- Reread the first eight paragraphs of the story, down to “chance of picking up a sheila, eh, Sid?”(15) What is your initial impression of each of the three boys? How are these impressions later modified during the quest for the girl in the black hat? Do you know anyone like any of these three boys? If you do, describe that person: What does s/he look like? What kinds of things does s/he say or do? Explain why you do or do not like this person.
- Reread the boys’ encounter with Jean and Isobel and answer the following questions: What is your impression of the two girls? Analyze the situation carefully and then account for the fact that Ned has little to say during this encounter. (In addition to what is said and done in this encounter, keep in mind the incident that just preceded it.)
- Every once in a while a cliché rings true. you may have heard the expression “Still waters run deep.” Explain what you think this expression means. Davin has called his story “The Quiet One.” Who is the “quiet one” and who called him that? Argue that, at least in this instance, the “waters” of the quiet one do indeed “run deep.”
- In the last paragraph, Ned says he was beginning to “wake up” to something. Explain what that was in your own words. Do you agree with Ned’s conclusions? Can you think of an incident in your own life to which his conclusions apply?
- Reread the last few pages of the story from Ned’s first encounter with Marty to the end. What was your first impression of Marty? Does that impression change with the rereading of the text? If so, how? Marty, like Ned, says little. Examine the text closely. Even though he says little, we have several clues that suggest his mind is in torment. What are they and what do they suggest about Marty?
- Ned finds himself in three different situations on this Sunday evening. While each situation focuses on a girl “lost,” there are profound differences. Examine the situations and explain what some of the differences might be. In which situation do you most easily identify with Ned? Why?
Category: Exploring the Text
Exploring the Text
- Why is Ann dissatisfied with her married life and with John’s plans for the day? Do you think her complaints are valid? Why or why not?
- Why is Ann seduced by Steven? I he to blame for what happens? Why or why not? Do you think he will feel guilty?
- Why is it crucial to the story’s effect that the reader perceive events from Ann’s point of view?
- What do you think Ann will do with the rest of her life? She had planned to make amends to John, but now he’s not there. Will she be able to keep the farm? Will she involve Steven? Will she tell the townsfolk why John really died? Will she live with John’s father? Justify your answers with references to the story.
- In what ways is the reader prepared for the discovery of the smear of white paint at the end of the story? Give specific examples. Should Ann have been surprised? Why or why not?
- Of what importance is each of the following to this story?
- the painted door
- the double wheel around the moon
- the ticking clock
- the horse
- the encroaching cold
- Why does John go back into the storm without speaking to Ann? DO you think he is right to do so? Why or why not?
Exploring the Text
- Some people who read this story react strongly to the final paragraph: What’s going on? What can it mean? What happens next? We are so used to reading stories that close neatly with the last word, we are surprised, and sometimes a little frustrated, when they do not. Explain how you reacted to the last paragraph of this story. Describe your feelings in one concise paragraph.
- Argue for or against the following statement: McCormack’s “The Hobby” is a story about one man’s “defiance of the darkness.” Begin by deciding what the word darkness suggests. Share your findings with one other student. Make certain you locate this phrase in the story and that you consider its meaning in context.
- Reread the paragraph beginning, “That boy wore me out”(76). Explain the function of this paragraph in relation to the rest of this story.
- In the final paragraph of the story there is a sudden shift in point of view that suggests we might want to rethink what the whole story is about. Who might the “me” be in the final paragraph? (Hint: The old man created the train and the train station, but who created the old man?) What might the author be suggesting about the relationship between a person and the thing that person builds or creates?
Exploring the Text
- When you are half-way through “A Report for an Academy,” close your book and write a post describing your responses to this short fiction so far. In particular, explain how you feel about the narrator. When you have finished the piece, continue recording your responses. Share them with one other students.
- The protagonist goes through a number of changes as he metaphorphoses from one state to another. Make a chart listing the narrator’s gains, after he became a human, on one side and his losses on the other. Evaluate the two existences. Explain why you feel he is or is not better off as a human.(Hint)
- The protagonist says at one point that he prefers metaphor for some things. What kinds of things might he have in mind? Select two of the metaphors he uses and see if you can draw some conclusions about the kinds of things that metaphor might be “better” for. Consider, too, whether or not you agree with the protagonist’s statement about metaphor. Explain your conclusions.
- Although the protagonist shows no desire to antagonize the members of the academy, he does not seem particularly anxious to please them either. His encounters with other humans seem to be equally, but not similarly, ambiguous. Consider how the protagonist-and perhaps Kafka himself-feels about the academy and about the human race in general. Do you agree with the protagonist’s feelings? Explore this topic with two or three other students. Remember to support your ideas with quotations from the text.
Consider any of these phrases in your discussions …
(page numbers from the J.A. Underwood translation in The Story Begins When The Story Ends)
- “Speaking frankly, much as I prefer choosing metaphors for these things – speaking frankly: your own apehood. gentlemen, in so far as you have anything of that sort behind you, cannot be farther removed from you than mine is from me. But everyone who walks this earth has an itchy heal: from the little chimpanzee to the great Achilles.”(171)
- “When it’s a question of the truth, every high-minded person drops the ultimate refinements.”(172)
- “… but only to be in darkness I faced the crate…”(172)
- “For the first time in my life, I had no way out.”(172)
- “…the blissful baying of ignorance…”(172)
- “the first occupations of my new existence”(172)
- “I had no way out, yet I had to come up with one, because I could not go on living without it.”(172)
- “… freedom is something that men all too often dupe themselves with.”(173)
- “And as freedom is among the most sublime of feelings, so is the corresponding illusion among the most sublime.”(173)
- “Oh mockery of the sanctity of Nature!”(173)
- “… if the way out should be merely an illusion…”(173)
- ” … he completed the theoretical side of my instruction…”(175)
- “Was I not already too wearied by the theory? Yes, I was. Such was my fate.”(175)
- “…in the battle against apehood we were both on the same side and that I had the harder task.”(175)
- “I was not tempted to imitate men…”(176)
- “I soon spotted the two possibilities open to me…”(176)
- “the zoo is just another way out”(176)
- “my first instructor … had before long to abandon my instruction and be admitted to a mental hospital”(176)
- “Oh, one learns when one has too; one learns if one wants a way out; one learns relentlessly”(176)
- “I acquired the average education of a European.”(176)
- “It got me out of the cage and gave me this particular way out, the human way out.”(176)
- “I disappeared in the undergrowth.”(177)
- “I had no alternative, always assuming that freedom was not an option.”(177)
- “…I neither complain nor am I content.”(177)
- “She has that mad look of the confused trained animal in her eye; only I can see it, and cannot stand it.”(177)
- “On the whole I have undoubtedly achieved what I set out to achieve.”(177)
- “I am not interested in anyone’s opinion; I am interested only in disseminating knowledge.”(177)
Exploring the Text
- While Caroline is in the tower she experiences many moments of terror.Â Select the four sentences in the text which you feel are most effective in creating terror.Â Discuss your findings with one other student.
- Analyze Carolineâ€™s relationship with her husband.Â Imagine that you are a marriage counsellor; what advice would you give Caroline? her husband?Â Write a letter to one or the other of these two people suggesting how they might improve their relationship in some way that might make it more fulfilling for both.Â Assume that Caroline did not visit the tower.
- Reread the descriptions of the paintings of Giovanna di Ferramano and the Unknown Gentleman.Â Explain how what we learn from these descriptions and the description of the tower at the beginning of the story help to shape our understanding of what happens to Caroline in the tower.
- The art of writing a suspenseful story depends on knowing now only how much information to give the reader and where and when to give it, but also on how much to withhold.Â With these considerations in mind, and referring to two specific passages, evaluate Laskiâ€™s success as a writer of suspenseful stories.
Exploring the Text
- Describe the part of the story that you liked the best and explain why.Â Describe the feelings you had when you were reading this story.Â Have you ever had similar feelings when you were reading another story?Â Explain.Â Share your thoughts with a partner.
- Reread the four paragraphs describing the protagonist near the beginning of the story, starting with words, â€œThe man turned abruptlyâ€ (p.67).Â Working with two other people, make a list of all the things we learn about the protagonist in these paragraphs.Â Now select any three of these things and show how they become significant later in the story.Â Share your ideas with two other students.
- Reread the part of the story describing the manâ€™s actions just prior to catching the mullet, then reread his actions just prior to netting the ray.Â Compare these two passages looking primarily for difference.Â In what ways do these differences prepare us for the accident?
- Consider what qualities humans possess that fish do not.Â At times during his struggle the man fights as all creatures, including people, fight when they are trapped; at other times his struggles are different.Â Analyze the difference in the two fighting techniques.Â Are there times when the first technique might work well?Â Why does it not work well in this situation?
Exploring the Text
- The protagonist, Collins, notes that words present the truth inadequately, not just because facts can be recorded inaccurately, but because words are insufficient for recording experience.
- What mistake was made in the newspaper article about him?Â What is suggested by the glib phrase â€œthe man who pulled down prison walls and grew geraniums in their place?â€Â What is missing from this verbal description?
- Why are the newspapers â€œstupidâ€ that said â€œcrime wave…robbery…old man knifed in the street?â€Â Or â€œthe police are investigating and have situation well in hand.â€Â What do these factual accounts omit?
- The protagonist thinks that the freedom the boys escape to is not very appealing.Â Describe it.Â Why might the boys see it as preferable to being in a reformatoryâ€”even a reformatory without walls?Â Are the boys in the reformatory imprisoned by other things?Â Is Collins alsoâ€”trapped perhaps by his self-image?Â Explain your answer.
- Why is Collins so upset about the boy who escaped?Â Is it that heâ€™s â€œan idealistâ€ and cannot â€œtake the blow to his pride?â€Â Are Collinsâ€™s expectations of himself unrealistic?Â Explain.
- The police sergeant assumes the boy beat up the old lady.Â On what are the police basing their assumption?Â What realities of the situation make it difficult for the police to behave otherwise?Â Are Collinsâ€™s attitudes towards the boys in his reformatory more or less humane?Â More or less practical?Â Explain.
- What does Collins assume Ngubane has come to tell him?Â What realization hist Collins as he lies in bed?Â Why does he repeat to himself the lines from the newspaper:Â â€œthe man who pulled down prison walls and grew geraniums?â€Â Is this line more true than he had imagined at the beginning of the story?
- Look at the references in the story to the sky:Â the title â€œAnother Part of the Sky;â€ â€œthe great hard polished winter sky that shone of itself…without answerâ€ (p. 154); the â€œpang which had never yet found the right moment to claim attention lifted feebly like an eye of lightning that opens and shuts in another part of the skyâ€ (p.157).Â What does the sky seem to represent?Â Why do you think Gordimer titled the story as she did?Â (Look especially at â€œanother part.â€)Â Does the sky image relate to the epiphany at the storyâ€™s climax?
Exploring the Text
- After you have read this piece, respond to it in your journal.Â You may wish to take some of the following questions into consideration:
- What impression of this piece did you have when you read the first five paragraphs?Â Did it feel like a story?Â If not, explain why.
- When you were half way through, did you have any idea of where the story was going?
- Do you enjoy Ritterâ€™s style?Â If you do, describe the passages you enjoyed most.Â If you donâ€™t, explain why.Â Have you read any other works that had a similar tone?Â Explain.
- Describe the dominant tone of this pieceâ€”or is there more than one tone?Â Explain.Â What do you think was Ritterâ€™s aim in writing it?Â Evaluate her success in achieving her aims.
- Ritter satirizes the â€œkind of meaningless adjective-nounâ€ phrase so much admired by commercial airlines. Working with at least two other people reread this piece, collecting as many examples as you can of such jargon.Â Airline staff, of course, are not the only people who use meaningless, ambiguous phrases:Â so do some psychologists, some educators, some business people, characters on some television shows, and many advertisers.Â Join up with a few other students so there are four or five groups in the class.Â Work with your group to collect examples of such phrases over a one-week period.Â Arrange your findings in an eye-catching bulletin-board display.Â Make certain you do not give viewers the idea that these are admirable phrases!
Exploring the Text
- There is a lot of humour in Elliottâ€™s tale, and much of it depends on the element of surprise.Â But not all people find this kind of humour effective.Â Share your feelings about the humour in this story with one other person, focusing first on the sections you found most amusing and then on those you did not find amusing.
- The forest, with its â€œblack heart,â€ is a pervasive image in this piece.Â Working with one other student, collect all the information you can about this forest and the charactersâ€™ relationship to it.Â Examine your collected materials and speculate on the significance of this image.Â Compare your ideas with those of other groups in a whole-class discussion.
- Analyze Caresseâ€™s long speech to her guests beginning, â€œO, we are so luckyâ€ down to and including â€œI had a silly afternoon in the forest today (p. 115).Â Focusing on tone, diction, and sentence structure, write a critique of this passage.Â What do these elements suggest about Caresseâ€™s state of mind?
Exploring the Text
- Respond to this story in any way you like but keep the following questions in mind: How old do you think the narrator was when this incident took place? At what point in the story did you feel most amused by something the young girl said or did? At what point did you feel most sympathetic towards her? Did anything in this story remind you of an experience you had in your early teens? Explain. Share your ideas with one other student.
- On what maxim is the title of this story based? Account for the changes the author made in this maxim. Explain the significance of the title with regard to the story. In what two ways could the word cured be interpreted? Of what, and in what way, is the narrator cured?
- Focusing on three specific incidents, analyze the mother-daughter relationship in this story. What conclusions can you draw about the motherâ€™s character from what we are told about her?
- The narrator says she â€œshowed the most painful banalityâ€ in her whole relationship with Martin Collingwood. Do you agree? Explain why or why not.
- Reread the section of the story which begins with the protagonist phoning her friends and ends with their departure from the Berrymansâ€™. Explain why Kay Stringer was â€œexactly the personâ€ the narrator needed at this point.
- Work with at least two other students on this assignment. Explain clearly what is meant by three of the following excerpts from the story, and use an exampleâ€”not necessarily from the storyâ€”to clarify each of your explanations:
- â€œthe unaccountable pastâ€ (p. 32)
- â€œthe elaborate and unnecessary subterfuge that young girls delight inâ€ (p. 36)
- â€œoh, delicious moment in a well-organized farce!â€ (p. 37)
- â€œcovering up the ignominy of their departure with a mechanical roar of defianceâ€ (p. 38)
- â€œI gave him a gentle uncomprehending look in returnâ€ (p. 40)