Essay Prompts

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AP ENGLISH LIT AND COMP
FREE RESPONSE QUESTIONS

2004 (Form A): Critic Roland Barthes has said, “Literature is the question minus the answer.” Choose a novel or play and, considering Barthes’ Observation, write an essay in which you analyze a central question the work raises and the extent to which it offers any answers. Explain how the author’s treatment of this question affects your understanding of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

You may select a work from the list below or another novel or play of comparable literary merit.

Alias GraceMiddlemarch
All the King’s MenMoby-Dick
CandideObasan
Death of a SalesmanOedipus Rex
Doctor Faustus Orlando
Don Quixote A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Gesture LifeRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
GhostsThe Scarlet Letter
Great ExpectationsSister Carrie
The Great GatsbyThe Sound and Fury
Gulliver’s TravelsSula
Heart of DarknessThe Sun Also Rises
Invisible ManTheir Eyes Were Watching God
Joe Turner’s Come and GoneThe Things They Carried
King LearThe Turn of the Screw
Major BarbaraWho’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf

2004 (Form B): The most important themes in literature are sometimes developed in scenes in which a death or deaths take place. Choose a novel or play and write a well-organized essay in which you show how a specific death scene helps to illuminate the meaning of the work as whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

You may select a work from the list below or choose another novel or play of comparable literary merit.

All the King’s MenKing Lear
Anna KareninaMadame Bovary
As I Lay DyingThe Mill on the Floss
The AwakeningMoby-Dick
Billy BuddMrs. Dalloway
Bleak HouseNative Son
Bless Me,UltimaOne Hundred Years of Solitude
Catch-22Othello
Crime and PunishmentThe Scarlet Letter
The CrucibleSlaughterhouse-Five
A Farewell to Arms Song of Solomon
GhostsThe Stone Angel
The Great GatsbyThe Stranger
Heart of DarknessA Tale of Two Cities
The House of MirthTheir Eyes Were Watching God
Jude the Obscure

2003 (Form A): According to critic Northrop Frye, “Tragic heroes are so much the highest points in their human landscape that they seem the inevitable conductors of the power about them, great trees more likely to be struck by lightning than a clump of grass. Conductors may of course be instruments as well as victims of the divine lightning.”

Select a novel or play in which a tragic figure functions as an instrument of the suffering of others. Then write an essay in which you explain how the suffering brought upon others by the figure contributes to the tragic vision of the work as a whole.

You may choose a work from the list below or another novel or play of comparable quality. Avoid mere plot summary.

An American TragedyLight in August
Anna KareninaLong Day’s Journey into the Night
AntigoneLord Jim
BelovedMacbeth
Crime and PunishmentMedea
Death of a SalesmanMoby-Dick
Ethan FromeOedipus Rex
FaustPhedre
FencesRagtime
For Whom the Bell Tolls Sent for You Yesterday
FrankensteinTess of the D’Urbervilles
Hedda GablerThings Fall Apart
King Lear

2003 (Form B): Novels and plays often depict characters caught between colliding cultures-national, regional, ethnic, religious, institutional. Such collisions can call a character’s sense of identity into question. Select a novel or play in which a character responds to such a cultural collision. Then write a well-organized essay in which you describe the character’s response and explain its relevance to the work as a whole.

You may select a work from the list below or choose another appropriate novel or play of similar literary merit. Avoid mere plot...
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