Guidelines on Exam One


The first exam for this class, worth 25% of your final grade, will be on Thursday, January 29. There will be three sections to the exam: true-false questions (worth 15%); short-answer questions (worth 30%); and one essay question (worth 55%). Altogether, you will have an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the exam (75 minutes).

Bring a bluebook with you, as well as whatever writing utensils that you feel most comfortable using. Bluebooks are available for purchase at the campus bookstore, or on occasion are available for free upstairs in the Student Center office of the student government.

Section I: The true-false questions will simply reflect whether or not you have read the short stories closely enough to remember them. These questions will not be difficult, but they will relate to all of the stories that we have read so far, each available in the Electronic Reserves (, password 101:

1.       Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal”

2.       Isak Dinesen’s “The Monkey”

3.       John Cheever’s “The Swimmer”

Section II: For the short-answer questions, I will give you a passage from a short story and ask you to identify some of the literary devices that we have covered so far in the class. I may also ask you to identify the narrator of the story, to analyze a complex passage closely, or to discuss the theme of that passage. All of the short-answer questions will relate to the three stories listed above. Literary concepts and terminology will be drawn from the  “Imagery, Metaphor, Simile” and “Analyzing Fiction” readings, also available in the Electronic Reserves.

Section III: For the final section, the essay section, you will be able to refer to a typed outline, which you will need to prepare before the exam. Altogether, the outline should comprise no more than one side of one page, and have no complete sentences other than quotations from the stories and your thesis statement (main argument). The rest of the outline should be a true outline, containing only brief clauses and memory-triggering expressions; that is, a loose sketch of topics listed in the order that you will discuss them, not an essay already started with any of the sentences or paragraphs pre-written. Including brief quotations from the stories will help to support your argument.

Everything on the outline must relate exclusively to the third section of the exam. For example, do not write down the definitions of terms that you will be tested on in Section II.

If your outline is over one page, has complete ideas or sentences (other than the thesis or quotations), or contains information unrelated to Section Three, you will not be able to use it. You will also not receive the credit for the outline (15 points).

You do not need to write a completely polished essay: the goal is to communicate as much meaning and cover as much material as possible in the time that you have. In other words, demonstrate what you know relevant to the topic of the essay question in as much as you can, using specific details from the texts to support your argument and presenting ideas in the order that will be most persuasive.


Essay Question:

Many, if not all, of the main characters in Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal,” Isak Dinesen’s “The Monkey,” and John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” experience some form of alienation—the sense of their own identity as alien to or estranged from what they want it to be, what believe it ought to be, or what the surrounding culture expects it to be. What is the main cause for this experience of alienation? Is it primarily due to the characters’ own individual imperfections or due to the failings of the societies in which they live? To what degree can, or should, these characters conform to societal expectations? Are the effects of conformity less harmful than the effects of non-conformity, whether on the characters themselves or on the other characters surrounding them?