Unless 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 kind of woman does Reta realize she cannot create for a heroine in her novel?

2. What is the signal Reta gives to Lois for her to come over for her nightly meal with the family?

3. What is the name of Reta's new novel?

4. In the few weeks prior to her disappearance, who does Ben think Norah might have a problem with that would account for her uncharacteristic behavior?

5. What does Norah accidentally find in the pocket of Christine's winter parka?

Short Essay Questions

1. Describe Reta's peculiar behavior when she visits Norah in early November.

2. According to Ben, how has Norah changed in the few weeks prior to her disappearance?

3. What is Reta's complaint in her letter to the editor of a literary magazine regarding one of its advertising pages?

4. Why is Reta reluctant to give Arthur Springer a first draft of her novel, and what does it reveal about her writing?

5. Why does the memory of shopping for the perfect scarf for Norah haunt Reta as a "big female secret" and what does the scarf represent?

6. What does Reta's husband Tom do for a living and how is it significant concerning Norah's absence?

7. Why does Norah make the sarcastic observation in her letter to Alexander Valkner that he must have suffered from extreme fatigue when he thought of his list of "literary big cats"?

8. During Norah's visit from university the previous year, Reta states that she knew how "wildly out control" Norah was, how "she'd become dangerous to her own being." Describe why Reta comes to this conclusion.

9. What does Reta do each month that indicates her attempt to live up to an idea of "goodness?"

10. How are Reta's feelings about sex related to her writing about Alicia and Roman?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Shields uses the first-person point of view to show Reta's thoughts and actions, though the focus of the novel is the mystery of Norah's disappearance and subsequent homelessness. Respond to the following questions:

1. Why do you think Shields chose the first-person instead of third-person ("she")?

2. How would the novel be different if the story was told from Norah's point of view?

3. Since the first-person is a limited perspective, how would using an omniscient point of view change the tone or meaning of the novel?

Essay Topic 2

As a novel, "Unless" functions as a mystery. As such, there are clues provided to lead the reader in many directions. What are some true and false leads surrounding Norah's disappearance? How does Shields utilize flashbacks and dialogue to create suspension in the novel?

Essay Topic 3

Discuss the role of family in the novel, responding to the following questions:

1. What responsibilities do family members share?

2. Does Shields portray the Winters family as being functional or dysfunctional?

3. How are the Winters family members treated?

4. Who is accepted as a family member and who is not?

(see the answer keys)

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