The Worst Years of Our Lives by Barbara Ehrenreich

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2009 AP
®
ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND COMPOSITION
FREE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS (Form B)
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Question 3
(Suggested time—40 minutes. This question counts for one-third of the total essay section score.) The passage below is from The Worst Years of Our Lives by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich is writing about life in the 1980s. Read the passage carefully and then write an essay in which you support, refute, or qualify Ehrenreich’s assertions about television. Support your argument with appropriate evidence. Only after many months of viewing did I begin

to understand the force that has transformed the
American people into root vegetables. If you watch
TV for a very long time, day in, day out, you will
5 begin to notice something eerie and unnatural about
the world portrayed therein. I don’t mean that it is
two-dimensional or lacks a well-developed critique
of the capitalist consumer culture or something
superficial like that. I mean something so deeply
10 obvious that it’s almost scary: when you watch
television, you will see people doing many things—
chasing fast cars, drinking lite beer, shooting each
other at close range, etc. But you will never see
people watching television. Well, maybe for a second,
15 before the phone rings or a brand-new, multiracial
adopted child walks into the house. But never really
watching, hour after hour, the way real people do.
Way back in the beginning of the television era,
this was not so strange, because real people actually
20 did many of the things people do on TV, even if it
was only bickering with their mothers-in-law about
which toilet paper to buy. But modern people, i.e.,
couch potatoes, do nothing that is ever shown on
television (because it is either dangerous or would
25 involve getting up from the couch). And what they
do do—watch television—is...
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