American Illusion vs. American Reality

Students will explore the American people’s confusion between illusion and reality. They will examine one of Arthur Miller’s consistent themes of WHAT IS REAL and WHAT IS NOT REAL. Can Eddie Carbone convince himself that his dark desire to be with his niece is simply a need to protect her? Can Blanche deceive herself enough to remake her own existence? Students will also discuss and write about how illusion can sometimes encourage a reality via short stories and poems. The nonfiction essays chosen specifically reflect the nature between these two seemingly opposing concepts: Illusion and Reality. Students will also wrestle with translating quotations that are about illusion and reality. They will ultimately write critical lens essays based on their decision. Finally, students will decide through seminars, reading and writing whether or not the American individual is marching to the beat of a synthetic or authentic drum…or maybe both.

Common Core Standards

RL.11-12.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
RL.11-12.2. Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.11-12.3. Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
RL.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.
W.11-12.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
W.11-12.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
W.11-12.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
W.11-12.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
W.11-12.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.
W.11-12.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
SL.11-12.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
SL.11-12.4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
L.11-12.5. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

Suggested Student Objectives

  • Compare the related themes of reality and illusion in Americans.
  • Define perception and explain what immigrants might think of America before they come to this nation, and after they’ve been have been here.
  • Analyze how perception can influence jealousy in American life
  • Examine the realities vs. the illusions that modern man faces
  • Express how fictional characters often misperceive events that are right before their eyes.
  • Explain what steps modern man must take in order to continue to see reality, and not illusion.
  • Identify ways that American society can remain real and yet have dreams.
  • Analyze: Does the loss of reality always lead to tragedy for Americans?

Suggested Additional Readings

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

“Appearance vs. Reality” – Gerald F. Kreyche
Illusion versus Reality: The importance of Awareness” - Diana Dussan
"Your Perception IS Your Reality" - Tony D. Clark
“The Role of Women in the 1950s”
“Dealing with Jealousy”
“Prejudice of the Hairy Kind” – R. Sydney
Immigrant Housecleaners in Free-fall” - New America Media
From: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard
From: Passions and Prejudices - Leo Rosten

Critical Lens Quotes about Reality and Illusion

Resource Links

Miller, Arthur. A View from the Bridge. New York: Penguin Press, 1955. (bookroom)

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: 1947. (bookroom)


Reflect on seminar discussion questions and responses, take notes on your responses in your notebook and cite the page numbers of textual evidence you will refer to in your seminar/ discussions/writings. Share notes with a partner for feedback and guidance. Make sure interpreted text/ quotations are correct. Be certain that all evidence is cited. RL.11 – 12.1, RL.11 – 12.7

Paragraph Writing: Based on Developing Literary Element:
Reflect on a specific excerpt from a novel, short story, poem or memoir in order to write a solid paragraph about how the work is developed through the use of a literary element. The paragraph must depict how the work develops that literary element. Textual evidence must be cited. Your teacher may give you an outline about how the paragraph should be structured. You may also be given critical feedback from classmates in order to determine that you have written this “literary paragraph” properly. RL.11-12.3, W.11-12.2

Persuasive Essay Writing/Critical Lens Essay:
Write a critical lens essay based on quotations from texts. The quotation must be properly translated followed by your opinion of the quote. This is then supported by using two works of literature along. You will be asked to demonstrate how the author uses literary elements to develop your interpretation of the critical lens. Evidence cited must come from the texts in order to support your thesis. Your teacher may give you an outline about how the essay is structured. You may also be given critical feedback from classmates in order for you to determine that you have written this persuasive essay properly. RL.11-12.2, W.11-12.2

Explanatory and Oral Commentary:
Students will be given a series of quotations based on illusion and reality. These may come from the text itself or from a list of quotations given. They will then write a ten minute explanation of what the quotation means and their opinion of it. Once this is done, students in groups will share their writings with each other. One student will then give the best oral commentary from the group. Students will be given time to critique the best commentary and explain why it succeeds. RL.11-12.1, RI.11-12.1

Language/ Vocabulary:
Keep track of all new words that are used in this unit. This includes those that are read in the written works as well as those that may be used on the English Regents. These words will be checked for their definition and part of speech. In your notebook write new sentences using the TERMINOLOGICALLY CORRECT NEW WORDS: Albeit - Euphony/Cacophony – Façade - Fictitious – Foil – Illusion – Indifference – Juxtaposition – Perception - Rhetorical/Verbal Irony - Rice and Beans – Reality – Visage RL.11-12.4, L.11-12.5


Teacher will be certain that students have met the criteria for the Common Core Curriculum Standards by:
  • observing and noting which students take an active part in seminars/discussions
  • writing back to students about their own written comments about what is being understood (or not understood) and/or their feelings about particular concepts and ideas
  • grading and commenting on all written work that students hand in
  • observing students as they read, write, and/or respond to questions, ideas and concepts.
  • giving students a test/quiz about what was discussed, read, learned
  • walking around the room checking to make sure that students are working well together and completing their work
  • assisting students with one-on-one help

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