Edgar Allen Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”
1. At the beginning of the story, Montresor identifies three criteria he believes are necessary for revenge to be achieved: He states that he must “not only punish, but punish with impunity”; he continues by saying that “a wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser”; he concludes with the belief that a wrong “is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.” Taking all of these criteria into consideration, explain whether or not you think Montresor achieves his goal (that is, which of the criteria, if any, do you think he accomplishes).
2. How much time has passed between the killing of Fortunato and the telling of this story, and why is this significant? 3. Although he blamed it on the dampness of the catacombs, why do you think Montresor’s “heart grew sick”?
4. Based on what you know of his character, what do you think Fortunato is guilty of, if anything?
5. If it might have saved his life, why doesn’t Fortunato just admit to having insulted Montresor?
6. If Montresor wanted Fortunato to acknowledge that he was a victim of revenge, why doesn’t Montresor just tell Fortunato why this is all happening to him?
7. Identify the two images on the Montresor family coat of arms and explain what you believe to be the symbolic significance.
8. How is Fortunato dressed in the story which may tell the reader a lot about his personality and behavior?
9. After Montresor throws the torch into the one remaining opening in the wall, what is the only thing he hears from the other side of the wall, and why is this symbolic?
10. Do you believe Montresor is satisfied with himself at the end of the story?
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown”
1. If we are to believe that Brown’s entire journey into the woods was a dream [“Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting? . . .”], and these experiences are only a product of his imagination, what was he supposed to learn from his experience?
2. What lessons are readers supposed to learn from Brown’s experience?
3. What role does religion play in Brown’s life before the “dream,” during the “dream,” and after he “wakes”?
4. Is Brown as much a hypocrite as he believes the Deacon to be at the story’s end? Why or why not?
5. Why doesn’t Brown remove himself from the church?
6. If Brown is so appalled at his wife’s apparent involvement, why doesn’t he divorce her?
7. Why is Brown’s journey described in the beginning as an “evil purpose”?
Kate Chopin, “Story of an Hour”
1. Why is the “joy” Mrs. Mallard is experiencing seemingly “monstrous”?
2. What is symbolic about her descriptions of the chair, the window, and the locked bedroom door?
3. What details about Mrs. Mallard’s marriage indicate the way(s) she felt toward her husband?
4. What details do we learn about Brently that indicate the type of person he was?
5. What is Mrs. Mallard’s opinion about people who behave with “good intentions”?
John Updike, “A&P”
1. What is Sammy’s judgment of the customers? The manager? Stokesie? The girls?
2. Why does Sammy think the world will be “hard” to him “hereafter”?
3. What does Sammy want us to believe was the reason he quit (his “explicit” goal)?
4. What are we ultimately led to believe is the real reason he quit (his “implied” goal)?
5. What does Sammy say that would indicate he knew exactly how things with the girls would turn out at the end?
6. Why does Sammy think it’s fortunate that this all took place during the summer season? What does this say about his character?
7. What other details are present which indicate Sammy is less concerned with the purpose of his behavior than he is with how people view his actions?