Invisible Man, Raisin in the Sun, Brooks, Stories
Directions: Choose ONE prompt from EACH OF THE TWO CATEGORIES below (A and B). Make sure to label clearly which essay prompt you are responding to. For each topic, develop a narrow, arguable thesis that makes a cogent point about the literature. Support your thesis using paraphrased and quoted details from the literature; please use parenthetical citations (for page #s) for direct quotes. Each essay should be approximately three pages in length, typed double-spaced. Start a new page when starting your second essay but do not put an additional heading on the page; do not create a second document.
A. 1. Invisible Man is considered an existential novel. In what way do the tenets of existentialism help inform the reader’s understanding of the characters? Examine the Narrator’s existential journey; in the end, is he “successful”? What are some primary themes and/or images in the novel that help develop the concepts of existentialism?
2. History is an important concept in this novel. We see the protagonist and other characters talking about history at times; we also see Ellison taking real historical events and people and fictionalizing them – weaving them into the story. How should we interpret the use of history in Invisible Man?
3. The names of characters in Invisible Man are highly symbolic, sometimes of the character and sometimes of broader issues. Look at 2-3 characters in the novel in terms of the significance and associations with their names; what should we see here? Give examples from the text as to how these individuals embody what their names suggest.
B. The prompts below must be answered using at least two of the following works:
Raisin in the Sun; “The Lesson”; “The Kind of Light…”; “Every Tongue…” “The Fix”
1. Education: How does gaining an education change a character’s life? Is it always positive?
How does it affect relationships? What motivates a character to become educated: Is education always “going to school”?
2. Family: What role does the family play in the plot or characterization seen in the literature? Are African-American families portrayed as being different from “mainstream” white culture? Explore the relationship between specific individuals and the family as a whole.
3. Identity: What do these works of literature say about the nature of being black in America? How does language contribute to the making of self? What is the relationship between individual identity and group identity? Does a character’s sense of self change over the course of the story? What social factors and/or institutions contribute to the shaping of identity?
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