What people who get married in Las Vegas actually do expect -- what, in the largest sense, their "expectations" are -- strikes one as a curious and self-contradictory business. Las Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification, a place the tone of which is set by mobsters and call girls and ladies' room attendants with amyl nitrite poppers in their uniform pockets. Almost everyone notes that there is no ""time" in Las Vegas, no night and no day and no past and no future (no Las Vegas casino, however, has taken the obliteration of the ordinary time sense quite so far as Harold's Club in Reno, which for a while issued, at odd intervals in the day and night, mimeographed "bulletins" carrying news from the world outside); neither is there any logical sense of where one is. One is standing on a highway in the middle of a vast hostile desert looking at an eighty-foot sign which blinks "STARDUST" or "CAESAR'S PALACE." Yes, but what does that explain? This geographical implausibility reinforces the sense that what happens there has no connection with "real" life; Nevada cities like Reno and Carson are ranch towns, Western towns, places behind which there is some historical imperative. But Las Vegas seems to exist only in the eye of beholder all of which makes it an extraordinary and interesting place, but an odd one in which to want to wear a candlelight satin Priscilla of Boston wedding dress with Chantilly lace insets, tapered sleeves and a detachable modified train.

-- Joan Didion, "Marrying Absurd" (pp. 28-29 in our course reader)


In a carefully-argued, well-organized essay, please respond to the following questions. Make sure that you refer directly to the text of the passage. If possible, situate the passage in the context of the work from which it is taken. Remember that you have 50 minutes to write.

1. This paragraph is a description. What is being described? What sort of description is this, in your view? Assess the writerís style: is it factual or poetic? Or both? How do fact and artifice interrelate in this passage?

2. Explain the perspective or point-of-view of the writer. How exactly does she look at things? Define the writerís relationship to what she perceives.

3. What significant shapes and forms do the writerís sentences have? Choose one sentence from the passage, and analyze it.

4. Choose a key term from the passage and explain its significance. Why does this writer adhere to a particular diction or vocabulary?

5. This passage produces a particular sense of the human subject. With direct reference to the text, explain how the writer frames or constructs a particular identity or self.