71 pages 2 hours read

Joseph Kesselring

Arsenic and Old Lace

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1941

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Essay Questions

Use these essay questions as writing and critical thinking exercises for all levels of writers, and to build their literary analysis skills by requiring textual references throughout the essay.

Differentiation Suggestion: For English learners or struggling writers, strategies that work well include graphic organizers, sentence frames or starters, group work, or oral responses.

Scaffolded Essay Questions

Student Prompt: Write a short (1-3 paragraph) response using one of the below bulleted outlines. Cite details from the text over the course of your response that serve as examples and support.

1. Arsenic and Old Lace has one setting–the Brewster family home.

  • How are the themes supported by the play’s setting? (topic sentence)
  • Explain how the play’s themes of Family Loyalty Versus Independence, The Absurd Comedy of Contradictions, and The Endurance and Risks of Love are supported by the play’s single setting.
  • In your concluding sentences, explain why the Brewster family home is an appropriate setting for the play based on the central conflict.

2. In the play, it is revealed that Jonathan and his aunts are murderers.

  • How do Jonathan and his aunts’ relationship to violence differ? (topic sentence)
  • Describe how Jonathan and the aunts approach murder differently. Then explain how Jonathan and the aunts are alike in their commission of murders.