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Presentation on theme: "THE TEST - ANGELICA GIBB"— Presentation transcript:

In discussing this short story the usual areas which have to be examined and the appropriate literary terms used.

2 The Test Matters Marion’s job depends on the test
Mrs Ericson’s family depends on the test Marion’s self-respect depends on the test

3 The Title Ambiguous – has a double meaning: both the driving test and also the racial testing by the bigoted examiner to check if Marion is a submissive black. This adds to the emotional impact of the story.

4 “In medias res” opening
The writer begins in mid-plot. This is “her second driver’s test”. The “back story” is implied by the first sentence – that something has gone wrong on the previous test. The story begins at a point of high tension – a second test with increased nerves.


6 Theme The theme is racial prejudice
“…do like it better if a white person shows up…” Mrs Ericson suggests young cousin Bill was the wrong person to go with Marion: Marion reads between the lines and assumes the problem was that Bill is black. Marian is honest and intuitive.

7 Implication Mrs Ericson suggests a bribe “..slip them a little something…” The implication is that the test is a fraud, not honest or fair if you are black Marion’s response, “That would only make it worse…” hints at the main point of the story, that white bigots are looking for any excuse to fail the black person. Marian has an intelligent insight.

8 THEMES: These are the ISSUES ; THE VALUES which the story examines. All stories say something about the way in which we human beings lead our lives and treat each other. QU 9: What is the central theme of ‘The Test?’


When the reader knows the place in which the story is set he might have certain expectations and bring some information to his reading of the story. QU 1: In this story, what expectations might the reader reasonably have about how the environment might affect the behaviour or the fortunes of the characters? ii. IS THE SETTING OF INDIVIDUAL INCIDENTS IMPORTANT? QU 2: Are there any incidents in this story where the setting might be said to be symbolic? iii. WHEN IS THE STORY SET? QU 3: Is it recent? Or is it set in the past where a certain set of historical circumstances might affect the behaviour and fortunes of the characters?


12 Plot – How does it develop?
Suspense over who will be the tester: The stocky, shouting man OR The genial, middle aged, smiling man (who turns out to be the racist with the friendly face) Ironically, the genial man is as much a racist as the stocky man was.

13 Careful Plotting The tester asks her to read the sign. She does.
He asks where she learned to read. She says at college. He laughs. She stalls on the slippery bridge. He makes fun of her: “Mistress Mandy, remember your degree.” She swears at him and starts the car with a jerk. THEN He fails her with four random crosses on the blank.

14 Careful Plotting She stalls on the slippery bridge.
He makes fun of her: “Mistress Mandy, remember your degree.” She swears at him and starts the car with a jerk. THEN He fails her with four random crosses on the blank. SO HE FAILED HER BECAUSE SHE LOST HER TEMPER AT HIM, NOT BECAUSE SHE STALLED THE CAR

15 Careful Plotting Reveals motivation of character of tester
He is furious because Marian swore at him, not because she stalled the car.

16 IMPORTANT!!! The plot and its ending are designed to:
A) challenge our sense of fairness B) provoke anger and indignation C) make us reflect on the small, unnoticed acts of racism which still occur.

17 PLOT: QU 4: Briefly summarise all that happens. in the story - including all RELEVANT detail. QU 5: Are there incidents of particular significance in the story? QU 6: Does the author prepare the reader for the ending? Even, as in this story, when the reader hopes that the ending will be otherwise.


How characters are DESCRIBED, CONTRASTED, and made to represent A TYPE How APPEARANCE,BEHAVIOUR AND LANGUAGE combine to give a very vivid impression of each character. (WE WILL LOOK AT THIS LATER IN MUCH MORE DETAIL)

20 Marion as Point-of -View Character
The only character who makes meaningful decisions in the story The only character present throughout the story The only character given a personal name The character who suffers unjustly and without complaining


22 Use of Dialogue (significant names)
The inspector calls Marian “Mandy” This is condescending A) He does not use her surname. (Dignity denied) B) He deliberately uses an over-familiar version of her first name C)He ignores Mrs Ericson’s correction D) When he gets away with the insult he pushes it further, calling her “Mandy-Lou”

23 Dialogue - Intrusive Rhetorical Questions
The inspector asks Marian if she has children. This is irrelevant to her driving ability. The inspector asks this in a racist phrase: “Old enough to have quite a flock of pickaninnies, eh?”

24 More Rhetorical Questions
The Inspector questions Marian’s motive in wanting a licence. “Sure you don’t really want to sneak out nights to meet some young blood?” This suggests Marian is an immature and irresponsible teenager.

25 Another Intrusive Question
“You-all sho can read fine Where d’ya learn to do that, Mandy?” The implication is that it is surprising that a black can read at all because the negro is uneducated or stupid.

26 Cultural Stereotypes “He began to whistle “Swanee River”. “Make you homesick?” he asked. This is a direct reference to slavery and plantation life. This is a racist jibe which the inspector feels safe to make because there is no witness in the car.

27 DIALOGUE: In every short story the way in which a character speaks to others will reveal that character’s qualities. QU 7: Find two examples of each character‘s language and note what it tells you about their attitude to others.


29 Use of condescending body-language
‘“Sure thing,” the inspector said, winking at Mrs Ericson.’ This suggests Mrs Ericson and the Inspector are sharing a joke, that they both know Marian is a bad driver because she is black but Mrs Ericson has to say something positive in front of Marian because blacks cannot cope with the truth.


31 The real climax of the story
What is the real climax? Marian stalling the car? – No. Marian swearing at the tester? – No. The tester failing Marian? – No. It is Mrs Ericson’s reaction: “Oh, Marian, again?”

32 The hidden message in the ending
Mrs Ericson blames Marian for being a stupid black. Marian does not dare to tell her truth about the racist incidents during the test. Marian decides to accept the label of “stupid black” rather than make trouble.


34 STYLE: QU 8: Look for words, phrases, or images which are included by the author to add to the meaning of the story and to increase your understanding of the characters or the themes.

35 ATTITUDE: All authors have an ATTITUDE to their subject matter to their characters: it is clear in descriptions, dialogue and- sometimes- comments QU 10: What is the writer’s attitude to her subject matter in ‘The Test.’

36 PURPOSE: The purpose of the writer is connected to his/her attitude the author may want to criticise some aspect of human behaviour and his / her purpose would be to convince the reader that such behaviour is wrong. Once you have decided what the writer’s purpose was, you can then assess if the writer was successful in achieving it. QU 11: What is the writer trying to achieve by writing this story, what is its purpose?

37 PERSONAL RESPONSE: In all critical essays you will be expected to include your personal response to the text and to be able to explain why you did or did not enjoy it. QU 12: Give your personal response to the short story, ‘The Test.’


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