The Great Big
on Oedipus Rex, King Lear, Death of a
Salesman, and ‘Master Harold’ …and the Boys
On your exam in May, you will need be ready to write
about the four plays we’re currently studying (or have recently studied).
You will need to have an understanding of each of these plays, not only by
themselves, but in comparison/contrast to each other. Furthermore, as I
mentioned before we studied Oedipus, because you won’t have the texts
in front of you, you will need to have a detailed understanding of the
larger aspects of the plays (not the little stuff you’re used to
quoting). For that reason, I have made sure that these plays have many
large, shared links with each other. It is your job (as a class) to uncover
what these links are and to explore (and I mean really explore) the depths
and intricacies of those links.
Keep in mind: A “link” can be any shared aspect of the
works: their themes, their characters (either in portrayals and
relationships and/or functions), or their techniques (remember BICEPS3).
And by “shared,” I mean that those aspects must be the same, close to the
same, or similar ideas that are used in distinctly opposite ways. Some
examples of what I mean appear below:
- Both Metamorphosis and Woman in the Dunes
share the theme of entrapment. (super-simple link)
- Both Metamorphosis and Woman in the Dunes
center their stories on protagonists who are incapable of escaping their
situation. The difference is that Gregor does not realize he wants to
escape—even though he lives in a room with three doors and a window, while
Niki spends most of the novel attempting escape from the dune, yet when
the opportunity to leave practically falls in his lap, he doesn’t take
it. In the end, both die trapped in the lives they abhor yet allow
themselves to keep. (detailed link)
- (Sorry you don’t know these novels): Both Love
Medicine and The House of the Spirits use multiple narrators
and skip around in time in order to tell their stories. Yet Erdrich’s
narrators in Love Medicine are disjointed, and even when they tell
the same stories, the versions do not match up. These choices suggest to
the reader that the lives the characters lead are absolutely fragmented,
and that trying to put lives back together into a whole will never result
in a perfect fit. Meanwhile, Allende structures the stories of her
narrators under the guise of an omniscient narrator, a narrator we find
out is actually Alba, the youngest member of the Trueba family. By
filtering all the stories, even Esteban’s, through Alba’s omniscient
narrator, Allende creates a story that is whole and continuous. However,
despite their different uses of narration and time within their novels,
ultimately both authors suggest that stories provide hope for future
generations. (detailed link) (ok… don’t freak…. it’s just an
example J; however, the more
you prep now, the easier it will be to spit stuff like this out on your
exams in May and next year in college)
If I was going to write my second sample above up in a
chart, it might look something like this:
Woman in the Dunes
Theme of “entrapment”
Main character Gregor is
entrapped by his family, his job, and himself.
Gregor is so unaware of
his entrapment that he even locks himself into his room every night
(prior to becoming a cockroach—he mentions this is one of his habits
being on the road as a salesman). We also can see the depth of his
entrapment because when he does turn into a cockroach it never even
occurs to him to ask “why;” instead, all he worries about is how he’ll
get his pants on to go to work.
Yet Kafka inserts plenty
of ways for Gregor to escape—symbolized by the 3 doors and 1 window in
Main character Niki is
entrapped by the villagers and eventually himself.
Niki is dying to escape
from the hole in the dunes. He makes it his mission to get out and he
makes a failed attempt at one point. However, as time goes by, even
though Niki still desires to leave, he gets caught up in the world of
the dunes. We see this particularly with his “invention.”
At the end, Abe gives Niki
the opportunity to leave when, in the course of his plot, the villagers
leave the rope ladder dangling into the hole after taking the woman out
to the hospital. Niki, his escape in hand, chooses not to leave,
thereby revealing himself as his own worst captor.
Main character Nora is
entrapped by her family, her society, and her own ignorance.
Like Gregor, Nora is
unaware of her own confinement which is created by her marriage to
Below you will find the 4-Play chart we’ll be working
together on filling out. All of this “filling out” will appear on-line
through my website, and you can go there to download more recent versions
after people have started filling in ideas they’d like to share. As you can
see from below, I’ve already plugged in a few linked areas to explore.
By 4 pm on Wednesday, April 7, your assignment is to
submit 2 individual (yes, work it out on your own) ideas to add to
the chart. By “ideas,” I mean giving your thoughts on at least two
of the plays across a linked area. So, for example, the work I did in the
sample chart above with Metamorphosis and Woman in the Dunes
would count as ONE idea. And yes, you should aim at making your idea
that detailed, but it could be slightly less and still score well.
Additionally, you may submit more ideas or partial
ideas to me for extra credit. In this case, you may work with a
partner to develop your ideas, just make sure you submit your work with both
your names on it. If you want the extra credit to count for this quarter,
it must be submitted by 4 pm Wed. April 7.
How does this work?
- You can submit your ideas to me in writing by either
filling out the chart below or drawing your own chart.
- You can download a copy of the chart on-line, open
it up in Word, type in your additions and bold them so I can
clearly see what you’ve added. Then print your work OR email it to me in
an attachment to
- Keep checking on-line for newer versions of the
chart to increase your own idea bank and for additional ideas to respond
You can find the chart
on-line on the IB World