Instructional Materials for Craig White's Literature Courses

AP & pre-AP English Workshop

for Students of Galena Park ISD

(10 November 2012)

Writing About Fiction

Question 2 sample marked / highlighted




Question 2


(Suggested time—40 minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay section score.)


In the following passage from Maria Edgeworth’s 1801 novel, Belinda, the narrator provides a description of Clarence Hervey, one of the suitors of the novel’s protagonist, Belinda Portman. Mrs. Stanhope, Belinda’s aunt, hopes to improve her niece’s social prospects and therefore has arranged to have Belinda stay with the fashionable Lady Delacour.


Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze Clarence Hervey’s complex character as Edgeworth develops it through such literary techniques as tone, point of view, and language. [language = diction or word choice? figures of speech?]


Clarence Hervey might have been more than a pleasant young man, if he had not been smitten with the desire of being thought superior in every thing, and of being the most admired person in all companies. He had been early flattered with the idea that he was a man of genius; and he imagined that, as such, he was entitled to be imprudent, wild, and eccentric. He affected singularity, in order to establish his claims to genius. He had considerable literary talents, by which he was distinguished at Oxford; but he was so dreadfully afraid of passing for a pedant, that when he came into the company of the idle and the ignorant, he pretended to disdain every species of knowledge. His chameleon [figure of speech]character seemed to vary in different lights, and according to the different situations in which he happened to be placed. He could be all things to all men—and to all women. He was supposed to be a favourite with the fair sex; and of all his various excellencies and defects, there was none on which he valued himself so much as on his gallantry. He was not profligate; he had a strong sense of humour, and quick feelings of humanity; but he was so easily led, or rather so easily excited by his companions, and his companions were now of such a sort, that it was probable he would soon become vicious. As to his connexion with Lady Delacour, he would have started with horror at the idea of disturbing the peace of a family; but in her family, he said, there was no peace to disturb; he was vain of having it seen by the world that he was distinguished by a lady of her wit and fashion, and he did not think it incumbent on him to be more scrupulous or more attentive to appearances than her ladyship. By Lord Delacour’s jealousy he was sometimes provoked, sometimes amused, and sometimes flattered. He was constantly of all her ladyship’s parties in public and private; consequently he saw Belinda almost every day, and every day he saw her with increasing admiration of her beauty, and with increasing dread of being taken in to marry a niece of ‘the catch-match-maker,’ the name by which Mrs Stanhope was known amongst the men of his acquaintance. Young ladies who have the misfortune to be conducted by these artful dames, are always supposed to be partners in all the speculations, though their names may not appear in the firm. If he had not been prejudiced by the character of her aunt, Mr Hervey would have thought Belinda an undesigning, unaffected girl; but now he suspected her of artifice in every word, look, and motion; and even when he felt himself most charmed by her powers of pleasing, he was most inclined to despise her, for what he thought such premature proficiency in scientific coquetry. He had not sufficient resolution to keep beyond the sphere of her attraction; but frequently, when he found himself within it, he cursed his folly, and drew back with sudden terror.


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Notes and drafts toward essay-answer to Question 2

React as positively as possible toward the text. Think about it as a strange language depicting a social situation that might occur in different forms today, as when a mother sends her daughter to live with the mother's sister, and the daughter finds herself in fresh situations with young men whose style is somewhat familiar but also new.

Or relate to other reading. The references to "suitors" immediately make me think of Penelope's suitors in Homer's The Odyssey, but "suitors" and "parties" in a class-conscious British environment also made me think of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

How did you connect or react to the text in a positive or helpful way?


highlight or note the give-away terms: substantive nouns or value-terms that indicate what your readers or graders will be looking for.







protagonist, Belinda

Mrs. Stanhope, Belinda’s aunt

improve her niece’s social prospects

fashionable Lady Delacour.



analyze Clarence Hervey’s complex character


literary techniques as tone, point of view, and language. [language = diction or word choice? figures of speech?]








idle, ignorant


chameleon, vary

He could be all things to all men—and to all women.



Also highlight or note relational or transitional terms that give clues to logic or relations between terms or parts of the question.








might have been more

if, if, but

(Narrator, like all of us, wants to know who people are and classify them or identify or disidentify with them, but she's not sure about Clarence, or Belinda either way. She seems to fear the worst but hope for the best.)


Attempt at drafting an opening for essay in response:


In Maria Edgeworth's novel Belinda the narrator pauses to provide a penetrating but sympathetic portrait of two young people who might be right or wrong for each other or anyone. Both the characters--the novel's protagonist Belinda and a promising young man named Clarence Hervey--appear caught between two or more worlds. Belinda appears to be entering a social world to which she is a stranger. Her aunt has pushed her into the company of "the fashionable Lady Delacour" in order "to improve her niece’s social prospects," but these prospects are as dangerous as they are promising. Attending that higher society's parties, Belinda is brought into repeated company with Clarence Hervey, "a pleasant young man" who has "considerable literary talents." Like Belinda, however, Clarence feels insecure about what world he belongs to or the people he wants to be identified with. This insecurity causes him constantly to "vary" his personality like a "chameleon": "He could be all things to all men—and to all women." He and Belinda might conceivably meet in sympathy for each other's insecurity in a demanding social world. Instead, however, his unstable and desperate-to-please style makes him see Belinda as a mirror of himself. Instead of seeing each other as two young people who might help each other, they see each other as competitors in a social marketplace in which for one side to win, the other must lose.

Comments? Questions?

If I'm familiar with the kind of writing AP readers / graders might want, how would you characterize that style?






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