Study Questions for Books Previously Taught in Young Adult Literature and in Children’s Literature. These books can be used for elementary, middle school, and secondary school-aged pupils.
Consider the context of these brief sentences. How do they illustrate a thematic concern in the book. Trace the polarities inherent in each of the following as they occur throughout the story. Are the statements in any way ironic?
1. “Ever since he’d been in first grade he’d been that `crazy little kid that draws all the time'” (4) This statement is connected to a developing idea of his artistic ability. “It was a three-dimensional nightmare version of some of his own drawings. He felt a frightening sense of kinship with it” (100). Consider the ways this talent is connected to Teribithia and to Leslie’s view of the world.
2. “He kept the knowledge of it buried inside himself like a pirate treasure” (12).
3. “Judy came down and read out loud to them, mostly poetry and some of it in Italian which, of course, Jess couldn’t understand, but he buried his head in the rich sound of the words and let himself be wrapped warmly around in the feel of the Burkes’ brilliance” (69).
4. It was as though he had been made with a great piece missing–one of May Belle’s puzzles with this huge gap where somebody’s eye and cheek and jaw should have been” (93). “Everybody gets scared sometimes, May Belle. You don’t have to be ashamed” (123). Consider the context of this statement. Is this ironic? Of what is he ashamed? Consider the change which has occurred in Jess from page 93 to page 123.
5. “Above from the crab apple tree the frayed end of the rope swung gently. I am now the fastest runner in the fifth grade” (115).
1. “Ever after, on muggy, magnolia-scented days, Miranda would stop whatever she was doing and stand silent for a minute or two. She was trying to remember” (00). “Threads of memory, like dreams, tried to weave themselves into a story. But–as with dreams–the harder she thought, face bent in a frown of concentration, the strands fluttered like spider gossamer, broke, and were gone” (0).
2. “I don’t know the whole history of the house, but I do know the last family to live here moved out in the 1940s after the place caught fire. No one has lived here since” (7).
3. “The attic. She had not seen the attic yet. She opened the narrow door and set one foot on the first step. At that moment the warm evening air grew unbearably dense. She couldn’t breathe. Miranda jerked back into the hall, gasping” (12). Why? Is this to be connected with “She examined the black-crayoned writing on the floor. WATER. She puzzled over that for moment” (19). Discuss.
4. “No need to thank me. Just make sure you do your practicing. I don’t like laziness. Just keep that in mind, and remember: the key words are breath control” (54). “She no longer looked outward at the world, but inward to the music” (198). How are these two concepts related?
5. “So she wasn’t crazy, and she wasn’t imagining things. And it wasn’t just the dollhouse that showed her the past. She saw it happening right here in her own house, like repeat performances of a very old play. A drama played out in three different times with three different casts, yet the same story unfolding in each, the same lines being spoken” (117).
6. The fugitives stayed at the house a week to recuperate, and then the Galworthys helped them move on. . . . That houses shouldn’t have to have secret rooms. That people shouldn’t have to be on the run” (132-33).
7. “Only eight years old. As old as Buddy. She shouldn’t have died when she did. It wasn’t time” (216).
8. “All I mean, Mandy, is that if you changed the past, you’d be changing the present too” (220).
9. “‘Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that logic isn’t everything. . . .There are so many things I don’t understand, Mandy. Things no one understands, I guess. Time is one of them.’ He looked at her seriously. Like we see only the tip of the iceberg'” (252-53).
10. “Late afternoon sunlight flooded the music room as Miranda played her flute. Through the light, the music kept rising. The notes soared high and clear, suspended in the summer’s day. In the still, warm air her song blended with the timeless smells: fresh cut grass, a hint of rain, and the heavy, sweet scent of magnolia blossoms” (260).
1. The statement by Walnut’s mother, “TRY HARDER. TRACK IT with your eye before you shoot. . . (1) sets up the working metaphor for the book. Explain. It is closely connected the next idea, when she tells him to put his bow down and describe the new place. “But I’ve never been here before and I can’t see.” “Shhh,” she said again. “Look with your ears” (5).
2. I had spent so much time worrying about failing the test and not receiving a man’s name that I didn’t know what to do when I passed it and got one. And I was not alone in my confusion. (13)
3. “It was hard to keep one eye in my mind wide open and the other one firmly closed, but I did” (19). See also what Gray Fire says to Sees Behind Trees, “You understand about listening. You are not afraid of quiet” (44).
4. “I had never quite understood the dividing line between not being grown up and being grown up. It seemed as though there was some invisible doorway a person walked through and when he came out on the other side he was supposed to be all that he had been before, except more” (26).
5. “Without somebody to be somebody to, it was as though I wasn’t somebody myself” (29).
6. “I was young,” Gray Fire said. “Not much older than you. And I was the fastest runner in the village” (35). . . “I thought I could run faster than the night” (37).
7. “There are some places that are too beautiful You want to be part of them. They trap your heart” (38).
8. “This was a question for which I had no answer. To not want more, to be so satisfied that you didn’t want to move, didn’t want to be surprised at what happened next, didn’t want to hear a new story, learn a new song, wish a new wish, didn’t want more–to me, that was like being a rock or a stick frozen in the ice of a pond: awful” (40.
9. “Your body will remember where it has been if you let it,” he answered. “It recalls what’s familiar–but not as you mind does. With your mind you stand outside the world and look in. With your body your inside already” (52).
10. “Secrets inside secrets. Was this what being grown up was all about?” (96).
1. The first image we have of M. C. is an important one. How might this image be connected to mythology.
Look closely at the “leaf bracelets.” Why are they significant? Describe the ravine. Is it mythic also? How and why? (8)
2. “To be by himself in the perfect quiet was reason enough for him to wake up early”(2). See also William Stafford’s poem, “Freedom.” What are the contraries here?
3. Examine the differences between M. C.’s bare feet and his “striding swiftly through the piney woods” trying to capture rabbits (3) and the Dude who captures voices in a “little box of a tape recorder” (3).
4. What characteristics does the mountain have? Is it too a character in this novel? Is there any specific meaning to names: Ben Killburn? Lurhetta Outlaw? Jones? Do names give insights into character?
5. “As he watched the shadowy figures in the kitchen, his thoughts seemed to float away from him. He fell into a kind of reverie as he heard, deep in his mind, a wild creature’s roar. . . . Or was he the image, waiting for another part of himself to reach it?” (66). What is the pattern here? What is M.C.’s level of cognition? Needs? How does this internal dynamic fit the external dynamic?
6. The concept of time is as important here as it was in Tuck. See particularly page 217. “The girl, Lurhetta, all mixed up with the past and the future, with vegetables and witchy folk. So that the chatter had been like an internal clock ticking off loneliness of his dreaming, or the staccato of a time bomb set to go off.”
7. “The strata of rock were worn smooth from years of barefoot climbing and descending, of running children, of sitting and playing. Wind and rain, sun, had given a patina neither man-hewn nor natural. Shiny smooth, it existed in neither the past or the present. So that walking on it now, they were neither here nor there, but perhaps heading toward some unknown future” (210). Explain how this “strata” fits into context of the story.
8. The witchy people. Explain what Mr. Killburn says about being part of the system. “Just like soil is body. Stream. Mountain is body.” Killburn paused significantly. “We don’t own nothing of it. We just caretakers, her to be of service.” (229) “The truth is, we just a body wiggling and jiggling in and out of the light.” “You mean the earth is.” “I mean earth and everything on it.”
9. Why does Jones bring the gravestone to M.C. as he is building the wall? Whose is it? Will it help? Is this act symbolic? What does the gravestone mean?
10. Connect M.C.’s memory of Lurhetta’s voice and his mother’s singing. What does strangeness have to do with these memories? What is Ben’s role in all this?
1. Look closely at the paragraph in which the narrator first identifies herself (6-7). What does the description of the house reveal about the narrator?
2. “The secret is hiding in the lines of this poem” (15).
3. “Woodrow would never say anything like that. He did not think of me as ‘just a girl’ any more than I thought of him as a cross-eyed boy” (30).
4. “She watches my hands when we’re having a lesson, and she can see a wrong note almost before I hit it. It seems as her hearing gets worse, her vision gets better.” Discuss the relationship between vision and perception. Compare Granny’s ability with that of Blind Benny.
5. “It was near dawn that the nightmare came. Just like the ones before it, there was an animal, limp and lifeless, in a puddle of blood. Was it a deer? A dog? A kitten An ugly, ugly thing was that animal’s face: the
ugly thing I could not see. The ugly thing… ” (44).
6. “While everybody was turning to page 36, Woodrow glanced at me and winked so quick I don’t think anybody else saw him. I ducked my head to hide the smile that had to come” (51). Consider a “wink” as a form of communication. What does it convey? What does it require from the recipient?
7. “Sometimes. . . sometimes, Woodrow, I feel invisible.” (55)
8. Chapter 10: Discuss Gypsy’s illness. What is it a symptom of (metaphorically speaking)? Compare it with her later claims of feeling sick (94-95).
9. “He was interested in everything and almost everybody, and the way he looked at things with fresh eyes made me see them fresh too” (125).
10. Consider the “power of the mind” (135) in relation to Buzz’s compulsion to know the truth (107). How do truth and fiction function in the lives of Woodrow and Gypsy?
1. “Everything was dead quiet then” (9).
2. “Van was done. He wasn’t going to hurt anybody, he was hanging his head” (11).
3. “Lots of times he imagined snapping the drawer shut and making her disappear if he ever needed to” (50).
4. “Jamie was bouncing along, flying high from his success, when suddenly Patty grabbed his hand, spun ;him around, and yanked him over to the snow cone stand. She pulled him so hard and so suddenly that he almost fell” (62).
5. “It wasn’t the same at all. Things were better but they felt worse” (67).
6. “And without thinking, without any plan at all, Jamie lunged over to the drawer and kicked it” (68).
7. “Jamie looked to his mother to see what sort of answer might do the trick” (80).
8. “Being able to skate was all there was. There was nothing else in the world: nothing had happened before, nothing was coming up. There was just what he was doing, and how good it felt” (111).
9. “The crack might as well have gone through Jamie’s backbone, as if he were the plate, snapped in half. He burst into tears that came with such force it was all he could do to keep standing” (124).
10. “Patty settled down with Nin in the easy chair. `How about some magic?’ she asked” (126).
1. Chapter 3. “Depth, he decided, as if one were looking into the clear water of the river, down to the bottom, where things might lurk which hadn’t been discovered yet. He felt self-conscious, realizing that he, too, had that look” (21). How does the idea of depth and the unknown connect with “the look”? What exactly is “the look”? Look for patterns to find your answers.
2. Chapter 9. “Now Jonas had a thought that he had never had before. This new thought was frightening. What if others–adults–had, upon becoming Twelves, received in their instructions the same terrifying sentence?” (71). What is the instruction and how is it terrifying? What are the implications if others and even adults had been given the same instructions? Consider how this affects Jonas’s view of the world.
3. Chapter 11. “The experience explained itself to him” (81). How can an experience explain itself? Explain the irony of such a statement.
4. Chapter 11. “The man corrected him. “Honor,” he said firmly. “I have great honor. So will you. But you will find that that is not the same as power” (84). How are honor and power different in the context of this story? What tensions does this conflict engender?
5. Chapter 13. “We really have to protect people from wrong choices” (98). What are the implications of a government that thinks this way? What is good about it? harmful? What is the impact of a “policing” government?
6. Chapter 16. “Do you love me?” There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. “Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please! (127). Examine the ironic implications in this dialogue. Remember that Jonas does adhere to “precision of language.” What does he hope/expect his father to say? Consider how this might reflect a major turning point in Jonas’s perception.
7. Chapter 23. “Dimly, from a nearly forgotten perception as blurred as the substance itself, Jonas recalled what the whiteness was” (175). What is the nature of experience? How similar to a memory is it? How does this make what happens at the end of the book ambiguous?
1. What is the significance of the title, Island of the Blue Dolphins? Remember that we are looking for a dynamic that involves not only Karana but the reader/s as well. Consider the meaning of the content words.
2. Chapter 1, section 1 (1-4). Read carefully this first incident in the book. What is the conflict for Karana at this point? How does she resolve the conflict? Is this predictive in any way of the conflict she will experience alone on the island?
3. Chapter 1 section 2 (4-8). Examine carefully Karana’s movements in this brief section, where she is in relation to other components of the scene. This is a very dynamic scene. You wish to stage it for a movie, hence you must visualize it, noting what she tells us of her feeling during the scene. What are the dynamics of the scene?
4. Chapter 5 (26-29). What is the real reason they cannot remain on the island? And what is behind the men not allowing the women to continue hunting, even though they were successful? How are the two related and what will this have to do with Karana later?
5. When the wild dogs kill Ramo, Karana sits all night with the body of her brother, thinking that she will kill all of the wild dogs, that she will have revenge? Yet later she adopts the leader of the pack and makes him her best friend. Does the book approve of her choice? Why? Be sure to consider the dynamics of revenge. Does this have any relation to her decision to burn the huts? (49).
6. The attempted flight from the island together with the return to it is a transforming experience for Karana. Contrast her attitude before leaving with her feelings when she returns (69). What has happened to her? What is the author suggesting by this experience?
7. At the end of chapter 24, Karana tells us of a shift in her relation to the animals of the island. In a way she considers how this shift would be received by her family, how she would have to respond to their expectations. What is her shift? How does she imagine her family responding? Which members of the family? Can you relate this to her behavior in Chapter 1, when she wishes to see what is happening down on the beach?
8. Consider Karana’s farewell to the island at the end of the book. “On the tenth day we sailed.” Discuss the dynamics of this scene. We could call this the dynamics of what? Compare this Karana with the Karana that begins the book.
1. Why has Taylor chosen this particular title? Note on page 184 the complete text. Although the book is about events in the 30s, it was written in the 70s.
2. On pages 1-3 the children are walking to school. This is the first day, and there are different responses from the children, most markedly between Little Man and Cassie. What is the dramatic purpose of this little scene? Remember that this is an interesting family dynamic, telling us something about Cassie that might be important for the book.
3. The ownership of land looms large in this particular book. Cassie tries to explain her father’s response to the land as well as her own. She objects to her father’s having to leave to work on the railroad. Read his explanation and her response to that on page 4. Read carefully the paragraph beginning, “I looked at Papa . . . .” There is a problem for Cassie, a problem of understanding. What does she not understand?
4. T. J. appears quickly and we get a rather unpleasant picture of him (7). Why does the author bring him in so early? Obviously he is to furnish a contrast by his behavior here. What is wrong with his behavior–in terms of a theme for the story?
5. At first Stacey does not feel close to Mr. Morrison. Why? Then the incident of the fight at the Wallace store occurs. As a consequence, “the distance between them fad[Ed].” Pay close attention to page 66. What does Stacey understand here? What is Mr. Morrison trying to make him understand? The younger children don’t understand. Thus, age difference comes into play here. Childish understanding versus whatever Mr. Morrison is trying to convey to Stacey. Discuss.
6. In Chapter 6, Big Ma returns from the trip to Strawberry. They are greeted with Uncle Hammer, obviously successful from his working in the North. Cassie has an ally in Uncle Hammer. Why is this character introduced right at this point in the book? What significant polarity is emphasized with the appearance of Uncle Hammer. Note the discussion between Mama and Cassie. What is Mama trying to impress upon Cassie at the bottom of page 97?
7. Jeremy Simms calls at the Logan home while they are celebrating Christmas. The episode is somewhat unpleasant for most people. Certainly Taylor has her reasons for this episode. What can they be? see 117-20.
8. Pages 132-34. Consider the importance of Cassie’s talk with her father about Lillian Jean. What is the essence of his instructions to her? What is he warning against and what is he suggesting as right for her? Look at and analyze the symbolism here. It is a key to understanding the book.
9. Papa, in spite of everything that T. J. has done to harm the family, sets fire to his own crops to stop the violence against him. Why?
1. What is the role of music in this book?
2. Compare the parents of Junior Brown and Buddy.
3. “The three of them were hidden in the dark” (1). Consider analyzing this sentence in terms which also explain parts of the rest of the book.
4. “To be afraid of the dark is to be afraid of Buddy Clark” (68).
5. “Swaying, and with his eyes closed, Junior played the music he alone could hear” (127).
6. “When he father gets here, the two of them can talk man to man” (166).
7. “Everything Buddy had told him came together in that one picture of a thing unseen going down in darkness to a place unknown” (192).
8. “It seemed to Buddy that he had in the room all he needed. There was Junior and Mr. Pool, there was Nightman, Franklin and the other boys, all together, all needing one another and him. He had the solar system” (208).
9. “So that was it, he told himself. That was what he had forgotten al these years, or changed with the passage of time to fit with his loneliness. No, his Tomorrow Billy had taught him much more than life as mere survival” (210).
- “You’re not dead yet are you? There was a long moment in which Cammy held her breath. . . . It was a rough game that Tut manged to play with Cammy. Pretend dead-as-a-doornail was what Cammy called it” (10). Discuss how this game is ironically connected to the theme of the story. Don’t overlook such statements as “held her breath” in your analysis.
- “Gram lost plenty of time. She could speed it up, though, when she felt like it” foreshadows and hints at the element of time in the story. How is it possible to lose time and “speed it up”? (14)
- The Care. “Beyond the glass door was bright sunshine and summer. Shade trees and woods surrounded the Care on three sides. Outside, Cammy wondered why all of the folks didn’t just walk on away and live under the trees in the woods” (23). Consider the implications of nominalization of “to care.” Discuss the spatial dynamics of this description.
- “But Patty Ann wouldn’t be disturbed until she had practices her entire lesson” (28). Who is speaking here? What predictions can be made about Patty Ann and about Cammie?
- “She looked at Patty Ann. Cammy felt hard as nails inside toward her one second. The next second, she felt peevish that she wasn’t more like her” (73). Discuss this ambivalence.
- “Out there was an odd bluish color. Kind of sickly, and dark bluish-green. But mostly it was a blue mystery. . . . She called it the blue devil. All the kids Cammy’s age called it the bluety” (85).
- “I won’t get an A this time, her look seemed to say” (92). What is the reference here? Discuss the various implications and meanings of this statement in the context of not only what is happening but what has happened.
- “A silence came over everything. It pinned this day to them forever after. . . Not a trace” (94). This is poetry–almost. Explain.
- “Are you my daddy?” (104). Look at the importance of father figures in this story. How present are they? Vital or not?
- Discuss the effects of not having fathers present in the girls’ lives, their mothers’ lives.
- “Put a focus on . . . each little thing comes before you. Just one thing at a time. That’s how it’s done. Always be ready. I’m ready” (120). Discuss what is being said here and how this is compared to the previous action of the book.
1. Through the Looking Glass ends with a poem whose last line reads, “Life, what is it but a dream?” How is the juxtaposition of reality and dream connected to Alice’s adventure/dream?
2. Look for patterns of punishment: decapitation and vanishing. Are these different from “common forms of punishment? How? What is significant here?
3. The white rabbit is “bound by time.” How is time configured in this story?
4. Carroll is concerned with polarities. Look for patterns and discuss the nature of these polarities.
5. Alice is both a participant and an observer in the story. Give one example of this phenomenon and analyze how this mode affects our understanding of the story.
6. A garden? a secret one which Alice has difficulty entering. What might this represent?
7. There is a fundamental oddity of life portrayed in this story: Children should remain innocent of knowledge. Explain.
8. Distortions of vision, distortions of one’s perception of self (growing and shrinking) show that in some sense Alice and others become symbolic in their function. Alice as telescoping self, whose head is out of touch with her body might indicate what?
9. Carroll pokes fun at essentialism. Define this and give a few examples.
10. Language and logic and nonsense. The nonsense world of fantasy and the non-sense world of fact; nonsense and illogic creates bewilderment and puzzlement. Alice always asks for explanations, but do they help? What do words mean? How does the idea of the joke enter the picture?
11. Is something there because you see it? Look carefully at the episodes with the Cheshire Cat.
12. Learning and education and reading play major roles. How?
13. Carroll makes us “look” at language, language as an originating operation must see it as a process, as a system in itself. Look closely at Carroll’s discussion of the word “it.”
14. Notice the times Alice changes her size. Is freedom of choice or will a factor in these incidents? Find examples to prove your point. Is there a progression in these incidents?
1. “Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he’d bothered” (9).
2. “He looked glumly at all the things he owned. The books that were too much trouble to read, the tools he’d never learned to use, the small electric automobile he hadn’t driven in months–or was it years?–and the hundreds of other games and toys, and bats and balls, and bits and pieces scattered around him” (11).
3. Look carefully at the chapter titles. Can you see in the text the expectations as they occur? What expectations do you as reader have when you read the sign, “Dictionopolis”? Do they happen before Milo encounters the sign for “Expectations”? “Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get to where you’re going” (19).
4. “Milo began to think as hard as he could (which was very difficult, since he wasn’t used to it)” (31).
5. Explore the meaning of Doldrums, Whether/Weather, Expectations, Humbug, Chroma, Mathemagician, and such phrases as Senses Taker, “Castle in the Air,” and “The Return of Rhyme and Reason.”
6. Explain the logic behind the argument between words and numbers.
7. “There were voices to hear and conversations to listen to in wonder, and the special smell of each day. . . . worlds to imagine and then someday make real” (256).
1. Look at the first dramatic vignette (3). What is the purpose of this description? It is vivid. But what do we know about Meg that might be of importance in the interpretation of the story? Think of Gurgi and his self-pity?
2. “How could they sleep?” (4). Quality of character is made clearer here. How does she handle her problems?
“It is a privilege, not a punishment.” “Privilege” is repeated in the next sentence. What is L’Engle suggesting about the difficulties we experience in life with this expression? And then there is the contrast with the kitten. Why is the kitten introduced?
3. Refer to page 200: This passage relates to the dynamics of question 2. How? When her father objects, Mrs. Whatsit stops him. “You are going to allow Meg this “privilege.” How can danger be a privilege?
4. Note that Meg is happy and contented now (11). What has made her happy? Why is she no longer afraid? Look where she is sitting? Why does L’Engle place her in this particular position?
5. She left her room and made her way through the shadows of the main attic, etc. (6). Discuss what we know of her from this. Look very carefully at this passage as if your preparing to explicate it.
6. “Mother,” Meg pursued, “Charles says I’m not one thing or the other, not flesh nor fowl nor good red herring” (48). Link to the above (5) to “Making one’s own way.” “What do you make of Calvin?” she demanded of her mother etc. “I’m delighted he’s found his way here.”
7. Add the description of Fortinbras (8). “A slender, dark beauty that was all his own.” Can you think of this as part of a significant dynamic at the heart of this story?
8. And Mrs. Whatsit’s approval of Charles Wallace (19). “But at least you aren’t trying to squash him down–You’re letting him be himself.” As opposed to what in the dynamics of raising children?
9. Look at the man with the red eyes (124). What is it that Charles Wallace finds so objectionable about him? You aren’t you. What does he mean? Is this more than just a discovery that this is not a real person with real ideas?
10. Types of understanding (23). Don’t hope it was a dream. I don’t understand it any more than you do. . .” What does she mean here by “understand,” as opposed to something more important?
11. Contrast the incident on page 29–Charles Wallace supports Meg when he takes her hand–with page 96. She now reaches out and supports Calvin. And on page 207. She was not only loved by others, but she had her love for them. What important design is the author trying to make us understand with this?
12. Look again at page 23. Now read page 33: “Calvin tried now politely to direct his words toward Meg. . . .” Calvin refers to feelings of some kind of compulsion. And he always obeys. “Le coeur a ses raisons . . .” Do you see and feel both what L’Engle is arguing for and what she is arguing against?
13. People are more than the way they look (46-7). Speaking of their differences, refer (181) to the fact that the beasts cannot see, yet they are not limited in anyway at all. In fact, sight seems to get in the way here. A very limiting thing, this seeing. What is the author commenting on in our own lives?
14. The Happy Medium (85). Refer back to Mrs. Murry’s comments (12) about the ideal of a happy medium. Here the name is one thing that helps us understand the concept on the other. Page 98–How does she handle the unhappiness in the world?
15. The gifts that Mrs. Whatsit gives to them. Particularly Meg’s gift. One’s faults? Is she suggesting that we ought not to try to get rid of our faults?
16. On Camazotz (122-23). To defend themselves they recite nursery rhymes. Why are the multiplication tables antithetical to the nursery rhymes? What are the differences between them?
17. The appeal of Camazotz: Why do people choose it? (130) Freedom from responsibility. This matches Meg’s character in the beginning, where she wants others to handle things for her. Blaming others. Also page 136. Charles Wallace’s defense of the system and its order.
18. She is saved once by anger that overcomes her fear (144). Is L’Engle suggesting that anger is a good thing? (159) And she remembers the gift that Mrs. Whatsit gave to her.
19. The Gettysburg Address (160). What is the Gettysburg address? “Like” and “Equal” are not the same thing. Why are they significantly different for the purposes of this book?
20. When she is angry and blaming her father, she is in the control of the Black Thing (172). Isn’t this anger that she has previously seen as a gift?
21. “Mrs. Whatsit you have to save him. That is not our way” (193). What is Mrs. Whatsit saying, literally? But, shifting context somewhat, what other message is here?
22. Anger at Father and then acceptance of the task that she do (194-95). In fact, the “choosing” of the task is a better way of putting it. “We want nothing from you that you do without grace.” What is “grace”?
23. “It has to be me. It can’t be anyone else.” What does this possibly mean to you? What is the antecedent of “it”?
24. Our desire to be reassured about what is going to happen in our lives. Look carefully at this, as life is exclaimed as the form of the secret (198-99). A most interesting analogy. Can you explain the dynamics of life as a sonnet?
25. “She had their love for her, but mostly her love for them” (207). What is the difference that the story is emphasizing here? What is the process or dynamic of “love”?
Alexander: “Heroes are people who think more of others than themselves. . . . This is not to say that they don’t think of themselves. They do. They certainly do. But they think of others more.” Alexander further questions, “What does it take to be a real human being? Once ideals have been attained, how does one remain a human being when bombarded by outside forces?” He says, “For some strange reason, I was able to deal with the big questions through the form of children’s books.”
1. Discuss the meaning of the title, The Book of Three. Why “three”? How is three special, more so than one or two?
2. In the very first sentence of the book, try to find some kind of polarity. Sword on the one side; horseshoes on the other. Discuss the meaning of “sword.” By meaning, I am suggesting connotations, rather than denotations. Look in the Reader for a definition of sword. When we think of swords, in what context do they occur?
3. “Practical”: What does the word mean? You need to look it up and consider all of the various meanings, as well as the etymology. It means here much more than the word in common usage.
4. “Glorious hero.” Why is it entirely out of the question for Taran to be like Gwydion? What does it mean to be a hero like someone else, for instance? “Reach your own conclusion”? What is the dynamic of the phrase? literal as well as idiomatic.
5. “I am not anything, not even at Caer Dallben.” Said Coll, “I shall make you something, Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper, etc.” Is Coll just teasing him, telling him he is ridiculous? Or is there advice here?
6. Taran hunches against a tree root, pulled his cloak closer about his shoulders. “. . . I don’t even know who I am” (30). Image carefully and consider the words the author uses. Why are we given this vignette?
7. Gydion concludes that it makes not difference whose destiny is being served. What does he mean?
8. Page 42. “I told you to swim clear. Are all Assistant Pig Keepers deaf as well as stubborn?” What is Taran’s misconception here that is very like his ideas about the dynamics of heroism?
9. Page 60. “Taran gasped. For an instant he could not believe such beauty concealed the evil of which he had been warned.” This is an example of Taran’s innocence, and it also relates to his conception of the heroic. How?
10. Page 108. The business of royal blood. Eilonwy’s interpretation of the writing on the sword. “I don’t think it’s good enough to be a king’s son or even a king himself. Royal blood is just a way of translating; in the Old writing, it didn’t mean only having royal relatives.” What is Alexander trying to tell the reader about Taran’s misconceptions?
11. Page 146. Gurgi has needs greater than safety, although certainly safety is a major need. He could remain in Medwyn’s Valley, it is true. But he must be able to do something “purposeful” if he is to become human rather than remain animal. What is the polarity to safety here? What opposing value of need? What does “purposeful” mean?
12. Page 156. Fflewder plays the harp for the companions. Here we have a disquisition on art. A writer writing about a musician. What is he saying about the creative process.
13. Why the Hidden Valley episode? What are we to derive from this?
14. Page 144. Taran thinks back to what was before, and he yearns to be there, rather than where he is. What is this emotion in our own lives? What provokes it? How does the book suggest that it be handled?
15. 151. Taran can stay in the valley if he wishes. Why doesn’t he, if it is all right with Medwyn? Again what is the author saying?
16. Look carefully to see specifically how Taran has changed from the beginning of the book. What specific example do you see on page 218. On page 222. Discuss Taran’s pride or lack of it.
17. Taran as the protagonist: Does he face any problems that are metaphoric for problems generally or frequently encountered by children? What function in the design of the work is served by Gurgi–more than just another member of the group, that is?
. Read C. S. Lewis, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” and Carl Sandburg “Arithmetic”
1. This is a very strange title beginning as it does with an ellipsis together with the coordinating conjunction “and.” Why do you suppose that Krumgold chose this title instead of a more conventional one?
2. On pages 6 and 7, Miguel talks to Gabriel about how easy, it seems, to be Gabriel. “Gabriel laughed. ‘Easier to me than anyone else in the world. After all, that’s who I am.'” What is Miguel’s problem here? What does he mean when he says, “How easy it is for you to be Gabriel”? What is the meaning of Gabriel’s answer.
3. (11) Everyone helps without it making any difference who he is.
(12) I would like it to matter who he is especially if it is me. On pages 14 and 15, we read of the issue of the wool sacks, the problematic discussion with his father about the right wool sacks. What are the dynamics of this situation? Relate this to the business of receiving stars on his work at school.
4. Chapter 3 begins with Miguel’s hearing the cry of the newborn lambs (25) and his translation of that cry. The chapter ends with Miguel sharing his secret with Pedro and Faustina. At this point (36) Pedro climbs up the back of the bed, pretending to be Miguel. Discuss the significance of these incidents. Are they related?
5. (57) Eli and Grandfather have a disagreement about losing sheep. A “sin’ says the grandfather. Look carefully at this. What is the basis of the disagreement between them. Each sees the dynamics of sheep raising in a different light.
6. (83) Miguel, by himself, sets out to find the sheep. He thinks about Pedro’s drawings, that the mesa is like a picture. But this (the vista of the mesa) is wrong, while the picture is right. Can you see what the author is trying to say with this? Not what Miguel means, but what Krumgold means.
7. He finds the sheep and takes them home. But he is dissatisfied with the reception he receives, particularly from his father. He tells Blasito, “If I can’t tell you in my own way, what’s the use?” (96). And then he says to himself, “But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to say `What?’ to my father (100). Again, what is going on here? Obviously, there is a failure of communication somewhere. The family sees it one way, but Miguel sees it another.
8. There was dancing (120). Miguel watches Gabriel. Pay particular attention to his responses, especially his loss of interest (122). What does his interaction with this situation tell us about his problem?
9. Miguel has difficulty understanding the “universal law of wishes” (200). What is that law? What is Krumgold (speaking through Gabriel) trying to tell us? And why can’t you return what you get, as you would return something to the story? (207).
10. Page 216. A new kind of prayer.
11. Page 227. Whatever your name is.
12. Where do they begin? the Mountains. 234-to the end of the book. What is the significant of the picture, the climbing up and down the mountains and the title of the book?
1. Compare the following two sentences from the beginning of the book:
“Jail is not as bad as you might imagine” (3).
“Free in jail” (5)
2. Define the following: sward (6), hubris (9), detritus (23 & 277), perfidy (64), and fecund.
3. “In the Gulden household the ethos was do it yourself, for everything from Christmas gifts to floor sanding” (22). Apply the meaning of this to the circumstances in the novel, then to the development of character and motivation.
4. “But when I got to the door the glass rolled sideways and fell, shattering into innumerable shards, bright in the sun” (24). Show how this metaphor works in the book. Locate and discuss at least one other working metaphor in the book.
5. “Hospitals are a little like the beach” begins an early chapter. Explain the trope here (58).
6. See the discussion of high school students’ responses to literature, particularly on page 245.
7. How does the plot of Wuthering Heights further our understanding of One True Thing?
8. “It was easier when I believed I was covering for him” (286).
9. “I prescribed Cathy and Heathcliff until her medication kicks in” (288).
10. Examine the use of Dickens, Eliot, and the other authors as a furthering of the texture and depth of significance.
1. See page 1-2. Why does Rawls begin his book with the main character as a grownup? Examine the incident on page 2, “For a second I saw him. I caught my breath. I couldn’t believe what I had seen.” Why does this foreshadow what is going to occur? What is the significant of the violence of the scene?
2. Note the number of times that writers see in seemingly small incidents chances to “read a story” such as when our narrator picks up the hound’s paw (3).
3. Page 4. “I didn’t have to let him go. I could have kept him in my back yard, but to pen up a dog like that is a sin.” What do you think Rawls means? Describe a “dog like that”?
4. Page 7. Love is like a disease. How can that be?
5. What does Grandpa (20-2) do to help? Discuss the importance of saving 50 dollars. What might be an equivalent today? Why is this so special? Or is it?
6. Why couldn’t he tell his father the whole truth? See page 27.
7. Discuss the particulars of his journey.
8. From one miserable experience to another, Billy seems destined to suffer for his hounds. In the end, they die. Is it worth it?
9. There is much pain and hardship in this story. Discuss the incident when Rubin falls on the axe (146). How does this affect Billy? Raines?
10. Page 214. “People have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time.” How does this relate to the thematic structure of the story?
11. How are Old Dan and Little Ann like the humans in the story?
12. Look carefully at the dogs’ last fight.
13. This story is excellent at understatement. What is understatement?
14. Page 236. “Her eyes told the story.” Do they or did they to everyone in the book? Might they to everyone in our world? Why is this important? What is Rawls trying to say?
15. Look at the end of the story. How does the myth connect with change and maturation? How does memory still link Billy to his hounds and the love that he has learned about? What else has he learned?
1. The story begins with a realistic comment regarding children’s common practice of “playing” with small figures [plastic in this case]. Look closely at the image of them as being “scattered about,” especially the phrase, “the compost heap was full of soldiers . . .” (1). What are the polarities here? Where does Omri’s mother figure in this dynamic?
2. Trace things being “lost” and “found” in these first few pages. What does it mean to “be lost”? Things thrown away? discarded? unwanted? Watch for continuing motifs of lost, found, and secret throughout the rest of the story.
3. What might the key symbolize? Imagination, yes, but how is the key connected to the issues presented in Chapter 2.
4. How is this story like Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels? Like Tom Thumb? What conclusions can you draw from these comparisons?
5. Note the elements of transformations which take place. Why are these crucial to understanding the theme.
6. Another motif in this story is one of doubling, mirror images of the self. Find two specific examples and discuss.
7. What is the connection between the stereotypes offered of the Indian, the cowboy, and (of the teachers even), and the subsequent breaking down of these stereotypical images?
8. Omri mentions that many of his ideas are products of the movies. Is this phenomenon unusual? How is Omri’s “understanding” achieved? What do Patrick and Omri learn that adults do not?
9. Note the element of humor in this story. Is this a plus? Why?
10. Connect the ending of the story with the beginning. What is meant by “blood brothers”? Where do the figures go?
:1. Chapter One: Pay close attention to the opening (setting, action, character) and to the sequence of actions. What does the writer seem to be affirming here? How do you know? Have you had a similar experience? Look specifically at the words Grahame uses. Is the river significant? How?
2. Chapter Two: Contrast Toad’s irresponsibility here with what Mole has done in the first chapter. Note how Mole seizes the oars and tries to row the boat, only to upset the whole thing. Where are they going? Are the value judgments any different in this chapter?
3. Page 29. Mole would desert his commitment to Toad in order to make Ratty feel good. But Rat knows that they have made a promise to Toad. He, however, is very much committed to his home. Is this also connected to his sense of responsibility? The country lay bare and entirely leafless around him, and he thought that he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insides of things as on that winter day when Nature was deep in her annual slumber and seemed to have kicked the clothes off. . . . He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple” (41-2).
4. After a most poetical interlude, Mole decides to head for the Wild Wood. right place for the right person, the blending of natures. As opposed to what? For this is the last best gift that the kindly demigod is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness (126-27).
5. How does this connect to our view of Badger and his home (77)? How does Mole’s process differ from the processes attributed to human beings in this passage? Within the context of the story, do their values represent current values?
6. Look carefully at the concluding paragraph on page 74. Why is it important?
7. There is a resolution to home conflict. What is it that makes the home sweet, the same home that was duty and boredom in the beginning?
8. What does “Song Dream” mean?
9. Why does Otter return to the same place on the river back to wait for Portly? (118)
10. 127. The gift of forgetfulness? How can forgetfulness be a gift? Why is it a blessing to them to forget what they have seen?
11. 130 The song. How can it be found again? Here we have a writer writing about a writer of poetry? This is always important? Ask yourself, so what? What’s the big deal?
12. What are wayfarers? Are we all wayfarers?
13. On page 153 we see Nature’s Grand Hotel. Consider the conservative nature of Ratty. Rats stay put while other species migrate (Remember when Mole went to the wild wood and Rat stayed home). Is this part of nature lore which Grahame wished to impart? Rats do travel; birds migrate. What does this mean beyond the fact that animals migrate?
14. 170. The South awaits you. There is still time to follow me. Indeed you will follow me. And most importantly the way to handle the fact that one has missed out, or that one cannot have what one wanted in life. What does this suggest? The function of art and creativity.
15. The fame of the four with the inhabitants of the wild wood. Note that it had very little to do with the reality of the characters, but what something the parents had created to control the children. Is Grahame making a comment?
16. Consider Toad. Select any passage where the author shows Toad up to his tricks. Note how Grahame handles the material to give pleasure without, at the same time, granting approval. Discuss the passage. Find polarities.
17. What does the wind symbolize? Grahame titled the book, The Wind in the willows. Why wind? Why not the animals?
Discuss. As he hurried along, eagerly anticipating the moment when he would be at home again among the things he knew and liked, the Mole saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedgerow, linked to the ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot. For others the asperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict, that went with Nature in the rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which hislines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime.
1. Examine the drawings on the first two pages. What is the responses of the adults? Is this typical? What does this dynamic point to about the importance of vision and understanding in this book? What did you see in drawing ~Number One (before you were told what it was)?
2. What are the dynamics in this first chapter? Does this tension continue throughout the book?
3. What is the significance of the opening lines Chapter Two? Now he is “grown-up.” Again we are remembering the past. This time what are the circumstances of the main incident?
4. What is the difference between the seemingly rejection of the author’s drawing of a sheep and the rejection he experienced of his “Drawing One”?
5. Why do you think the Little Prince says, “That is exactly the way I wanted it” (10)?
6. The narrator says, “I should have liked to say: ‘Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet that was scarcely any bigger than himself, and who had need of a sheep . . . ‘” (17). This would have given a much greater air of truth to his story or so he says. Why?
7. Why does he buy some paints and crayons after six years?
8. Why is the flower so important to the prince? What does it represent? What are its characteristics? Is it a symbol of something else?
9. ~What is so special about the drawing of the baobabs on page 25?
10. One the first asteroid, the Prince visits a King. Describe this King. Is there a moral to this lesson? Is it too heavy handed? What are the polarities or issues in this experience? How is this related to the theme of the book?
11. Why does the author include a “tippler”? What is the purpose here?
12. What do the lamplighter and the businessman have in common?
13. “But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .” Explain the significance of this statement.
14. “So the little prince tamed the fox. . . . Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.” Discuss the importance of this passage.
15. The following statement by the little prince contains the germ of one of the predominant themes of the book. “He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.” What does this mean? How can it apply to realistic relationships?
16. From this experience, the little prince subsequently learns a secret. What is it? Is it connected to the other experiences? How does it connect with the beginning of the book?
17. Can you summarize some of the important lessons which children seem capable of learning in this book as opposed to grownups?
18. What does the little prince do at the end of story? Why does he go back the way he does?
19. The story begins and ends with a snake? Why?
20. Explain the significance of the last two pictures in the book? How do these pictures illustrate the little prince’s message?
21. This story is as much as fantasy as it is an allegory. What is an allegory? Why is a book like this so much more than an allegory?
22. Connect the book’s dedication to a polarity in the book itself. Use details to describe your idea.
23. Some say that this book appeals more to adults than to children. Explain why this might be so or why it might not. Give some examples from the book as evidence. You might also consider how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs helps us understand this book.
24. How does the epic idea of journey fit this story?
25. The last page contains the following statement: “This is, to me, the loveliest and saddest landscape in the world.” What does this mean? Explain it in terms of the story as a whole.
1. YA lit like Children’s lit relies on a particular narrative technique. Keeping this technique in mind, discuss the relevance of Avi beginning the book with a “Memo” addressed to all homeroom teachers. Look specifically at the motto, “Where our children are educated, not just taught” and at #3, “Please all rise and stand at respectful silent attention for the playing of our national anthem” (1). The structure of epistolary, “confessional,” or reporting style of Nothing. . . is part of the theme and style of this YA novel. Discuss.
2. Avi begins the first sentence in Philip Malloy’s diary with “Coach Jamison saw me in the hall and said he wanted to make sure I’m trying out for the track team” (3). This desire Philip is aware of. Discuss what other problems, needs, desires emerge from his first two diary entries (3-4; 9-10). Refer to specific quotations.
3. Difficult economic situations further create problems in this book. List quotations which illustrate several areas where this is true. What about Philip’s college fund? Look carefully at the irony here, not just for Philip but for his father.
4. The book points out different types of literature being read. Discuss the problem here (if you perceive any) and give examples from the book to support your views. What are some of the themes in the literature?
5. Communication between parents and their children, between students themselves, and certainly between Philip and his peers seems to be disfunctional. Give specific instances of this miscommunication. What happens to Philip and his peers, to Philip and his parents? Is there a positive example given in the book?
6. Discuss the difficulties with the discipline procedures that occur. Are these procedures connected with the relationship which is described between the school board, the parents, and the teachers? What are some of the tensions inherent in this situation? Is this common today? Give examples. What about the principal’s actions?
7. Discuss the pros and cons of the media’s role in this book. Look at specific examples (120-21 ?). Give a current example. Discuss the implications for Ted Griffen’s actions and reactions. How does his intervention escalate the problem?
8. Mr. Duval asks at the end of the novel, “Ma’am, do you think there’s some reason that this has happened?” (207). What do you think?
9. Should Ms. Narwin have taken the sabbatical which Dr. Gertrude Doane offers her? Is the problem tenure as Griffen implies (187)? What different decisions should/could Ms. Narwin have made along the way? What might you do in similar circumstances? Is her decision connected to her teaching style? What are the differences in teaching techniques between Lunser and Narwin? Is this relevant to Philip’s game plan? to education?
10. Can this novel be considered a YA tragedy? Why? Look closely at Philip’s own development? Does he sense some self awareness, some inner knowledge of events gone awry? Give quotations and examples to support your view. What might be some of the criteria for a modern tragedy for YA?
1. Look closely at the opening three paragraphs. What has spring to do with the story? Examine the imagery in these paragraphs. Is there a pattern? The dust?
2. How does Hamlet connect with the themes of this book? Be very specific here.
3. Discuss the disparity between what Mr. Griffin writes on Susan’s paper and the insecurity and fear she feels in her response to Griffin himself. How does her reaction and understanding about Ophelia influence her attitude toward “the killing”?
4. Look at Mark. See if the description of his eyes (19-20) changes during the course of the story. Is Duncan’s initial description a foreshadowing?
5. Compare and contrast the students relationships with their parents. How are these relationships crucial to the story’s outcome?
6. Eyes: the story centers on this image. Examine some of the key episodes and descriptions throughout the story.
7. How realistic is the author’s depiction of students’ anger and frustration regarding tough grades? Is it just low grades that cause such problems?
8. The killing was an accident? What kind of actions and character personalities had already been developed which prevented everyone involved from confessing right away?
9. Discuss Mark and the subplot of the story. Why is this typical of young adults? Or is it?
10. Lies–cheating–is this a way of life for young adults?
11. How does Ophelia’s song sum up the story? Analyze it closely.
12. Patterns–are they repeated? Are these characters trapped by their past? Are they all destined to repeat previous errors made by their parents? Or is there something else being suggested? Be specific and detailed and not superficial in your response
1. The story begins, “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home” (5). Analyze this sentence in terms of its imagery and symbolism. What does the movie house represent? What about the polarities of the “bright sunlight and darkness”? How does this spiralling collection of words be said to symbolize a never-ending cycle of destruction?
2. The narrator identifies himself as a “greaser.” Can you more specifically describe a greaser? Would this description hold true today? The difference between the Greasers and Socs is but one of the many dynamics which are set up in the beginning of the story. Discuss.
3. “I had nearly forgotten that Cherry was listening to me. . . . ‘Things are rough all over” (33). This paragraph sets up another relationship, but does so by understatement. How does this personal discussion begin to break down stereotypical ideas? This “talk” is a tableau, a moment in time. Ponyboy has others. Discuss one of them.
4. “I thought maybe it was money that separated us.” What else separates people in this work?
5. “It’s like being in a Halloween costume we can’t get out of” (65) summarizes some of the action of the story. Discuss.
6. YA books often take a theme from a well-known poem. Hinton draws upon Frost’s “Nothing Gold can stay.” Analyze the poem carefully, looking for multiple meanings and relationships.
7. This story has often been connected to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and to West Side Story. Explore a few reasons for such a comparison. How is the story different?
8. Look carefully at the different parental-sibbling difficulties. Are these related to learning? To achievement? Do they seem to help or hinder success?
9. Interpret the connection of the image of “catcher in the rye” in this novel to Catcher?
10. Explore one or more of the allusions to other works of literature in this story. What does this book say about the value of education? Give specific examples.
The following are a few quotations from Diary of Anne Frank to refresh your memory.
1. “We always long for Saturdays when our books come. Just like little children receiving a present. Ordinary people simply don’t know what books mean to us, shut up here. Reading, learning, and the radio are our amusements” (77).
2. “My fountain pen has always been one of my most priceless possessions; I value it highly, especially for its thick nib, for I can only really write neatly with a thick nib. My fountain pen has had a very long and interesting pen-life, which I will briefly tell you about” (104-05).
3. “The chatter about Peter and me has calmed down a bit now. We are very good friends, are together a lot and discuss every imaginable subject. It is awfully nice never to have to keep a check on myself as I would have to with other boys, whenever ewe get on to precarious ground” (174).
4. “For in its innermost depths, youth is lonelier than old age’” (236).
5. “I don’t want to be cross, love cannot be forced.’ There were tears in her eyes as she left the room” (70).
Jumping the Nail
1. Discuss the importance of the setting as it is initially described on page one of the book. For example, why does Bunting do you suppose bring up that “[s]ometimes June mornings in California are chilly . . .”?
2. Discuss the pattern which is established early in the novel regarding the polarity between the surf and glass walls. What do they signify? Make sure that you examine as many complexities as you can here.
3. Analyze the subplot of Dru’s mom’s young adult experience.
4. Look carefully at the narrative tone and style on page 7. “The Deep”? Who are “they”? Skeletons?
5. List and discuss at least five typical YA responses of Dru toward her mother.
6. Why is watching so important? Gathering?
7. Is “[s]haring danger with a loved one” a way of bonding only for YAs? Explain.
8. Our first glimpse of Elisa’s hair is important. Look carefully at the passage on page 23.
9. What is Dru’s sense of the danger involved? How about the others?
10. Look at the image patterns of seaweed, glass walls, flowing hair, wild surf, and foggy nights.
11. Comment on the statement, “Nobody forces Elisa to jump that first time.”
12. Explore the similarities between Dru’s decision regarding college and Mike and jumping the Nail.
13. Look carefully at the images of Elisa as mermaid (106-07, 167 etc).
14. “When Scooter and Elisa had jumped, birds had flown, screeching, off the rocky ledges. But now it was as if some unknown hand had turned off sound and action. The twins fell silent and unseen” (123). Discuss and analyze.
15. The images of wildflowers. Discuss the symbolism.
Time of Novel: 1932-35 in Maycomb, a small town in southern Alabama.
1. This is clearly about racial prejudice, but it is also about bigotry and injustice of all kinds. Give a few examples of each from the book.
2. Discuss the symbolic meaning, the Latin and Greek origin of Atticus’s name.
3. How is Dill different from Jem and Scout? Why does the sentence, “That was the summer that Dill came to us” (6) ring with importance?
4. The vocabulary in this book is challenging? How might you build an innovative spelling lesson from this book?
5. Discuss the rhetorical structure, the symbolism, and significance of “Nothing is more deadly than a deserted, waiting street. The trees were still, the mockingbirds were silent, the carpenters at Miss Maudie’s house had vanished. I heard Mr. Tate sniff, then blow his nose. I saw him shift his gun to the crook of his arm. I saw Miss Stephanie Crawford’s face framed in the glass window of her front door. Miss Maudie appeared and stood beside her. Atticus put his foot on the rung of a chair and rubbed his hand slowly down the side of his thigh” (94-95).
6. Boo Radley’s character is like a puzzle that the children put together in pieces throughout the novel. Trace a few of the descriptions of him and connect these to show his significance in the novel.
7. What elements of sexism does Scout note during the course of the book? See particularly the quotation on page 82.
8. Explain the importance of literary allusions throughout. How might you incorporate these references in the classroom?
9. Note the description of Mrs. Dubose on page 106. “She was horrible. . . .” paragraph is quickly followed by “I didn’t look any more than I had to. Jem reopened Ivanhoe and began reading” (107). Explain the connection here between reading and the previous description. How is this symbolic?
10. Note the last paragraph on page 44. Explain the significance. What does this book say about courage, tolerance, and trust?
11. What other books, stories, histories might you study to increase the students’ enjoyment of TKaMB?
12. “Jack! When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em. No,” my father mused, “you had the right answer this afternoon, but the wrong reasons. Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they’re not attracting attention with it. Hotheadedness isn’t. . . .” (87).
13. Discuss the significance of the following incidents or ideas:
the snowman (a caricature of Mr. Avery)
reading to Mrs. Dubose
the epigraph to the novel (from Charles Lamb)
Mrs. Gates and Hitler (248)
shooting the mad dog
14. Who are the heroes in this novel? Choose one, describe his heroism, and explain its importance. (Besides Atticus, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, and Heck Tate could all be considered heroes. The point here is to find the evidence for their heroism.)
15. Part of the strength of this book comes from Scout’s narrative. Examine its style, its voice, its doubleness (present versus older, wiser view), and its sensitivity. Scout gains Atticus’s view of the world, and not a little of his poetic expression of it.
1. “Glancing at the looking-glass, we behold–deep within its haunted verge–the smouldering glow of the half-extinguished anthracite, the white moon-beams on the floor, and a repetition of all the gleam and shadow of the picture, with one remove farther from the actual and nearer to the imaginative. Then, at such an hour, and with this scene before him, if a man, sitting all alone, cannot dream strange things, and make them look like truth, he need never try to write romances” (1:36). What is the role of moonlight and mirrors in the imaginative process here? Discuss the imagery in this passage.
2. Hawthorne’s stylistic pattern is to use a simile or metaphor on one page and make it part of the literal action elsewhere. Find at least one good example.
3. Look at the architecture of “The Custom-House” in relationship to the rest of the novel. What kinds of literal and figurative relationships do you see here? The prison door as opening to the book? Examine closely. A revelation?
4. Are there two views of Hester? Exterior? What about her interior space? How does Pearl’s description fit here? Might these views also point to the analogous situation of the growth of consciousness in the romance artist? Explore some further possibilities.
5. Look for patterns of color imagery throughout the novel. Examine shades of light and darkness. These contrasts project and sometimes explain (or contradict) the circumstances. Look for examples and discuss a few.
6. Explore the nature of guilt, repression, and social pressures as evidenced in several characters in the novel. Look at the ruined wall, for example, to explore some of these issues.
7. Research the tenets of Puritanism. How is the historical and theological background important to this story? Illustrate with meaningful examples. Can you find counterparts in today’s world? Compare a current circumstance to the novel’s events. Furthermore, does a map of the town help your comprehension of the novel’s events in any way? (Draw one?)
8. Look at possible ways in which this book is also about the process of reading itself. How is the “letter” A read? Is it read the same by all people? This is not a static hypothesis; look at some of the dynamics involved. What is the relationship between being and saying, for example?
*an extra consideration for all questions regarding The Scarlet Letter which books, poems, or short stories might be studied to either further enhance the students’ understanding of this question or as an “into” activity for readiness to learn.
- “Chinese owls have no sense of family. Many make fun of their parents and when the parents grow too old, the young owls push them out of the nest. Some even eat their poor old parents. And they steal people’s souls” (58).
- Explain the Chinese idea of fate, of myth as it appears in the book. How is this difficult for Casey?
- “Maybe if you changed your name, you’d change your luck” (176).
- “The Chinese, they may forget their history. They forget their stories. They may even forget how to talk their own language. But they never forget how to make money and how to eat” (168).
- Look up and be ready to define in context the following words: shiftless, pachuke, jade, eccentric, telegraph, Buddha.
- “I could see it wasn’t any use to talk to Barney about the owl charm meant to me and Paw-Paw. The story was like a mirror showing him his reflection: showing him that he was also a child of the owl” (203).
- Look at the nature of lies, of gambling, of drinking, of stories, of heritage, of individual identity, of cultural identity, of family, of belonging as these ideas apply to Child of the Owl.
- “Stories don’t exactly replace a gas heater; yet some stories can lift you up out of where you are so the cold doesn’t seem important anymore” (81).
- Later, when Barney says that the story of the owl is not real, Casey replies, “It’s not a story . . . It tells who I am” (203).
- Examine the mirror images in the story. Show how these illustrate the various progressions and changes in Casey’s personality. Look carefully at the Owl myth and give a time line or show how this myth gradually becomes an integral part of Casey’s identity.
1. Locate and discuss some passages early in the novel in which Charlotte reveals her nature as nurtured by her father and the Barrington School for Girls. What is your attitude toward this thirteen year old?
2. What are some of the patterns/polarities/issues which Avi sets up in the opening scene?Find specific examples of each.
3. One major theme in the book involves the relationship between chaos and order. What is the first instance of this dynamic? What are some other instances? Define “proper order.”
4. Avi provides many particulars in Charlotte’s depiction of sea life. Why is this important? Give at least three good examples of particularity during the course of the book.
5. There are many allusions to stories in the Bible. Why are these important? Which specific stories are they? See page 56 for example. Are there any historical connections in the book to events occurring in 1832?
6. Examine the names of the characters in the novel. Do you see any special significance? Allusions? Look closely at the title of the book. What exactly are “true confessions”? What is a confession?
7 “There were too many puzzles. Too many complexities. Unable to fathom the mystery I ended up scolding myself, convinced that I was making something out of nothing” (63). Explain.
Look closely at the first incident in Part II. What is symbolic about Charlotte’s climb? Can you connect it to other incidents in the story? Is this a paradigm for learning?
9. Define the word “prisoner.” What is the opposite of this? Does this involve an important dynamic in the book? Does this word also suggest solitary? Why are these ideas important?
10. Discuss the attitude, trials, experiences both at port, sea, and home in connection with what you have learned about YA development.
11. What is a natural or unnatural girl? Does Charlotte’s experience offer insights into today’s YA experience? How specifically?
12. A jury of her peers. Why is this so relevant? Why should her experience be so combative? Is confrontation necessary? What about anger?
13. Can you write a different ending? Are her parents being realistic? Is the ending believable? Why?
1. What is a runt? Explore the extended meanings of this term.How does this portray the differences between parents and children? Are their values different? Explain.
2. How are Fern’s fears very like Wilbur’s? Are they also similar to Hansel’s and Gretel’s? Do Fern’s fears extend beyond the immediate problem? Explore the possibilities.
3. What is the meaning of the chapter “Escape”? What are the dynamics involved in this chapter? What, for example, does Wilbur decide to do? Why does he give up his freedom? This is an example of a dynamic tension, conflict, or polarity within the work.
4. Describe the character of Templeton? How does what Templeton does differ from Charlotte’s work? from the other animals? Explore the nature of “ratness.”
5. Children’s literature can best be understood by examining important episodes. One such episode is in Chapter 5 (39-42) in which the characters discuss the importance of food. Discuss how food is a metaphor in the book.
6. Discuss the importance of Wilbur’s failure to be able to spin a web? Connect this to your previous discussions of Templeton and being a runt. In this context, what does “versatility” mean (116-17)? Its value?
7. How is Charlotte’s tale about her cousin connected to the story’s theme? Explain the value of her identity as shown in the following paragraph. “I am not entirely happy about my diet of flies and bugs, but it’s the way I’m made. . . . Way back for thousands and thousands of years we spiders have been laying for flies and bugs.
8. Look closely at the death of Charlotte. What is the dynamic connection between Charlotte’s magnum opus, her death, and the everyone’s role? “Is it a plaything?” “Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.”
9. Explore the significance of the last paragraph of the book. “Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. . . . She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”
10. What is the meaning of the title of the book? Think of the implication when we say we are reading Charlotte’s Web.
1. Consider the polarities which are set up in the first sentence of the novel. Stasis versus movement, whispering versus silence. What is the OED meaning of the word “still”? What might you learn about the character from his name, “Madec”?
2. Who is Ben? Where did he grow up? Is he in his “natural” world? And who is Madec? What kind of world is depicted here?
3. On page 11, look closely at the second paragraph. White is trying to tell us something important. “When . . . you outsmart him and take him on his own ground, you’ve accomplished something. That’s something you’ll never understand.” Is this the simple law of the jungle? How does this connect to the way YA’s see their world?
4. Madec asks Ben if he wants to make a deal (13). How is this connected to a major theme of the book? Ben then remembers Madec’s stories about how “someone always got cheated and hurt” (15). Significance?
5 On page 18, Madec bares his soul, telling Ben that “he is a liar.” Do we pay much attention to this statement? What is a liar?
6. This book is also about the power of vision, of keeping something or someone always in sight. As opposed to what? What is the dynamic?
7. Are Madec and Ben like the prospector and his “one life”? How are they different?
8. What is Ben’s code? What is Madec’s religion?
9. What are the implications of Madec’s discussion of his plan as he states it on page 37? Has he done it before? Why is this so important?
10.This is a good book to introduce students to different thematic discussions. Also it shows students different possibilities of “reading” a given situation. Can you give some themes? Examine some different ways of interpreting or reading or seeing a certain situation in the book.
11.”Ben stood without moving, studying him. Suddenly the feeling of helplessness, the confusion, even the fear were gone. Oddly, he felt nothing about Madec—no hatred, not even dislike. The man had ceased to exist except as part of this problem he now had to handle” (39). What is at issue here? Connect this idea to a theme in the book. How does what Ben says here help you understand the ending?
12.”This was a trap” (43) begins Chapter 4. What was? Is the book itself also a trap?
13.”Gradually, just sitting there, he began to feel smaller, helpless, a naked child threatened not only by the desert but by a grown man intent on killing him” (50). How does this relate to YA’s problems?
14.Can stars be hostile? page 51.
15.”Mechanics, machines, supplies were not a part of this game. In the final analysis, even the guns were not a part of it” (65). Is this a game? Why were these things not included?
16.These two men are chained together. Can you think of other examples of being “chained together”? Why is this image important in understanding the story?
17.White includes the history of the desert’s formation. Explain. Are there symbolic parallels to the quails?
18.The doctor who examines him is described as being “so cold, so remote that it made Ben feel uncomfortable, as though, to the doctor, he wasn’t even human” (174). Is this ironic? Just verbal irony? Or situational? What new nuance does it add to the development of the theme?
19.Hondurak tells Ben that it was so hard for him to believe that any man could do the things Ben had described (220). His response to the truth is quite different from Ben’s final action. Compare the two different responses. Is Ben’s final statement consistent with his character? Why?
1. What effect does Crane achieve with his point of view? There is a flashback of sorts in the beginning of the story. Why is this significant? What is its value?
2. One of RB’s themes is the discovery of self, the unconscious self which when identified with the inexhaustible energies of the group, enables man to understand the deep forces that have shaped man’s destiny. Find one passage that illustrates this theme.
3. Separation, initiation, and return are classic movements of a hero. Trace these movements in RB and discuss.
4. Notice the patterns of darkness and light in the novel. Locate one or two incidents and discuss their importance.
5. Crane relies on animal imagery to intensify his story. Trace some significant examples and analyze one or two.
6. Look closely at Crane’s use of color.
7.What do “the tall soldier” (Jim Conklin) and “the tattered man” have in common. Look clhow Henry responds to each of them.
8.What is the connection between life and battle? Explore some possibilities.
9.”There was a portion of the world’s history which he regarded as the time of wars, but it, he thought, had been long gone over the horizon and had disappeared forever” (7). Interpret this statement. Further, what does this indicate about Henry’s attitude?
10.What other stories might be appropriate to read with this book?
11.The opening scene establishes an alternating mood of hope and despair. Is this similar to the close scene of the book?
12 Crane operates through the use of tableaux. Examine a significant one.
13.”The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer.” This has been called a grotesque image. Why? Is it?
14.There is much contrast between pychic wounds and real wounds in this work. Compare and contrast an example of each.
15.Henry envisions Nature as being concerned with his fate. Why is this ironic? What is the process or dynamic of “love”?
1. “We always long for Saturdays when our books come. Just like little children receiving a present. Ordinary people simply don’t know what books mean to us, shut up here. Reading, learning, and the radio are our amusements” (77).
2. “My fountain pen has always been one of my most priceless possessions; I value it highly, especially for its thick nib, for I can only really write neatly with a thick nib. My fountain pen has had a very long and interesting pen-life, which I will briefly tell you about” (104-05).
3. “The chatter about Peter and me has calmed down a bit now. We are very good friends, are together a lot and discuss every imaginable subject. It is awfully nice never to have to keep a check on myself as I would have to with other boys, whenever ewe get on to precarious ground” (174).
4. “For in its innermost depths, youth is lonelier than old age'” (236).
5. “I don’t want to be cross, love cannot be forced.’ There were tears in her eyes as she left the room” (70).
1. What is a Garden? What is not a Garden? Are gardens natural? Is the garden described in this novel different from a garden you have in your own yard? Why secret? What does secrecy suggest? (answer after reading whole book)
2. “Disagreeable-looking child”? Looks? Mrs. Medlock is called “disagreeable.” Look at the word in this context. How does this word suggest inner states of being?
3. Mary “pretends” to make a garden. What can you infer from this action? What is she missing? Is this action analogous to what she needs? (chapter 1)
4. The “snake” in the first chapter. What do his eyes represent? “. . . [S]he saw a little snake gliding along and watching her with eyes like jewels” (13). Look up the various connotations of snake, as well as various cultural meanings. What value do we give jewels?
5. Empathy is present with the young man who tears up when he find Mary all alone. It awakens slightly in Mary when she hears about Mr. Craven’s loss of his wife. What is empathy? Examine the pattern of empathy in the development of the story.
6. What is remarkable about Dickon? What does he represent? What is a moor? How does a moor differ from ordinary landscape? Explain the connection between Dickon, Mary, and the moor?
7. Burnett implies that reading is important to development and to imagination. Explain the significance of Colin’s having spent his life reading.
8. Mary acknowledges that she “likes” someone. What idea is Burnett presenting here? How Is Mary’s liking herself linked to her feelings about other people?
9. “Give her simple, healthy food. Let her run wild in the garden. Don’t look after her too much. She needs liberty and fresh air and romping about” (119) Mr. Craven repeats Mrs. Sowerby’s advice. Analyze this. Note the idea here of “needs” being child-centered (118-19). How different is this idea from what we saw at the beginning of the book? Explain.
10. What does the book mean by “The Magic”? Look closely at all the references. How is connected to the idea of positive thoughts having energy as powerful as electricity? The meontic mode versus the mimetic? (don’t panic–we will discuss this complexity in class)
1. What does tempest mean? How is this term applicable to the novel? How is it different?
2. “Morning light fell slantwise across the table’s surface, lay like marmelade on the rungs of a ladder-back chair” (3).
3. “Her mother was standing at the kitchen table . . . the illusion above the reality” (4-5).
4. “I stopped painting” (68).
5. “And if you’re as great a painter as your father, all kinds of people want things from you. He’s right not to let them eat him up. . . . 6. The words were out and hanging in the air between them (74-75).
7. “We called it `painting the ocean’” (81).
8. “It towered above her, enormous still, although she was many times taller than she had been the last time she tried to paint it. . . . 9. Does painting stop being a person’s `own thing’ just because other people are also painting?” (89-93).
10. “When Kate thought about the summer later, it was these days that she remembered best–two weeks like two halves of a hinged shell, enclosing a quiet space in the middle of August” (117).
11. “To use others for his own purposes with no concern for the cost to them is unforgivable. Prospero is guilty of these things. . . . I think Shakespeare means for us to forgive him. I think he means that if we refuse we will be trapped like Prospero was, on his island” (143).
12. “Paintinig has to do with knocking yourself out day after day trying to get what you want to down on the
1. Consider and trace the various metaphors of weaving throughout the novel. Look, for example, at the different usages of clothing, cloth, and cotton.
2. Examine the relationship of music to memory and of music to a sense of freedom, or lack of freedom.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
1. “She could hear no sound, but from there she could see what the green was” (6).
2. “The Crow and the Cat” chapter. Look for mythic proportions. “I’m in debt to you. If the time ever comes when I can help you, I hope you will ask me” (26).
3. “Nicodemus followed them, pulling some papers and a small reading glass from the satchel at this side as he walked to the front of the room” (80).
4. “That cage was my home for a long time” (107).
5. “The top line of black marks on the wall were instantly familiar: R-A-
T-S; as soon as I saw them I thought of the picture that went with them; and as soon as I did that I was, for the first time, reading” (124).
6. “And all winter, far into the night, we read books and we practiced writing” (148).
7. “But think of the endless subways-below-subways-below-subways they would have had” (161).
8. “Outside, the brook swam quietly through the woods, and up above them the warm wind blew through the newly opened leaves of the big oak tree. They went to sleep” (233).
1. Explain the first sentence (it is a question) in the book in terms of its symbolism. Comment on the ending in relationship to this beginning.
2. “It was always a question of work . . .” (4).
3. Examine the family’s past circumstances and give some examples as to how the parents’ past affects the present.
4. Give a character sketch of Alejo, of Estrella.
5. “The woman’s bonnet would be as useless as Estrella’s own straw hat under a white sun so mighty, it toasted the green grapes to black raisins” (50).
6. “Still on her feet, Estrella turned to the long stretch of railroad ties. They lookeed like the stitches of the mother’s caesarean scar as far as her eyes could see” (59).Compare and contrast some of the imagery here with the similes in Parrot.
7.”As she bent to pick up her hat, Estrella noticed her hands. Once filled with light, her palms were now tainted with brick red rust” (90).
8. “Her hands were caked with gray died mud,and although it was not the thing to do, she wiped her hands against her dress, then shook off the loose dirt” (130).
9. “–They make you that way, she sighed with resignation. She tried to understand what happened herself. You talk and talk and talk to them and they ignore you. But you pick up a crowbar and break the pictures of their children, and all of a sudden they listen real fast” (151).
10. “The roof tilted downward and she felt gravity pulling but did not lose her footing. The termite-softened shakes crunched beneath her bare feet like the serpent under the feet of Jesus, and a few pieces tumbled down and over the edge of the barn” (175). Explain the imagery here as well as the meaning to the story as a whole.
Genre: social and psychological realism. Anti-hero, male initiation novel
Time of novel: two days in mid-December, 1949
Locale: eastern Pennsylvania and New York City
Point of view: first person, with limited reliability
Grade level: 10-12
Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old boy on the verge of a nervous breakdown
Phoebe, Holden’s 10-year-old sister
Allie, two years younger than Holden, died of leukemia in the summer of 1946. Holden was approximately thirteen (38)
D. B., Holden’s older brother, now a screenwriter in Hollywood
Ward Stradlater, Holden’s roommate at Pencey Prep
Robert Ackley, an unpleasant boy who rooms next door
Sally Hayes, a girl Holden dates in New York
Jane Gallagher, a girl Holden secretly cares for
Mr. Antolini, an English teacher at Elkton Hills when Holden attended it, now teaching at NYU and living with his wife in NYC.
Sunny, a prostitute in the Edmont Hotel, where Holden stays, and Maurice, the elevator operator, also her pimp
Faith Cavendish, a girl he calls on the phone (64)
James Castle, a boy he knew at Elkton Hills
1. Holden has difficulty “fitting in.” How does this novel compare to Tristram Shady? How are their beginnings similar? What is the role of their parents?
2. Holden finds that his idols have feet of clay or that they are “phonies.” Give examples and explain. Is there a pattern here? Discuss. Are his views projections?
3. Explore Holden’s attitudes toward Stradlater as a projection of his own anxiety?
4. Trace Holden’s reactions to Allie’s death. How are Holden’s conceptions of what a hero is, what a virgin is connected to Allie? Connect what you are observing to a discussion of the catcher’s mitt episode.
5. How important is humor in this story? What does this imply about Salinger’s view of the human condition?
6. Look closely at the image at the end of the novel where Holden recognizes that you have to let the kids on the carrousel reach for the gold ring. What does this mean?
7. Examine a few of the symbols in the novel. What does a car suggest to Holden? Why is Holden so curious about mummies in a museum?
8. Explore Holden’s relationship to women.
9. Disappearance and erasure are two terms which crop up thoughout the book. Trace a few of the meanings and incidents where these occur.
10. Look carefully at the description of “catcher in the rye.” Analyze the symbols in this image. What are they falling into? What does “rye” symbolize?
1. Find references to pictures and photographs. Discuss the pattern–if any–you find.
2. To disappear: the literal meaning. Compare to Holden’s disappearing fears. What is the symbolism of this phenomenon?
3. Conscience and responsibility and fear: find some examples of how these elements interact.
4. What anxieties are common in Paul, his uncle, and Ozzie? Find examples and discuss.
5. Secrets: define the term and show how this theme is a dynamic part of the book.
6. Invisible: locate the specific times this occurs. How is this different from disappearance? What is the significance?
7. Memory and individuality and consciousness of self. How are these terms related in the book?
8. What about the idea of fade as a gift? Show how it also is a nightmare and a burden.
9. Letters, manuscripts, and readers: discuss the narrative strategy involved.
10. Time: past, present, and future. Unique ability of Cormier to depict narrative sequence and what composes a history of self.
1. What is significant about the narrative format of this book? How does its form contribute to its content? Look at Childress’s use of color as a theatrical element.
2. Benjie mentions in the first chapter that he does not “dig stealin,” yet he also admits he steals. He says that he is not hooked on drugs, but can we believe him. Discuss the progression of his lying to himself and how it influences his choices. Show some examples to prove your point.
3. Look at the reasons that Benjie’s grandmother put a lock on her door. Is she justified? How does her action affect Benjie. Are there other “invisible” locks in the novel?
4. Is Butler a good “father figure” for Benjie? Examine his change in character during the course of the novel.
5. What is the meaning of the book’s title?
6. Look at one small incident and see how many different viewpoints you can show from various characters in the novel. A theatrical theater-in-the-round?
7. Look carefully at the ending. Will Benjie show up? Reread Benjie’s own last narrative for clues. Examine details in the story to support your conclusion.
8. The novel mentions several leaders from the past: Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Who are these leaders? What has each added to our knowledge of our culture?
9. Mr. Cohen says, “You can bee somebody if you want to,” and Benjie complains, “How does he know I’m not somebody right now?” What inherent differences are indicated by this question and its response?
10. Discuss the nature of responsibility for one’s actions and the Benjie’s world of drugs. Are these problems linked to a certain economic class in society? “If you into somethin’, be in it.” Discuss your answers.
- Describe when the analogy is given. Is this idea only in the narrator’s mind at this point?
- Think about and discuss the way the parents are described. Is this stereotypical or accurate? Why is it important to the story?
- Analyze the scene when Manny and Nardo are picking peppers in the field. How does what happens there influence their lives at home?
- “He didn’t know how awful she felt about embarrassing him at the pool hall” (59).
- “‘You can’t take my rifle . . . you can’t take my rifle,’ his voice sinking into a plea” (67). Discuss the significance of this scene, including Manny’s mother’s anger.
- “Grandma used to keep her face pretty like a baby doll, dabbing cold cream on it every night. . . . Now her face was webbed with wrinkles, and her hair sworly white and frazzled” (81).
- “How we never take responsibility. She said that’s why we’re so confused and screwed up. Only she didn’t say ‘confused’ and ‘screwed up,’ but said ‘neurotic’ and another medical word I couldn’t make out” (149). Describe and discuss the circumstances for this scene. Look closely at the narrator here. And what has just happened to Magda. Draw a connection between this epiphanic scene and the one when Manny recognizes Magda’s “lover.”
- “I passed the glass door; and from the light of the outside lamp I saw the reflection of a ridiculous boy, a clumsy boy. It was me, looking at myself, except that it wasn’t me, but someone ghostly and strange” (181).
- “‘Well, I suppose it’s okay,’ she said, finally. ‘But don’t come back later.’ . . .like she know I’d do the right thing” (200).
- “This room was what my mother spent so much energy cleaning and keeping together, and what my father spent so much energy tearing apart. And it was wondrous, like a place I was meant to be. A place, I felt, that I had come back to after a long journey of being away. My home” (215).
1. “But I do fear you, Envoy. I fear those who sent you. I fear liars, and I fear tricksters, and worst I fear the bitter truth. And so I rule my country well. Because only fear rules men. Nothing else works. Nothing else lasts long enough” (ppk 40; 43 hdk).
2.”To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question” (70).
3. “The unknown, the unproven, “That is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action” (71).
4. “Perhaps it was Estraven’s own character, in w hich candor and reserve were both strong: every word he said rose out of a deeper silence. He heard my voice bespeaking him as a dead man’s, his brother’s voice. I did not know what, besides love and death lay between him and that brother, but I knew that whenever I bespoke him something in him winced away as if I touched a wound. So that intimacy of mind established between us was a bond, indeed, but an obscure and austere one, not so much admitting further light (as I expected it to as showing the darkness” (??) This quotation touchees upon a number of issue/themes that are important to the novel, but how does it specifically speak to the duality between fact and imagination, or actuality and reality?
5. “I [Genly] said, without sincerity, but with absolute truth, ‘It is a marvelous thing indeed for them as well, the coming to a new world, a new mankind'” (297).
6. “It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength. We end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give” (170).
7. ‘To oppose something is to maintain it” (153).
8. “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next” (71).
9. “Even in a bisexual society the politician is very often something less than an integral man” (15).
10. “In kemmer all the time. . . . Is it a place of reward, then Or a place of punishment?” (183) Asra to Ai in prison.
11. “Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in Kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way” (??).
12. “I’ts found on Earth, and on Hain-Davenant, and on Chiffewar. It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness . . . how did it go? LIght, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow” (267).
13. “I felt as he [Estraven] did. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” (220).
14. “In such fortunate moments as I fall asleep I know beyond doubt what the real center of my own life is, that time which is past and lost and yet is permanent, the enduring moment, the heart of warmth” (240).
15. “The first Mobile, is one is sent, must be warned that unless he is very self-assured, or senite, his pride will suffer. A man wants his virility rregarded, a woman wants her femininity appreciated, however indirect and subtle the indications of regard and appreciation. On Winter they will not exist. One is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience” (95).
1. How does Nancy’s response to the asthma attack early in the book prepare us in any way for what is about to occur?
2. “Collin and I talked like we had known each other forever, and I, who have always felt uneasy with boys, felt completely comfortable and comforted” (6). Ironic? comment on the elements contained in this statement in connection with the events that follow.
3. “I’ve never had a dull, boring, humdrum schoolday pass so slowly in my life” (18).
4. “Blackness, cold, jellied blackness has settled in over the world, and I don’t know what to do . . . what to think, how to act . . . who to call? It started out so wonderfully . . . was that in another life? (20).
5. “Now I knew exactly what I want my future, future, future to be. Lew feels exactly the same” (71). Discuss not only what Nancy says here, but also the repetition and style.
6. “I don’t know how I could ever have been so stupid, but I thought he was the most beautiful and brilliant human being who had ever lived and that he filled all the lonely, empty holes in hole-filled life. Cheese Louise, how could I have been so sucked in, but I guess I’m not alone . . . but I hope I am” (101).
7. “I didn’t tell them then how I got it, and I guess they all believed I got it from blood at one of my hospital visits. Maybe someday I’ll tell them that too . . . but maybe I won’t” (128).
8. “I need to be needed. It’s good for me! We’re together from early morning every day until sometimes late at night” (173).
9.”Life is still magnificent, glorious and heavenly, with just one horrible battering. The police called and said no one has been able to locate Collin. They wanted to come talk to me some more” (174).
10. Nancy has to make a terrible decision that is some ways is not a decision at all. Later, she writes, “Maybe the rectal ulcer will heal . . . maybe I will be able to go back to a real school later . . . maybe I won’t have to wear diapers forever . . . maybe my poor ego can eventually accept this
. . . may
. . .
- Discuss how the story follows and deviates from the classic fairy tale. Use at least three examples.
- “I was the princess in the castle in the sleeping woods” (19). Consider what the “curse” is in this version. How is Gemma like the princess. Use some specific examples.
- The box. Pandora’s? How do the mysterious contents peek our interest in the history behind each piece? Discuss how narrative and family history plays a major role here. There are always double or triple “palismpsest-type” of stories going on. Give an example. Isn’t a map-reader a story-teller? Define what history is.
- What is in a name? What is our identity? Our past? Is our future determined by our past, by our relatives’ past? How important are our roots?
- Why is the “promise” so important? Is it another type of “obsessive-compulsive” behavior?
- “A hundred years, a thousand years, “Gemma said. It doesn’t matter. Dead is dead” (62).
- Time does not excuse conscience,” Havey said shortly. “Time does not erase this” (72). “Because . . .” he whispered, “what’s past is prologue” (91).
- “But she was fearless nonetheless, and cheerful, having no past to haunt her” (180).
- “Your own American writer Emerson said, ‘The hero is not fed on sweets but daily his own heart he eats'” (194).
- “Truth is never tidy. Only fairy tales” (196).
1. “Wonder why Daddy’ll get his boy this time?” (5). This statement ends the first chapter. Describe the elements of foreshodowing does this statement contains.
2. Litotes implies understatement. Give two examples of this trope and explain why this form works in this book.
3. “When I’m with Arley’s boys we forget teh dust” (50). Discuss briefly why this is true and what the implications of this fact.
4. Explore the historical occurances that are alluded to in this novel. The New Deal (26), WWI (44), the Dionne Quintuplets (57), the depression, economic dependence on wheat, population growth, prohibition, polio (115), Lindberghs (145), CCC (181).
5. The effect of the chapter “Nightmare”: What is the reality? the dream?
6. Pattern of apple blossoms and apple trees as examples of hope. How are these parallel to aspects of the story.
7. “The women talked as they scrubbed death from the house” (74). Explain how this metaphoric construct works.
8. Her burned hands, and hands in general are vital symbols. Discuss.
9. Look closely at the titles of the chapters and what is being discussed in that chapter. How are the two related? Discuss at least one specifically.
10. Explore some of the following terms and their changing meanings throughout the book: enough, empty spaces, poetry, music, emptiness, hunger, hands, and dust.
1. Clocks, time, “chewing up the minutes that stretched. . .” (3). How does this maleable aspect of time become a pattern in the story?
2. Discuss some of the realistic aspects of Brent’s experience with his friends at the party, his own feelings about himself. Discuss any foreshadowing and/or irony that you see in such sentences as “You have absolute power over your own life” (18).
3. The plot is non-linear. Draw a time line for the development of the story. In Weeksboro, Maine, Alexandra says that the whirligig “symbolizes all unseen forces” (26). How are the plot and the themes juxtaposed?
4. “We never know all the consequences of our acts. They reach into places we can’t see. And into the future, where no one can” (38). Apply this idea to the accident as well as one of the stories that revolve around a specific whirligig.
5. “He was lodged in his own chrysalis but had no idea what he was turning into” (43) also connected metaphorically with Brent’s choice of his next book. Trace the working metaphor through the book. How is the fiction he is reading a parallel text?
6. Some problems regarding language difficulties. See the reference to “retarded children” being linked with “kids who didn’t know English” (57). Find other such examples and discuss.
7. People live in flocks; they are always in a group, or in a karass (a disparate group of people linked together without their knowledge). We are all part of a community. How is this theme developed throughout the story? Find some specific quotations that illustrate this fact.
8. What is the role of music and harmonica playing for Brent’s development? Notice the journeying motif and how this is also tightly connected to music, either in the form of folk music or classical music. Find examples and discuss.
9. Learning, maturation, reading, insight, and honesty are all themes that are intertwined throughout the book. Discuss.
10. Discuss the idea that the whole world is a vast whirligig and that each of us is an individual whirligig. How is this possible? Find textual examples and discuss.
1. The book starts by explaining what is not at Camp Green Lake. There used to be trees, a lake, a town, shade, and people, now there are only lizards, rattlesnakes, and scorpions. How is this puzzle attractive reading? How does this beginning illustrate the basic pattern of the narrative? A braided narrative? juxaposition as narrative form?
2. “My name is easy to remember,” said Mr. Pendanski as he shook hands with Stanley just outside the tent. “Three easy words: pen, dance, key.” How is this sentence a metacritical comment? In other words, how does this sentence show us how to read this book? How does Stanley’s own name illustrate the narrative plot?
3. This is a story about juvenile delinquents, about learning, about reading, about crooks, thieves, and pig-stealings. Or is it? What satirical comments are being made about our views of these folks? Give two examples.
4. “Do you hear the empty spaces?” she [the Warden] asked (67). What are some other “empty spaces” in the book? Discuss the connection between empty spaces and the statement, “Zero was nobody” (81). How are these connected to black holes and time warps.
5. What are all the connections between Clyde Livingston, smelly feet, Zero, and Stanley? Digging holes makes character. Whose? Why?
6. “Doc Hawthorn was almost completely bald, and in the morning his head often smelled like onions” (109). Now look closely at this sentence: “A lot of people don’t believe in yellow-spotted lizards either, but if one bites you, it doesn’t make a difference whether you believe in it or not” (41). Examine the ways in which the ideas behind these two sentences are connected. This should also lead you to consider how myth and folk tales are woven into the fabric of this story.
7. There are some ethnic considerations elements in this story. What are they? How are these situations connected to a transcendence of these same elements?
8. Friendship. What is it? How do Stanley and Zero develop their friendship? What do they sacrifice?
9. Irony. What is irony? How does irony work in this book? Discuss some examples to illustrate how the Holes is an ironic demonstration of the onion-eating, layers of onion metaphor/episode in the book.
10. There seems to be nothing that is predictable in this book. Is this book in the absurdist tradition? a black comedy? What is serious becomes funny, and what is funny quickly turns serious. What seems to be a game turns deadly very quickly.
1. Kim whose family is from Vietnam plants some dried lima beans in a vacant lot in Cleveland. Give at least three reasons for her action and discuss how these reasons are connected to your knowledge of developmental theories.
2. What are some of the linking devices (the common thoughts, actions, events, etc that link one character’s story with that of the previous one, and the following one) throughout the novel? How do they work? Discuss how these devices give the reader a shifting perspective on events.
3. How does each person’s cultural past and individual past affect his/her gardening experience and their sense of community?
4. Explain the idea of a garden as it is developed here. Look at its growth, its change, its mutability, and its vulnerability. How is this “garden” truly organic?
5. Look at the pattern of windows, barriers, borders, barricades, and space as they are used in Seedfolks. Discuss.
6. The reality versus the dream: how does this specifically impact the dynamics of the story? Give a brief example.
7.Where in the story might you begin questions of the middle range order of Bloom’s Taxonomy and why? Be sure to give an example.
1. “Life is a bowl of spaghetti . . . every now and then you get a meatball.” How is Zinny’s life like a bowl of spaghetti? How is the story like a bowl of spaghetti?
2. Note the ways in which Zinny repeatedly refers to herself (e.g., Zinnia Taylor:famous archaelogist, Zinnia Taylor: noted biologist, Zinnia Taylor: thief). What does this way of thinking about herself suggest? What does the colon suggest in these verbal constructions?
3. In Chapter 7 (“The Trail”), Zinny makes repeated reference to the trail and how she feels it is a part of her. Note the words that she uses to describe her sense of connection. The attitude toward ownership of the trail shifts. How?
4. Zinny maintains several collections of objects (39). What is the significance of the objects she collects? Psychologically speaking, what is the importance of the act of collecting? What eventually happens to those collections and what does that suggest about Zinny?
5. “It didn’t occur to me that I might be escaping something or even chasing something” (52). What are the differences between escaping and chasing? The similarities? What is the object of a chase or escape? Who in the book is chasing or escaping something?
6. Look closely at Chapter 12, “The Birds, the Rose, and the Turtle.” What are the connections between the objects listed in the chapter’s title?
7. Look at the last paragraph of Chapter 27 (156-57), in which Zinny describes the gradual darkening of the sky? What is the significance of this description? What connections can you make to Ben and Uncle Nate’s ability to see Aunt Jessie?
8. “I wanted to be there, and I wanted to be here now, and I didn’t want to be erased” (166).
9. When Zinny returns home from her first ten days on the trail, she notes that time simultaneously works quickly (“raced by”) and slowly (“gone for months”) (170). How does time work in Chasing Redbird? How does the past live in and shape the present? How does the present reside in and shape the past?
10. On page 250, look closely at the first full paragraph. What types of perception are being described in this passage? What do you make of the “spots” Zinny notices?
- “She liked being by herself. Alone, she could be anybody at all and she would have only herself to take care of” (8). How is this sense of solitude and aloneness related to her imagination?
- “Long streets looked like spokes of a wheel connected to nothing and going nowhere” (10). Look carefully at this image. How does the idea of a street and the image of a wheel enhance the narrative? (Consider also how this image is different from and yet similar to a similar image in Tuck.)
- “I’ll call it Crystal,” she said to Toeboy. “If you stand on the road, you can probably see the beginning, the middle and the end of it, just the way you can see through a piece of glass” (24). What are the properties of crystal and how does this alternating reflective characteristic enhance perception in the story?
- “Oh, it’s just grand,” Geeder said. “Everything was left to me and I took care of it all by myself!” (50). How is this a change in her world-view? What can we say about the idea of doing something “all by myself”?
- “I believe,” Uncle Ross began, “a night traveler must be somebody who wants to walk tall. And to walk tall, you most certainly must have to run free” (83). Discuss the relationship between the metaphorical implications of walking tall and running free.
- “Not dreaming, exactly, for she saw no pictures, but the feeling that there was something beyond her vision trying to catch up with her” (87). This is a complicated idea. Discuss the multistability of dreaming, picturing, memory, and vision and their interconnectedness.
- “I liked the dark, I walked and swam in the dark and because of that, I was the night” (112). Again, a symbolic statement. Do a close reading of this passage. Examine all the complexities involved with liking the dark and being the night.
- “You have a most fine way of dreaming,” Zeely said. “Hold on to that. But remember the turtle, remember the snake. I always have” (115). Look up the symbolism and the mythology inherent in the snake and the turtle and then apply this knowledge to the story. How is this all connected to the concept of dreaming?
1. In class, we have talked about picture books and the importance of visual images. “Read” the cover of The View from Saturday. What does the picture on the front represent? (You may want to think about the relationship between domestic space and consciousness). What do you make of the back cover, particularly the light blue section titled “Meet the Souls”? What sort of expectations does it excite?
2. Consider the name of the group: “The Souls.” Why is this name important? What does it tell us about the four individuals who constitute the group? Is there any relation to the name of the school they attend, Epiphany?
3. ” ‘In the interest of diversity,’ she said, ‘I chose a brunette, a redhead, a blond, and a kid with hair as black as print on paper” (22).
4. What is a hybrid? Why does a hybrid possess power? Choose a hybrid other than Nadia and explain how that character’s or object’s hybridity makes it more than the parts it originates from.
5. ” ‘Nothing.’ Nothing is never an answer, but sometimes nothing works. Sometimes nothing else does.” (51)
6. “Mostly, they could read—really read. Sixth grade still meant that kids could begin to get inside the print and to the meaning.” (58)
7. “Sometimes silence is a habit that hurts.” (70)
8. Consider Julian’s backpack and the way in which Julian transforms the words Hamilton Knapp marks on it (72). What is the significance of Julian’s changed message? Of Ethan’s observations?
9. ” ‘Chops,’ Julian said, ‘is to magic what doing scales is to a chanteuse. Without it you cannot be a magician, with it alone you cannot be an artist.” What are “chops”? What does the analogy convey about chops?
10. “She thought that maybe—just maybe—Western Civilization was in decline because people did not take time to take tea at four o’clock.”
See “Freedom”; Emily Dickinson “I’m nobody.”
1. Here is the whole poem that Winnie thinks about, but she remembers only the first two lines. Obviously, there is an analogy between what the poem is talking about the what the book is talking about. What would you suggest?
To Althea, From Prison
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
2. The first week in August like the top of Ferris Wheel. What is a Ferris Wheel? How does this suggest the theme of the story? In what ways is the figure (image) of a Ferris Wheel significant in relation to the theme of the story?
3. Chapter 1. “The Road to Treegap.” “Treegap.” Why does that have any meaning? Gap? A Way out? a way in? Something not there? A hole in the trees. A tree that is the hole? The tree is a way in or a way out? Out of what?
4. The road was trod out by cows. What kind of road? What is the polarity? The road is personified. What significant contrast in attitude is suggested by the polarity? The road avoids the woods. As the road is personified, what is it avoiding by circling away and around the woods?
5. The description of the “touch-me-not cottage” with the “painfully cut grass.” Why these images? Of the village we know only about the jail house and the gallows. Why? What does this suggest about people versus nature? Why the contrast in the two homes, the Tucks and the Fosters: “The Foster women had made a fortress out of duty.” Discuss how the image of her house is connected to Winnie’s banging the stick against the iron bars of the fence.
6. What is a music box (9)? “Painted with roses and lilies of the valley”? Examine and discuss the symbolism here.
7. The Stranger: A yellow suit that seemed to glow a little. He “moved in angles, rather jerkily. But at the same time he had a kind of grace, like a well-handled marionette.” What is a “marionette” as opposed to a puppet? What is the importance of the image? See also “His eyes were closed now, but except for that, he looked more than ever like a marionette, a marionette flung carelessly into a corner, arms and legs every which way midst tangled strings” (91).
8. Beginning of Chapter 12: the pond. Study this carefully. The interlude on the pond is a key to understanding the book. Examine the tropes here and then connect them with Jesse’s plea to Winnie.
9. Notice Winnie on page 93, bottom, as she departs with Mae and the Constable. Read carefully the last paragraph, almost as a poem, for expressions, pictures, etc. that are relevant to the story’s theme. This section connects with the image of the clock as Winnie waits for her moment to make a difference in the world. Examine all the relevant tropes here.
10. What is the irony in the final paragraph on page 118? The end of the book. The inscription on the tombstone. “In loving memory, Dear Wife Dear Mother, 1870-1948. Winifred Foster Jackson.” Does this tell us anything of significance? After all, it is about as spare as a tribute can be.
1. “La frontera” is a word I often heard when I was a child living in El Rancho Blanco, a small village nestled on barren, dry hills several miles north of Guadalajara, Mexico” (1). Analyze “la frontera” as a metaphor that controls the development of Francisco’s story.
2. Examine the narrative technique of understatement in the novel as in Roberto’s statement at the end of chapter one, “See, it does come from California!” (8). Discuss the way in which this statement is also ironic. How does this technique highlight his transient status?
3. Francisco’s lack of understanding of English contributes substantially to his difficulties. Discuss one specific example of this, pointing out not only the misunderstandings and emotional trauma caused, but also the way in which such lack leads Francisco into alternate ways of communication.
4. “I was so proud I felt like bursting out of my skin” (25). Analyze the simile in this passage according to the close reading suggestions.
5. “I wanted to wake up and find it was only a dream” Stories are very important to Francisco, both hearing them and making them up. How do dreams, visions, and illusions alter and affect reality?
6. “The cardboard inside my shoe got soggy and started to fall apart” (47).
7. “I thought they were happy to see me, but when I opened the door to our shack, I saw that everything we owned was neatly packed in cardboard boxes” (83). Examine this sentence in terms of patterns that it repeats about other episodes in the book. Discuss the implications and the meanings of the key words in this sentence. Note, as you do this, that this sentence is the very last one in the chapter.
8.. “Well . . . if you know what was in your librito, then it’s not all lost” (112). Discuss thoroughly Francisco’s educational development and explain how this episode and this particular sentence suggests a paradigm for his life.
9. Discuss the importance of family in this odyssey, pointing to both the family’s growing numbers as well as their increasing strength despite their continuing adversity.
10. Look closely at Mis Ehlis’s prompting the class to memorize one section of The Declaration of Independence. Show why this is ironic and why it is so important in creating “hope” for the Jimenez family and for all of us.
1. Setting is important in the opening. How is the landscape described? What kinds of imagery does Golding choose? For what effect?
2. “The boy with fair hair” (5) and “the fat boy” (6) [Ralph and Piggy] are introduced for several pages before Johnny “the small boy” is introduced. What impact does this narrative sequence have on the theme of the novel? Explain.
3. What does Ralph’s perspective represent? Piggy’s? Simon’s? Jack’s?
4. Analyze the hunt and the killing of the sow? What is symbolized by the boys’ actions? the smile? (124–)
5. How is this story like “Heart of Darkness”?
6. Analyze the “uniforms.” the use of the conch? the spectacles?
7. “Simon was inside the mouth. He fell down and lost consciousness” (133). What does this mean? Sig? Value?
8. What are some of Ralph’s values? Why is he “the leader”? Is he really?
9. There are several references to the kids being British. Why is this sig?