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. According to Nat's confession, how many people did he kill?

2. How many of the slaves escaped the insurrection without punishment?

3. How does Gray say Nat will be punished?

4. What is the name of the town Nat can see from his jail cell window?

5. What is Joseph Travis's profession?

Short Essay Questions

1. 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?

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

3. In the "Author's Note", Styron says he has "rarely departed from the known facts about Nat Turner and the revolt of which he was the leader." But the written text of the Confession is only around twenty pages. This book is over 400 pages long. Surely this can't be all fact; Styron himself says he allowed himself the "utmost freedom" in reconstructing the events. So which is true? Do you think this book will be mostly fact or fiction?

4. 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?

5. In the Introduction, Gray talks about an "annexed certificate of the County Court of Southampton" to prove the authenticity of Nat's "confession." Yet no one from the court, besides Gray, heard Nat's statements. Why might Gray have included the certificate?

6. 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?

7. The Introduction opens in the jail, so the reader already know Nat has been caught. Why might the author have used this technique? Why not choose some other method of telling the story?

8. In Part 1, when Nat is cleaning rabbits with Hark and Jeremiah Cobb stops to talk after getting a drink, Nat becomes nervous when he feels Cobb's question needs an answer. Nat doesn't want to give away a hint of what he's planning, but there's something else that pulls him in two directions when he considers whether to answer Cobb or not. Describe why Nat is so worried.

9. 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?

10. In Part 1, Gray reads back Nat's account of the killings, and Nat yells at him to stop. Why did Nat say that? Did he feel remorse? Nat says, "We done what had to be done!" Was he was talking about his "visions" and what they told him, or what Nat, personally, felt needed to be done?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Nat's thoughts in Styron's prose are educated, descriptive, and use proper English. Yet his speech toward white people is completely different. Why do you think that is? Does his speech change again when he speaks with other slaves? Why or why not?

Essay Topic 2

Ethelred T. Brantley was told by Reverend Entwistle that he would never be welcome in the church. Yet Nat told him that he could be saved by baptism in the Spirit. Nat had studied the Bible, and we can assume Reverend Entwistle had, as well. How could two completely opposite statements about the same person come based on the same book? What might have been some reasons for Entwistle telling Brantley he wasn't welcome? What might have been some reasons for Nat to tell Entwistle he could be saved?

Essay Topic 3

In Part 2, when Nat observes the interaction of Arnold and Major Ridley's fiancee, we see the first mention of sexual yearning on Nat's part for a woman--and in this case, a white woman. Yet it's not a yearning of love. In fact, Nat's imagery at this point is very violent. Why do you think Styron wrote the scene this way? Describe another way he could have written the scene. How would it have been different if it had been written the way you described? What different points, if any, would have been made with the other method?

(see the answer keys)

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