Ultimate Guide to Every Book You’ll Need For The AP Literature Exam

AP Literature is a great class, thats super helpful for becoming a better writer, and for getting your Intro English credit for most colleges in the USA.

AP Lit, as its called by many, is a lot of work though, and will other classes, and since its typically taken Senior Year, a combination of senioritis and college stuff to do, it can be hard to finish all your reading, and retain the details by the end of the year.

Thats where this guide comes in. This is not every book classic literature possible to be read in an AP Lit class, but this list contains books approved for use on the test, and between then, covers every past theme and main idea an essay question has asked, making sure you have something to write about.


These guides include: meta data, author information, plot summary, character summary, symbols and themes, etc.


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Good for: Questions about work, capitalism, the psyche, family, absurdism, human existence

 

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Good for: Comedy, mistakes identity, family, romance, social norms, wordplay

 

1984 by George Orwell

Good for: dystopia, futurism, political commentary

 

The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

Good for: Family, human nature/existence, guilt, regret, mortality

 

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Good for: tragedy, death, revenge, patience, family, the afterlife, suicide

 

Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly

Good for: responsibility, monsters and what makes them, gifts and curses, life, death, playing god, mankind, gothic

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Good for: non-western perspectives, tragedy, death, muslim culture, religion, family, war, women’s roles in society

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Good for: family, marriage, societal expectation, coming of age, romance, gossip

 

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.

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.