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AP English Literature and CompositionProse Fiction Analysis Free-Response Question (2020)Sample Student ResponsesSample A In the passage, Miranda observes her grandmothers and realizes that the world of adults isjust as messy and complicated as her own child version. Great- Aunt-Eliza and Grandmother bickerand have terrible habits just like children, and in a single afternoon they ruin the blind faith thatMiranda previously held in their ability to always know what was right. What Miranda observesconflicts with how she has been taught to view adults, Miranda holds her grandmothers to her ownset of standards and finds them wanting. The passage opens with Great- Aunt-Eliza and Grandmother bickering as Grandmotherbelieves Great- Aunt-Eliza is much too old to be standing up on a ladder. The author uses therepetition of a phrase by Grandmother, “at your time of life” to characterize her and her argument.Grandmother is trying to use Great- Aunt- Eliza’s age as a factor for why she shouldn’t be doing anytype of risky behavior, and her tone is quite patronizing as she won’t outright tell her sister to getdown. However, Great- Aunt-Eliza responds with a snappy retort that exposes Grandmother’shypocrisy, “So long as you can go bouncing off on that horse of yours.I’m three years younger thanyou, and at your time of life that makes all the difference!”. Not only does this statement show thatGrandmother was trying to push her authority onto her little sister, it demonstrates thatGrandmother isn’t willing to listen to her own advice. Notably, the use of italics by the author makesGreat- Aunt-Eliza’s use of Grandmother’s phrase much more noticable. It’s important that Great- Aunt-Eliza’s response proved Grandmother’s advice cannot befollowed by even herself, as the author uses the next paragraph to explain how this bickeringaffects Miranda. Miranda was listening to the argument between the two old ladies the entiretime, she heard both Grandmother scolding and Great- Aunt-Eliza’s response. The author utilizesMiranda’s inner thoughts to reveal her view on the situation, “[she] saw two old women whospoke to children as if they always knew everything, and children knew nothing and they werealways right and children never were ”. Miranda’s impression of her grandmothers was justchallenged by their behavior. This juxtaposition casts the infallibility of her grandmothers’intelligence and advice into great doubt. Miranda’s internal monologue continues, with hermaking the comparison between their behavior and how she and her sister fight, “.here theywere bickering like two little girls at school, or even the way that Miranda and her sister Mariabickered ”. Not only does this comparison help readers understand that Miranda is using herlimited life experience to help her understand why this situation peturbs her so, but it also bringsdown her grandmothers from their lofty matronly pedestal and onto the same level of immaturityas Miranda herself. While so far the author has used dialogue or descriptions of actions to portray mood, theystate directly in this case, “Miranda felt sad and strange and a little frightened.”. This makes itexplicit how she feels, and the line that soon follows adds to this, “her heart sinking”. Miranda is1
AP English Literature and CompositionProse Fiction Analysis Free-Response Question (2020)Sample Student Responsesquite disheartened to learn that adults can behave just like children do. Where before she was ableto innocently assume that adults always know and do better than children, for the simple reasonthat they’re older than her, now Miranda has learned that that’s simply not true at all. Herworldview has shifted, and it’s only exacerbated by the last scene in the passage. Once the trio goes inside, Miranda judges her Great- Aunt-Eliza for partaking in snuff andthis further cements the idea that her grandmothers as just as human and capable of makingmistakes as she is. Even her description of Great- Aunt-Eliza has shifted from a basic, “Great- AuntEliza was not pretty now and never had been” to “her steel-rimmed spectacles over her snuffcolored eyes, and snuff- colored woolen skirts billowing around her, and her smell of snuff”. Withthis great emphasis on “snuff”, it’s obvious that the author wants the audience to pay attention tothe fact that Great- Aunt-Eliza does snuff. Why they chose to emphasize this is made clear in theparlor scene, where Great- Aunt-Eliza takes a hit of snuff and Miranda judges her for it. “Mirandahad heard of this shameful habit in women of the lower classes, but no lady had ever been knownto ‘dip snuff’, and surely not in the family. Yet here was Great- Aunt-Eliza, a lady if not a verypretty one, dipping snuff.”, while it’s implied that Miranda learned that snuff is low-class fromsomeone older and not herself, as she’s never even seen it until now, Miranda is using what shepreviously knows to create standards of behavior. She has been taught what is proper for ladies todo, this idea of propriety was brought up by Grandmother in the beginning against Great- AuntEliza for being on the ladder. Instead of blindly believing that Great- Aunt-Eliza is allowed to dosnuff because she is an adult, Miranda holds Great- Aunt-Eliza to the standard that she has madefor ladylike behavior and finds Great- Aunt-Eliza wanting. This is a shift, as before Miranda has justbeen taking in information by observing impartially, now she is observing and judging by adaptingthe information. Lastly, the author closes off the passage with a symbol of Miranda’s lost innocence.Great- Aunt-Eliza offers Miranda a gumdrop from her pocket if she’ll leave her alone and stopstaring, “[She] took out a roundish, rather crushed- looking pink gumdrop with the sugar coatingbadly crackled.”, this gumdrop is a symbol of Miranda’s new viewpoint. Where before the sugarcoating was whole and her faith in adults was too, now that faith has been squished and crackedjust like the gumdrop. The act of bribing Miranda with a gumdrop is also patronizing her, GreatAunt-Eliza is assuming that Miranda is just a simple child who wants candy and who will go awayonce she gets it. Great- Aunt-Eliza isn’t even capable of seeing how Miranda’s reaction haschanged her.2
AP English Literature and CompositionProse Fiction Analysis Free-Response Question (2020)Sample Student ResponsesSample B As we grow up, the truth becomes evident that our parents and guardians are not withoutflaw. In this passage, Miranda has a realization that her Grandmother and Great - Aunt are not asmature and knowledgeable as she had prier thought. Through the use of dialogue, which developsGrandmother and Great - Aunt’s character, and juxtaposition, Miranda’s attitude towards the adultsin her life shifts from respect and admiration to dissapointment and surprise. This change inperspective suggests the theme that everyone is flawed. The passage begins with Miranda observing an encounter between Grandmother andGreat - Aunt Eliza. Although they refer to eachother as Sophia and Eliza, Miranda refers to them asGrandmother and Great - Aunt Eliza, highlighting her respect for them. As their bickering continues,Eliza’s childish behavior is exhibited when she says, “I’m three years younger than you.” This displayof Miranda’s great - aunt taunting her grandmother shows their lack of maturity that Mirandathought they had. Her disapproval of them is further expressed when the phrase “and at your timeof life that makes all the difference.” The bolded statement reveals the irony that they are arguingover who is more athletic at their stage of life, but their argument highlights their childish nature. Throughout the passage, Miranda continues to observe the unsophisticated actions of thewomen. She recalls how they “spoke as if they knew best about everything and children knewnothing.” However, Miranda realizes that their bickering contradicts their own teachings. Miranda’spreconceived notion of Grandmother and Great - Aunt Eliza further diminishes when she comparesthem to “two little girls at school.” This realization hangs heavy over Miranda as her image of twotrusted guardians in her life were shattered. This evoked sadness and fear in Miranda and the lastnerve is struck when Great - Aunt Eliza is seen dipping snuff. This “shameful habit of women inlower classes” even surprised Grandmother and further highlighted how far they strayed fromperfection. Throughout the passage, Miranda’s faith in her guardians is repeatedly torn down. At first,Miranda has a high level of respect for not only her Grandmother and Great - Aunt but also theirteachings and actions. However, upon analyzing a confrontation between the two women, Mirandaquickly realizes that they are no more mature than she is.3
AP English Literature and CompositionProse Fiction Analysis Free-Response Question (2020)Sample Student ResponsesSample C As a child, one views the older people in their lives as role models, and attempts to followtheir behavior in order to adapt the personality of the person they wish to become. Miranda’s rolemodels were her grandmothers, Sophia Jane and Eliza. However, when she listened upon theirarguments, Miranda became disheartened as she realized that the women she viewed so highly didnot provide the examples of kindness and maturity that she had once believed, instilling fear for herown future self. The passage opens as Sophia Jane and Eliza begin arguing as both women use snideremarks regarding their old ages, reprimanding each other for not using “appropriate behavior atyour time of life”. However, while each woman used the same insult, their tones were polaropposites. While Sophia Jane was concerned over her sister’s safety while she climbed the ladder,warning her that her body is not as nimble as it was as a young woman, Eliza insulted her sister inthis way to be condescending and rude, likely because she did not want her sister to order heraround, especially now that they were both older and in no need of parental guidance. Later on inthe passage it is revealed that Miranda is more fond of Sophia Jane, as she “knew that she hadalways been the pretty one”, so Eliza’s harshness toward her sister must have upset Miranda. Thisdeep love for Sophia Jane would have also caused Miranda to become protective of hergrandmother, resulting in her negative thoughts regarding Eliza later on in the passage. After the argument, Miranda began to leave where her grandmothers were gathered,unwilling to listen to more of their hurtful conversation. While Miranda compared this argumentto ones she has had with her sister, she was still disheartened and upset to see two people sheloves dearly argue with such harsh words. As a young child, Miranda must have viewed thesewomen as role models, listening to their lessons on behavior and following their commands,desiring to be as mature and wise as her grandmothers when she has grown. However, uponspectating her role models “bickering like two little girls at school”, Miranda became “sad and alittle frightened”. Not only was she sad that her grandmothers were in opposition with eachother, but she was also afraid that her and her sister will also grow to argue in this way whenthey are older. Miranda must have hoped that by following her grandmothers’ commands, shewould grow to be a wise and mature woman like them, so upon watching this argument,Miranda must have feared that the instruction and guidance given to her by her grandmotherswas wrong, and that she would grow to be an unfavorable and undesirable woman, resulting inthe sadness and fear that the reader witnessed through Miranda’s “eyes watering” and “heartsinking”. By comparing her grandmothers to children, Miranda realizes that her grandmothers donot possess the maturity she once believed, effectively removing them from the pedestal ofadmiration she had placed them on. Not only does this childish behavior worry Miranda, causing4
AP English Literature and CompositionProse Fiction Analysis Free-Response Question (2020)Sample Student Responsesher to fear that she will grow to behave as immaturely as her grandmothers, it also loosens thepower her grandmothers hold over her. At the beginning of paragraph 6, the author places anemphasis on the position of power the two women hold over children, placing them assuperiors to children, “who spoke to children as if they knew best about everything andchildren knew nothing”. However, because the women stooped to behavior that can becomparable to a child, their firm superiority over them has loosened, giving small amounts ofworth and power to the children. While Miranda is first upset by this disruption in the familystructure she was familiar with, she was also empowered by it, using her new voice to criticizeher grandmothers, especially Eliza. Instead of refraining from judgment of Eliza’s behavior,Miranda criticizes her “shameful habit”, clearly disgusted by this unlady- like behavior. Instead ofbelieving that “children knew nothing” and “never right”, Miranda stood firm with herjudgements, openly staring at her grandmother as she behaved in a way she did not approve of.5
AP English Literature and CompositionProse Fiction Analysis Free-Response Question (2020)Sample Student ResponsesSample D Miranda is a young child to whom the world is still new, unlike her grandmother andgreat aunt who had lived their lives and were very experienced. So for Miranda to see how hertwo elders would interact with opposing ideas would naturally make