Realism: Freeman / Chesnutt / Gilman

Freeman – Reading and Review Questions:

  1. In Freeman’s “A New England Nun,” analyze the confinement or restraint of the bird and the dog in the story and examine how such images contribute to the story’s theme.
  2. In “A New England Nun,” compare Louisa Ellis and Lily Dyer. How are they similar or different?
  3. Examine the concept of “order” in Freeman’s “A New England Nun.” Why is Louisa so concerned with order?
  4. In “A New England Nun,” why is Louisa likened to an “artist” and later a “queen” in the story?
  5. In Freeman’s “Revolt of Mother,” examine the term “revolt” in the title. What does it mean in terms of the story’s theme?
  6. Examine the central conflict in “Revolt of Mother.” Who is revolting, and what is he or she rebelling against both literally and symbolically?
  7. What happens to Adoniram when he changes his mind at the end of the story? What kind of conversion does he experience?

Chesnutt – Reading and Review Questions:

  1. What elements of Local Color do you see in “The Passing of Grandison”? How does the story exhibit features of Realism?
  2. Examine ways in which people may not be what they seem in the story. To what extent are any of the characters wearing “masks” or veiling their identities?
  3. What is Chesnutt’s view toward the Old South in the story?
  4. How is “passing” depicted in the story? What meanings might the word have in light of the ending of the story?
  5. Examine the idea of the hero in the story, paying particular attention to Charity Lomax’s charge to Dick Owns to do something heroic.
  6. Examine the layers of trickery in the story. Who wins, and who loses? Why?

Gilman – Reading and Review Questions:

  1. As you read “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” you will be tempted to diagnose the narrator as suffering from postpartum depression. However, does the source of the narrator’s lingering illness reside entirely in her body? Consider other causes for her on-going malaise. Why isn’t she getting better?
  2. Consider how the narrator’s loving doctor-husband John talks to and controls her. What does John allow and, more importantly, forbid his sick wife to think and do?
  3. The narrator of this story is unreliable as she is suffering from mental illness, which leads her to misinterpret the nature of her confinement. For instance, the narrator presumes that she is confined within a child’s former playroom. Close-read the details of the story’s setting, contrasting the narrator’s interpretation of the details of her room the bars on the windows, for instance with your own sense of what these things mean.


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American Literatures After 1865 Copyright © by Scott D. Peterson; Amy Berke; Robert Bleil; Jordan Cofer; and Doug Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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