Mother to Son and Thank you, Ma'am

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Select one out of the five options.

Write a paper about Thank you Ma’am that includes answers to all of the questions in paragraph form.

Use a minimum of five examples from the text to support your paper.
Literary Criticism

I. Philosophical Approach: This approach focuses on themes, view of the world, moral statements, author’s philosophy, etc.

A. What view of life does the story present? Which character best articulates this viewpoint?
B. According to this work’s view of life, what is mankind’s relationship to God? To the universe?
C. What moral statement, if any, does this story make? Is it explicit or implicit?
D. What is the author’s attitude toward his world? Toward fate? Toward God?
E. What is the author’s conception of good and evil?
F. What does the work say about the nature of good or evil?
G. What does the work say about human nature?

II. Historical Approach: This approach focuses on connection of work to the historical period in which it was written; literary historians attempt to connect the historical background of the work to specific aspects of the work.

A. How does it reflect the time in which it was written?
B. How accurately does the story depict the time in which it is set?
C. What literary or historical influences helped to shape the form and content of the work?
D. How does the story reflect the attitudes and beliefs of the time in which it was written or set?
(Consider beliefs and attitudes related to race, religion, politics, gender, society, philosophy, etc.)
E. What other literary works may have influenced the writer?
F. What historical events or movements might have influenced this writer?
G. How would characters and events in this story have been viewed by the writer’s
contemporaries?
H. Does the story reveal or contradict the prevailing values of the time in which it was written?
Does it provide an opposing view of the period’s prevailing values?
I. How important is it the historical context (the work’s and the reader’s) to interpreting the
work?

III. Psychological Approach: This approach focuses on the psychology of characters.

A. What forces are motivating the characters?
B. Which behaviors of the characters are conscious ones?
C. Which are unconscious?
D. What conscious or unconscious conflicts exist between the characters?
E. Given their backgrounds, how plausible is the characters’ behavior?
F. Are the theories of Freud or other psychologists applicable to this work? To what degree?
G. Do any of the characters correspond to the parts of the tripartite self? (Id, ego, superego)
H. What roles do psychological disorders and dreams play in this story?
I. Are the characters recognizable psychological types?
J. How might a psychological approach account for different responses in female and male
readers?
K. How does the work reflect the writer’s personal psychology?
L. What do the characters’ emotions and behaviors reveal about their psychological states?
M. How does the work reflect the unconscious dimensions of the writer’s mind?
N. How does the reader’s own psychology affect his response to the work?
IV. Sociological Approach: This approach focuses on man’s relationship to others in society, politics, religion, and business.

A. What is the relationship between the characters and their society?
B. Does the story address societal issues, such as race, gender, and class?
C. How do social forces shape the power relationships between groups or classes of people in the
story? Who has the power, and who doesn’t? Why?
D. How does the story reflect the Great American Dream?
E. How does the story reflect urban, rural, or suburban values?
F. What does the work say about economic or social power? Who has it and who doesn’t? Any
Marxist leanings evident?
G. Does the story address issues of economic exploitation? What role does money play?
H. How do economic conditions determine the direction of the characters’ lives?
I. Does the work challenge or affirm the social order it depicts?
J. Can the protagonist’s struggle be seen as symbolic of a larger class struggle?
How does the microcosm (small world) of the story reflect the macrocosm (large world) of the
society in which it was composed?
K. Do any of the characters correspond to types of government, such as a dictatorship, democracy,
communism, socialism, fascism, etc.? What attitudes toward these political structures/systems
are expressed in the work?

V. Feminist Criticism: This approach examines images of women and concepts of the feminine in
myth and literature; uses the psychological, archetypal, and sociological approaches; often focuses on female characters who have been neglected in previous criticism. Feminist critics attempt to correct or supplement what they regard as a predominantly male-dominated critical perspective.

A. How are women’s lives portrayed in the work?
B. Is the form and content of the work influenced by the writer’s gender?
C. How do male and female characters relate to one another? Are these relationships sources of
conflict? Are these conflicts resolved?
D. Does the work challenge or affirm traditional views of women?
E. How do the images of women in the story reflect patriarchal social forces that have impeded
women’s efforts to achieve full equality with men?
F. What marital expectations are imposed on the characters? What effect do these expectations
have?
G. What behavioral expectations are imposed on the characters? What effect do these expectations
have?
H. If a female character were male, how would the story be different (and vice versa)?
I. How does the marital status of a character affect her decisions or happiness?
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