American Literature

Question 2

Answer the following question in complete sentences. You should not merely answer in bullet style. Write a well-developed essay that incorporates all of the ideas in the question. The question is two-pronged.

First, discuss the idea of conformity vs. nonconformity in the works of Emerson and Thoreau. The focus of your essay should be the works that we studied by these authors. This is important. Give consideration to these things in your answer:

how the transcendentalists view man
Emerson’s concept of “man thinking” and a “foolish consistency”
what it means in their eyes to really be a “man” (think of Self-Reliance and the “different drummer” quote)
how society affects the individual
obstacles that keep a person from truly being himself
the general lesson about conformity that can be drawn from the path Thoreau wore between his house and the pond
how Thoreau defines true success
Though Whitman and Dickinson were quite different poets, both were greatly influenced by the transcendentalist movement. In the second part of your essay, explain this transcendentalist influence in Whitman and Dickinson, using at least four of the poems listed in your discussion. Ask yourself, what “tenet” of transcendentalism does each one express?

“Song of Myself #1” – Consider the poem as a whole, but also think specifically of these lines:
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
“When I Heard the Learned Astronomer”
“Much Madness Is Divinest Sense”
“I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed”
“Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”

Question 3

In the document on Nathaniel Hawthorne (found in Course Documents), I give five predominant themes that can be found in Hawthorne. Choose three themes and demonstrate how they can be seen in the Hawthorne short stories that we studied – “The Birthmark,” “Young Goodman Brown,” and “My Kinsman Major Molineux.” Here are your guidelines:

1. You must write in complete sentences, but you MAY approach the answer in bullet form rather than writing a cohesive essay.

2. You should give specific examples on how you find a particular theme in a particular work. HOWEVER, You MAY NOT repeat any examples that I have given in my discussion of that theme.

Each theme receives five points. You only have to give one example from one story for each theme; however, you are welcome to discuss the theme in all three if you would like.

Question 4

Answer ONE of the following shorter essay questions.

The chapters we studied from Moby Dick give us a picture of Ahab and his quest. Write a short essay on Ahab and his motives for pursuing Moby Dick. Consider the following in your discussion: 1. His physical description – What does this description say about the man? 2. The quest – What was the true reason that Ahab wanted to hunt and kill Moby Dick? In other words, what does the whale represent to Ahab? What is the final outcome of this quest?


The excerpts that we read from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass include two epiphany experiences from Douglass’s life. Explain what an epiphany is in a person’s life. (Look up the definition if you need to.) Then describe the two experiences that Douglass relates that you would consider epiphany experiences. What did Douglass gain / learn from each experience? Do your best to capture the profound effect that each experience had on his life.

Question 5

Choose two of the following quotes to interpret. Identify the poem from which the quote comes as well as the author of the poem; then explain the meaning of the quote in the context of the entire poem.

1. God preaches,”a noted clergyman,”

And the sermon is never long;

So instead of getting to heaven at last,

I ‘m going all along!

2. I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

3. His own parents,

He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,

They gave this child more of themselves than that;

They gave him afterward every day – they became part of him.

Question 6

BONUS: Which work did you enjoy most from unit? Why?

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