In-class Essay Prompts

In-Class Prompt 1

English Composition 1102

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Fall, 2007

In-class Essay – “Death of a Salesman” – Arthur Miller

Choose and answer one of the questions below. When exploring the question, be sure to offer specific references to the text - either quoted material or specific plot elements.  Also, consider the relevance of setting and/or stage directions to the ideas you present and use literary terms when appropriate.

  1. Do you believe Willy Loman is an innocent victim of the society in which he lives, or do you believe there are flaws in his character that make him at least partially responsible for his own misfortune?  Explain.
  2. Is Linda simply a stereotype of the long-suffering wife, or is she an individualized, multidimensional character? Explain



Final, In-Class Prompt 2

**In the following 3 prompts, all final exam questions for 1102, a short story analyzed by the class earlier in the semester is paired with an essay from the 1101 textbook—in 1 it is Stephanie Ericsson’s “The Ways We Lie”; in 2 it is Freud’s “Libidinal Types”; and in 3 it is an essay not from the 1101 textbook, but one used earlier in the 1102 semester, Eric Foner’s “American Freedom in a Global Age.”

Spring 2007

Final In-Class Essay

Question 1:

What kinds of liars are Donny, Daisy, and/or Cal, if indeed they are liars at all?  Using “The Ways We Lie” to analyze “Teenage Wasteland,” make a coherent literary argument about at least 2 characters in the short story. 

Question 2:

What “libidinal type”s are Montresor and Fortunato, if indeed they fit Freud’s models at all?  Using “Libidinal Types” to analyze “The Cask of Amontillado,” make a coherent literary argument about both characters in the short story. 

**By the way, because you’re using Freud as a microscope here, you are by definition making a psychoanalytical argument—cool, huh?

Question 3: 

In what significant ways are the narrator and/or her mother living “American Freedom in a Global Age”?  Using “American Freedom in a Global Age” to analyze “Two Kinds,” make a coherent literary argument about the mother and/or the daughter.

Other notes:

--You have 2 hours, until 12pm.

--Please refer to your sources (quoting, etc.) appropriately, but you do not need to use MLA citations.

--You may use your textbook and your photocopy of your source, but you may not use notes.



In-Class Prompt 3


FALL 2004


Take the whole class period to write a coherent, organized essay in response

to the questions below about Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to

Find.”  We did a lot of the brainstorming in class, so your job here is to pull

our observations together into a clear and persuasive essay. Do NOT merely

repeat what I have written below; be sure to make it your own essay.

Grammar and punctuation count!

1)         Were you surprised by the violent outcome of the story?  Why or why not?

2)         Write about the details in the story that foreshadow (which means

“suggests what is to come”) the violent ending.  Don’t just list the

examples; be sure to tell what these details predict.

3)         Do you think that, once all of the characters were gathered together, it

would be conceivable to have another equally satisfying ending?  Why

or why not?

(Just to get you off to a good start, here are some of examples of

foreshadowing in the story:  the grandmother does not want to travel to

Florida; the Misfit, his crimes, and where he is headed are mentioned;

grandmother makes many attempts to change the family’s plans; she dresses

so that if anyone finds her dead on the highway, they will know she was a

lady; the family passes a cotton field with five or six graves (six people in the

family);  passing through the town of Toombsboro, grandmother remembers

the house she would like to see again; after the car flips over, the children are

disappointed that “no one was killed”; then a “big black battered hearse-like

automobile” comes round the bend)



In-Class Prompt 4

**The concept of a “microscope” had been thoroughly discussed in class, and used in the first revised essay as well—for a microscope essay prompt, see Prompt #2 in Essay Prompts with Some Research.

In-Class Essay 2

Thursday, 3/22

10am Class in Writing Studio, using the laptops provided

For this essay, you will use one or two sentences from your source to analyze one paragraph from the story—in other words, you’ll be using that sentence(s) as a microscope through which to look at the paragraph.  Be sure you make a coherent literary argument about your pairing.  Feel free to quote other sections of the source or story to support and develop your argument; most of your analysis, however, should be of that sentence(s) and paragraph.

Before you start your essay, please be sure to:

1.  Select a one- or two-sentence quote from your class’s chosen source, “Kafka Live!”, and TYPE IT at the top.  Clearly label it “QUOTE.”

2.  Select a one-paragraph section of “The Hunger Artist,” and under the above quote, tell me, by the paragraph numbers in the book, which paragraph it is.  Clearly label it “Paragraph ##.”

Other notes:

--You may use the full class period.

--Please refer to your sources (quoting, etc.) appropriately, but you do not need to use MLA citations.

--You may use your textbook and your photocopy of your source, but you may not use notes.



In-Class Prompt 5

EN1102/ SPRING 06



            Now that you have had the opportunity to read, analyze, and annotate Claude McKay’s poem “America,” you will write an in-class essay about the poem.  You may refer to your writing about poetry checklist, your sheet on how to cite poetry correctly, and your Rules for Writers book while writing your essay in the blue-book provided.  Use MLA format when citing lines from the poem, and use the terms we have learned that are specific to poetry (i.e. poems do not have narrators nor paragraphs, but they do have poetic equivalents).

Rather than ask a specific and limiting question about the poem, I will provide you general guidelines for writing your analysis of the poem so that you can focus more on issues that interest you and less on those that don’t.  Try to respond to some degree, though, to all of these suggestions in whatever order you choose:

  1. discuss the overall meaning of the poem; point to specific lines or parts of lines to support your position
  2. who is speaking in the poem and to whom?
  3. find instances of figurative language and/or metaphors and similes in the poem;  discuss their meanings-- and how these examples relate to or differ from one another (do they complement or compete with each other)
  4. characterize the tone of the poem; show how you’ve come to this notion
  5. consider the form of the poem and it’s rhyme scheme (the really thorough essay will try and comment on the significance of the form)

Please do write about any other item that interests you about the poem not found in this list.  Don’t forget to proofread your essay before you submit it. 



In-Class Prompt 6

In-Class Short Essay Poetry Exam

Exam: Choose two of the four poems below.  Write a detailed explication of each.


“Sonnet 130,” Shakespeare (p. 482)

“Jump Cabling,” Pastan (p. 486)

“For Malcolm, a Year After,” Knight (p. 513)

“The Photograph,” Hardy (p. 522)

You may use your books for the poems and for the explication tools listed below. 40 minutes.

Tools for explication:

p. 473:  speaker, audience

p. 475:  diction, tone of voice

p. 480:  figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, connotations, etc.)

p. 484:  imagery, symbolism

p. 487:  verbal irony, paradox (hyperbole, understatement, etc.)

p. 487:  structure

p. 496:  rhythm

p. 498:  meter

p. 500:  rhyme, alliteration, consonance, onomatopoeia, etc.

p. 501:  stanzaic patterns

p. 503:  blank and free verse




In-Class Prompt 7

Spring 2006

In-Class Essay 2

Please answer one of the following two questions:

  1. Daniel Robinson claims that in Tim O’Brien’s stories, “we see boys becoming men before they have had the opportunity to understand what manhood involves” (1-2).  Analyze at least 2 characters from “The Things They Carried” in order to decide if you agree or disagree with Robinson’s statement. OR
  2. How does the mother in Bel Kaufman’s story fit into the revolution Vivian Gornick describes?

** You must use basic MLA citations for this essay (though you do not need a Works Cited).

45 minutes.