American Literature Online Questions & Answers

What are examples of figurative language Anne Bradstreet chooses in order to communicate her themes?
“mines of gold”; “two were one”; “heavens reward”
Which examples of figurative language does Phillis Wheatley choose in order to communicate her themes?
“num’rous nations sway”; “ev’ry evil fly”
Write a paragraph in which you compare and contrast how the poets use topic, rhyme scheme, and figurative language to convey their themes.

Both use couplets for their rhyme scheme and structure.

Both use figurative language to express hope that the subject will be rewarded in heaven for good deeds.

Bradstreet’s topic is love and marriage, while Wheatley’s topic is King George III.

Bradstreet uses more nature imagery than Wheatley, which connects to the poem’s topic.

Which statement best describes the rhyme schemes of “To My Dear Loving Husband” and “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty”?
Both poets use couplets for rhyme scheme and structure, inverting sentences when needed to maintain the rhyme.

How does each poet’s use of figurative language contribute to the overall meaning of “To My Dear Loving Husband” and “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty”?
Wheatley’s use of hyperbole accentuates her respect for the king; Bradstreet’s use of hyperbole shows how greatly the speaker values her husband’s love.
How do “To My Dear Loving Husband” and “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” reflect cultural values of their time?
Each poem features a speaker who emphasizes the relevance of duty, love, and respect.

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A theme expressed in both “To My Dear Loving Husband” and “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” is
gratitude and loyalty

Read the excerpt from “To My Dear Loving Husband.”

“If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.”

What is the rhyme scheme in these lines?

A, A, B, B
Which statement best describes how Wheatley’s word choice in “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” expresses her colonial values?
Using hyperbole, it stresses admiration and praise for the king.
Which statement best describes the tones of “To My Dear Loving Husband” and “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty”?
Bradstreet’s poem has a soft and loving tone, while Wheatley’s poem has an energetic and excited tone.
Which line from “To My Dear Loving Husband” contains a metaphor?
“My love is such that rivers cannot quench,”
Which statement explains why Romantic writers preferred nature over cities?
Nature brought the individual closer to his or her innate wisdom.
Which of the following is a theme in bright romantic literature?
peace and wisdom are found in nature
What kind of language is used in bright romantic literature?
descriptive phrases full of images from nature
Which of these words best describes transcendental texts?
Which of these words best describes the transcendental community at Brook Farm?
How does “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” express romantic and transcendental ideas? Check all of the boxes that apply.
It shows that the writer is more interested in the stars’ beauty than in scientific measurements.
It portrays the writer as being more at peace by himself than in the crowd at the lecture.
It demonstrates that an individual can understand the stars just by going out and looking at them.
What are the main themes of bright romanticism?

the beauty of nature

the need to fight injustice

the expansion of the American frontier

the search for spiritual truth

equality for women

the importance of self-reliance

the need to transcend the material world

the development of new American identities

Read the excerpt from “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman.

Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,

Why does Whitman use the words “rising and gliding” to describe the speaker’s exit from the classroom?

These words suggest that the speaker is happy to leave.
What do the stars do for the speaker of “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” that the lecture hall does not?
The stars offer first-hand knowledge.
How does the speaker of “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” prefer to learn about nature?
by experiencing it directly

Read these lines from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

What attitude toward the earth do these lines express?

The human body is made of material much like the earth.
Which best describes Bright Romanticism?
a post-Revolutionary War literary movement that focused on the beauty and optimism of the period

Read this excerpt from an Emily Dickinson poem.

Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.

What attitude toward social habits does this excerpt indicate?

Social habits are meaningless and arbitrary.

Read the stanza from “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

How does this stanza express an optimistic view?

It suggests that life continues after death.
Six-line stanzas are called
Which elements of strict formal structure do “Auspex” and “A Psalm of Life” share?
They both have a rhyme scheme.
How are the speakers’ attitudes toward God and Death similar in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”?
Both speakers appear confident and accepting.
How are the speakers’ sense of goals different in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”?
The speaker in the former knows exactly what her goal is, while the speaker in the latter believes that she has already achieved it.
How are the speakers of “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church” and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” similar?
Both are forthright and confident.
A clergyman is an official leader within an organized religion. Why does Dickinson call God “a noted Clergyman” in “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”?
NOT : She is expressing appreciation for those who discuss God with others.

Read the quotation from “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.”

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
What is the effect of the phrase “but just Ourselves” in the lines above?

It conveys the personal nature of the speaker’s journey.

Read the first stanza of “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church.”

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

What does the use of the words “orchard” and “dome” suggest?

NOT: that the speaker only feels close to her faith when she is enjoying the world of nature
What does the first stanza of “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church” suggest about the speaker’s view of religious customs?
She participates in religious customs in an unconventional way.
Which statement best describes the purpose of the horse-drawn carriage imagery in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.”
The imagery introduces the idea that death is a natural and ordinary part of one’s journey through life.
Read the paragraph from an essay about conservation.
Many companies claim to be ‘green,’ but few are practicing true conservation of resources. Though e-mails have replaced paper memos, lights use LED bulbs, and toilets are a modern ‘low-flow’ variety, waste is rampant. Trash cans overflow with recyclables. Outlets hum with the recharging of personal electronic devices, and office parking lots boast a shameful number of gas-guzzling trucks that are piloted morning and night by lone commuters too self-absorbed to consider a carpool.
How does the author’s word choice affect the tone of the paragraph?
Read the excerpt from an essay about role models.
Hers was a modest career: she received no accolades, no civic recognition. Her name did not appear in headlines. Nonetheless, her candor captured the attention of her students as she told history’s untold stories. From the Trail of Tears to the widespread resistance to desegregation, this teacher shared the injustices that shaped history. She encouraged her students to delve deeper than the facts presented in their textbooks. As a result, she created a generation of activists among her alumni. Her pension was unimpressive; her legacy is not.
How does the author’s word choice affect the tone of the excerpt?
Read the excerpt from Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death. We replaced and screwed down the lid, and, having secured the door of iron, made our way, with toil, into the scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper portion of the house.
Which statement best describes how Poe develops a specific element of American Gothic fiction in the excerpt?
Read the excerpt from “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honoured as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain.
How does Poe develop a short story element in the paragraph?
Which is a motif in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” that represents being trapped?
the noose

Read the sentence from Life on the Mississippi.

But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river!

What do phrases such as “while I lived” and “the grace, the beauty, the poetry” indicate most about the narrator’s feelings?

Twain was disappointed by his new feelings about the river.

Read the two excerpts from section 3 of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”

Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream.
As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon—then all is darkness and silence!
What does the motif of a loud sound represent in the story?

the passage between dreams and reality

Read the excerpt from Life on the Mississippi.

‘Look here! What do you start out from, above Twelve-Mile Point, to cross over?’

‘I—I—don’t know.’

‘You—you—don’t know?’ mimicking my drawling manner of speech. ‘What DO you know?’

‘I—I—nothing, for certain.’

What does the stammering suggest about the narrator?

It suggests that he is uncertain and intimidated.

Read the sentence from Life on the Mississippi.

The passenger who could not read it was charmed with a peculiar sort of faint dimple on its surface (on the rare occasions when he did not overlook it altogether); but to the pilot that was an ITALICIZED passage; indeed, it was more than that, it was a legend of the largest capitals, with a string of shouting exclamation points at the end of it; for it meant that a wreck or a rock was buried there that could tear the life out of the strongest vessel that ever floated.

Which best explains how the portrayal of italicized letters and capital letters support the meaning of the sentence?

It parallels the difference between beginner and professional interpretations.
In chapter 9 of Life on the Mississippi, how is the mention of books and writing related to the realist nature of the novel?
It is a reference to a common feature of everyday life.

Read the excerpt from “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”

He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.”

Which best describes the impact of the narration in the excerpt?

It allows the reader to understand the thoughts of a man preparing for death.

Read the excerpt from “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”

As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forward with extended arms.
Which best describes the narration in the excerpt?

warm and romantic
Which best accounts for the different views of spring expressed in the poems?
NOT – The poems were written at different locations.
Based on the excerpt, what does the speaker most likely think about the wall?
NOT – The wall protects his orchard.
Whom does the speaker blame for the gaps in the wall?
NOT – rabbits and dogs
Which practice did Robert Frost have in common with his modernist peers?
writing in everyday language
What is the main difference between Sandburg’s “Fog” and Frost’s “Mending Wall”?
NOT – “Mending Wall” is in free verse, while “Fog” is not.
What is the main similarity between “Fog” and Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”?
NOT – Both use iambic pentameter.
Which practice was common among modernist poets?
using experimental techniques
Based on the excerpt, what does the speaker think of his neighbor?
NOT – He is a quick worker.
Which lines from “Mending Wall” best indicate that the speaker is amused while repairing the wall?
NOT – And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
What does the phrase “one on a side” mean?
NOT – The speaker repairs his side of the wall while the neighbor watches.

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American Literature Online Questions & Answers. (2017, Dec 19). Retrieved from

American Literature Online Questions & Answers
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