Literature: Honors 20th Century

Literature Honors 20th Century

Directions: Be sure to read the directions of each sections carefully and answer the correct number of questions.

Part I: Answer 1 of the following; each answer should be a thorough paragraph (8 points each)

  1. Briefly compare the portrayal of King Leopold in Williams’ “Open Letter” with his portrayal in Mark Twain’s “Soliloquy.”
  1. Compare the colonized native as constructed in Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” with his/her depiction in either Williams’ or Twain’s text.
  1. Compare the image of Africa in “An Open Letter” with its depiction in any poem by McKay or Hughes

Part II.  Choose 2 of the following quotes from Heart of Darkness, interpret the meaning, and then explain why this passage is important.  What does it reveal about characters, theme, plot development, etc. Please, use the attached paper for your answers (8 points each).

  1. “You can’t understand. How could you? – with solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbors…in the holly terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums – how can you imagine what a particular region of the first ages a man’s untrammeled feet may take him into by the way of solitude – utter solitude without a policeman – by the way of silence where no warning of a kind voice of a kind neighbor can be heard whispering of public opinion”


  1. “We are accustomed to look upon a shackled form of a conquered monster, but there – there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were –  No they were not inhuman.  Well, you know, that was the worst of it – this suspicion of their not being inhuman.  It would slowly come to one.  They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – your thought of a remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.”


  1. “‘His last word – to live with,’ she insisted…I pulled myself together and spoke slowly, ‘The last word he pronounced was – your name.’“

Part III: Choose 2 of the following quotes from Apocalypse Now, interpret the meaning of each, and then explain why the passage is important.  What does it reveal about characters, theme, plot development, etc. (8 points):

  1. Saigon…I am still only in Saigon.  Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse, I’d wake up and then there’d be nothing.  I hardly said a word to my wife until I said “yes” to a divorce.  When I was here, I wanted to be there. When I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle.


  1. You smell that?  Do you smell that? … Napalm, son.  Nothing else in the world smells like that.  I love the smell of napalm in the morning.  You know one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours.  When it was all over, I walked up.  We didn’t find one of them, not one stinkin’ body.  The smell you know, that gasoline smell, the whole hill. It smelled like victory.


  1. “We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio…and they had come and had hacked off every inoculated arm.  They were in a pile, a pile of little arms…And then I realized…The genius. The will to do that.  Perfect, genuine, complete, pure!  And then I realized they were stronger than me because they could stand it.  These were not monsters.  They were men – trained cadres.  These men who fought with their hearts who have families, who have children, who are filled with love – that they had the strength to do that.  If I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly.”


  1. They were going to make me major for this, and I wasn’t in their…army any more.  Everybody wanted me to do it.  Him most of all.  I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away.  He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up.  Not like some poor, wasted renegade.

Part IV: Essays- Choose 1 from each of the sets of questions. Be sure that each answer develops at least 3 body paragraphs. (20 points each)


1 A. Some readers claim that Heart of Darkness is strictly a political novella, making a strong ant-colonial statement. Others, however, say it’s really a story about human nature. Choose one of these two themes and discuss it in detail.  What assertion does Conrad make about the political system or the human condition?  How does he develop this assertion?  Please, use textual evidence to support your answer.


1 B. Chinua Achebe’s speech “An Image of Africa” delivers stinging criticism of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  Achebe calls both the author and his novella “racist” and claims that the book has no place in literature classes. List and discuss at least three reasons why Achebe considers Heart of Darkness demeaning to Africans. Do you agree with his assessment? Support your claim with relevant examples from the novella.



2 A. WWI poetry paint pictures of war that are full of terrifying, grotesque details in an attempt to persuade readers of the horrors of battle. Choose one of the poems we have analyzed and interpret at least four different poetic devices (both literal and figurative) to show the anti-war message of the poem.  Be sure to use proper literary terms.




2B. The period of Modernism has introduced a new type of character (in fiction) and a speaker (in poetry) – a man who wrestles with the fundamental question of “self” and searches for the meaning of life, often feeling insecure, paralyzed with fear, fragmented and alienated from the world around him. Refer to at least three allusions and/or other figures of speech to show the speaker of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is indeed a quintessential “modern man” of the early 20th century.


2C. Why did T.S. Eliot choose a quote from Dante’s Inferno as an epigraph at the beginning at “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”? Be sure to explain the context of the quote, interpret it, and then explain how it can help the reader to understand Eliot’s poem.

3A.  How does Marlow’s journey into the “heart of darkness” parallel Willard’s? Explain  similarities and differences in the way the novella and the movie develop the theme of  evil potentially inherent in all human hearts.


3B. Using specific scenes, images, and/or episodes from the novella and the movie,  discuss how Coppola uses the American military presence in Vietnam in the same way  Conrad uses the European colonization of the Congo to develop an anti-imperial theme.


3C.  Captain Willard, the protagonist of Apocalypse Now, is faced with numerous  situations, requiring him to make meaningful choices.  Refer to principles of  existentialism to explain whether in two specific situations of your choice Willard acted  like an  existentialist or not.



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