|2001 AP English Literature Scoring Guide
Question #3: “Much madness is divinest Sense—“
General Directions: This scoring guide will be useful for most of the essays that you read, but for cases in which it seems problematic or inapplicable, please consult your table leader. The score you assign should reflect your judgment of the quality of the essay as a whole—its content, its style, its mechanics. Reward the writers for what they do well. The score for an exceptionally well-written essay may be raised by one point above the appropriate one. In no case may a poorly written essay be scored higher than a three (3).
These well-focused essays identify the “madness” or the “irrational behavior” of a character in an appropriate novel or play, and they persuasively explain the nature of this delusion or eccentric behavior and how it might be judged reasonable in the context of the entire work. Using apt and specific textual illustrations but without belaboring the plot, they fully explore not only the nature of the character’s “madness” but also its significance to the work as a whole. These essays need not be flawless, nor must they accomplish all aspects of this complex task equally well. Nonetheless, they exhibit the writer’s ability to discuss a literary work with insight and understanding, to sustain control over a thesis, and to write with clarity and perhaps—in the case of a nine (9) essay—with stylistic flair.
These competent essays describe the nature of the character’s “madness” in an appropriate novel or play
and discuss how the delusion or eccentric behavior might be judged reasonable, and the significance that
delusion or eccentric behavior has to the work as a whole. Although not without insights, the analysis
provided by the 7-6 essay is less thorough, less perceptive, and/or less specific than that of the 9-8 papers; references to the text may not be as apt or as persuasive. Papers scored a seven (7) will demonstrate more sophistication in both substance and style, though both 7’s and 6’s will be generally well written and free from significant or sustained misinterpretation.
These essays tend to be simplistic in analysis even though they may respond to the assigned task and may
offer a plausible discussion of the work. They often rely upon plot summary that contains some analysis,
implicit or explicit. They may discuss a character’s “madness” in a limited manner, or not fully develop
its significance to the work as a whole. However, these essays will not accomplish all—or perhaps any—of these tasks with sufficient development. The work itself may be poorly chosen for this essay question; the character’s “madness” and its nature may not be clearly related to reasonable behavior. Typically these essays reveal unsophisticated thinking and/or immature writing.
These lower-half essays reflect an incomplete or oversimplified understanding of the work discussed, or they may fail to establish how a character’s “madness” can be judged to be reasonable, or they may fail to discuss how that behavior informs the work as a whole. They may rely on plot summary. Their assertions maybe unsupported or even irrelevant. Often wordy, elliptical, or repetitious, these essays lack control over the elements of college-level composition. Essays scored a three (3) exhibit more than one stylistic error; they may also be marred by significant misinterpretation and/or poor development.
These essays compound the weaknesses of the papers in the 4-3 range. Often, they are unacceptably brief
They may be poorly written on several counts and contain distracting errors in grammar and mechanics.
The writer’s observations are presented with little clarity, organization, or supporting evidence. Essays
that are especially inexact, vacuous, and/or mechanically unsound should be scored a one (1).
This is a response with no more than a reference to the task.
-- A blank paper or completely off-topic response.
Literature and Composition
In Samuel Beckett’s play,” Waiting for Godot” the two main characters, Vladamir and Estragon exude eccentric and absurd behavior that could be considered madness. However, to the “discerning Eye,” like Beckett, this madness was a deliberate technique to illuminate the underlying meaning in the play. The madness represented not only the state of society in a very reasonable way but also the catalyzing factor for revelation of the significance of the work.
To fully understand the use of the madness, one must understand the context of the play. Beckett wrote for the Theater of the Absurd, which focused on overexaggeration of “absurdity” to produce meaning in plays. Beckett chooses to involve his characters, Vladamir and Estragon, in an unending cycle of “Waiting for Godot.” In the two acts of the play, the scene repeats itself. Vladamir and Estragon wait near a tree for Godot, a character who both figures are unsure of his mere existence, not to mention his physical appearance. The repetition of the waiting each day is coupled with absurd dialogue, which is also repeated many times between the characters, even switching lines to show their interchangeability. A paraphrase of the most common repetition of dialogue resembles the following: Vladamir: Lets go. Estragon: Yes, let’s go. Vladamir: Wait, we can’t. Estragon: Why? Vladamir: Because we’re waiting for Godot.
The repetitiveness of the main characters’ lines may seem to be madness, but it can also be considered reasonable. The play was written during post-WWII disillusionment. Many people did not know why they were living or if there was even a God. The similarity in the name “Godot” and “God” is not a coincidence. Society seemed to be waiting for God to show them a sign that life was still worth living. “Godot” also translates in Gaelic to “eternity.” This gives irony to the title, in that the characters are both waiting for eternity (forever), and waiting for eternity (as a state of being, such as heaven).
The madness of the lives of Vladamir and Estragon may prompt a reader to dismiss the play as “having no meaning,” when in fact that is the very point that Beckett is trying to make. The lack of meaning, due to the madness of the absurd, is a result of indecision on the part of the characters. The play relates to Plato’s idea that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Vladamir and Estragon do not “examine” their life for its inherent meaning, instead choosing for meaning to be bestowed upon them by Godot.” The intentional absurdity and madness should point to the fact that life has no meaning unless one actually chooses to find meaning. This relates to the principle of “Carpe Diem” (Seizing the day). The characters falsely presume that the meaning of life is discovering the meaning, when instead it is actually searching for it that provides meaning.
In Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot” the main characters, Vladamir and Estragon, are trapped in a seemingly unending cycle of absurdity. This madness exposes the lack of “examined “ lives in society to find one’s own meaning. The characters’ only escape is to redefine their existence. Beckett hopes that his audience will have the same “discerning Eye” that Dickinson and himself possess, in order to perceive the madness as the illuminating factor of the play.
Whether “madness” is a horrible malfunction of the brain or merely a deviation from the accepted perception of the world, there is a thin line between a person being eccenctric and being truly crazy. In Crime and Punishment, a creative youth comes up with a theory that leads him to view himself as an “extraordinary man”, above other people and above the law. “Extraordinary” and “insane” are synonymous in the description of Raskolnikov’s delirium under which he commits murder and isolates himself from the world.
The most dangerous criminals are the intelligent ones. Raskolnikov, a remarkable youth, is a college student who drops out for lack of money. With nothing to do, he sits alone contemplating the society he is a part of, until his need for money prompts the spark of unusual thought in his mind. As these thoughts continue to revolve, Raskolnikov becomes so deeply involved in his plan to murder an “unnecessary” old woman for the good of mankind as well as himself. Not flippant or typically criminal in his being, Raskolnikov carefully toys with the plan that has now become his entire existence, obsessively practicing his plan while remaining withdrawn, not sharing his mind or heart with any one, even his mother.
Although the act of murder is unjustifiable for any reason, Raskolnikov did theorize an explanation that would free him to do this. The old woman was mean, making money off the poor and contributing nothing to society—by taking her money and using it for a good purpose, Raskolnikov would overall improve society. However, even if in theory his plan is reasonable in any way, Raskolnikov is obviously “abnormal” in his pattern of thinking, which is generally described as “crazy.” Later on, Raskonikov is unable to deal with the guilt his crime ensured, and lapses into a delirious state of guilt-ridden dreams and hallucinations. This lapse of sanity is not permanent, however—Raskolnikov returns to his usual level of unusuality when he confesses to the crime, thus displaying his madness as a momentary voyage into the depths of his mind, from whence come forth images and ideas unacceptable to ordinary society as they do not abide by established laws or procedures, but rather follow the twisted paths they forge themselves.
In the play Macbeth, madness play’s a signifacant role in the play. The madness of Macbeth throughout the play leads to all the things that happen. Macbeth experience his madness mostly after he kills a person, he continues to hear & see things throughtout the play. He hears things & see’s things because he thinks that it is their ghost coming back to haunt him. In the begging of the play Macbeth showed no signs of madness, he was considered to be a well liked man, it was his wife who showed signs of madness. But as the play progresses the tables switched. This madnss that Macbeth is a key factor to the play.
Emily Dickinson once wrote: “Much madness is divinest Sense—to a discerning Eye--.” This madness is an important theme in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Beckett fills his play with what can be considered madness in order to get his point across and comment on society. What he considers madness, we may actually consider reasonable.
Every character in Waiting for Godot is subject to madness of the like Dickinson speaks of. Primarily, the characters of Estragon and Vladimir exemplify the strange behavior. They talk about this and that, but never take any action. They consistantly forget where they are and what they’re doing. They cannot communicate with each other or anyone else without an erruption of confusion. Estragon and Vladimir exemplify this “madness” perfectly. A specific example arises when the second Act opens. The characters are in the same setting as the night before, but can vaguely remember any of the past events. Vladimir attempts to sing a song, but cannot remember all the words. In all this madness and confusion, however, there is a point. Beckett wants the reader to recognize the madness. He is saying that the average, unexamined life consists of this madness. The madness can be judged reasonable because it is merely truth exaggerated. Beckett wants us to see that daily life can slip into this cycle of confusion and unexamined behavior that Vladimir and Estragon exemplify.
The madness that Dickinson writes off is constantly thrown at the reader (or viewer if in play form) in Waiting for Godot. The work closes with the same amount of confusion it begins with. With a discerning eye, however, this confusion is really clarity. Beckett tells us that daily routines and lack of actions are meaningless. The characters of Waiting for Godot are evidence of this as exaggerated as they may seem. Through madness, Beckett manages to get his message across.
An interesting example of this madness comes at the close of each act. Vladimir and Estragon finally decide that they will take some sort of action and move, yet they do not. Beckett is commenting on the way many humans live their lives. We all say “let’s go” but never do. Beckett creates such an extreme example of confusion and strange behavior to astound us. Yet, ironically, many of us fall into this “madness” every single day. We may even consider it reasonable because it’s second-nature not to question it. Beckett, however, would argue differently.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, James Gatz’s madness is driven by love. Gatz creates a false persona. For himself and becomes Jay Gatsby in his quest to regain Daisy’s love. His quest is resonably inspired by love, but he does not realize the barrier that time built between himself and Daisy.
Gatz courted Daisy and fell in love with her the summer before he went into military service. While he served in war, Daisy moved on and married Tom, a man with a fortune of old money. Gatz wants Daisy and after he is discharged from service he aquires money in scandious ways. His dilusional behavior begins when he turns himself in to Jay Gatsby, a mysterious character who buys an enormous mansion directly across the water from Daisy and Tom. The eccentric Gatsby hosts grand parties every week hoping to lure Daisy to his house and impress her. Gatsby enlists his neighbor and the narrator, Nick, to help him get Daisy; when his earlier plan fails.
Gatsby is crazy to think that he can break up the marraige of Tom and Daisy simply because she love him once. Gatsby overlooks the marraige and Daisy’s child as an obstacle. Gatsby’s reason is impared by his love for Daisy. His madness, however, drives the entire plot. Gatsby’s irrational behavior causes Daisy to reconsider her marraige with Tom and confront his infidelity to her. In the end Tom and Daisy stay together, but the death of Tom’s mistress due to Daisy’s hit-and-run car accident drives the gas station owner to insanity and he murders Gatsby.
Gatsby’s irrational actions ruin his life. His heart is broken by Daisy, who chooses her husband over him and he is eventually murdered due to the repercussions of his relationship with Daisy. Gatsby is driven by love and he thinks that his past relationship with Daisy was strong enough to tear her away from her marraige, provided that he was wealthy enough to attract her attention. Gatsby is blinded by his emotions and his behavior creates the madness that entered the lives of Tom, Daisy, Nick, and Gatsby that summer.
Catch 22 is a war novel known for its harsh satitorization of the government and related agencies. Many of the characters within Catch 22 appear be be delusional and eccentric when this behavior deals with the heart of the novel which centers around the chaos.
Characters whithin Catch 22 want to fly planes into extremly dangerous areas when it is not neccesary. Officials continue to change the number of missions compleated needed in order to leave. One male even tampers with the soldiers male leaving out words etc. and sighing off with false names. The cook wishes to have a nice dining area however it is deflated by the food. One man’s father named him Major Major Major and so the computer automatically advanced him to become Major Major Major Major.
But worst of all Comrade walked out and abandoned his mission and the army in the end. These behaviors can be seen as reasonable due to the characters’ surroundings. The walkout in the end symbolizes the first real decision made by the soldier that is his own. It is the only reasonable thing in the whole novel except that the other characters reactions reflect the environment.
There is a Latin saying that tells us, “In wine and children, there is truth.” The disingenuousness that characterizes the states of drunkenness and childhood also marks madness. Consequently, it is a very effective device, when feigned, both for excusing the words that come from the alleged madman and for relaxing the caution others generally exercise over their own speech.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the young prince, tormented by his beloved father’s death and his mother’s remarriage to the late king’s brother shortly thereafter, is alarmed for a variety of reasons when the ghost of his dead father declares that his brother, Claudius, the new king, plotted with the queen, Gertrude, to kill Hamlet’s father that they might together rule Denmark. Hamlet’s latent distrust of his uncle and contempt for his mother come to the surface as he schemes to confirm his father’s story and average the purported crime. Wishing to calm the criminals into a false complacency that will lead to revelations, Hamlet transforms the melancholia which had characterized his behavior since the king’s death into an ambiguous madness. This alarms the royal pair, particularly Gertrude, who is anxious for her son’s health and happiness, while detecting his disapprobation of her hasty marriage. Hamlet’s madness is extensive, and painful to far more people than just the king and queen. Cutting abruptly off his romance with Ophelia, who lives at court, Hamlet torments her by alternately treating her with hostility, as in a scene secretly observed by Claudius and Ophelia’s father Polonius (who holds that Hamlet’s mental state is only that of a lovestruck gentleman) when Hamlet urges his ladylove to “get thee to a nunnery,” or with doting affection, saying naught but holding her to him. When Polonius makes a sociable attempt at conversation, asking what Hamlet is reading, he is put off with the concise answer, “words,” and subjected to a seemingly irrational barrage of insults and commentary. The prince even extends his farce to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, friends from school called by Claudius to root out the secret of Hamlet’s illness. Contemptuous and angry at his friends for working against him, Hamlet mocks them, too, in elaborate and nonsensical speeches that contain deeper meanings.
This elaborate arrangement, psychologically demanding both for the court and Hamlet himself, has a clear purpose, however, in deliberately causing the supporting characters to underestimate the prince and blind themselves to his plot. Consequently, when Hamlet asks a troupe of traveling actors to perform, the king and queen humor him by joining the audience, not realizing, as they would have had they not considered Hamlet mad, that the production was a mockery of the circumstances of the dead king’s response from those responsible. And indeed, Claudius’ panic as he identifies the parallel identifies him as the killer, confirming the ghost’s story, and as a result, Hamlet feels justified to avenge the king’s death by killing Claudius.
It is a witty irony of Shakespeare that madness causes more truth to be revealed than does purportedly honest everyday interaction.
“Don Quixote” by Cervantes is the story of a “madman” and his imagined adventures. In reality, this man was an old, dillusional, and misled person. In his mind; however, he believed that he was the knight errand Don Quixote, whose mission was to rid the world of all evil. His “madness” is what drives the plot. He travels the countryside in search of peril, and meets people who think he should be put in jail for his insanity. This madness of his can be justified if closely looked upon. Firstly, Quixote believed that he was a valiant knight. He never hurt anyone on his journey (except himself), and only wanted to do well. His benevolence was a truly valiant attitude, whether he was sane or mad. Another reasonable point that was part of his madness was that he had a good effect on people. For example, he constantly declared his love for the beautiful Dulcina, who was just a common “lady of the night.” At first, she just called him crazy, but the more he treated her like a lady, the more she realized that she was one. Whether or not Quixote was mad is a heavy influence on the entire work’s significance. Quixote behaved in an apparently irrational manner, but it was often the morally right way to act. While everyone else around him was fighting, soliciting, and being unjust, Quixote was ridding the world of evil. Who, exactly, was the mad person? If thought as “eccentric,” then Quixote was indeed mad. However, Quixote was quite sane in the moral sense, for he was doing what no one else had dared to do. He was being just. Ironically, it is through this that Quixote’s “madness” was actually one of the few sane things in the world.
In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is getting old. His career is failing and he doesn’t want to face it. So, in turn, he behaves a little eccentrically.
Willy doesn’t even tell his wife the truth about his job. He tells her he’s still doing good and even that it should be getting better. Willy also talks to himself. He mostly does this when he’s alone but others hear him. Willy has a lot of flashbacks and will sometimes end up talking as if he’s in the flashback instead of the present. This drives his wife and son crazy. Willy also keeps a hose in the garage to use to committ suicide.
These actions are all driven by a need for the approval of others, especially his oldest son. Willy wants the best for his oldest son whose taken a different path than he imagined. This overwhelming desire to be liked by others is not helped by his career as a salesman. That’s rough life and Willy is a prime example. Without this “madness” there wouldn’t even be a story to tell in Death of a Salesman.
Everyone experiences the effects of stress sometimes, Willy just couldn’t control them. Besides, talking to yourself isn’t all that crazy. Sometimes it’s the only intelligent conversation you can find.