1991’s College Board Advanced Placement Examination ENGLISH LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION Section II

Question 1. (Suggested time—45 minutes)

Read carefully the following poem by Emily Dickinson. Then write an essay in which you describe the speaker’s attitude toward the woman’s death. Using specific references to the text, show how the use of language reveals the speaker’s attitude.

The last Night that She lived
It was a Common Night
Except the Dying—this to Us
Made Nature different

We noticed the smallest things—
Things overlooked before
By this great light upon our Minds
Italicized—as 'twere

As We went out and in
Between Her final Room
And Rooms where Those to be alive
Tomorrow were, a Blame

That Others could exist
While She must finish quite
A Jealousy for Her arose
So nearly infinite—

We waited while She passed—
It was a narrow time—
Too jostled were Our Souls to speak
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot—
Then lightly as a Reed
Bent to the Water, struggled scarce—
Consented, and was dead—

And We—We placed the Hair—
And drew the Head erect—
And then an awful leisure was
Belief to regulate—

Question 2. (Suggested time —35 minutes.)

Read the following passage from The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell. Then, in a well-organized essay, discuss the ways Boswell differentiates between the writing of Joseph Addison and that of Samuel Johnson. In your essay, analyze Boswell’s views of both writers and the devices he uses to convey those views.

It has of late been the fashion to compare the style of Addison and Johnson, and to depreciate, I think very unjustly, the style of Addison as nerveless and feeble, because it has not the strength and energy of that of Johnson…. Addison writes with the ease of a gentleman. His reader fancy that a wise and accomplished companion is talking to them; so that he insinuates his sentiments and taste into their minds by an imperceptible influence. Johnson writes like a teacher. He dictates to his readers as if from an academical chair. They attend with awe and admiration; and his precepts are impressed upon them by his commanding eloquence. Addison’s style, like a light wine, pleases everybody from the first. Johnson’s, like a liquor of more body, seems too strong at first, but, by degrees, is highly relished; and such is the melody of his periods*, so much do they captivate the ear, and seize upon the attention, that there is scarcely any writer, however inconsiderable, who does not aim, in some degree, at the same species of excellence.


Question 3 (Suggested time — 40 minutes.)

Many plays and novels use contrasting places (for example, two countries, two cities or towns, two houses, or the land and the sea) to represent opposed forces or ideas that are central to the meaning of the work.

Choose a novel or play that contrasts two such places. Write an essay explaining how the places differ, what each place represents, and how their contrast contributes to the meaning of the work.

You may base your essay on a work from the list below, or you may choose another work of recognized literary merit.

  • A Passage to India
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Wuthering Heights
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Heart of Darkness
  • Cry, the Beloved Country
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • The Woman Warrior
  • Anna Karenina
  • Joseph Andrews
  • Candide
  • Things Fall Apart
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Color Purple
  • Mansfield Park
  • Huckleberry Finn
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • The Awakening
  • Jude the Obscure
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • The Dollmaker
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Invisible Man
  • Slaughterhouse Five



For the record, I just got a PhD in English and I’ve never heard of The Dollmaker or Joseph Andrews. This is not the test I took, but an older test we were given as practice. I recall one could have no notes with one while taking the test, and if forced at gunpoint to take it right now, I guess I’d go with the Hawthorne? I mean I know that the caves in Passage to India are symbolically and even like episodically separate from the city, and that they’re disorienting and dark and in many ways symbolize if not “India” then at least the popular English notion of India at the time. But coming up with character names? Dr. Aziz I think is one and then the white woman whom I want to name Anita but surely that’s wrong.

Maybe students are taught not to worry too much about writing “when the English woman stumbles out the caves…” or “that one Jewish man in the city Tom Buchanan doesn’t like” or “Chuzzleworth/Chillington” but I’d get too hung up on my poor factual recall to argue anything of note about contrasting places.

And with questions 1 and 2, I mean where do I start? I could write something reasonable, I suppose, but no way in hell could I ever have come up with something intelligible at age 17.

Who 5’s this test, anyway?

One thought on “1991’s College Board Advanced Placement Examination ENGLISH LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION Section II”

  1. And see, I feel like there was a time when we’d see questions like that and we were trained like monkeys to know exACTly what they were looking for by the way they asked the question.

    Of course, my handwriting was so bad there’s no way I’d score a 5 on that mother.

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