Discussion Questions

Discussion Question 7

"Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Resistance to Civil Government" by Henry David Thoreau
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

Directions:

Choose one of the following questions and answer it as thoughtfully as possible, after reading the lecture. Then post your answer to the English 207 Message Board by the deadline. Your answer is due no later than Thursday, Nov. 16.

Your responses to other students' answers are due by midnight on Sunday, Nov. 19. in order to get the full 20 points, you MUST respond thoughtfully to at least 2 other people's postings.

Please answer the question as thoughtfully as possible, after reading the lecture. Then post your answer to the English 207 Message Board by the deadline.

More details, with sample questions and answers, can be found on the Discussion Board itself, under the heading "Info on Discussion Questions." Please read this carefully so you know how to get the most points for the discussions.

We will be using the Canvas Discussion Board for this class. Click on the link below to get to the Canvas portal, sign in, and then click on the box for this class. You will find the "Discussions" link on the left side of the screen:

Discussion Board

Remember: This discussion question is worth a possible 20 points. Late answers will receive 0 points. Points will be assigned according to the thoughtfulness of your answers, not by whether they are "right" or not, since sometimes there is no "right" answer. Just be sure your ideas are supported by the material in the readings.

1. In "Self-Reliance," Emerson says, "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs...Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." What arguments would you make for and/or against this idea?


2. In "Resistance to Civil Government," Thoreau says, "After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But government in which the majority rule in all cases can not be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? -- in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right." What arguments would you make for and/or against this idea?


3. Richard Ruland and Malcolm Bradbury assert that The Scarlet Letter is "...a tragedy of the divided claims made by the natural and the social self" (145). They see the novel's main theme as the conflict between nature and culture--that is, between the personal needs of the individual, and the need to conform to society and tradition. Do you agree that this is the novel's main theme? Explain, using specific examples and quotes from the novel to support your ideas.


4. The Transcendentalists saw nature as the reflection of God and His goodness. In The Scarlet Letter, does Hawthorne present nature in this way? Explain, using specific examples and quotes from the novel to support your ideas.


5. By the 1800s, many American writers were exploring the theme of alienation, each in his or her own way. Do you see this theme in Bartleby the Scrivener? Explain, using specific examples and quotes from the novel to support your ideas.

--The mural on this page is called "Rural Highway." It's the mural painted for the Middleport, N.Y. Post Office by Marianne Appel in 1941. More information about this mural can be found at Western New York Heritage Press.

--During the Depression in the 1930s and early 1940s, the U.S. government commissioned a number of murals for post offices across the United States. Many of these were quite amazing. To read more about them, CLICK HERE.