Final Exam Questions


1. Hawthorne wrote within an aesthetic of ambiguity; he refused to “stick a pin through a butterfly” and impose a single moral on his stories. He withholds interpretation and often offers multiple and conflicting interpretations of his stories, leaving it to his reader to interpret his work.  Discuss the multiple ways that readers may interpret “Rappaccini’s Daughter.”


2. Early in his career, Melville tired of writing travel narratives and attempted to elevate his stories to the level of spiritual and political allegory. Discuss how “Bartleby, The Scrivener” is a spiritual and/or political allegory.


3. Rebecca Harding Davis’s “Life in the Iron-Mills” is an early work of realist literature. Based on Harding’s account, what is life really like for workers in a mill town—and what is so wrong about it?


4. Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” is an example of travel literature, one of the most popular forms of 19th century American literature. What is Melville’s purpose in juxtaposing the two travels that comprise his story?


5. Making reference to four authors (two from volume 1 of the Norton and two from volume 2), discuss how the role or mission of the American writer changed from 1490 to 1865. (Hint: read the introductory biographies of the authors for help with composing this answer.)