English 32 Midterm Exercise


Papers due Friday, 27 February, at 4:45 PM in the English Department. No late papers accepted. Answers must be typed.

After identifying the full name, exact title, and date of each passage, write an essay comparing it to one you select from Pride and Prejudice. Your essay must explain at least three ways in which the passage relates (whatever you take that term to mean) to the novel. One of these connections must concern theme, a second should concern technique (say, imagery, setting, characterization, verse structure, and so on), and a third some aspect of the religious, philosophical, historical, or scientific context. Read the "Rules of the Game and Hints" that appear after the passages before you begin planning your answers.

You must write essays on six of the following seven passages:

1. He replied that I must needs be mistaken, or that I "said the thing which was not." (For they have no words in their language to express lying or falsehood.) He knew it was impossible that there could be a country beyond the sea, or that a parcel of brutes could move a wooden vessel whither they pleased upon the water.

2. This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But, perhaps, . . . these offences might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design.

3. Emily, often as she travelled among the clouds, watched in silent awe their billowy surges rolling below; sometimes, wholly closing upon the scene, they appeared like a world of chaos, and, at others, spreading thinly, they opened and admitted partial catches of the landscape — the torrent, whose astounding roar had never failed, tumbling down the rocky chasm, huge cliffs white with snow, or the dark summits of the pine forests, that stretched mid-way down the mountains.

4. Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest,
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err.

5. Yes, yes, the past gets in the way; its trips us up, bogs us down; it complicates, makes difficult. But to ignore this is folly, because, above all, what history teaches us is to ignore illusion and make-believe, to lay aside dreams, moonshine, cure-alls, wonder-workings, pie-in-the-sky — — to be realistic.

6. True wit is nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought, but ne'r so well expressed,
Something, whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.

7. A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear.
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear —

Rules of the Game and Hints

1. To make your point you must include appropriate texts from Pride and Prejudice in your mini-essay.

2. Do not repeat techniques, context, and theme. That is, if you discuss imagery or word-painting in one answer, you must use another technique in the others.

3. Before you begin writing, make sure you have clear the distinction between theme and context. In discussing "The Vanity of Human Wishes," for example, you might explain how Johnson argues that human desires always go beyond what is possible [theme] and then place this idea in the context of contemporary Christianity. For context make sure that you provide relevant specific details. Just stating that Johnson was a devout conservative Anglican, or that he wrote in a country whose official religion was Anglicanism, isn't enough: you must provide some details about Anglicanism. (Much of this information appears in the website and the Norton Anthology).

4. Not all the relations you discover or create will turn out to be obvious ones, such as matters of influence or of analogous ideas and techniques. Some may take the form of contrasts or oppositions that tell us something interesting about the authors, literary forms, or times in which these works appeared. Others, particularly matters of context, may require you to use the materials in the course website. to formulate an hypothesis. In many cases the website, the Norton Anthology, or the Norton edition of Pride and Prejudice provides the materials to create an answer but not an answer itself.

5. Finally, remember that the most effective answer does not separate into three parts, one on technique followed by others on theme and context. An effective essay instead shows how themes arise out of — or otherwise relate to — technique and context.


Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000