Essay Examples: 2010 prompt #1

Here is the prompt, poem, and three student examples of essays for essay #1 of the 2010 AP Lit. exam.


The Grapes of Wrath Writing Prompt 2—Character Sketch

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: from chapter 2


“Outside, a man walking along the edge of the highway crossed over and approached the truck. He walked slowly to the front of it, put his hand on the shiny fender, and looked at the No Riders sticker on the windshield. For a moment he was about to walk on down the road, but instead he sat on the running board on the side away from the restaurant. He was not over thirty. His eyes were very dark brown and there was a hint of brown pigment in his eyeballs. His cheek bones were high and wide, and strong deep lines cut down his cheeks, in curves beside his mouth. His upper lip was long, and since his teeth protruded, the lips stretched to cover them, for this man kept his lips closed. His hands were hard, with broad fingers and nails as thick and ridged as little clam shells. The space between thumb and forefinger and the hams of his hands were shiny with callus.

The man’s clothes were new—all of them, cheap and new. His gray cap was so new that the visor was still stiff and the button still on, not shapeless and bulged as it would be when it had served for a while all the various purposes of a cap—carrying sack, towel, handkerchief. His suit was of cheap gray hardcloth and so new that there were creases in the trousers. His blue chambray shirt was stiff and smooth with filler. The coat was too big, the trousers too short, for he was a tall man. The coat shoulder peaks hung down on his arms, and even then the sleeves were too short and the front of the coat flapped loosely over his stomach. He wore a pair of new tan shoes of the kind called “army last,” hob-nailed and with half-circles like horseshoes to protect the edges of the heels from wear. This man sat on the running board and took off his cap and mopped his face with it. Then he put on the cap, and by pulling started the future ruin of the visor. His feet caught his attention. He leaned down and loosened the shoelaces, and did not tie the ends again. Over his head the exhaust of the Diesel engine whispered in quick puffs of blue smoke.”


Examining Steinbeck’s Style:

Instructions: Good writing starts with examining a model of good writing. Analyze Steinbeck’s writing to understand how he fosters characterization.

  1. Note words/phrases that modify other words. Explain what affect these words/phrases have on the description.
  2. Note words or phrases that are abstracts or comparisons (figurative language such as similes and metaphors). Explain what affect these words/phrases have on the description.
  3. Note the verbs in the passage. Select a few of the verbs which you feel are vivid and help to create imagery. Explain what affect these words/phrases have on the description.

The Grapes of Wrath Writing Prompt 1—Setting Description

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck from chapter 1:

“TO THE RED COUNTRY and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth. The plows crossed and recrossed the rivulet marks. The last rains lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies and grass along the sides of the roads so that the gray country and the dark red country began to disappear under a green cover. In the last part of May the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated. The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The clouds appeared, and went away, and in a while they did not try any more. The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more. The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the gray country.

In the water-cut gullies the earth dusted down in dry little streams. Gophers and ant lions started small avalanches. And as the sharp sun struck day after day, the leaves of the young corn became less stiff and erect; they bent in a curve at first, and then, as the central ribs of strength grew weak, each leaf tilted downward. Then it was June, and the sun shone more fiercely. The brown lines on the corn leaves widened and moved in on the central ribs. The weeds frayed and edged back toward their roots. The air was thin and the sky more pale; and every day the earth paled.

In the roads where the teams moved, where the wheels milled the ground and the hooves of the horses beat the ground, the dirt crust broke and the dust formed. Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air: a walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waist, and a wagon lifted the dust as high as the fence tops, and an automobile boiled a cloud behind it. The dust was long in settling back again.”


Examining Steinbeck’s Style:

Instructions: Good writing starts with examining a model of good writing. Before your write your prompt response, you will be analyzing Steinbeck’s writing to understand how he creates vibrant imagery for his readers.

  1. Identify words/phrases that appeal to the sense of sight.
  2. Identify words/phrases that appeal to the sense of smell.
  3. Identify words/phrases that appeal to the sense of touch.
  4. Identify words/phrases that appeal to the sense of hearing.
  5. Identify words/phrases that appeal to feelings/atmosphere.
  6. Identify words/phrases that describe location.
  7. Look over the words you have identified in the previous section. What do these words/phrases have in common? Are there any that stand out as being distinctly different from others (aka: are there unique words/phrases/images)? Are the words concrete or abstract (which have more of an impact)? Explain what Steinbeck does in order to create imagery in these paragraphs.  


Student Essay Contest!

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History invites Affiliate School students to examine key moments in American history by writing an essay or letter for one of our contests. The contests challenge students to research and write about American history as historians and to develop their research, writing and critical thinking skills.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute presents an annual essay contest for Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School students in grades 6–12. Students examine the nation’s most divisive conflict through letters, speeches, songs, photographs, newspapers, military orders, and other documents, conducting research in primary as well as secondary sources.

PRIZES – Click here for information


The 2017–2018 Civil War Essay Contest will open in November. Additional information, contest forms, a scoring rubric, and other important details on submissions can be found in the 2017–2018 Civil War Essay Contest information packet.


The Art of Fiction

As you finish your reading of How to Read Literature like a Professor, I suggest a follow-up text which you might find useful in your study of literature this year: The Art of Fiction by David Lodge.

AP Exam Scores are In!

Be sure to log in the the College Board site to check your scores for the AP exams for 2017.

Trevor Packer, Senior VP – AP and Instruction, has been tweeting some useful information and feedback on the exam results.

The Great Gatsby

Please refer to these handouts for a better understanding of the author’s background and setting for the novel:

F Scott Fitzgerald 1896-1940

Fitzgerald and his Other Works

Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age


Gatsby’s Guide to Manhood

Harlem in the Jazz Age

Also, refer to the BBC Higher Bitesize page for revision resources, videos, and tests (this is a great way to prepare for the final exam!): The Great Gatsby

AP terms to know

As you prepare to take the AP exam this week, review the literary devices and terms on our class Genius page, at this site, or on this pdf document.

Good luck!

Essay Prompt #10

The need to memorialize events or people is complex; in some cases, monuments honor moments of great
achievement, while in other cases, monuments pay homage to deep sacrifice. A monument’s size, location, and
materials are all considerations in planning and creating a memorial to the past.

Click here to access the prompt and sources. Please use only pages 2-9 for this assignment.



Source: Harvard University

Here is a link to the text of Herland, a utopian novel by feminist pioneer Charlotte Perkins Gilman (the author of the excerpt from today’s Daily Practice worksheet).