Topic 1: For as long as we can remember, women have been fighting against the constraints of a male dominated society; therefore, it is no surprise that the oppression of women is a common theme in a great deal of literature. In fact, in “The Story of an Hour,” by Kate Chopin, “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck, and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the theme of oppression is certainly recognizable. Write an essay in which you closely examine one of the characters from the stories mentioned above, and analyze how their character development leads to a deeper understanding of the theme of women’s oppression. Topic 2: Stories like “Open Boat,” “Story of an Hour” and “The Cathedral” are particularly unique in their ability to leave the readers awestruck with the uncanny irony at the end of each tale. Identify the irony in one of the stories above, and analyze how it aids in the development of the story’s theme. Be sure to examine the specific character attributes which shed light on the ironical undertone of the story. Topic 3: What is symbolic about Elisa’s chrysanthemums in “The Chrysanthemums;” how about the dreadfully yellow colored wallpaper in “The Yellow Wallpaper?” Symbolic elements often appear in stories to help us better understand the characters, themes, and the overall underlying messages of the story. Choose a work of short fiction from above, and analyze the symbolic elements of the story. Be sure to provide a detailed examination of what the symbolism in the story reveals about the characters and/or theme of the story. Topic 4: In both “A Tale-Tell Heart” and “A Rose for Emily,” we are introduced to protagonists who have a distorted view of reality. In a “Tell-Tell Heart,” the narrator promises us that “he isn’t mad,” but we know better. In “A Rose for Emily,” though we never personally meet Emily, based on what the townspeople say about her, we gain a fairly strong understanding of her lack of sanity. While both characters clearly have a distorted view of reality, they are the protagonists, and therefore, we often find ourselves rooting for them. Write an essay in which you provide a character analysis of either Emily from “A Rose for Emily,” or the narrator from “A Tell-Tale Heart,” and examine how the character development deepens our understanding of the protagonist’s distorted reality. Be sure to identify what character aspects (if any) allow us to sympathize with them. Can we really sympathize with someone who is so far removed from reality? Topic 5: While in a “A Tale-Tell Heart” and “A Rose for Emily” we feel an obligation to try and sympathize with unreliable characters like Emily and the narrator who swears he isn’t mad, in other stories like “Where Are You Going, Where Have you Been,” and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” we are introduced to antagonists who unmistakably are standing in the way of our protagonists; however, despite our inclination to root for “the good guys,”, the complex portrayal of such characters leads us to a deeper understanding of them, (and maybe even a little sympathy?), as well. Write an essay in which you provide a character analysis of “The Misfit” or Arnold Friend, and examine whether or not there are any redeeming qualities in their characters. Do we feel a slight sense of sympathy for the “villains,” or is the purpose of such characters simply to portray the evils of our world?
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