Clappe frequently employs literary allusions, referencing Shakespeare, Greek mythology, Romantic poets, and British writers such as Charles Dickens who would have been her contemporaries. Ask your students to consider the function of these self-conscious assertions of "literariness" in Clappe's letters. How do they affect the tone and voice of the letters? Why might Clappe have been interested in including these allusions in her work?
In Letter 12, Clappe tells her sister that she is committed to giving her a "true picture" of life in the mining camps. Ask your students to think about this "documentary" goal in Clappe's letters. Why does she feel bound to report everything that she observes, even the "disagreeable subjects"? In many ways, the letters read more like a diary than correspondence between two people--Clappe rarely asks about her sister or even specifically addresses her. Ask your students whether they believe Clappe envisioned another, wider audience for her writing, or whether she might have revised the letters before publishing them.
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