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  1. Show how an author we have studied this semester uses MINOR characters, or secondary characters, to highlight a theme in his work. Make sure you clearly define the theme and provide three main ideas with ample support from the text.

    1. THESIS: As Frederick Douglass retells his life, he intertwines the “overseers” throughout his story to depict the inhumane and atrocious treatment of blacks.
    2. EVIDENCE:
      1. Plummer drunkenly cudgels the slaves
        1. Often drunk and ruthless
        2. Stumbled around the plantation beating slaves as he willed
      2. Severe’s flogging
        1. flogged Frederick’s family on several occasions
        2. blood-stained backs of men, women, and children
      3. Gore mercilessly killing Demby
        1. Demby wades in the water after a severe flogging
        2. Gore, shoots him dead, when Demby stands still in the water
      4. Covey’s brutality
        1. intentionally causing harm and injury to slaves
        2. “slave-breaker”
        3. hides in waiting for the a sole chance to torture a slave
    3. ANALYSIS:
  2. Which text from this semester do you think is most significant? Explain. Your answer should include your definition of what is required to make a text “significant”. Also, your response should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the text you are using. You must include at least one example (although more is also convincing) from the text to support each of the qualities you’ve identified.

  3. In what ways do pieces based on personal experience, like those written by Frederick Douglass and Sherman Alexie, challenge stereotypes? Develop a clear thesis and provide ample support for your main points.

  4. At what point should the individual’s needs be placed on a higher regard over the community’s “laws”? Using three different texts, discuss how the author develops this theme throughout his novel, essay, or poetry.

  5. Who was the most compelling writer you’ve studied this semester? In regards to this question, think about the qualities of his/her writing that effectively communicates the message they are trying to get across to the reader. Make sure you define his/her method and message as well as specific examples from their writing.

  6. Both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass are considered to be compelling critiques of slavery. Which title is more effective in relaying this message? Why? Develop clear reasons and support for your response.

  7. To you, what is the most significant ethical question that has been raised in any of the literature we have read this semester? In your response, explain how the writer you have chosen develops and answers the question. Make sure you provide specific details to support your response.

  8. Compare two central characters from two different books we have studied this semester. Discuss what similarities of the two characters reveal about American values and ideas. You must provide three main points and evidence from the text to support your argument. Characters to consider: Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, Arthur Dimmesdale, Victor, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Huckleberry Finn, and Jim.

  9. Compare two authors we have studied this semester in terms of how their works reveal their view of human nature. You must clearly state each author’s view of human nature and use specific details from his/her work to support your opinion.

    Texts to draw your ideas from:

    1. The Scarlet Letter
    2. Emerson’s “Nature,” “American Scholar,” or “Self-Reliance”
    3. Thoreau’s Walden or “Resistance to Civil Government”
    4. Whitman and Dickinson’s poetry found in the transcendentalism packet
    5. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
    6. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
    7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

American Studies Fall Oral Final Questions

  1. Compare and contrast the two main colonial regions in the 1600s and 1700s in terms of cultural, economic and political development. Make sure to analyze City upon a Hill and Looking out for Number One and be able to discuss how well they represent the early years of colonial American life.

  2. Detail the problems the new United States experienced under the Articles of Confederation. How did the Constitution of the United States resolve some of those problems? Be able to explain, in detail, the concepts of Federalism, Checks and Balances and Separation of Powers as embodied in the US Constitution.


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    1. THESIS: The Articles of Confederation had many problems when it was first written mainly to limit the power of the government so much that it would never become too powerful or oppressive such as the English over the former American colonies.
    2. EVIDENCE:
      1. Problems with Articles of Confederation
        1. The government was designed to be very weak, giving states the most power
        2. Huge debt from the Revolutionary War (about $50 million)
        3. Central government could not control fiscal or monetary policy
        4. The government could not enforce any of the decisions that it made
        5. Needed unanimous support from all of the 13 states to change the Articles of Confederation
        6. The paper money was so worthless, it ceased to pass as currency
        7. No power to tax
      2. Resolution of these problems
        1. Make government with three branches — Legislative, Executive, Judicial (separation of powers)
        2. Disperses powers allowing for a system of checks and balances
        3. Each branch has some power over the others so that no one branch becomes too powerful. Also protects against tyranny
        4. Federalism — two levels of government — national and state
        5. Constitution gives much more power to the federal govt.
  3. Compare and contrast Federalist 10 with Brutus I. What do the two documents “teach” us about the differing ideologies of the post-Colonial/Constitutional Era? Also, just how democratic is the Constitution?

  4. Imagine you are a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and you have the ability to see into the future; detail a minimum of 4 things you would have the Convention address that they failed to fully consider. Be able to defend your position.

    1. THESIS: While most of the Framers of the Constitution were wealthy, all were white men! However women, slaves,poor whites and native americans had no say in government and it would take a change to the constitution to fix this. Since this excluded population vastly outnumbered rich white men then the rule by the minority was now the law of the land, only about a quarter of the people in the United States could vote.
    2. EVIDENCE:
      1. While most of the Framers of the Constitution were wealthy, not all were, but they were all white men! However women, slaves and native americans had no say in government and it would take a change to the constitution to fix this. Since women and slaves vastly outnumbered white men then the rule by the minority was now the law of the land.
      2. African Americans didn’t get to vote Instead, the rich white men writing the Constitution agreed that only rich white men could vote, and they agreed that when the census takers were counting the population of each state, a black man would count as only three-fifths as much as a white man.
  5. Define Manifest Destiny and discuss the impact it has had on American Identity through the Westward Expansion era. How did MD positively and negatively affect both Americans and other groups of people living in North America. Also, be able to discuss the meaning of Frederick Jackson Turner’s thesis on the closing of the Frontier as it applies to the American character. Consider Manifest Destiny and the myths of rugged individualism and rags to riches/meritocracy.

  6. Discuss what life was like for Native Americans before the colonists arrived. Then, identify and discuss three of the Eras of Federal Indian Policy and the influence that each of them had on Native Americans in the United States. Do these past policies continue to affect Native Americans today? Yes or no, be able to explain why or why not with specific examples.

    1. THESIS: Life for the Native Americans before the white settlers came in was community based, and diverse tribes from all over the plains.
    2. EVIDENCE:
      1. Expansive Trading routes before whites came (Northwest - Great Lakes)
      2. Reservation Era (1850s–1887)
        1. US Citizens swarmed into the new Indian land
        2. Federal Policy was to alienate Indians and their culture from the white, dominant culture
        3. Nearly 300 reservations established
      3. Allotment and Assimilation Era (1887–1934)
        1. Instead of letting tribes live on their reservations, the act tried to impose American ideals of owning land and lifestyles onto the Indians
        2. No longer aloud to maintain their separate religions and cultures
      4. Indian Reorganization Era (1934–1940s)
        1. Reversed the US’s allotment policy
        2. Helped to strengthen tribal governments
        3. Many Indians today still own the land given to them during allotment
    1. ANALYSIS:
  7. How did the economic, political, and cultural attitudes of the North and South differ during the mid-1800s? Were the differences rooted in something other than the goods each section produced or the labor each section employed? How did these differences contribute to a national identity crisis that led to the Civil War? Was the Civil War inevitable or avoidable?

  8. Detail/explain the content as well as the rationale of the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act and explain how each revealed attempts to deal with the questions of slavery’s expansion into new territories. What other events in the 1850s raised tensions between North and South?

  9. Consider the following eras of United States History (1. pre-Revolution to Post Revolution, 2. Post-Revolution through the Constitution Era, 3. Westward Expansion through the Antebellum Period, 4. Antebellum through Reconstruction) Apply 2 of the following theories of history to your selection: Continuum, Pendulum, and Cyclical. Be able to defend with plenty of evidence.

  10. Imagine that you have the ability to bring together 1 figure from United States history from each of the eras we have studied (Colonial, Revolutionary, Constitutional, Westward Expansion, Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction). Who would you choose and why, what would they discuss? Please include at least 1 literary figure.