GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Identification of American Plays After 1925

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, and Harold Mitchell are major characters from which of the following plays?

Possible Answers:

A Streetcar Named Desire

Twelve Angry Men

Mourning Becomes Electra

Our Town

Death of a Salesman

Correct answer:

A Streetcar Named Desire

Explanation:

These are central characters in Tennessee Williams' 1947 American play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The plot follows Blanche Dubois who abandons her previous life of aristocracy after a series of personal failures to live with her brother and sister-in-law in New Orleans. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948.

Example Question #2 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Mary Cavan Tyrone, James Tyrone, and Cathleen are main characters in which of the following American plays?

Possible Answers:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Six Degrees of Separation

A Raisin in the Sun

The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

‘night Mother

Correct answer:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Explanation:

Mary Cavan Tyrone, James Tyrone, and Cathleen are primary characters in Eugene O'Neill's 1956 play, Long Day's Journey Into Night. It is a drama written in four parts between 1941 and 1942. It was the Pulitzer Prize winner in 1957.

Example Question #3 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which of the following is an English-language opera that tells the story of a black beggar and his lover in Charleston, South Carolina and is often discussed in terms of its racial significance and shortcomings?

Possible Answers:

West Side Story

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Porgy and Bess

Anything Goes

Show Boat

Correct answer:

Porgy and Bess

Explanation:

This question describes the 1934 Porgy and Bess, first performed in New York City by a controversial cast of all-African-American singers. The play is known for its jazz style, its famous song “Summertime” (since covered by many performers), and for its questionable perpetuation of racial stereotypes. It has gone in and out of fashion for the eighty years since its debut. The play introduces important questions such as the role of the black performer in theater and the use of stereotypes by white composers.

Example Question #4 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Who is the author of the canonical American play The Crucible?

Possible Answers:

David Mamet

Arthur Miller

Eugene O’Neill

Tom Stoppard

Tennessee Williams

Correct answer:

Arthur Miller

Explanation:

The author is Arthur Miller, and the play, written in 1953, concerns the late-seventeenth-century Salem witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay province of America. The play is intended as an allegory of the 1950s Red Scare and McCarthyism, when the U.S. government became paranoid about the possibility of communism infiltrating the country. As a result of the play (which includes characters such as Abigail Williams, John and Elizabeth Proctor, Tituba, Mary William, Giles Corey, and Reverend Samuel Parris), Miller was questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee and charged with contempt of Congress.

Example Question #5 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which Tennessee Williams “memory play” features the reminisces of Tom, the protagonist, about three other characters and is renowned for its examination of family ties and mental illness?

Possible Answers:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

A Streetcar Named Desire

The Glass Menagerie

Not About Nightingales

Candles to the Sun

Correct answer:

The Glass Menagerie

Explanation:

The play in question is Williams’ 1944 play The Glass Menagerie. The play features narrator Tom Wingfield; matriarch Amanda Wingfield, whose husband abandoned the family and whose glory days as a Southern debutante have long faded; the cripplingly shy Laura Wingfield, Tom’s sister and Amanda’s daughter; and the deceitful prospective suitor Jim O’Connor.

Example Question #6 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which of the following works is based on a play by William Shakespeare?

Possible Answers:

A Raisin in the Sun

A Streetcar Named Desire 

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

West Side Story

Angels in America

Correct answer:

West Side Story

Explanation:

Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Originally performed on Broadway in 1957, the musical is set in a neighborhood of immigrants in New York City’s Upper West Side. Like Romeo and Juliet, it includes themes such as love, death, loyalty, and family, but it is also concerned with tensions between immigrants and native citizens in America during the 1950s.

Example Question #7 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which American playwright is known for works such as Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh, and Mourning Becomes Electra?

Possible Answers:

Tennessee Williams

Eugene O’Neill

Neil Simon

David Mamet

Tom Stoppard

Correct answer:

Eugene O’Neill

Explanation:

The playwright who wrote the plays listed is Eugene O’Neill, a native of New York City and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature. O’Neill is widely regarded as one of the most important dramatists in twentieth-century America, and his work makes use of American vernacular, characters who are outcasts or misfits, and a stark, sometimes relentless realism.

Example Question #8 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

This Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tony Kushner focuses on sexuality and the AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York City.

Possible Answers:

As Is

Safe Sex

The Way We Live Now

Angels in America

Andre’s Mother

Correct answer:

Angels in America

Explanation:

Although all the titles listed above are American plays dealing with AIDS, only the 1993 Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes was written by Tony Kushner. It is by far the most famous work of the Kushner’s and includes character doubling, interweaving storylines, and various angels and imaginary friends. 

Example Question #9 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

This 1965 comedy by Neil Simon follows the ill-suited relationship between roommates Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison. What play is it?

Possible Answers:

A Raisin in the Sun

The Philadelphia Story

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

The Odd Couple

Waiting for Lefty

Correct answer:

The Odd Couple

Explanation:

The play described is The Odd Couple, which follows the tiffs and jokes of Oscar, a notoriously laidback slob, and Felix, an extremely organized neat-freak. The play’s main premise is that the two recently divorced main characters become roommates out of financial necessity but end up forming their own close relationship.

Example Question #10 : Identification Of American Plays After 1925

Which 1959 play takes its title from the Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred”?

Possible Answers:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Glengarry Glen Ross

The Philadelphia Story

A Raisin in the Sun

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Correct answer:

A Raisin in the Sun

Explanation:

The play in question is A Raisin in the Sun, a work that portrays the experiences of an impoverished black family in mid-century Chicago. It is known for its cast of almost exclusively African-American characters as well as its involvement in a U.S. Supreme Court case about racist housing policies.

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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