Welcome to Unit 7, the last Short Fiction Unit for AP English Literature! In this unit, we’ll be discussing how characters fit into the societal and historical context of the work they’re in. Through this lens, we’ll learn how to analyze how complexity develops over the course of a story.
Let’s take a look at the topics ahead.
Important Skill: Explain the function of a character changing or remaining unchanged.
Characters change in two ways: either slowly, over time, or all at once. In this guide, we’ll be discussing why these changes happen and how to identify and analyze them when they do happen.
Study Tip: Keep an open mind when trying to factor in the causes of a character’s change.
An epiphany is a moment of realization which causes something to be clear to a character and alters the rest of the work after it happens. It’s not an universal plot device, but does show up from time to time. In this guide, we’ll be discussing how epiphany works in stories and what it does for the plot as a whole.
Study Tip: You don’t need a deep knowledge of epiphany, but you should be able to define epiphany and spot it in the works you read.
Important Skill: Describe how textual details reveal nuances and complexities in characters’ relationships with
No man is an island, as the saying goes, and characters are often working with — or against — groups. In this guide, we’ll be discussing the relationship between a character and the groups they interact with. We’ll also be discussing how groups themselves can act as characters.
Study Tip: Every character has a relationship with many different groups. For example, their family, their community, their friend group, etc. Every character also has a relationship with their gender, race, class, etc. This means that when analyzing the relationship between a character and a larger group, you’ll need to choose which group to look at based on both the character and your own inclinations.
Important Skill: Explain the function of setting in a narrative.
Important Skill: Describe the relationship between a character and a setting.
Characters interact with their settings, and in turn the settings interact with the characters. In this guide, we’ll be discussing how characters interact with settings and how settings change over the course of a story.
Study Tip: A good way to look at this is to study the change and continuity of a setting over time. Does the setting change from the start of the story to the end? Do the character’s attitudes change?
Important Skill: Identify and describe how plot orders events in a narrative.
Important Skill: Explain the function of a particular sequence of events in a plot.
Important Skill: Explain how a narrator’s reliability affects a narrative.
Pacing is the manipulation of time of a narrative. Some novels cover years in a paragraph or two, and others can stretch out a day across the length of an entire book. In this guide, we’ll be discussing how to analyze narrative pacing.
Study Tip: It can be helpful to start analyzing pacing by looking at places where the pacing seems to change, or be dramatically fast or slow.
Important Skill: Identify and explain the function of a symbol.
Important Skill: Identify and explain the function of an image or imagery.
Important Skill: Identify and explain the function of a simile.
Important Skill: Identify and explain the function of personification.
Just as characters or objects can be symbolic, settings can also be symbolic. In this guide, we’ll be identifying and analyzing symbolic settings. We’ll also be discussing figures of speech that often use settings in a symbolic way, such as imagery, simile or personification.
Study Tip: Look for settings that are described in great detail, contrasted with another setting in some way, and/or one the characters keep returning to.
Important Skill: Develop a thesis statement that conveys a defensible claim about an interpretation of literature and that may establish a line of reasoning.
Works of literature aren’t published in vacuums. Often, they’re responding to the world they were published in. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to identify and analyze works based on their historical and societal contexts.
Study Tip: Most of the works you’ll be reading in AP English were (generally speaking) contemporary fiction when they were written. However, even fantasy or historical fiction works respond in some way to the world they were written in because the authors come from that real world.
Are you ready? Let’s begin!