Study Help Essay Questions

1. The author sometimes associates a major symbol with a major theme. Choose one of each and demonstrate how he uses the symbol to illustrate the theme.

2. Henry spends important formative years in England as his father's personal secretary. What does he learn? How, if at all, does he change during this period?

3. Discuss Henry's attitude toward formal education. What are his complaints about it, and what solutions does he offer?

4. Describe Henry's experience in Germany during the "Grand Tour" following his graduation from Harvard. Consider his involvement with education, the arts, food and drink, and the culture generally.

5. The death of Henry's sister Louisa is a profound event in his life. How does he present this to the reader? What is his reaction to the tragedy? What seems to bring him back to the living?

6. What are the major historical eras in Adams's "Dynamic Theory of History"? Define what he means by "force" and briefly describe what Adams sees as the central force of each era.

7. What does Henry see during his trip to Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D. C., in 1850? As a twelve-year-old boy, how does he react to these experiences?

8. What do you think the narrator means by "education"? Considering his point of view, what do you see as the most "educational" experience in the book?

9. How important is the twenty-year gap in the story? If you had been Adams, would you have left out the events of those years? Does it bother you that he did? Why or why not?

10. What is the Pteraspis? How does the author use it to enrich or enliven the story?

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