20TH-CENTURY AMERICAN LITERATURE
1. What is the significance of the titles for Acts One, Two, and Three in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Act 1 is entitled Fun and Games. The title of this act is actually an irony because although the George and Mary seem to be playing games, there is no fun involved. The two of them do not have fun as they entertain their guests or as they joke around with each other. Their guests are not amused by how they treat them or how they treat each other. Martha and George may seem to be playing when they ask Nick and Honey some personal questions but Nick and Honey do not fin any amusement in what they are saying or in how they are acting. Martha and George’s treatment towards each other seems to be the only fun in their marriage. Their conversation before Nick and Honey arrive actually amuses the reader.
Act 2 is entitled Walpurgisnacht. This is a German holiday, which is similar to Halloween since it represents the gathering of witches. This meaning therefore makes the reader aware that this particular act will not be pleasant at all. This is revealed when fights become more intense and secrets are revealed. Act 3 is aptly titled The Exorcism. This means to get rid of the evil spirits. Some of the bad scenes that had happened in the second act are brought out more clearly such as the fact that Nick could not sleep with Martha due to certain inadequacies. In this scene, George and Martha face reality concerning the son they claim to have.
2. Vonnegut frames Slaughterhouse-Five with what appear to be autobiographical chapters. Why do you think Vonnegut does this?
Slaughterhouse-Five has provided Vonnegut with a chance to speak about his experiences in the war. Through the book, Vonnegut talks about issues that might have been difficult to talk about were he doing it through another medium. He tells his story through Billy Pilgrim, who is also the protagonist in the story. Some of the details in the story such as being forced to join the war, coming out from the meat locker and being subjected to inhumane tasks are true.
He also uses the concept of time and time travel to tell the story. This is an unreal idea and represents the world Billy Pilgrim lived in during the war. It was a way for him to escape reality and avoid seeing things as they were. Telling the events that transpired during the war might not have been an easy thing to do and he has therefore looked for ways through which he can hide the true emotions he had.
3. Everyone seemed to agree that The Waste Land was a very difficult poem to read. In what ways did you find it difficult?
One of the things that made The Waste Land difficult to read and understand was its length. The poem is so long that it has been divided into five sections. The other thing that made it difficult was the content. The language does not make it easy either. Some of the words in the poem are not familiar and this adds to more difficulty. There are many characters included in this poem, and sometimes that can prove to be overwhelming.
The poem has a heavy German influence to it and there are instances where the author has written in German. The subject is also a cause of concern. For instance, when he asks if the corpse planted in the garden has begum to sprout. It had many allusions and metaphors. There are some references to biblical teachings and those who may not be familiar with these teachings may not understand the whole meaning and concept of the poem.
4. Discuss the significance of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire
Stella is Blanche’s younger sister and she provides a means of escape for her by acting as her refuge when she needs help. Stella brings out several themes in the story. She has been used as a person who chooses to escape her supposedly high-class status and she chooses to marry a man from a lower class. This also represents the themes of tradition v modernity. She has been used to highlight how women viewed men during that period. She chooses to believe her husband rather than believe her sister.
This also shows that she is just like her sister since she refuses to accept reality. She does not seem to be able to control herself or counter anything her husband says. She also brings out the theme of sexual desire. Stella’s main reason for staying with her husband seems to be derived from the fact that she has strong sexual desires for him and this is portrayed in the way the two of them relate to each other.
5. Is Nick an entirely reliable narrator in The Great Gatsby?
Nick as a narrator is different from the character that he plays in the novel. This is clearly seen in the contrasting ways he deals with situations. As a character, he is an easy going and honest person who takes the time to listen to other people as they talk about their problems. Because of this, the others find it easy to tell him their secrets in the hope that he will not reveal them. As a narrator, he is quite judgmental of the people he interacts with and he detests their actions. Perhaps this is because he has taken the time to reflect on the events of the past and he now sees his character in a different way.
Nick can be said to be a somehow reliable narrator though not an honest character. As a narrator, he does not hide the fact that his acquaintances had many flaws about them. He however refuses to show and share his true emotions after breaking up with Jordan. Nick acts as if he does not want the reader to see the narrator and the character as people who are able to express their emotions. However, as a character, his integrity is questionable.
6. Why is The Great Gatsby the best story you read all semester?
This is the best story I have read this summer because I have learnt many lessons from it. People enjoy the pleasures of sin without considering the consequences. Some who engage in such pleasures do not take a second chance to think of the people they will hurt. Although Gatsby was guilty of many things, he died for the wrong reason. The other lesson I have learnt is that men expect to be treated differently in almost all situations.
Tom had a long lasting affair with Myrtle but Daisy did not reprimand him or question him. He however reacted differently when he learnt that his wife was having an affair. I think that men and women should treat each other equally in all respects. Reading this story made me realize that moral decadency is not a modern thing and that it has in fact been there for a long time. The characters in the story seemed to have all their thoughts on money and pleasure. Contrary to the common opinion today, unfaithfulness in marriage was also common during that era.