ENGLISH LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION
Total time—2 hours
(Suggested time—40 minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay section score.)
Carefully read P. K. Page’s 1943 poem “The Landlady.” Then, in a well-organized essay, analyze the speaker’s complex portrayal of the landlady. You may wish to consider such elements as imagery, selection of detail, and tone.
Through sepia air the boarders * come and go,impersonal as trains. Pass silently the craving silence swallowing her speech;click doors like shutters on her camera eye.
Because of her their lives become exact:their entrances and exits are designed;phone calls are cryptic. Oh, her ticklish ears advance and fall back stunned.
Nothing is unprepared. They hold the walls about them as they weep or laugh. Each face is dialled to zero publicly. She peers stippled with curious flesh;
pads on the patient landing like a pulse,unlocks their keyholes with the wire of sight,searches their rooms for clues when they are out,pricks when they come home late.
Wonders when they are quiet, jumps when they move,dreams that they dope or drink, trembles to know the traffic of their brains, jaywalks their street in clumsy shoes.
Yet knows them better than their closest friends:their cupboards and the secrets of their drawers, their books, their private mail, their photographs are theirs and hers.
Knows when they wash, how frequently their clothes go to the cleaners, what they like to eat,their curvature of health, but even so is not content.
And like a lover must know all, all, all.Prays she may catch them unprepared at last and palm the dreadful riddle of their skulls—hoping the worst.
*boarders: people who rent rooms in a private home
Reprinted from KALEIDOSCOPE by P.K. Page by permission of the Porcupine’s Quill. Copyright © The Estate of P.K. Page 2010.