The Confessions of Nat Turner 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 Gray refer to the insurgent slaves as?

2. Why does Gray say he published the Confessions?

3. Nat tells Gray of an event that "laid the groundwork" for his later actions, including the insurrection. What was that event?

4. What does Gray think should have led the band of slaves to greater efforts?

5. Who was Nat's master at the time of the insurrection?

Short Essay Questions

1. When Gray addresses the court, he blames "pure Negro cowardice" as a partial reason for the rebellion's failure, but then later in that same paragraph, Gray describes devoted slaves fighting "as bravely as any man" against Nat and his band. Why is he saying these things? Is he trying to confuse the justices?

2. Part 1 is told partly in the court as Nat's sentence is being handed down and partly through flashbacks to earlier times in Nat's life. Why might Styron have opened the book this way? What purpose does it serve?

3. Describe the world that Nat lived in from a slave's perspective. Now describe it from a white person's perspective.

4. Read Nat's description of Gray when they first meet in Part 1. Read Nat's thoughts about Gray immediately after the description. What does Nat think and/or feel about Gray? Does that have an effect on Nat's decision to confess? What does he think whites expect of him?

5. In Part 1, Nat says "a white man's discomfiture, observed on the sly, has always been a Negro's richest delight." Is this true? If so, why? If not, why would Nat think such a thing? Either way, what does that quote suggest about Nat?

6. In the introduction, Gray refers to the insurrection as a "conspiracy." Do you agree with that term? Why or why not?

7. By the middle of Part 1, readers have met four white people: Gray, Kitchen, Miss Maria Pope, and Jeremiah Cobb. None of them are described positively. Why might that be? Since the book is supposedly written from Nat's point of view, why might he only describe white people (to this point in the book) in negative terms?

8. When Judge Cobb first appears in the book, Nat describes his face as "blighted, ravaged by sorrow." When considering his eventual killing spree, Nat decides to spare Cobb. Why might he have done that?

9. Gray says that all the other insurgents who were examined tried to exculpate themselves. What does that mean? And why Nat didn't do it?

10. Gray tries to calm the fears of the people in Southampton County with his statement that's included in the Introduction. Yet he says "if Nat's statements can be relied upon." Why would he include a statement like this when he's trying to calm people?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

When Marse Samuel promised Nat his freedom, he couldn't deliver it right then. Eventually, the promise was broken and Nat was sold to different masters. Explore the effect this hope of freedom had on Nat immediately after he realized what Marse Samuel was saying, and later on, as he gradually realized the promise would never happen. Use at least two different examples from the book to back up your essay.

Essay Topic 2

Near the end of Part 2, Nat reflects on the fact that the other slaves "cared nothing about themselves or where they were going." They weren't concerned about the future, and their sale didn't seem to bother them. Why were they unconcerned? Use at least one specific example from the book in your essay.

Essay Topic 3

Nat is romantically drawn to Miss Margaret, yet his feelings for her also cause him panic. What are some of his conflicting feelings for Miss Margaret? How does he try to reconcile them? Cite specific examples from the text. Compare and contrast his feelings for Miss Margaret to his feelings for other white female characters in the book, like Mrs. Whitehead. How are they alike or different?

(see the answer keys)

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