Category Archives: Midterm

Preparing for Monday’s Midterm Exam


Drawing from the themes and conflicts that we identified in our tagging activity in class yesterday, I have developed five prompts for the midterm exam (which is on Monday). On the exam, I will narrow down the choices to three, and you will choose one. As I have recommended before, if you prepare for at least three of these questions, you will be guaranteed to have at least one of your preferred questions on the exam.

You will not be allowed to bring the stories to the exam. Instead, you will be able to bring one sheet (typed or handwritten) that includes the quotations you would want to use in writing your essay. I will collect this sheet with your exam booklet.

Here is a draft of the exam, including the instructions:

In a well-developed essay, consider how two of the short stories we have read this semester compare in their approach to one of the following issues, topics, or themes. Compare (that is, write about similarities and differences in) two examples from each story, using quotations from your quotation sheet as evidence to support for your thesis-driven essay.

  1. the use of gruesome, macabre details to develop characters (i.e. characterization)
  2. the significance of setting details, including their symbolic significance
  3. patriarchy or oppression as a dominating force or as a force to be overthrown in the plot
  4. the intricate relationship between freedom and death
  5. marital or familial relationships as restrictive and/or empowering

(on the exam, this will be a list of three)

Guidelines and tips: (these will be on the exam instruction sheet, but it’s good to familiarize yourself with them before the exam)

  • You must use two stories we have read this semester for this essay, excluding the story you are writing about in Project #1.
  • Your essay should be 500-600 words—if you’re writing 5 words per line, that’s 5-6 pages in the blue book, fewer pages if you get more words per line. There’s no need to count all of the words: check to see roughly how many words you write per line on a few lines, then multiply that by 20 (lines per page) and the number of pages you have.
  • To get started, you should choose one of the questions and the two texts you will use to write the essay, based on the work you did to prepare for the exam.
  • Take time before you start writing the essay to think about what you want to write, and use the blue book to write down notes, lists, outlines, or other planning-writing before you start writing the essay.
  • There’s no need to skip every other line, but you might want to skip a line or two between paragraphs to give yourself space to add in any additional words or sentences when you re-read your essay.
  • When you include a quotation, even though it is already on your quotation sheet, please copy it into your essay.
  • Be sure to leave yourself enough time to proofread at least twice.
  • Rather than using whiteout or making a mess, when you need to make a correction, just cross out what you want to delete.

Getting Ready for the exam:

  • Re-read any stories you think you want to write about
  • Annotate the stories you think you want to write about as you re-read so you get the most out of reading them
  • Practice by drafting a thesis statement and outline for three to five of these topics
  • Prepare your quotation sheet for three to five of these topics
  • Ask questions by replying to this post
  • Share ideas by replying to this post
  • Get some sleep
  • Eat a good meal
  • Print (or write) and bring your quotations sheet
  • Come to class on time!

Brainstorming for the midterm exam

To get us started:

If our readings were each posts on our OpenLab site, what tags would you add to them?

(we wrote these on the boards in class. I will collate from the photos I took of them to add them in here)

Stories we can write about for the midterm exam (and our tags):

“I Always Write About My Mother When I Start to Write”

relationship to parent, idolization, fairy tale motif, retrospection

“There Was Once”

fairy tales, partirarchy, oppression, storytelling

Cinderella Stories

relationship to parent, fairy tale, mentor, dreams, betrayal, good vs. evil, supernatural, true love, pain, inherently good, gruesome, dominance , oppression, happy ending, death

“The Story of an Hour”

reliance, obligation, pain, imagery, rebirth, freedom, marriage, patriarchy, death

“A Jury of Her Peers”

neighbors, strangers, details, ways of reading, marriage, unhappy, art: quilting, sewing, food preserves; dominance, oppression, death

“A Rose for Emily”

Gothic, morbid, sexist, racist, dominance, oppression, patriarchy, marriage, death, introversion, story of its time, dark, macabre, gruesome , horror

“The Yellow Wall-Paper”

mental health/illness, insanity, horror, art: writing, creative, introversion, freedom, dominance, oppression, patriarchy, dark, macabre, pain, medical treatment

“The Cottagette”

love, equality, idyllic setting, ideal love, women’s work, art: embroidery and music, marriage, down with the patriarchy, friendship

“Only the Dead Know Brooklyn”

cultural relativism, humor, slang, dialect, real, realism, geography

“Hills Like White Elephants”

relationships, imbalance of power, power, dominance, naive, tough choices, confusion, baby, dialogue, repetition

“The Hunger Artist”

asceticism, vanity, attention, anger, art: performance, starvation, suffering, suffering for art, short-lived popularity, pain, spectacle, death

Topics and Themes emerging:


marriage/love/ false love vs secure attachments





The Plan:

I will post five questions on our site (this is in the works, but I need to think carefully about the language) based on topics/themes that emerged from our discussion. I will then choose three questions for the midterm exam. You will have to respond to one of the questions. The questions will each ask you to write about two readings from this semester so far. You will need to include quotations in your midterm exam essay. This is not an open-book exam, so you will be permitted one sheet of quotations that you prepare to bring in to the exam. Choose wisely! I will collect the page along with your exam.


If you prepare for three of the questions, you can be sure that at least one of them will be on the exam. So prepare for three and you’ll be set!

To prepare, try to draft a thesis statement, write an outline, choose quotations that will support your argument (and add them to your quotation sheet).

Wrapping up “A Hunger Artist” and other Short Fiction

As we have now addressed all of the readings in this section of our syllabus, we can finish any remaining conversations and begin our preparation for the midterm exam. Posts due on Tuesday at 12:00pm and comments for Wednesday at 10am can reflect on the materials we have covered. Here are some thoughts for these posts:

  • We usually identify the narrator for each story. We didn’t for “A Hunger Artist”–so in a post, decide what type of narrator tells the story, and use quotations from the story to support your claim.
  • “A Hunger Artist” can be read as an allegory. What is an allegory, and what allegory do you see in this story specifically?
  • When we read “A Hunger Artist,” do we believe someone could fast in the way the protagonist does? If not, what do we do about its un-reality? Is this an instance in which we invoke a suspension of disbelief? What does that mean? You might compare this to other stories from our reading that aren’t as linked to reality as our real lives are. For example, how does the loose connection to reality relate to something like “Cinderella” in one version or another? Are there any other stories you’d consider for comparison?
  • More generally, are there two stories that you think speak to each other, and if so, what is that point of conversation? Include quotations from both to show why it’s helpful to talk about the two stories together.

Our midterm can include any of the stories we read, not just the ones in the public domain. Project #1, though, is only about the stories in the public domain (starting with “The Story of an Hour”).

For Wednesday’s class, we’ll spend a little time doing a peer review for Project #1. I have asked everyone to bring a draft (in whatever shape it’s in) of Part 1, and an outline (including a thesis statement) of Part 2. The goal will be to share ideas with others writing about the same story to get feedback about how to structure the comparison.

We’ll also have a lively review for the midterm exam, where we will brainstorm questions that will be on the midterm. Come prepared: bring your texts, re-read them, mark them up more, and be ready to think about connections and themes.