1. Prior to discussing the city's "solitary prison" in detail, Dickens discusses a number of other public institutions in Philadelphia. Why does he describe West's picture in the "Quaker Hospital" prior to describing his impressions of the prison?
2. Why does Dickens employ a first-person point of view rather than the more detached objective point of view in this essay on Pennsylvania's penal system? Whom might he be indicating by "We" at the opening
3. Why does Dickens allude to Don Guzman in described the failed bank?
4. Why does Dickens allude to The Vicar of Wakefield in describing the culture of Philadelphia?
5. Why does Dickens feel personally compelled to denounce the solitary system?
6. In the image of "this dark shroud" what is Dickens implying about the existence endured by the prisoners?
7. What purposes do the allusion to "The Lady of the Lake" serve?
8. How does the situation of each of the prisoners described reveal the inhumanity of the solitary system?
9. Although Pennsylvania was above the Mason-Dixon Line, and therefore a "free" as opposed to a "slave" state, how does the penal system's treatment of young criminals reveal inequality between the races in the American justice system?
10. Explain the figure of speech involved in "Noble aristocracy in crime!"
11. Why do prisoners tend to look forward to the conclusion of their sentences with apprehension?
12. Explain "When he is in his cell by day, he fears the little yard without. When he is in the yard, he dreads to re-enter the cell."
13. Explain why "suicides are rare among these prisoners"?
14. Why is the Silent System unlikely, contends Dickens, to reform all criminals who have had experience of it?
15. At the conclusion, Dickens alludes to "a host of evils" associated with the Silent System; list these.
16. "Parade before my eyes, a hundred men, with one among them newly released from this solitary suffering, and I would point him out": how would Dickens be able to identify that particular ex-convict?
17. Poetically, Dickens refers to the "monstrous phantoms" that the solitary system produces, "darkening the face of Heaven": explain this characterization.
18. What is the subtle connection between the noxious medication castor oil mentioned at the opening of the chapter and Philadelphia's solitary system?
19. Why does Dickens early remark that he was seized by "thoughts of taking lodgings in Mark Lane over against the Market Place, and of making a large fortune by speculations in corn"?
20. What criticism of America is implied in "the work has stopped; so that like many other great undertakings in America, even this is rather going to be done one of these days, than doing now"?
21. Why is each prisoner provided with the tools (whether a last, a loom, etc.) of a trade?
22. How does the image of a man "buried alive" function as a controlling metaphor?
23. Succinctly state Dickens's thesis in this chapter of American Notes.
Last modified July 8, 2004