Native Son by Richard Wright



News report (2008) on black male prison population . . .






Native Son Free Response Question Prompts:

1979. Choose a complex and important character in a novel or a play of recognized literary merit who might on the basis of the character’s actions alone be considered evil or immoral. In a well-organized essay, explain both how and why the full presentation of the character in the work makes us react more sympathetically than we otherwise might. Avoid plot summary.

1982. In great literature, no scene of violence exists for its own sake. Choose a work of literary merit that confronts the reader or audience with a scene or scenes of violence. In a well-organized essay, explain how the scene or scenes contribute to the meaning of the complete work. Avoid plot summary.

1985: A critic has said that one important measure of a superior work of literature is its ability to produce in the reader a healthy confusion of pleasure and disquietude.

Select a literary work that produces this "healthy confusion" Write an essay in which you explain the sources of the "pleasure and disquietude" experienced by the readers of the work.

You may choose a work from the list below, or you may choose another work of comparable quality. Do not base your essay on a work you know from having seen a television or movie production of it.

1987: Some novels and plays seem to advocate change in social or political attitudes or in traditions. Choose such a novel or play and note briefly the particular attitudes or traditions that the author apparently wishes to modify. Then analyze the techniques the author uses to influence the reader's or audience's views. Avoid plot summary.

You may choose one of the works below or another of comparable quality that is appropriate for the question. Do not write about a film or a television program.

1995. Writers often highlight the values of a culture or a society by using characters who are alienated from that culture or society because of gender, race, class, or creed. Choose a novel or a play in which such a character plays a significant role and show how that character’s alienation reveals the surrounding society’s assumptions or moral values.

2001. One definition of madness is “mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it.” But Emily Dickinson wrote
“Much madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye--'

Novelists and playwrights have often seen madness with a “discerning Eye.” Select a novel or play in which a character’s apparent madness or irrational behavior plays an important role. Then write a well-organized essay in which you explain what this delusion or eccentric behavior consists of and how it might be judged reasonable. Explain the significance of the “madness” to the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

2004, Form B. The most important themes in literature are sometimes developed in scenes in which a death or deaths take place. Choose a novel or play and write a well-organized essay in which you show how a specific death scene helps to illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

2009, Form B. Many works of literature deal with political or social issues. Choose a novel or play that focuses on a political or social issue. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the author uses literary elements to explore this issue and explain how the issue contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

2011. In a novel by William Styron, a father tells his son that life “is a search for justice.”
Choose a character from a novel or play who responds in some significant way to justice or injustice. Then write a well-developed essay in which you analyze the character’s understanding of justice, the degree to which the character’s search for justice is successful, and the significance of this search for the work as a whole.