Series of literary questions on plays

Questions on Death of a Salesman (first two groups)


5. How does Linda define life to Willy? How does he respond?


6. What does Willy mean when he says that Biff is “lost”? (Before you answer this question, consider what he has said shortly before this and after this as well.)


7. Explicate Willy’s line “How can they whip cheese?” How does it connect to what has happened thus far in the play?


8. Why has Biff not “settled down” to a specific career? Quote his commentary, and then explicate it.


9. Evaluate the symbolic role of “the merchandise manager” in Act I. Pay particular attention to what his situation and Happy’s attitude towards it tells us about Happy Loman.


10. What function does advertising (in general as well as particular terms) serve in Act I? In order to answer this question, you must provide both an individual example of an advertised product and a consideration of the larger role played by advertising.


11. What functions does Bernard serve in Act I?


12. What functions does Charley serve in Act I?



13. What demand does Linda make of Biff regarding his father? Why does she do so?

ENLT 140 Name

Reading Exam #18


Explicate each of the following excerpts from Death of a Salesman, paying particular attention to its function in terms of character development, symbolic statement, or “plot” advancement. (You will need to identify the speaker and the context, before you begin your explication). You will need in many cases to identify which elements in each excerpt serve a symbolic role; please highlight such elements.


1 “Will you stop mending stockings? At least while I’m in the house. It gets me nervous. I can’t tell you.”


2. “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away−”


3. “Get out of these cities, they’re full of talk and time payments and courts of law.”


4. “He never trained himself for anything.”

“But he did, he did. After high school he took so many correspondence courses.”


5. “The Supreme Court! And he didn’t even mention it!”

“He don’t have to–he’s gonna do it.”


6. “I’ve got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground.”


7. “I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand. Not like–like an appointment. This would not be another damned-fool appointment, Ben, and it changes all the aspects.”


8. “Why, why can’t I give him something and not have him hate me?”


9. “I won’t take the rap for this, you hear?”

“That’s just what I’m telling you!”


10. “I’m not bringing home any prizes any more, and you’re going to stop waiting for me to bring them home.”


11. “Can you imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket?”


12. “No man only needs a little salary.”


13. “Nobody dost blame this man”


14-15. Consider Miller’s comment (in the story “In Memoriam”) that “I always imagined he had been dressed by someone else.” Apply it both to the story and to Willy Loman.




ENLT 140 Name

Reading Exam #19


1-2. Describe in precise terms what the first paragraph of the stage directions to A Raisin in the Sun says about character and plot.


3. Analyze the symbolic and plot-level roles of the “fifty cents” Travis requests for school.


4. Contrast the ways in which Walter and Ruth regard the “eggs” she offers for his breakfast.


5. Point out the irony in the response Walter routinely makes to Beneatha’s dream.


6. Describe Mama’s dreams and her reaction to what happened to them.


7. Analyze the symbolism of Mama’s plant in terms of your answer to the previous question.


8. Describe the role played by Asagai in Scene II.


9. Evaluate the manner in which Mama greats Asagai.


10-11. What does the meaning of Alaiyo say about any two of the characters of A Raisin in the Sun?


12. What achievements of her generation does Mama emphasize?


13. What does she chastise Walter for failing to understand about what she and his father have done?


14. What roles does Ruth’s pregnancy play in Scene II of Act I?

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