Dr. Laura L. Runge
October 6, 2005
Why is an “essay answer” important?
This particular genre of writing is quite restricted in its use and audience, given that you will only be called upon to write an essay answer on exams or applications of one type of another. Its limited presence, however, is indirectly proportional to its power; the ability to write a good essay answer frequently affects the outcome on important exams and, hence, could affect your grades, your admission into programs or schools, or, possibly, future jobs.
What makes a good essay answer?
It should be informative, to the point, organized, precise, intelligent, accurately and, if possible, eloquently written and directed to the appropriate audience.
Sample Essay Questions and Answers
A. Woolf argues that for genius to flower, a woman needs a room of her own and an independent income. What is the significance of these conditions? Apply the argument to two writers from the syllabus and determine its strengths and weaknesses.
A woman must have a room of her own in which to write in order to minimize the distractions that are part of her lot as a woman. An independent income is important for several reasons. First, because one does not have to sell one’s writings, which could easily corrupt them, by forcing one to write what will sell rather than as genius dictates. Second, one does not have to find some other paid employment, which takes away time and energy from writing. Third, an income gives a woman independence from the support of someone else (presumably a man) who will then dictate how she must spend that time and energy.
When discussing Aphra Behn, one is hampered by the lack of knowledge of her life in particular, and the lives of women in her time and society in general. As she is famous for her independence, I will assume that she had a room of her own. However, she did not have an independent income, and made her living through her writings. Even Woolf agrees (over) that this did not corrupt Behn’s writings, and she spends most of her time in the “white light of truth.” On the other hand, Charlotte Brontë had neither of these requirements. She wrote in a common sitting room surrounded by family, and was dependent on her family for support until her writings began to profit (and even then, she was not financially savvy enough to profit much). Woolf points to many instances of Brontë’s lapsing into the “red light of emotion” and suggests that she could have been a better writer if her circumstances had been different.
Woolf’s argument is difficult to prove one way or another. In hindsight, one could say that Behn’s room benefitted her, and her genius was such that she could still write as Woolf requires despite her lack of an income. But this theory cannot be tested, and it could be that Woolf is simply wrong. Perhaps the passion in Brontë’s writing comes from her less-than-ideal circumstances, and her eye for character interaction could not have developed shut away from that busy sitting room. (In addition, one could argue that better writing comes from the ‘red light of emotion,’ but that is the subject of a different essay.)
Woolfe advocates for independance and freedom because back then it was less common for women to work and have there own ideals and life independant of a man such as father, brother husban ect. To be considered a lady with good values from good family you must be connected to a respectable gentleman. A room implies having your own space to call your own therefore free to create without interruptions and family obligations.
Independant income, so that you can do as you like, thoughts independant of family or others opinion. Jane Eyre for example made her own money as a governess and had her own room, however lived in someone elses house, who she was employed by. She felt someone stiffled and trapped being in that house, one could argue it was she was not free to create at her own leisure and she had obligations and responsibilities to her job. However she does meet the criteria of having her own space and her own money.
Harriet Jacobs on the other hand was a slave therefore trapped in a different type of way. It was not until her freedom that she was able to write, creat and help others. So what do we deduce from that it has to be a freedom of mind, body and spirit. You can not feel trapped in your surroundings in order to create. However it was only due to her enslavement and lack of freedom that indeed allowed her to create and write the work she did to appear to so many people. Also the lack of freedom forced both authors to use pen names.
B. In Jane Eyre powerful emotions are dangerous but also liberating. What are the consequences of expressing female passion for Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason?
In Bertha Mason’s case, her powerful emotions have entirely negative consequences. To stop her from acting out, she is forced into marriage with a stranger. When he does not approve, she is labelled insane. and locked up. This enforced isolation only contributes to her downward spiral into madness and sub-humanity (or triggers the spiral in the first place, depending on how one chooses to read the text.). She is only liberated when she sets fire to her prison and takes her own life. This final act is the first time in fifteen years she has been able to take control of her life.
Jane Eyre’s powerful emotions lead
her down a different path. At
In the time period that Jane Eyre was written in, women were on a similar level of children. They were beautiful creatures to love that could be seen and not heard. Therefore the idea of a woman stepping out of what was considered the ‘norm’ was seen as offensive. The idea a woman would or could have her own thought much less express them in a public arena was some what ‘tabu’. By Jane confronting and facing her true emotions that probably scare her the most causes her to become liberated and grown up. Coming to to terms with, something frightening that hindges on the emotion of love would be overwhelming for anyone, it causes her to face the situation and make the only decission she can which, was to leave the home she grew to know and love along with the only man at that point she had ever loved. It was some what of a pheric victory for her because she grew up and became liberated but lost her love in doing so.
Making the proper marriage choice is central to Pride and Prejudice. Compare and contrast
Jane Austen makes the goal of
marriage a clear theme in Pride and Prejudice from the first sentence. Her main character, Lizzy, is the dominant
character whose point of view we see. She
reject two lovers before she accepts an offer of marriage. Her rejections tell us a lot about her
rationale for marriage. On the other
hand, her best friend Charlotte takes the first offer that comes her way, and
D: What is an entail and how does it affect the fates of Mrs. Bennet, Jane and Mr. Collins?
An entail is the willing of property to the next male of kin, to keep the property within the family. If Mr. Bennet died, because he had no sons, his estate would go to Mr. Collins. During the whole novel Mrs. Bennet is trying to marry her daughter to wealthy husbands so she and the other sibbling would have a place if Mr. Bennet died.
Mr. Collins asked Elizabeth Bennett
to marry him, but she refused. Mrs.
Bennet (mother) was very angry because if
Mrs. Bennet often worries about the
entail in Pride and Prejudice, and her inability to understand the logic of the
entail indicates its unfairness and its importance. Mrs. Bennet is not the smartest character in
the novel, and so the fact that she complains of the entail is not
alarming. But it does suggest that it is
a threat to her, which it is. The entail
is part of a gentleman’s will that leaves the estate to the next male in line
of inheritance. It is a legal process
that keeps the estate together in the paternal family. If it were to descend to a daughter, who
loses all rights to her property when she marries, the estate would go out of
the family. Thus the fact that Mr.
Bennet has no sons to inherit creates a problem for Mrs. Bennet. When Mr. Bennet dies, her house and its
belongings will go to the next male in line, which in our case is the original
Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is Mr. Bennet’s
brother’s son, and he will inherit Longbourne on the death of the current
owner. Despite his general denseness,
Mr. Collins is aware that this creates feelings of hostility toward him, and he
hopes to make the Bennet family feel better toward him by marrying one of the
many daughters. This plan appeals to
Mrs. Bennet because not only would she get to keep her house and belongings –
assuming her daughter would let her stay after Mr. Bennet’s death -- but she would also marry one of her daughters,
and marrying her daughters is her primary job.
The plan appeals to Mr. Collins, too, because he was told to get a wife,
and he believes these poor daughters will be likely to marry him because of the
entail. Jane is affected because as the
oldest Bennet daughter, Mr. Collins picks her first to be his wife. Fortunately for Jane, Mr. Bingley’s
attentions save her from having to hear Collins’ proposals. Unfortunately for Mrs. Bennet, Collins next
tries to get
E. In what ways did Paradise Lost influence eighteenth-century literature? Choose one of the following works and explain the role that Paradise Lost plays in the style, subject and themes: Rape of the Lock, Ode to Evening, Washing Day.
John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” has been and still is quite influential and really a quality/timeless piece of literature. It has inspired all kinds of semblances from serious to jovial; one of the greatest satires inspired by the eloquence and loftiness of “Paradise Lost” is Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” in which Pope borrows the premise that “mighty Quarrels rise from trivial Things” as is the case in “Paradise Lost” because the entire state of existence as we know it has been altered by the eating of the fruit of knowledge.
Pope constructs the premise on the
same level of thought as
Whether the Nymph shall break Diana’s Law,
Or some frail China Jar receive a Flaw,
Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade,
Forget her Prayers, or miss a Masquerade
Or lose her Heart, or Necklace at a Ball;
Or Whether Heav’n has doomed that Shock must fall.
Milton’s “Paradise Lost” has been not only influential in a number of his emulated devices ranging from his epic form, style, and detailed description of human nature, but he has been influential to a number of different authors and works on so many different levels that he has inspired a swerve from the original to create something wholly new and profound.
John Milton’s Paradise Lost is one of the most important literary influences of all time. This is by means of literary achievement and of influence on the history of the literature which follows. Ode to Evening was written, as it is believed, to illustrate the beauty of Eve. Paradise Lost is the narrative of ‘the fall’ to evil and darkness. Eve is portrayed as naïve [niEVE]. However William Collins chooses to personify ‘Evening’ (the time of day) as a beautiful woman (Eve).
This proves that Paradise Lost had an impact on
people because they expanded upon, or got there idea’s from. Not only does it speak avidly about Eve but it
also is in blank verse… like
The Rape of the Lock, by Alexander Pope, like PL portrays the woman as naïve. This is a very common thread amongst male writes of the time. They both portray women as vain, the most beautiful women are envisioned with long blonde curls.
Paradise Lost is definitely the most
important work that we studied this semester and it has affected much of the
literature since it has been published.
One work that has been influenced is Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. There are several instances where Pope