I have my AP lit final next week, and to prepare I have been going through previous AP prompts to try and formulate responses or general ideas. I figure if I can do most of the past ones I could do whatever my teacher writes for us next week. However, I am having problems with one. I am thinking I would address The Stranger, but not really sure what to do with it. Any guidance would help. Here is the 1973 prompt I am thinking of:
An effective literary work does not merely stop or cease; it concludes. In the view of some critics, a work that does not
provide the pleasure of significant closure has terminated with an artistic fault. A satisfactory ending is not, however, always conclusive
in every sense; significant closure may require the reader to abide with or adjust to ambiguity and uncertainty. In an essay,
discuss the ending of a novel or play of acknowledged literary merit. Explain precisely how and why the ending appropriately
or inappropriately concludes the work. Do not merely summarize the plot.
And for reference here is the list I am going through to study: http://mseffie.com/AP/Open_Questions.pdf
The 2017 AP English Literature Free Response Questions focus on varying themes and are each structured differently. For an overview of the three prompt types that you may encounter, read The Ultimate Guide to 2016 AP English Literature FRQs. Here we discuss the third FRQ prompt which allows you to choose a particular work of literature as the focus of your essay.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is a complicated story of love, society, and lies. Herein we will discuss how to determine if the given prompt is appropriate for this particular literary work and give you an idea of what to review before your exam.
Anna Karenina AP English Lit Essay Themes
To choose a literary work to answer your prompt, it’s important to examine the themes which are outlined in the assigned essay. If the theme is not relevant or well established in a work, you will do well to choose another title to examine. The following are the main themes which you may discuss in your Anna Karenina AP English Lit Essay.
19th Century Russia was a time of great social change. Thus, the setting of this novel is also a major theme of the story. Many of the old traditions are waning, and new progress is being made. This creates a climate of instability around the prospect of change. Family Life is another relevant topic explored throughout the novel. The story encourages family life, as a whole, while still showing the detriments candidly. Despite the many hardships and discomforts of close family life, Anna Karenina touts its importance to faith and happiness.
The Philosophical Value of Farming is another important theme within the story. Tolstoy shows us the value of agricultural work through his in-depth descriptions of such. It is represented as a spiritual endeavor which can lighten the soul.
How to use Anna Karenina for the 2017 AP English Literature Free Response Questions
Anna Karenina is a complex literary work, with which you should be familiar. It may well be a viable choice for the AP English Lit free response question. However, that is dependent on the question. Each year the 3rd FRQ is different, and the CollegeBoard supplies a list of suggested books to reference for your essay. The absence of a book from the list does not disqualify it from use, that being said; it’s important to know how to choose which book to use for the given analysis.
In preparation for your exam, it’s a good idea to read previous years’ free response questions posted on CollegeBoard. The following review is for the 2016 FRQ prompt.
2016 FRQ 3: Many works of literature contain a character who intentionally deceives others. The character’s dishonesty may be intended to either help or hurt. Such a character, for example, may choose to mislead others for personal safety, to spare someone’s feelings, or to carry out a crime.
Choose a novel or play in which a character deceives others. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the motives for that character’s deception and discuss how the deception contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.
Anna Karenina is on the suggested list for this prompt, and there are several reasons for its inclusion. The theme of deception is represented by various characters in the story, including the title character, Anna Karenina. A possible thesis for Anna Karenina is as follows. In Anna Karenina, upon discovering his wife’s deceit, Karenin asks Anna to live a lie to maintain appearances within society. This continued deception proves unfulfilling for Anna, causing her to leave and live as an outcast to society in order to continue her affair with Vronsky.
In support of this thesis, you can cite the various passages dealing with this subject matter. In the following quote, Karenin is of course only concerned with how an affair will look to society. Thus he asks that the marriage looks outwardly the same.“’Very well! But I expect a strict observance of the external forms of propriety till such time’ – his voice shook – ‘as I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate them to you.’” (2.29.42)
In the next passage, Tolstoy describes the difference between the outward and inward lives of the couple, once this agreement had been struck.
“From that time a new life began for Alexey Alexandrovitch and for his wife. Nothing special happened. Anna went out into society, as she had always done, was particularly often at Princess Betsy’s, and met Vronsky everywhere. Alexey Alexandrovitch saw this, but could do nothing. All his efforts to draw her into open discussion she confronted with a barrier which he could not penetrate, made up of a sort of amused perplexity. Outwardly everything was the same, but their inner relations were completely changed. Alexey Alexandrovitch, a man of great power in the world of politics, felt himself helpless in this. Like an ox with head bent, submissively he awaited the blow which he felt was lifted over him. Every time he began to think about it, he felt that he must try once more, that by kindness, tenderness, and persuasion there was still hope of saving her, of bringing her back to herself, and every day he made ready to talk to her. But every time he began talking to her, he felt that the spirit of evil and deceit, which had taken possession of her, had possession of him too, and he talked to her in a tone quite unlike that in which he had meant to talk. Involuntarily he talked to her in his habitual tone of jeering at anyone who should say what he was saying. And in that tone it was impossible to say what needed to be said to her.” (2.10.1)
It is evident, from the following excerpt, that Karenin is no stranger to lying in order to save his reputation. His marriage to Anna was merely a ruse to keep his reputation unsullied.
“While he was governor of a province, Anna’s aunt, a wealthy provincial lady, had thrown him – middle-aged as he was, though young for a governor – with her niece, and had succeeded in putting him in such a position that he had either to declare himself or to leave the town. Alexey Alexandrovitch was not long in hesitation. There were at the time as many reasons for the step as against it, and there was no overbalancing consideration to outweigh his invariable rule of abstaining when in doubt. But Anna’s aunt had through a common acquaintance insinuated that he had already compromised the girl, and that he was in honor bound to make her an offer. He made the offer, and concentrated on his betrothed and his wife all the feeling of which he was capable.” (5.21.9)
In next passage, we can see how Anna’s refusal to hide away, as her husband requested, has caused her humiliation and pain.
“Vronsky could not understand exactly what had passed between the Kartasovs and Anna, but he saw that something humiliating for Anna had happened. He knew this both from what he had seen, and most of all from the face of Anna, who, he could see, was taxing every nerve to carry through the part she had taken up. And in maintaining this attitude of external composure she was completely successful. Anyone who did not know her and her circle, who had not heard all the utterances of the women expressive of commiseration, indignation, and amazement, that she should show herself in society, and show herself so conspicuously with her lace and her beauty, would have admired the serenity and loveliness of this woman without a suspicion that she was undergoing the sensations of a man in the stocks.” (5.33.33)
2015 FRQ 3: In literary works, cruelty often functions as a crucial motivation or a major social or political factor. Select a novel, play, or epic poem in which acts of cruelty are important to the theme. Then write a well-developed essay analyzing how cruelty functions in the work as a whole and what the cruelty reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim. Invisible Man is on the recommended list for this prompt, for various reasons.
While Anna Karenina is not on the suggested list, cruelty takes many forms throughout the story. The most prominent example is the cruelty of injustice in society for women. A possible thesis is as follows. In Anna Karenina, society cruelly subjects women to higher standards than men. It is this unfair expectation which causes internal strife between Anna and her lover, Vronsky. While Anna is shunned as a ruined woman, he is allowed to continue life without any change in society.
To elaborate on this thesis and explain what it reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim, you will need to choose your examples and expand upon them. In the first excerpt, Tolstoy shows how a man can be unfaithful to his wife and expect not only society to be okay with it, but also his wife to accept it.
“Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself. He was incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that he repented of his conduct. He could not at this date repent of the fact that he, a handsome, susceptible man of thirty-four, was not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife. But he felt all the difficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife, his children, and himself. Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have had such an effect on her. He had never clearly thought out the subject, but he had vaguely conceived that his wife must long ago have suspected him of being unfaithful to her, and shut her eyes to the fact. He had even supposed that she, a worn-out woman no longer young or good-looking, and in no way remarkable or interesting, merely a good mother, ought from a sense of fairness to take an indulgent view. It had turned out quite the other way.” (1.2.1)
In the following excerpt, Tolstoy explains the misogyny of society and how Vronsky can easily pursue a married woman without scrutiny. Erstwhile, Anna is seen by society as a ruined woman for openly engaging in relations with another man.
“He was very well aware that he ran no risk of being ridiculous in the eyes of Betsy or any other fashionable people. He was very well aware that in their eyes the position of an unsuccessful lover of a girl, or of any woman free to marry, might be ridiculous. But the position of a man pursuing a married woman, and, regardless of everything, staking his life on drawing her into adultery, has something fine and grand about it, and can never be ridiculous; and so it was with a proud and gay smile under his mustaches that he lowered the opera glass and looked at his cousin.” (2.4.13-14)
The next passage, Anna argues against her husband that he never gave her love in their marriage of convenience. She feels that she has just as much right to happiness as anyone else.
“’He’s right!’ she said; ‘of course, he’s always right; he’s a Christian, he’s generous! Yes, vile, base creature! And no one understands it except me, and no one ever will; and I can’t explain it. They say he’s so religious, so high-principled, so upright, so clever; but they don’t see what I’ve seen. They don’t know how he has crushed my life for eight years, crushed everything that was living in me – he has not once even thought that I’m a live woman who must have love. They don’t know how at every step he’s humiliated me, and been just as pleased with himself. Haven’t I striven, striven with all my strength, to find something to give meaning to my life? Haven’t I struggled to love him, to love my son when I could not love my husband? But the time came when I knew that I couldn’t cheat myself any longer, that I was alive, that I was not to blame, that God has made me so that I must love and live. And now what does he do? If he’d killed me, if he’d killed him, I could have borne anything, I could have forgiven anything; but, no, he…. How was it I didn’t guess what he would do? He’s doing just what’s characteristic of his mean character. He’ll keep himself in the right, while me, in my ruin, he’ll drive still lower to worse ruin yet…’” (3.16.6)
The isolation which Anna undergoes in order to be with Vronsky, outside of the crippling view of society, causes her to be jealous of everyone else with which he spends time.
[Anna:] “’I’m not defending him, it’s nothing to me; but I imagine, if you had not cared for those pleasures yourself, you might have got out of them. But if it affords you satisfaction to gaze at Thérèse in the attire of Eve…’
‘Again, the devil again,’ Vronsky said, taking the hand she had laid on the table and kissing it.
‘Yes; but I can’t help it. You don’t know what I have suffered waiting for you. I believe I’m not jealous. I’m not jealous: I believe you when you’re here; but when you’re away somewhere leading your life, so incomprehensible to me…’” (4.3.24-26)
Anna Karenina has many themes you may find helpful for the last Free Response Question on the AP English Literature Exam. When reading the prompt and deciding on what literary work to use for your essay, remember to choose a subject where the theme outlined in the given instructions is prevalent.
In the case of Anna Karenina, 19th Century Russia, family life, and the philosophy of farming are a few of the more prominent themes discussed. However, as we saw with the aforementioned prompt examples, this story has many underlying themes which you may examine for your Anna Karenina AP English Lit Essay.
For more help preparing for your AP English Literature exam we suggest you readThe Ultimate Guide to 2016 AP English Literature FRQs and The Ultimate Guide to 2015 AP English Literature FRQs. And, for writing advice for the AP English Lit free response questions, Albert.io’s AP English Literature section has practice free response sections with sample answers and rubrics.
Looking for AP English Literature practice?
Kickstart your AP English Literature prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.