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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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4. Spirit of Nationalism   

4. Spirit of Nationalism

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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- Creative Response
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Activities: Author Activities

Royall Tyler - Author Questions

Back Back to Royall Tyler Activities
  1. Comprehension: What is being "contrasted" in The Contrast? What values and characteristics mark some characters as more authentically "American" than others? What is "Americanness" being contrasted with in the play?

  2. Comprehension: What does Maria's father Van Rough mean when he talks about "minding the main chance"? What does he seem to value in a son-in-law? How does his attitude toward marriage compare to Maria's and Manly's? Whose values win out in the conclusion of the play?

  3. Context: The first reviewer of The Contrast declared that Tyler's characters "are drawn with spirit, particularly Charlotte's," but was disturbed by the "suddenness" of Maria's affections and by her "misplaced" song and soliloquy. What ideals of womanhood and femininity do Maria and Charlotte represent? Which of these women do you think best occupies the position of "heroine" in this play? Why do you think the reviewer found Charlotte such an appealing character? What are her faults? What are her virtues? How does she change over the course of the play? How do Charlotte and Maria relate to women portrayed in sentimental novels, such as the suffering Charlotte Temple or the evil Madame LaRue in Susanna Rowson's novel?

  4. Context: Many literary critics have claimed that Colonel Manly is meant to be understood as a kind of George Washington figure. What characteristics relate him to George Washington? What kind of relationship to the military and to the Revolution does he have? What kind of relationship does he have with his sister? Why does Charlotte tease and make fun of Manly? What do you make of the fact that some of the humor of the play comes at Manly's expense? Why do you think Tyler named this character "Manly"?

  5. Exploration: The character of the rustic, dialect-speaking Jonathan started a vogue in American literature for homespun "Yankee" types. Plays and novels from the early nineteenth century often feature naíve rural characters indebted to Tyler's portrait of the simple, sincere country bumpkin. Can you think of characters in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, art, or film that bear a relationship to Jonathan? How have portraits of rural Americans changed over time?

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