A Handful of Dust Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. What does John tell his mother as to why he won't see Brenda anymore?

2. What does Brenda find unbearable?

3. Why does Tony lash out at his son?

4. What is John Beaver's career status?

5. What event is Brenda going to miss at Hetton?

Short Essay Questions

1. How are the rooms of Hetton symbolic?

2. Do you think that a class is a good enough reason to miss the beginning of an annual, traditional event at Hetton as Brenda does?

3. What sort of "struggle" seems to be going on between Brenda and John Beaver?

4. What does Tony find annoying and why do you think he put himself in the situation?

5. What demonstrates how very widespread the knowledge about Brenda's affair is and how much it is a topic of conversation?

6. What happens in this chapter that indicates Brenda's lack of devotion as a mother?

7. Briefly discuss the setting of Hetton Abbey.

8. Why do you think Tony is unconcerned with Brenda spending time in London with her old social circle?

9. Why is Beaver annoyed at Polly's party, but why does he put up with his annoyance?

10. What demonstrates the possibility that Brenda is already planning a divorce?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Some readers and/or critics might say that A HANDFUL OF DUST contains some elements of a dark comedy. Discuss the following giving specific examples:

1. Define dark comedy and give some examples of works of dark comedy in literature and/or film.

2. Discuss several scenes from A HANDFUL OF DUST that might contain elements of a dark comedy.

3. Why do you think Waugh incorporates elements of dark comedy into this work?

Essay Topic 2

The men in A HANDFUL OF DUST often seem to get the bad end of the stick from the women in their lives. Some say that Waugh's somewhat compassionate treatment of Brenda and other women in his other novels who have "strayed" is a reflection of his own life. Discuss the following:

1. How does Waugh portray the relationship between men and women in A HANDFUL OF DUST?

2. Do you think Waugh's portrayal is accurate? How much of his portrayal of how the women treat the men may be a reflection of his personal experience? (This may require a little research).

3. Are there any women in the text who are portrayed admirably? Who? Give examples.

Essay Topic 3

Often the people hurt the most in a situation like that of Tony and Brenda's is a child. John Andrew plays a pivotal role in the melodrama of Brenda's descent into selfishness. Discuss the following:

1. Compare the relationship between John Andrew and each of his parents.

2. How does the relationship between John Andrew and his parents (individually) change over the course of the story?

3. How does John Andrew tip the scales in Brenda's decision to reveal all to Tony? Do you think she is genuinely grieved about her son's death or glad for an opportunity for "total freedom"?

(see the answer keys)

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