STUDY QUESTIONS FOR FICTION—PROFESSOR SUE KUENNEN The following are ideas to think about as you read the stories. Considering these questions as you read should help you to read more effectively, comprehend the literary issues in the stories, and recognize those elements in the passages on the exams. For more ideas about what issues to consider as you read, there are also excellent discussion questions and prompts after each story in your textbook. If you are in an online course, you do not have to address these issues in your discussion posts. Let your research determine the content of your posts.
Edgar Allan Poe, "The Cask of Amontillado"
How does Montressor get Fortunado to go with him?
Explain foreshadowing in the story.
How can we tie Poe’s "single effect theory" to the story?
What evidence do we have that the narrator feels guilty?
Apply the historical context of a Catholic/Freemasonry conflict.
Explain symbols such as the motto, arms, and the catacombs.
The KCC library has a video of "Cask"—the story narrated over drawings.
Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"
How does the author achieve suspense?
Compare Roderick and his house.
Look for the appearance of doubles or "two" throughout the story.
What is the effect of the first person point of view?
Read and respond to Faulkner's comments in the Commentary section.
Comment on the unconventional order, the use of flashbacks.
Look at North/South symbolism.
Look for Faulkner's comments on the culture, old south/new south transition.
The KCC library has a video biography of Faulkner.
William Faulkner, "Barn Burning"
Explain the various conflicts in the story.
Explore the story as a cultural artifact.
Comment on class issues during the time period.
Discuss point of view and how the boy's thoughts are presented.
Flannery O'Connor, "Everything That Rises Must Converge"
Analyze the reasons behind the mother's behavior.
In what ways is the son actually like his mother?
Explore the symbolism in the hats and bus scene.
John Cheever, "The Swimmer"
Why must this story occur over at least two days some time apart instead of only one? Consider evidence from Ned's physical changes, weather changes, and the changes in the reaction of other people, etc.
Tragedy or pathos? Consider hints as to Ned's mistakes or flaws that led to his downfall.
Do a psychological analysis of Ned.
Apply the mythological approach by tying the story to Homer's Odyssey and/or Dante's Inferno.
Explore the suburbia themes.
Explore the symbolism of the pools.
John Updike, "A & P"
How is this story dated by the details?
Do you see sexism in the story? Is it offensive? Is it appropriate?
Why is life going to be hard for the narrator?
Discuss the initiation theme.
Apply the concept of epiphany.
How can we see this story as an allegory for the times—the transition from the 50’s to the 60’s?\
John Updike, "Separating"
How is this story a cultural artifact?
Do a gender analysis of the story.
In what way might we see the narrator as unreliable?