This week, we will be looking at Whitman (poems 11, 12 and 21), Chopin (“The Story of an Hour, The ‘Cadian Ball/The Storm”), Gilman (“The Yellow Wallpaper”), and Wharton (“Roman Fever”). After reading these selections and reflecting on them, I’d like you to respond to these questions:
1. Whitman writes in poem 21 that he is “the poet of the woman same as the man.” Taking this into consideration, how does his description of the bathers, the blacksmith and the butcher support this idea?
2. “The Story of an Hour” uses dramatic irony–we know something about Mrs. Mallard that the characters do not know. How does this impact the end of the story?
3. There are several symbols in “The Story of an Hour.” What are some of these, what do they represent, and how do they drive the plot of the story?
4. “The ‘Cadian Ball” and “The Storm” are really one story–the backstory of Calista and Alcee are found in the first piece, and “The Storm” is set later with the same characters. Do you think Calista is “bad” or “wrong” in what she does in “The Storm?” What might these pieces suggest about love and attraction?
5. Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a little like Hamlet in that it makes us question the narrator’s sanity (although with Hamlet’s character, the question is whether he is faking insanity or if he is really insane). Do you think the narrator in Gilman’s story is “insane?” Why or why not? If she is, what social pressures could have contributed to this?
6. Gilman’s story also contains symbols. Which ones do you see, what do they represent, and what message to they send the reader?
7. Wharton’s “Roman Fever” is a story that has a certain relevance to what we are seeing now–in the backstory, Rome is shut down due to a disease. Be that as it may, the two main characters in the story have an interesting relationship. They are “friends,” but they are also very competitive. What does this “friendship” suggest about the role gender plays in this friendship?
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