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Edwin Arlington Robinson, “Richard Cory”
1. What are the townspeople supposed to learn from Richard Cory’s suicide?
2. What are we supposed to learn from the townspeople’s attitudes?
3. What exactly did the townspeople envy about Richard Cory?
4. Do you think their envy was justified?
5. In what ways could envy be considered a positive force in someone’s life?
6. In what ways could envy be considered harmful?
William Shakespeare, [When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes]
1. What is the difference between what the speaker once thought was important and what ultimately proved to be so?
2. At first, what did the speaker claim to envy?
3. What conclusion did he draw about those feelings of envy?
4. What is the most significant difference between the envy felt by this speaker and the envy felt by the townspeople in “Richard Cory”?
D.H. Lawrence, “Piano”
1. What details of stanza one help you determine the mood of that stanza? What do you think is this intended mood? 2. What causes the feeling of “betrayal” in line 6?
3. What effect is created by the speaker’s use of the word “weep” twice in a poem about “manhood”?
4. Why do you think this poem is titled “Piano” rather than something else like “Mother” or “Sunday Evenings”?
Theodore Roethke, “My Papa’s Waltz”
1. What evidence does the speaker give to suggest his father may be abusing him (physically and/or verbally)?
2. What evidence is there to suggest he isn’t being abused?
3. How could this family, which may seem dysfunctional to an outsider, actually be quite functional?
4. What is the purpose of the word “waltz” to describe what the father and son are doing?
5. How would you interpret the actions (or inactions) of the mother?
6. What compromises are made by each of the three members of this family?
7. How do you think each one is rewarded by being a part of this family?
Donald Justice, “Men at Forty”
1. What details and images are present to give the reader a sense of how the narrator feels to be middle-aged?
2. What is bittersweet about the speaker’s reflections?
3. What references illustrate how the life we live can be both stable and slippery, confusing and rewarding?
4. Does the speaker seem pleased about his reflections of the past or burdened (as did the speaker of “Piano”)?
Sylvia Plath, “Mirror”
1. Why does the lake condemn the candles and the moon as “liars”?
2. What conclusion should readers make about how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us?
3. What role does “truth” play (as it is used in two different places)?
4. What are the similarities and differences between the mirror and the lake?
Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”
1. What do you see as the key difference between the narrator and his neighbor?
2. Why does the neighbor seem to resist change? Why does the narrator seek it?
3. Do you think their conflict can be resolved?
4. According to the neighbor, what is a “good neighbor”?
5. How is this view similar or different from what you would consider to be a “good neighbor”? ‘
Wilfred Owen, “Dulce Et Decorum Est”
1. Why does the speaker say “we turned our backs” in line 3? Wat does this signify in the poem?
2. In your own words, rephrase lines 15-16 to clarify what you think the speaker is trying to say.
3. What is the effect of the speaker referring directly to the reader/listener in line 17?
4. To whom do you think the speaker is speaking?
5. What point is the speaker trying to make about the actual experience of war versus the telling of war stories by those who haven’t experienced them?
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