plot summary:

The story begins with Gregor Samsa waking up, and realizing he has turned into a gigantic bug. He tries his hardest to move, but is weird in his new body. In this part, you learn that Gregor is a hard worker who brings home money for his family. His mother, father, and sister Grete all try to get into Gregor’s room. When he does not show up to work, his manger comes to the apartment to see what is wrong. The manager and the family soon discover that Gregor has changed into a bug, and they are all disgusted by him. The father, with a newspaper, urges Gregor back inside his room, hitting him. The door closes behind Gregor, and everything becomes silent. You can see the beginning of Gregor’s alienation from the society and his family. Gregor goes into his room, and his family struggle to support themselves without Gregor. Grete starts to bring food into his room in a caring way, but soon becomes frustrated and wants him out. Whenever

AP Lit and Comp Flores P.3

Gregor leaves the room, he is pushed back in, with his father throwing apples one time that permanently debilitates Gregor. The family takes in lodgers, who Gregor scares away when he tries to listen to Grete’s music. After this incident, everyone decides that Gregor must go. Gregor, hearing this, dies to stay out of his family’s way. Freed from Gregor’s burden, the Samsas realize that their lives aren’t as bad as they previously thought, and think about finding Grete a husband.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

1. “I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”

2. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

3. “He was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone.”

4. “What a fate: to be condemned to work for a firm where the slightest negligence at once gave rise to the gravest suspicion! Were all the employees nothing but a bunch of scoundrels, was there not among them one single loyal devoted man who, had he wasted only an hour or so of the firm’s time in the morning, was so tormented by conscience as to be driven out of his mind and actually incapable of leaving his bed?”

5. “He thought back on his family with deep emotion and love. His conviction that he would have to disappear was, if possible, even firmer than his sister’s. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three in the morning. He still saw that outside the window everything was beginning to grow light. Then, without his consent, his head sank down to the floor, and from his nostrils streamed his last weak breath.”


Significance of opening scene :

Here is where we first learn that Gregor Samsa is an insect. From this observation, it becomes clear that there will be a major change in the family dynamics, as well as in Gregor’s life itself. It appears that Gregor will no longer be able to work and continue his life as before, which sets up the main conflict in the novella. All other occurrences in the plot derive from the problem in the opening scene.

 


Significance of closing scene :

Gregor’s “Death”, as well as his family’s reaction to it, reveal the depth of their affection for him, or rather, the reality of their lack of it. The family is unconcerned about his passing, and welcome it, feeling as if Gregor was a burden to them. They focus instead on Grete, on her beauty and vivaciousness, planning a future for her. This focus, attention, and care for her future was never afforded Gregor, which in and of itself is another reminder of how much Gregor gave the family, and how little he received from them in return.


Characters
1. Gregor Samsa – Main Character, becomes a bug, works to Caring, overworked to repay his family debt.

2. Mr. Samsa – Gregor’s Father, his debt is what Gregor pays off. Overbearing, irritable, uncaring, lazy

3. Mrs. Samsa – Gregor’s Mother, attempts to take care of Gregor, Dutiful, loving

4. Grete Samsa – Gregor’s Sister. Begins taking care of Gregor, but soon wants Gregor out of the house.

5.The Charwoman – The housekeeper. She discovers Gregor’s to treat Gregor as if he had intelligence. Disposes of Gregor’s corpse.


Setting :

The apartment of the Samsa Family, over a period of several months. It is never clear exactly what city this apartment is in.


Symbols :
The apple – Original sin, the sins of the father cast upon the son.
The three lodgers – The holy trinity, also possibly the new responsibilities the family had to take on.
The father’s uniform – Authority, work, consequences of Gregor no longer working.
The charwoman’s feather – Capitalism, the importance of appearances.
Grete’s violin – A symbol of Gregor’s love for his family and of leisure which he never had.
Gregor as a Bug – His uselessness and how his family sees him, as he can no longer produce for them.


Themes for discussion :
The importance of communication, the importance of family, identity, familial duty, duty towards one’s self, money and monetary value, work

Major Works – AP Lit Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author:  Khaled Hosseini

Date of Publication:  May 22, 2007

Genre: Historical Fiction


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

 Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1980. He is A U.S. Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations Refugee Agency, and the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

A Thousand Splendid Suns came out about a decade ago, so there isn’t much to say about literary time period, as its modern day. It is based on real historical events in Afghanistan. Sometimes, the current literary time period is called Post- Postmodernism.


Plot summary:
Mariam grows up outside Herat, a small city in Afghanistan in the 19600’s. She lives with her mother, Nana, and is visited once a week by her father Jalil, who is a successful businessman, she is his only illegitimate child. Mariam wants to have a greater part in Jalil’s life, and asks to see Pinocchio for her 15th birthday. He agrees, but never comes to get her. She walks to his home, which she has never visited, and is not let inside, she so sleeps on the street. Her mother warns her not to go, but she leaves anyway. The next day, the driver takes her home, and they find her mother has hanged herself. After the funeral, she goes to Jalil’s home, where he and his wives force her to marry Rasheed, and older widow from Kabul. He intends for her to replace the son who died years ago, but after facing several miscarriages, he beings to treat her cruelly. In the same neighborhood, Laila grows up, a young, intelligent girl. The war kills her two older brothers. Laila and her best friend Tariq fall in love as teenagers, Tariq and his family flee to Pakistan. The day Laila’s family decides to leave, a bomb hits their house, killing her parents. Rasheed and Mariam nurse Laila back to health and after she recovers, a stranger, Abdul Sharif brings her news that Tariq has died. Devastated and realizing she’s pregnant with Tariq’s child, Laila agrees to marry Rasheed. Mariam is initially hurt and threatened by Laila’s presence and refuses to have anything to do with her. However, after Laila gives birth to a daughter, Aziza, the women come to see themselves as allies against Rasheed’s abusive, manipulative ways. A few years later, Laila gives birth to a son, Zalmai. Then, one afternoon, after years of abuse and sadness, Laila is shocked to see a man standing at her front door: Tariq. Rasheed fins out and beats Laila. With a shovel, Mariam kills Rasheed. The next day, Mariam turns herself over to the Taliban in an effort to clear the way for Laila to find sanctuary for herself and her children in Pakistan with Tariq. Laila visits Mariam’s old home and is able to come to terms with her grief over Mariam’s execution. Laila and Tariq build a new life in Kabul: Laila becomes a schoolteacher at the orphanage where Aziza once lived. And when Laila becomes pregnant, she decides that if she has a girl, she’ll name her Mariam.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

  1. She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion—like the phantom pain of an amputee.
  2. These women were—what was the word Rasheed had used?—”modern.” Yes, modern Afghan women married to modern Afghan men who did not mind that their wives walked among strangers with makeup on their faces and nothing on their heads.
  3. To me, it’s nonsense—and very dangerous nonsense at that—all this talk of I’m a Tajik and you’re a Pashtun and he’s Hazara and she’s Uzbek. We’re all Afghans, and that’s all that should matter.
  4. She understood what Nana meant, that a harami was an unwanted thing; that she, Mariam, was an illegitimate person who would never have legitimate claim to the things other people had, things such as love, family, home, acceptance. 
  5. She picked up ten pebbles and arranged them vertically, in three columns. […] She put four pebbles in the first column, for Khadija’s children, three for Afsoon’s, and three in the third column for Nagis’s children. Then she added a fourth column. A solitary, eleventh pebble.

Significance of opening scene:

The opening scene depicts Mariam, the first time her mother calls her a “harami” – literally “bastard child”. The word harami marks Mariam as an illegitimate child, and the way her mother says it to her, makes Mariam feel unworthy of things like love, a family, or a home, a recurring feeling throughout the novel, as she attempts to escape the sting and stigma of what she is. 


Significance of closing scene:

In the closing scene, Laila, Tariq, Aziza, and Zalmai have found the better life Mariam sacrificed herself for. Laila is a schoolteacher, and once again pregnant. The family debates baby names, but only for boys, as Laila has already decided that a girl will be named “Mariam”, showing that Mariam’s sacrifice was not in vain, and that happiness was in deed possible.


Characters

 Name /  Role in the story and significance  / Adjectives

  1. Mariam – Mariam is one of two female protagonists. Born out of wedlock to a rich and married businessman (Jalil) and his former housekeeper (Nana). After her mother’s suicide at 15, her father forces her into an arranged marriage. Mariam is plagued by guilt that controls her for much of her life, which contributes to her tolerance at being married to the abusive Rasheed. Mariam’s inability to have children turns her into a resentful, bitter, and fearful woman. Through her love for Laila and Laila’s children, Mariam is able to fulfill her wish to be a mother and to finally give and receive love. She eventually sacrifices her life for theirs, turning herself in to the Taliban after killing Rasheed.
  2. Laila – Laila the second female protagonist, is the youngest child and only daughter of Hakim and Fariba. Laila has a strong desire to use her intelligence and education to improve the world around her. Laila falls in love with her best friend since childhood, Tariq. Him and his family flee to Pakistan, and days later, a bomb kills Laila’s parents. Rasheed and Mariam take her in, and Rasheed marries her as well, hoping she can give him a child. Laila decides to marry Rasheed in order to give her unborn child by Tariq a father. At the end, when she and Tariq are reunited and expecting another child, she plans to name the child after Mariam if it is a girl.
  3. Rasheed – Rasheed is a widowed shoemaker whose first wife and son died many years before his marriage to 15-year-old Mariam. Rasheed is constrictive and, upon Mariam’s multiple miscarriages, cruel. He is demanding, and easily angered. With Zalmai, Rasheed is patient, loving, kind, and gentle. Eventually result in Mariam kills him in self-defense.
  4. Tariq – Tariq grows up near Laila in Kabul. He lost his leg to a landmine when he’s very young. He and Laila are best friends as children and become lovers as teenagers. Upon his reunion with Laila, he learns of his daughter Aziza, and after marrying Laila and moving her to Pakistan, Tariq takes care of Zalmai as if he was his own son.
  5. Jalil – Mariam’s father and a wealthy businessman, Jalil abandons Mariam, his only illegitimate child, at his wives’ wishes. Years later, he finds Mariam to express his deep regret for her childhood and his love for her.

Setting:

Afghanistan from the early 1960s to the early 2000s.


Symbols:

Pinocchio –

Mariam wants to go see Pinocchio with her father for her 15th birthday, and his failure to take her sets off the chain of events that leads to Nana’s suicide and Mariam’s marriage to Rasheed. It is the end of her relationship with Jalil. It is also the olive branch he extends her, as the movie is found in the box Laila is given by Mullah Faizullah’s son.


Themes for discussion:

Family –

Family plays a large role in the novel. Laila is very close with her family, whereas Mariam barely knows hers do to her status as an illegitimate child. Much of Mariam’s life is spent in search for a family, and she faces miscarriage, after miscarriage, constantly denying her that, until Laila and Aziza.

Women in Society –

The women in Afghanistan face strict standards, though when Mariam first arrives in Kabul there are many with a “more modern” view of how a woman can dress or act, especially when the war comes to Kabul, treatment of women takes a turn for the worst, and more traditionally conservative.

War –

Most of the problems and changes that plague Kabul are a result of war, first civil war and then American invasion. These problems include bombings, killings, and strict enforcing of laws and regulations of what woman can and cannot do. All based on historical fact.

Major Works Data Sheet – The Importance of Being Earnest

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wilde

Date of Publication: 1898, First Performed 1895

Genre: Satire, Comedy of Manners


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Author, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde was a popular literary figure in late Victorian England, known for his brilliant wit, flamboyant style and infamous imprisonment for homosexuality. Known for satirical and comedic writing. His lover’s father had him tried for “indecency” for being homosexual. He died two years after leaving prison with a broken spirit, broke, of cerebral meningitis. He was a proponent of aestheticism and thought art should be made for art’s sake.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Victorian period, responsibility to society and moral values were extremely important. Etiquette and proper behavior were key, and they would often avoid using words with sexual connotations. During the time period, prosperity flourished and the Victorians were self-assured and self confident. People started to question Christianity, moving towards more scientific thinking. In households, males were the dominant authority and women were to be submissive. However; unmarried women had more power than married women.


Plot summary:

The play begins in the city, when Jack stops by Algernon’s place and is questioned about a cigar case that is found by Algernon with an inscription written on the inside addressed to Jack from a woman named Cecily. Algernon is baffled by this since Jack is completely infatuated by Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen. This is where Jack’s identity is discovered, and where Jack learns about Bunburying. Algernon’s aunt, Lady Bracknell, and his cousin, Gwendolen, stop by for a visit and Jack reveals the real reason why he stopped by for a visit. Jack and Gwendolen find themselves alone, and Jack proposes to her. Lady Bracknell forbids the marriage because Jack

does not know his parents. Jack decides to kill of his Bunbury Ernest because he is becoming troublesome to him. He goes back to his home in the country, however, to his surprise, Ernest is already waiting for him at home. Algernon claims to be Jacks brother Ernest and has fallen desperately in love with Jacks charge, Cecily. But just like the good father figure he is, Jack refuses to allow his charges marriage. The situation deteriorates when Gwendolen arrives looking for her fiance, Ernest. The two infatuated girls icily argue over who has the proper claim to their lover, who they believe to be the same Ernest. The two Ernest’s arrive near the end of the argument, where Gwendolen and Cecily quickly realize that they have been deceived: each man has falsely claimed to be Ernest to suit their Bunburyist purpose. The men explain that they used their false names to meet their women. Though Cecily and Gwendolen forgive the men’s treachery, they are reluctant to marry men of such ordinary names. Jack and Algernon explain that they have made appointments to be christened Ernest, and all is forgiven. Lady Bracknell shows up, and forbids the two weddings until she learns Jack’s noble heritage, and the wealth Cecily would bring to her struggling nephew, Algernon. Jack learns that he is Algernon’s older brother, and that in fact his given name is Ernest. Jack learns his identity, and the the love interests finally come together.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

  1. “The truth is rarely pure, and never simple.”
  2. “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”
  3. “Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.”
  4. “I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.”
  5. “I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.”
  6. “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”
  7. “I never change, except in my affections.”
  8. “My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!”

Significance of opening scene:

In the opening scene, we first meet Algernon and Jack. We learn about their personalities, about Algernon’s flippant ridiculousness, and how Jack is pretending to be his fictional brother Earnest. We also learn about the concept of “Bunburying”, where someone creates a fictitious person or situation in order to avoid engagements or undertake merriment with little to no social or personal consequences. This theme will follow the protagonists throughout the play.


Significance of closing scene:

In the closing scene, we learn the truth about Jack (or really, Earnest’s) origins. We learn he is actually named Earnest and is the elder brother to Algernon. The end scene sees the happy resolution of many conflicts. Gwendolen and Jack are to be married, it appears so are Chasuble and Miss Prism, and Jack knows who his family is. No one has faced any consequence for their previous deceitful behavior, showing how Victorian Society concerned itself only with appearances and not actual deeds.

 


Characters

  1. Jack – Protagonist, Gwendolen’s suitor Deceitful, irritable, exasperated
  2. Algernon – Cecily’s suitor, Jack’s friend, pretends to be Ernest Flamboyant, flirtatious
  3. Gwendolyn – Algernon’s cousin, engaged to Jack
  4. Cecily – Engaged to Algernon, Jack’s ward, Delusional and superficial
  5. Lady Bracknell – Algernon’s aunt, Gwendolyn’s mother, Superficial, self-confident, society-focused

Setting:

Hertfordshire and London. London is the City in which Jack pretends to be Ernest, and where Lady Bracknell resides with Algernon and Gwendolen. The city is a symbol for high society, and those who live within it are portrayed as superficial and somewhat whimsical in their likes and actions. In the country is where Algernon pretends to be Ernest.


Symbols:

Food – Excess/Overindulgence
Tea Service – Societal conventions concealing other motives or attitudes Christening – Fluid nature of identity
Diaries – Fiction versus Reality


Themes for discussion:

The importance of Being Earnest, The importance of adhering to Society, Lies and deceit, Marriage, Respect and Reputation, Society and Class, Gender, Love.

Major Works – AP Lit Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Title: Pride and Prejudice

Author:  Jane Austen

Date of Publication: 1813

Genre: Comedy, Coming-of-Age, Literary Fiction


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Jane Austen was born in Steventon, England, in 1775. Her father was the rector of the local parish and taught her largely at home. She began to write while in her. Pride and Prejudice was published in January 1813, two years after Sense and Sensibility, her first novel, and it achieved a popularity that has endured to this day. Austen published four more novels: Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. The last two were published in 1818, a year after her death. During Austen’s life, however, only her immediate family knew of her authorship of these novels. 19th century England was not a time in which notability as a female author was a good thing.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Pride and Prejudice is from the Romantic Period of Literature. Romanticism is marked by imagination, intuition, individuality, idealism, and inspiration. Between 1797, when a young Jane Austen began work on what would become Pride and Prejudice, and 1813, when the novel was published, the French Revolution was fought, Marie Antoinette was guillotined and Napoleon rose to power and conquered most of Western Europe. Closer to Austen’s home, Great Britain combined with Ireland to become the United Kingdom. From the 16th well into the 19th century, respectable wealth in England was accumulated primarily through the ownership of land.


Plot summary:

The Bennet’s have five unmarried daughters—from oldest to youngest, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia—and Mrs. Bennet is desperate to see them all married. A wealthy young man named Charles Bingley moves to the nearby manor Mansfield Park. Bingley is charmed by Jane Bennet, but his friend Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth and comes off as arrogant and obnoxious. Darcy begins to warm up to Elizabeth over several social gathering, while Bingley’s sister is upset at the attention he pays to Lizzie rather than her. Mr. Collins comes to visit, a distant cousin of the Bennet’s. The Bennet home is entailed to him upon Mr. Bennet’s death due to a lack of male heirs. Collins proposes to Lizzie, but she turns him down, much to her mother’s annoyance and father’s contentment. Mr. Collins marries Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte instead. The Bennet sisters meet militia officers who are staying in town, including George Wickham, who tells Lizzie that Darcy once cheated him out of his inheritance. Lizzie visits Charlotte and Mr. Collins at the home of his patron Catherine de Bourgh, who is Darcy’s aunt. Darcy proposes to Lizzie and she refuses, calling him arrogant and telling him off for warning Bingley off Jane and for what he did to Wickham. Darcy rights Elizabeth a letter, stating that his disagreement with Wickham is from the fact that the man tried to elope with his sister. Wickham elopes with Lydia, the youngest Bennet instead, bringing shame on the family as they live out of wedlock. He agrees to marry her if he is given an annual salary. Elizabeth learns that the source of the money, and of her family’s salvation, was none other than Darcy. Bingley proposes to Jane, and Darcy tells Elizabeth that his feelings for her have not changed. Elizabeth accepts Darcy’s proposal, and both girls are married.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  2. “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
  3. “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
  4. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in her admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
  5. Elizabeth was much too embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.” 

Significance of opening scene:

The opening scene is a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, about the arrival of “a young man with large fortune” moving into Netherfield. Mrs. Bennet shares her intention to introduce their daughters, and have him marry one of them, which sets in motion the events of the entire novel.


Significance of closing scene:

            Elizabeth marries Darcy, making her mother extremely happy and Lady Catherine extremely vexed. Georgiana moves to Pemberly with Elizabeth and Darcy, and they retain on good terms with Lydia and Miss Bingley, though Wickham is not welcome. Lizzie and Darcy are on great terms with the Gardiners, and credit them with uniting them. The closing scene shows how everyone ends up, and shows the happiness of the main couple.


Characters

 Name / Role in the story and significance / Adjectives

  1. Elizabeth Bennet–  The protagonist. The second eldest daughter the Bennet’s, Elizabeth is the most intelligent and sensible of the five Bennet sisters. Her father’s favorite. She eventually falls in love with Darcy, despite being put off by his pride for much of the novel.
  2. Fitzwilliam Darcy–  A wealthy gentleman, the master of Pemberley, and the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Darcy is intelligent and honest, and his excess of pride causes him to look down on others, which makes Lizzie hate him for much of the novel. After a while, his class-consciousness wanes and he learns to admire and love Elizabeth for her strong character.
  3. George Wickham–  A handsome, fortune-hunting militia officer. Wickham’s good looks and charm attract Elizabeth initially, but Darcy’s revelation about Wickham’s disreputable past clues her in to his true nature and simultaneously draws her closer to Darcy. He eventually is paid off by Darcy, after Wickham elopes with Lydia.
  4. Mr. Collins–  A pompous, idiotic clergyman who is entailed to inherit Mr. Bennet’s property, due to a lack of other male heirs. He takes great pains to let everyone and anyone know that Lady Catherine de Bourgh serves as his patroness. He is the worst combination of snobbish and obsequious. He proposes to Elzabeth, when she refuses him, he marries Charlotte.

5. Charles Bingley –  Darcy’s considerably wealthy best friend. Bingley’s purchase of Netherfield, an estate near the Bennet’s, begins the novel. He is easygoing in contrast with Darcy. He is blissfully uncaring about class differences. He marries Jane, the eldest Bennet.


Setting:

Netherfield Park, Rosings Park, and Pemberley. All in 19th century England.


Symbols:

PEMBERLEY – Pemberley, Darcy’s estate is a geographic symbol of the man who owns it. Elizabeth visits is enchanted by its beauty and charm, where later she will feel the same about the Darcy himself. In contrast, she hates the home of Mr. Collins, it feels too impersonal and lavish for sake of lavishness to her, just as she does not like Collins himself.


Themes for discussion:

Reputation –

Reputation, specifically a woman’s reputation plays a large role in the novel. Mrs. Bennet wants her daughters in good marriages for the families’ reputation and to ensure they are well off. When Lydia runs off Wickham, the emphasis is on the damage to her reputation for living with a man out of wedlock, and the damages it does to her sister’s reputation.

Class –

Class-consciousness is strong in 19th century England. Darcy warns Bingley away from Jane because he feels the affections are not serious, they are beneath them in class, and views Mrs. Bennet as a gold digger. Mrs. Bennet is in fact infatuated with the fact that Bingley and Darcy are of a higher class, and would be good matches for her daughters. Class drives most of Darcy’s pride.

Marriage –

Mrs. Bennet’s main goal is to see her daughter’s married, as at the time, a good marriage was the only thing a girl could do to secure her future. A girl being unmarried was also a source of shame, ie. Lydia and Wickham. Charlotte marries Collins despite barely tolerating him, because it is the best match she can hope for, and it removes her from being a burden to her parents.

 

Major Works Data Sheet – 1984

Major Works Data Sheet

Title:    1984

Author:  George Orwell

Date of Publication: 1949

Genre:  Dystopian Fiction


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

George Orwell is the pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair. He wrote about the despairing realities of British colonialism and the working class struggles. Many of his works were influenced by this, and later influenced by the aftermath of the World Wars.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

1984 was heavily influenced by Orwell’s thoughts and experiences particularly during and after World War 2.


Plot summary:

Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. The Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Winston dislikes the party and has illegally purchased a diary in which to write his criminal thoughts. He has also become fixated on a powerful Party member named O’Brien. Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, where he alters historical records to fit the needs of the Party. He notices a coworker, a beautiful dark-haired girl, staring at him, and worries that she is an informant who will turn him in for his thoughtcrime. He is troubled by the Party’s control of history: the Party claims that Oceania has always been allied with Eastasia in a war against Eurasia, but Winston seems to recall a time when this was not true. The Party also claims that Emmanuel Goldstein, the alleged leader of the Brotherhood, is the most dangerous man alive, but this does not seem plausible to Winston. Winston begins an affair with the dark haired girl, who’s name is Julia. As Winston’s affair with Julia progresses, his hatred for the Party grows more and more intense. At last, he receives the message that he has been waiting for: O’Brien wants to see him. O’Brien confirms to Winston and Julia that, like them, he hates the Party, and says that he works against it as a member of the Brotherhood. He indoctrinates Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood, and gives Winston a copy of Emmanuel Goldstein’s book, the manifesto of the Brotherhood. Winston and Julia are separated and Winston finds that O’Brien, too, is a Party spy who simply pretended to be a member of the Brotherhood in order to trap Winston into committing an open act of rebellion against the Party. O’Brien spends months torturing and brainwashing Winston, who struggles to resist. At last, O’Brien sends him to the dreaded Room 101, the final destination for anyone who opposes the Party. Here, O’Brien tells Winston that he will be forced to confront his worst fear. Throughout the novel, Winston has had recurring nightmares about rats; O’Brien now straps a cage full of rats onto Winston’s head and prepares to allow the rats to eat his face. Winston snaps, pleading with O’Brien to do it to Julia, not to him.

Giving up Julia is what O’Brien wanted from Winston all along. His spirit broken, Winston is released to the outside world. He meets Julia but no longer feels anything for her. He has accepted the Party entirely and has learned to love Big Brother.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

  1. war is peace 
    freedom is slavery
    ignorance is strength
  2. Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
  3. In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
  4. And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested.
  5. And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there’s no other way of saving yourself and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself.

Significance of opening scene:

Winton is a low level worker, and the reader is introduced to the world of 1984, full of Telescreens and other oddities.


Significance of closing scene:

Nothing of this world is rectified as Winston sought it to be, he has succumbed to the whim of the Party. Presumably, just as all those before him and all those after him. Horrifying, because this world persists, with no end in sight.


Characters

  Name  Role in the story and significance  Adjectives

  1. Winston Smith–  A minor member of the ruling Party in near-future London, Winston Smith is a thin, frail, contemplative, intellectual, and fatalistic thirty-nine-year-old. Winston hates the totalitarian control and enforced repression that are characteristic of his government. He harbors revolutionary dreams.
  2. Julia–  Winston’s lover, a beautiful dark-haired girl working in the Fiction Department at the Ministry of Truth. Julia enjoys sex, and claims to have had affairs with many Party members. Julia is pragmatic and optimistic. Her rebellion against the Party is small and personal, for her own enjoyment, in contrast to Winston’s ideological motivation.
  3. O’Brien–  A mysterious, powerful, and sophisticated member of the Inner Party whom Winston believes is also a member of the Brotherhood, the legendary group of anti-Party rebels.
  4. Big Brother–  Though he never appears in the novel, and though he may not actually exist, Big Brother, the perceived ruler of Oceania, is an extremely important figure. Everywhere Winston looks he sees posters of Big Brother’s face bearing the message“BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” Big Brother’s image is stamped on coins and broadcast on the unavoidable telescreens; it haunts Winston’s life and fills him with hatred and fascination.
  5. Charrington–  An old man who runs a secondhand store in the prole district. Kindly and encouraging, Mr. Charrington seems to share Winston’s interest in the past. He also seems to support Winston’s rebellion against the Party and his relationship with Julia, since he rents Winston a room without a telescreen in which to carry out his affair. But Mr. Charrington is not as he seems. He is a member of the Thought Police.

Setting:

 Alternate vision of 1984, in Oceania (what was once Britain)


Symbols:

 the telescreens and the posters of Big Brother (the Party’s constant surveillance of its subjects)

The glass paperweight (Winston’s desire to connect with the past) 


Themes for discussion:

The role of language and how it affects thought.

Freedom, and totalitarian vs socialist regimes.

How knowledge of the past or lack there-of can affect the present and fuure.

Major Works AP Review: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

Leading up to the AP Lit test now in May, knowing our classic literature is going to be of upmost importance. So, our teacher had us fill out these Major Works Data Sheets throughout the year. So I’m posting a slightly edited version for people to use to help them study if they want!


Title: The Death of Ivan Ilych

Author:  Leo Tolstoy

Date of Publication: 1886

Genre: Fiction / Philosophy


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Leo Tolstoy was born in Russia in 1828. His first novel, War and Peace, come out in the 1860s. He also wrote Anna Karenina. He is the youngest of four, his mother died when he was two, and his father died when he was seven, which lead him to idealize his childhood memories in his writing. After failing degrees in both languages and law, and failing at being a farmer, he joined the army at his brother’s suggestion. His novels fictionalize parts of his life.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Tolstoy wrote in Russia, during the literary period of Realism, a late-19th-century movement based on a simplification of style and image and an interest in poverty and everyday concerns. Both his most acclaimed novels illustrate the themes of realism well, focusing on the lives of peasants. He wrote not just of the characters, but about society, and people’s roles in society as well. Realism emphasizes writing life as it was really lived, and not idealized, which is how Tolstoy wrote his characters.


Plot summary:

The opening chapter is Ivan Ilych’s funeral, and the novella continues with the chronicle of how he died. Ivan lived his life well, he went to law school, got a good job, married a woman of decent social standing who he deemed acceptable, and was continually focused on doing what society that was correct. He withdrew into his work when his home life was less than perfect, such as the loss of three of his children. When Ivan gets a higher paying job, he sets about setting up a perfectly furnished home. While preoccupied with window curtain, he falls on the ladder and bangs his side into the window frame. As the pain grows, he goes to see a doctor. The doctor cannot give him a straight answer as to the severity of the injury, but says it is either a floating kidney, appendicitis, or chronic catarrh. Everything losses its appeal to Ivan, as the pain grows with, and no medication or treatment seems to help. He is plagued by thoughts of his own mortality, and Gerasim the sole person who is able to comfort Ivan. Ivan realizes that he may have lived correctly, but he did not live the life he should have, because he has not been happy since childhood. When he finally accepts this, he is overcome with joy, that he will at last end his family’s suffering, and he dies.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

  1. Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.
  2. ‘Maybe I did not live as I ought to have done,’ it suddenly occurred to him. ‘But how could that be, when I did everything properly?’ he replied, and immediately dismissed from his mind this, the sole solution of all the riddles of life and death, as something quite impossible.
  3. Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there at the bottom was a light…Just then his schoolboy son had crept softly in and gone up to the bedside. The dying man was still screaming desperately and waving his arms. His hand fell on the boy’s head, and the boy caught it, pressed it to his lips, and began to cry.
  4. For three whole days, during which time did not exist for him, he struggled in that black sack into which he was being thrust by an invisible, resistless force
  5. That very justification of his life held him fast and prevented his moving forward, and it caused him most torment of all.

Significance of opening scene:

The opening scene is Ivan’s funeral. Told from the perspective of Peter, a friend of Ivan’s. Peter is uncomfortable throughout, and much conversation revolves around matters such as what he has left his wife. Peter spends the funeral wishing to leave to go play cards, and when news first reached the courthouse of his death, his coworkers were more frustrated that they would have to make the trek to his house to pay condolences than truly sad of his passing. They were concerned with who would take his position. The scene is telling, because we learn Ivan lived for material and societal standards, but not for cultivating relationships, and this chapter shows the consequence of living that life – no one seems to truly care that he has died.


Significance of closing scene:

Ivan screams terribly for three days, struggles in agony against the “black sack” of death. When Ivan sees Vasya cry at his bedside, he accepts the realization that his life has not in fact been good, and realizes the best thing he can do is die, to relieve his family of their suffering. When he decides this, the pain fades away from him. Ivan’s pain is replaced with light, and he experiences no pain only joy for his last two hours, before he stretches out and dies. His pain was caused by his fighting against death, once he accepted what ad caused it, and its inevitability, it stopped causing him pain.


Characters

1-Ivan Ilych – Protagonist, the novella chronicles his death and his realizations on his death bed. Materialistic, fixated on society’s standards and expectations.

2-Gerasim – Ivan’s sick nurse and the butler’s assistant. Gerasim serves as a foil to Ivan: healthy, vigorous, direct, strong, he is everything that Ivan is not. He is the only one who comforts Ivan, and is the catalyst for Ivan’s realization that he didn’t live life as you should have.

3-Peter Ivanovich – One of Ivan’s closest friends and co-workers. While he appears only briefly, his character is telling, as he cares only about leaving to go play cards at Ivan’s funeral. High social standing. He is representative of the relationships Ivan had, which were not particularly close or warm.

4- Praskovya Fedorovna Golovina – Ivan’s wife. Ivan’s finds her nagging, and frustrating, and she is self-centered, concerned for her own trouble in terms of Ivan’s illness and death rather than his suffering. Two of her children survived, three died.

5-Vasya – Ivan’s son. Sensitive and quite, not yet enamored with the life style of his parents and sister or preoccupied with social standing. He reminds Ivan of himself as a child, from when he was happy.


Setting:

The early chapters of the book (2-3) cover most of Ivan’s life in 19th-century Russia. The main bulk of the story taking place in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg, mostly in Ivan’s house as he is homebound, between the years 1883-1884 (the year Ivan dies).


Symbols:

  • The pain in Ivan’s side that poisons his life and gives him a bad taste in his mouth is a symbol for how his materialism overall poisoned his life.
  • The Black Sack: This is how Ivan views death as a black sack he cannot escape (“For three whole days, during which time did not exist for him, he struggled in that black sack into which he was being thrust by an invisible, resistless force.”)

Themes for discussion:

  • Living the “Right Life”: Ivan is fixated on living life to society’s standards. His house must look a certain way, he must make a certain salary, etc.
  • The Inevitability of Death: Ivan cannot come to terms with his own mortality throughout much of his illness, cannot comprehend that he will in fact die. But his death is inevitable, he dies before the story even begins.
  • Inner Life vs. Outer Life: Ivan’s life was focused on the artificial, on the outermost aspects, on appearances, etc. But he ignored the things that may have made him happy. When he accepts this as truth, his physical pain is overtaken by inner joy that he will at last find peace.

 

School Required Reading Reviews: Pride & Prejudice / A Thousand Splendid Suns / The Death of Ivan Ilych

Okay, so…

These are really late. But, I wanted to post them anyways.

Enjoy!


1885

Original Release Date:

Published October 10th 2000 by Modern Library (first published 1813)

Date I Read The Book:

July 2017

My Star Rating:

4 Stars

Chronology:

Standalone

Official Summary:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”

My Review: (Vague Spoilers)

Pride And Prejudice Book Tag

This was one of my AP Lit summer reading books, though I would have read it at some point even if it weren’t required because I’ve read and loved so many retellings I felt I had to read the original at some point. I did feel knowing the story lessened my enjoyment at some points, because certain sections drag out in descriptions that sort of make my eyes glaze over, but I did truly enjoy it for most of the book. I prefer Emma though.


128029.jpg

Original Release Date:

Published May 22nd 2007 by Riverhead

Date I Read The Book:

July 2017

My Star Rating:

4 Stars

Chronology:

Standalone

Official Summary:

At once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them – in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul – they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

My Review: (Vague Spoilers)

This was one of our summer reading books for AP Lit this past year. Its well written, with amazingly real characters. I think its historically accurate, but I’m can’t be entirely certain. I am going to say its horribly depressing and I couldn’t really handle reading it for extended periods. If you like to cry when you read, you’ll enjoy this immensely.


18386

Original Release Date:

1886

Date I Read The Book:

November 2017

My Star Rating:

3 Stars

Chronology:

Novella

Official Summary:

Hailed as one of the world’s supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his dying so much as a passing thought. But one day, death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise, he is brought face to face with his own mortality.

How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

This short novel was an artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction.
A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

My Review: (Vague Spoilers)

I only just recently finished reading this in class for AP Lit. Maybe I’m a little traumatized because we had to write a three grade essay and stuff, but I didn’t like this very much. It was okay, I didn’t mind reading it, I just didn’t particularly want to. Its entirely about death and despair, and in my constant state of anxiety of college right now, I was not in a state where I could enjoy this. I can see why others might though, and I know its of great literary significance.