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AP English Literature and Composition Essay Prompts

Remember the process paper?

Timed writing is one thing, but much can be learned by going through the writing process and delving into an
interesting aspect of such a rich, complex, ambiguous novel as Toni Morrisons Beloved.

Please select one of the following prompts to write a 5-10 page essay. If you have a topic of your own devising,
please have it pre-approved by me in writing before beginning. A draft for peer review will be due __________.
Final drafts will be due one week later _____________.

Do not use outside sources without citing them. I beg you to trust your own intellect and not just parrot
someone elses work. A good, original job done in a seventeen-year-olds voice will score much higher with me
than rephrasing or copying a middle-aged persons voice. Plagiarized papers will receive a zero and could
jeopardize your graduation. Research, that is cited and analyzed, is acceptable as long as the analysis is much
greater than the report of information researched. If you use any outside sources, a works cited page is

1. In David Lawrences article, Fleshly Ghosts and Ghostly Flesh: The Word and the Body in Beloved. (Studies in
American Fiction 19:2, Autumn 1991, pp. 189-202), he quotes Byron Bunch in Light in August that no matter
how much a person might talk about how hed like to escape from living folksits the dead folks that do him the
damage. (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 81. Discuss this comment in relation to Morrisons novel.

2. Is Beloved a Greek tragedy?

3. Throughout most of the novel, Morrison uses third-person point of view. In several chapters in Part Two, however,
she shifts to first-person and has Sethe, Denver, and Beloved speak as the narrator. How does this stream of
consciousness narrative technique affect the reader and contribute to the effectiveness of the novel?

4. Discuss the various ways in which Sethes appearance is described throughout the book and analyze how if reflects
her changing states of mind.

5. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another. Choose one character from
Beloved and discuss the ways in which he or she achieves the goal of claiming ownership of that freed self.

6. Paul D is plagued by thoughts of his strengths and inadequacies as a man. Does he finally reach resolution of this
conflict? If not, why not? If so, how? Trace his struggles with manhood.

7. The conclusion of a piece of literature must be about a sense of closure and an acceptable ending to the story. In
what ways does Morrisons novel end in a satisfactory or unsatisfactory way?

8. Two settings in Beloved stand out as most significant: 124 and Sweet Home. Morrison uses these settings, both
their similarities and differences, for a variety of reasons. Briefly describe each one, discuss the similarities and
differences, and analyze how they enhance the meaning of the novel.
9. If this is not a story to pass on, why does Morrison choose to do exactly that write a novel that relays the story
to millions of readers?

10. Rememory used as both a noun and verb in Beloved is one that Morrison coins for this novel. It is richer
than remember and suggests the opposites of forgetfulness. It emphasizes the need for connection with the past
and the inability to deny that connection. Why does she create it? What does it mean? And in what ways is it the
pivotal idea of the story?

11. Everything has its cost. What price does Sethe pay for her actions?

12. Morrison has said, [Sethe] did the right thing, but she didnt have the right to do it. Comment and expand on
this quotation.

13. What is the function of Beloveds character as a ghost and of the use of the supernatural in general?

14. By the end of her second life, Beloved is a replica of her mother Sethe. When deador in the other placeshe
even states that she want[s] [Sethes] face. But once again among the living, she tries choking Sethe in the clearing
and removed Paul D. the only basis for sanity and comfort of reason in Sethes life. On one side Beloved aspires to
goodness and wants to be like Sethe; on the other hand, she commits acts that are vengeful toward the mother who so
quickly snuffed out her life. With that, and her many other actions in mind, why does Beloved come back from the
other place? What are her motivations?

15. In Beloved, Toni Morrison has colors play a role throughout the book. Describe the role of each color and discuss
its significance throughout the story.

16. In Beloved, the main character Beloved evolves from in innocent, victimized child into a nineteen-year-old body
with the same mentality, only not so innocent. Is it merely her murder, or are there other factors that help Beloved
become the monstrosity she is at the conclusion? Are there specific characters who also contribute to this
metamorphosis? If so, when and how?

17. Morrisons work portrays many hardships and cruel atrocities that were inflicted upon black people during early
American times. Is this story designed to parallel a post-Civil War America? If so, what do the characters represent?

18. Morrison uses a series of flashback as a dominant narrative technique in Beloved. What is the effect of such
spiral storytellings and repeated images that interweave the stories of past and present?

19. Carol Iannone describes the psychological and emotional effects of being ownedof having no sense of self, of
fearing to trust or to love when anything can be taken away at any time. (Toni Morrisons Career, Commentary
84(6), December 1987, 63). Choose one or more characters from Beloved and analyze the psychological effects on
them of being owned.

20. This is a novel about relationshipsmaternal; marital; slave-owner to slave; abolitionist to freed slave; white to
black; guard to prisoner; employer to employee. Choose one or more relationships in the novel and analyze how each
functions in the overall view of the novel.

21. Discuss this novel as a story of abandonment and loss.

22. Terry Otten, in The Crime of Innocence in the Fiction of Toni Morrison (Missouri: University of Missouri Press,
1989, 86-87) says, Sethes first willful act, the escape from the Garner estate, imitates the quest for freedom from a
degenerate garden. Sweet Home echoes again the Romanic view of a flawed Eden, where black slaves tolerated the
loss of freedom because they lived in ignorance of their condition. Comment on this interpretation of the novel as a
fall from grace and innocence in the Garden of Eden.
23. The structure of each of the three parts of Beloved shows a similar beginning: 124 was spiteful; 124 was
loud; 124 was quiet. Discuss the structural purpose of this repetition, the differences in focus of each part, and the
purposes of this technique.

24. It is not unusual for a writer to include one or more scenes of violence in a novel. In good literature, the violence
is not gratuitous. Using Beloved, analyze the scenes of violence that Morrison uses in her story and explain how they
enhance the meaning of the work.

25. Design your own prompt. Get it approved by me before you start writing.

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