Prose Review for AP English Literature
What is Prose?
As you know, prose is the written equivalent of the spoken language. It is written in words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. It utilizes punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary to develop its message. Prose is made up of fiction and nonfiction. For the AP Lit exam, you are required to be well read in the areas of:
- Fiction, which includes:
- Short stories
- Nonfiction, which includes:
- Autobiographies and biographies
Note: A brief word about drama. Since this section is a review of prose designed to prepare you for the AP Lit exam, it is not feasible to address every literary distinction and definition. Therefore, we wish to stress the following:
- Specific terminology can be found in the glossary at the back of this book.
- All the techniques examined for prose can be used to analyze drama as well.
- The overlapping nature of the analytical skills makes them suitable for prose, poetry, and drama.
Consider your name. Did your folks have a specific reason for choosing it? Does it have a family significance or a special cultural meaning? What would you choose for your name and why? Remember, names and identity are closely linked.
Authors often choose names that bring another dimension to a character or place. A good reader is sensitive to the implications of names. Here are a few interesting names and observations about each:
- Oedipus—swollen foot, seeker of truth
- Billy Budd—simple, melodic, young growth, ready to bloom
- Jane Eyre—Janus/beginning, air, err, heir, ere, eerie, ire
- Helen Burns—fever, fervor, mythological inspiration
- Mr. Mason—the Masons are a secret fraternity; he holds the secret
- Stella—star, light
- Kurtz—short, curt
- Willy Loman—low man
Create your own listing of literary names and their interpretations and implications. (This could also include place names, etc.)
It's an Open-and-Closed Case
The first thing that catches your attention should be the title. By all means, consider it carefully. David Copperfield lets you know it will be a novel about character. As I Lay Dying involves plot and theme. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest involves you immediately in symbol, character, and theme.
Authors place special emphasis on the first and last impressions they make on a reader. Their opening and closing lines of chapters or scenes are, therefore, usually very significant and should be closely examined. (This is much like an establishing shot in a movie that sets up the audience for future developments.)
- Here's the opening line from Chapter 1 of Jane Eyre:
- There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Here are some implications of this one line: no independence, locked in, no sense of curiosity, outside force preventing a journey, not ready to leave. Obviously, the character is not ready to experience the outside world or to embark on her journey.
- Contrast that with the last line of Chapter 1:
- Four hands were laid upon me and I was borne upstairs.
This line introduces a spiritual level to the novel. It also implies that a new Jane will emerge, and indeed she does.
- Take a look at one of the last lines of the novel:
- We wended our way into the wood.
This lovely, alliterative line completes the journey. Jane and Edward have come full circle as they stroll their way together.
In a Shakespearean play, often a couplet at the end of a scene or act will neatly summarize or foreshadow events. In Julius Caesar, for example:
- And after this, let Caesar seat him sure
- For we will shake him, or worse days endure ( Julius Caesar)
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