Advanced Placement (AP) Literature & Composition:
Passage Analysis Questions 1970-2017
1970. Meredith’s “Ferdinand and Miranda” from The Ordeal of Richard Feveral: Show how the young woman and the young man in the passage are made to seem naturally suited for one another..
1971. Orwell’s “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad”: Demonstrate how the speaker establishes his attitude toward the coming of spring.
1972. Joyce’s “Eveline” from Dubliners: Explain how the author prepares his reader for Eveline’s final inability or unwillingness to sail to South America with Frank. Consider at least two elements of fictions such as theme, symbol, setting, image, characterization, or any other aspects of the narrative artist’s craft.
1973. Dickens’ Hard Times: Explain how the author’s presentation of details is intended to shape the reader’s attitudes toward the place he describes — Coketown and the caves. Give specific attention to the function of word choice, imagery, phrasing, and sentence structure.
1974. Henry James’s What Maisie Knew: In the opening lines of the passage we are told the “new arrangement was inevitably confounding” to Maisie. Write a descriptive or narrative piece which presents a person who is undergoing a new experience that is confounding.
1975. Lagerkvist’s The Marriage Feast: Define and discuss the subject of the story. Direct your remarks to the significance of the events described.
1976. Work/author unknown: Characterize briefly the world and way of life described in the passage, discuss the effect of the passage as a whole, and analyze those elements that achieve this effect.
1977. No prose selection (instead, had the following prompt: A character’s attempt to recapture or reject the past is important in many plays, novels, and poems. Choose a work in which a character views the past with such feelings as reverence, bitterness, or longing. Show with clear evidence how the character’s view of the past is used to develop a theme in the work.)
1978. Johnson’s “Review of ‘A Free Enquiry Into The Nature and Origin of Evil’”: Analyze Samuel Johnson’s attitude toward writer Soame Jenyns and treatment of Jenyns’ argument.
1979. Quentin Bell on the Woolf family: Show how style reveals feelings about family.
1980. Two Funerals: Compare the different authors’ attitudes by examining diction and choice of detail; also discuss their effect on the reader.
1981. George Bernard Shaw on his mother’s cremation: Analyze how diction and detail convey attitude.
1982. Stevenson’s “Cat Bill”: Analyze strategies that make the argument effective for his audience.
1983. Thomas Carlyle’s “Work”: Examine how he uses language to convince the reader of the rightness of his position.
1984. Austen’s Emma: Explain how passage characterizes Emma more than Harriet. Mailer’s “Death of Benny Paret”: Explain and analyze effect on reader and how diction, syntax, imagery, and tone produce that effect. (Two prose prompts; no poem)
1985. Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms: Compare two drafts of a passage from A Farewell to Arms and analyze the effect of revisions.
1986. Dickens’ Dombey and Son: Define narrator’s attitude toward characters through imagery, diction, narrative structure, choice of detail.
1987. George Eliot’s “Leisure” from Adam Bede: Describe her two views of leisure and discuss stylistic devices she uses to convey those views.
1988. Updike’s “Reunion”: Analyze blend of humor, pathos, and grotesque in their story.
1989. Conrad’s “Captain MacWhirr” from Typhoon: Define attitude of speaker toward Captain and analyze techniques he uses to define Captain’s character.
1990. Didion’s “Self-deception - Self-respect”: Show how style and tone help convey attitude.
1991. Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson: Discuss the ways Boswell differentiates between the writing of Addison and Johnson.
1992. Beginning and ending of Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”: Analyze the narrative techniques and other resources of language Olsen uses to characterize the mother and her attitude.
1993. Lytton Strachey’s conception of Florence Nightingale: Define Strachey’s view and analyze how he conveys it.
1994. Sarah Jewett’s “A White Heron”: Show how the author dramatizes the young heroine’s adventure using diction, imagery, narrative pace, and point of view.
1995. Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven”: Show how the author uses literary techniques to characterize Rachel.
1996. Hawthorne’s “Judge Pyncheon” from House of the Seven Gables: Analyze how the narrator reveals the character of Judge Pyncheon. Emphasize such devices as tone, selection of detail, syntax, point of view.
1997. Joy Kogawa’s Obasan: Analyze how changes in perspective and style reflect the narrator’s complex attitude toward the past. Consider elements such as point of view, structure, selection of detail, and figurative language.
1998. George Eliot’s Middlemarch: Write an essay in which you characterize the narrator’s attitude toward Dorothea Brooke and analyze the literary techniques used to convey this attitude.
1999-1. Read the following poem carefully, paying particular attention to the physical intensity of the language. Then write a well-organized essay in which you explain how the poet conveys not just a literal description of picking blackberries but a deeper understanding of the whole experience. You may wish to include analysis of such elements as diction, imagery, metaphor, rhythm, and form.
1999-2. In the following passage from Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Crossing (1994), the narrator describes a dramatic experience. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-organized essay, show how McCarthy’s techniques convey the impact of the experience on the main character.
2000-1. The story of Odysseus’ encounter with the Sirens and their enchanting but deadly song appears in Greek epic poetry in Homer’s Odyssey. An English translation of the episode is reprinted in the left column below. Margaret Atwood’s poem in the right column is a modern commentary on the classical story. Read both texts carefully. Then write an essay in which you compare the portrayals of the Sirens. Your analysis should include discussion of tone, point of view, and whatever poetic devices (diction, imagery, etc.) seem most important.
2000-2. In the following passage from The Spectator (March 4, 1712), the English satirist Joseph Addison creates a character who keeps a diary. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-organized essay, analyze how the language of the passage characterizes the diarist and his society and how the characterization serves Addison’s satiric purpose. You may wish to consider such elements as selection of detail, repetition, and tone.
2001-1. In each of the following poems, the speaker responds to the condition of a particular place and time - England in 1802 in the first poem, the United States about 100 years later in the second. Read each poem carefully. Then write an essay in which you compare the two poems and analyze the relationship between them.
2001-2. The passage below is taken from the novel Tom Jones (1749) by the English novelist and playwright Henry Fielding. In this scene, which occurs early in the novel, Squire Allworthy discovers an infant in his bed. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-organized essay, analyze the techniques that Fielding employs in this scene to characterize Mr. Allworthy and Mrs. Deborah Wilkins.
2002-1. In the following excerpt from a recent British novel, the narrator, a young man in his early twenties, is attending a play with his new girlfriend Isabel when she unexpectedly discovers that her parents are in the theater. Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the author produces a comic effect.
2002-2. Read the following poem carefully. Then, taking into consideration the title of the poem, analyze how the poetic devices convey the speaker’s attitude toward the sinking of the ship.
2002-B1. Read carefully the following passage from the beginning of a contemporary novel. Note the author’s use of such elements as diction, syntax, imagery, and figurative language. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the author’s use of language generates a vivid impression of Quoyle as a character.
2002-B2. The following poem is a villanelle, a form having strict rules of rhyme, meter, and repetition. Read the poem carefully. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how the formal elements of the poem contribute to its meaning.
2003-1. The following poems are both concerned with Eros, the god of love in Greek mythology. Read the poems carefully. Then write an essay in which you compare and contrast the two concepts of Eros and analyze the techniques used to create them.
2003-2. The following passage is an excerpt from “The Other Paris,” a short story by the Canadian writer Mavis Gallant. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, explain how the author uses narrative voice and characterization to provide social commentary.
2003-B1. The following poem is taken from Modern Love, a poetic sequence by the English writer George Meredith. Read the poem carefully. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how the poet conveys a view of “modern love.”
2003-B2. Read the following passage from Joyce Carol Oates’ novel We Were the Mulvaneys (1996). Then, in a well-organized essay, analyze the literary techniques Oates uses to characterize the speaker, Judd Mulvaney. Support your analysis with specific references to the passage.
2004-1. The poems below are concerned with darkness and night. Read each poem carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, compare and contrast the poems, analyzing the significance of dark or night in each. In your essay, consider elements such as point of view, imagery, and structure.
2004-2. The following passage comes from the opening of “The Pupil” (1891), a story by Henry James. Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze the author’s depiction of the three characters and the relationships among them. Pay particular attention to the tone and point of view.
2004-B1. The following passage comes from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848), a novel about mill workers living in Manchester, England, in the 1840’s. In this scene, George Wilson, one of the workers, goes to the house of Mr. Carson, the mill owner, to request care for a fellow worker dying of typhus. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze how Gaskell uses elements such as point of view, selection of detail, dialogue and characterization to make a social commentary.
2004-B2. Read the following poem carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the techniques the poet uses to develop the relationship between the speaker and the swamp.
2005-1. The poems below, published in 1789 and 1794, were written by William Blake in response to the condition of chimney sweeps. Usually small children, sweeps were forced inside chimneys to clean their interiors. Read the two poems carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, compare and contrast the two poems, taking into consideration the poetic techniques Blake uses in each.
2005-2. Printed below is the complete text of a short story written in 1946 by Katharine Brush. Read the story carefully. Then write an essay in which you show how the author uses literary decides to achieve her purpose.
2006-2. Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892): Analyze how the playwright reveals the values of the characters and the nature of their society.
2006-B2. From “a nineteenth-century novel”: Discuss how the narrator’s style reveals his attitudes toward the people he describes.
2007-2. Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun: Analyze how Trumbo uses such techniques as point of view, selection of detail, and syntax to characterize the relationship between the young man and his father.
2007-B2. Seamus Deane reflecting on his childhood experiences with books and writing: Analyze how Deane conveys the impact those early experiences had on him.
2008-2. Aran from Anita Desai’s Fasting, Feasting (1999): Analyze how the author uses such literary devices as speech and point of view to characterize Aran’s experience.
2008-B2. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818): Analyze the literary techniques Austen uses to characterize Catherine Morland.
2009-2. Ann Petry’s The Street (1946): Analyze how Petry establishes Lutie Johnson’s relationship to the urban setting through the use of literary devices such as imagery, personification, selection of detail, and figurative language.
2009-B2. Zorah Neale Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee (1948): Analyze the literary techniques Hurston uses to describe Sawley and to characterize the people who live there.
2010. Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda (1801): The narrator provides a description of Clarence Harvey, one of the suitors of the novel’s protagonist, Belinda Portman. Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze Clarence Hervey’s complex character as Edgeworth develops it through such literary techniques as tone, point of view, and language.
2010-B. Maxine Clair’s “Cherry Bomb”: Write an essay in which you analyze how Clair uses literary techniques to characterize the adult narrator’s memories of her fifth-grade summer world.
2011. George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1874): In the passage, Rosamond and Tertius Lydgate, a recently married couple, confront financial difficulties. Read the passage carefully. Then write a well-developed essay in which you analyze how Eliot portrays these two characters and their complex relationship as husband and wife. You may wish to consider such literary devices as narrative perspective and selection of detail.
2011-B. Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen (1998): The following passage is the opening of the novel by the Cree novelist and playwright Tomson Highway. Read the passage carefully. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how Highway uses literary devices to dramatize Okimasis’ experience.
2012. Helena María Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus: Carefully read the following excerpt from the novel. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze the development of Estrella’s character. In your analysis, you may wish to consider such literary elements as selection of detail, figurative language, and tone.
2013. D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (1915): The following passage focuses on the lives of the Brangwens, a farming family who lived in rural England during the late nineteenth century. Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze how Lawrence employs literary devices to characterize the woman and capture her situation.
2014. The following passage is from the novel The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-organized essay, analyze how the author reveals the character of Moses. In your analysis, you may wish to consider such literary elements as point of view, selection of detail, and imagery.
2015. The following excerpt is from the opening of The Beet Queen, a 1986 novel by Louise Erdrich. Read the passage carefully. Then write a well-developed essay in which you analyze how Erdrich depicts the impact of the environment on the two children. You may wish to consider such literary devices as tone, imagery, selection of detail, and point of view.
2016. In this excerpt from Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Michael Henchard and his daughter Elizabeth-Jane are reunited after years of estrangement. During this separation, Henchard has risen from poor seasonal farmworker to wealthy mayor of a small country town, while Elizabeth has supported herself by waiting on tables at a tavern. Read the passage carefully. Paying particular attention to tone, word choice, and selection of detail, compose a well-written essay in which you analyze Hardy's portrayal of the complex relationship between the two characters.
2017. In the passage below, from The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751) by Tobias Smollett, Mr. Pickle encounters Godfrey Gauntlet, the brother of his beloved Emilia. Consider how the two men confront their own uncontrolled emotions and yet attempt to abide by their social norms. In a well-developed essay, analyze how the author explores the complex interplay between emotions and social propriety in the passage. You may wish to consider such literary techniques as dialogue, narrative pace, and tone.