A wise person once said, “Be careful what mask you put on, it may stick.” Explain clearly what this quotation means. both Ned in “The Quiet One”(15) and Macbeth in “The History of Macbeth”(47), find themselves wearing “masks” (cast in roles) that make them uneasy – roles they feel they have been forced into, roles they did not choose. Explain what these roles are. To what extent have others forced these characters into their roles, and to what extent did they assume the roles willingly? Make comparisons, remembering to use quotations from the text to support your ideas. Explain why each character might or might not be able to escape from his role. Write about the following ideas: To what extent do you sometimes feel forced into a role yourself? Do you see any way out of it? Why or why not?
Listen to some of the hit songs – especially love songs – from the fifties and sixties, looking for unconscious stereotyping of both sexes. When you have collected ten or twelve examples, select five of the best and discuss them in your blog, embedding parts of the songs. Encourage students to respond to your post by inviting them to imagine that the gender roles in the lyrics were reversed. Invite your readers to post comments to your post on the question, “Is there stereotyping in today’s hit songs?”
- Which of the three teenagers – Wally, Sid, or Ned – would you want to have for a best friend? Give at least three reasons why you made the choice you did. Explain why you did not choose the other two.
- Ned’s cousin, Marty, is going through a devastating experience. What thoughts are going through his head as he haunts the doorway where he and Dulcie used to meet? Write a poem, or the lyrics and, if possible, the music for a song representing Marty’s point of view.
- This story is told entirely from the male point of view How would it be different if Marty’s cousin were a girl? Begin the story from the point where the narrator leaves his friends, only assume the narrator is female. Retell the story from her point of view. If you feel the story would not be different if told from a female point of view, argue your case convincingly.
- Many students in a small town blame their discontent on the fact that they live in “such a dead-alive hole.” Create an online questionnaire, survey, or poll that explores people’s feelings about their home town and survey your school and adults in your neighbourhood. Plan your questions carefully. Be sure to leave room for your respondents to offer creative suggestions for improvements, if they feel improvements are needed. Are there any differences in the way students feel and adults feel? Try to account for these differences.
- Examine the impact and explicit attitudes toward abortion that this story suggests. Do you agree or disagree with these attitudes?
- 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?
Dan Davin was born in Invercargill, New Zealand. Although he is often identified as a New Zealand writer, he spent most of his life in England. He attended Balliol College at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, and after distinguished military service with both the British and New Zealand armed forces, he joined the Clarendon Press, Oxford. He has published many poems and novels, as well as works of criticism and memoirs. Some of his books are: The Gorse Blooms Pale (short stories); No Remittance; Not Here, Not Now; Breathing Spaces (short stories); The Salamander and the Fire: Collected War Stories.
There is a group of novels and short stories that concern themselves with the social traumas suffered by adolescents – especially by the kind of adolescents that grow up to be writers of novels and stories. And, for the first two thirds of “The Quiet One,” we assume that Dan Davin has simply made another contribution to this already well-populated genre. Like most narrators of stories in this genre, Ned is a sensitive young man, set apart from his somewhat loutish companions by his ability to perceive and articulate the pattern of these empty weekend nights. Again, typically, he is not capable of walking away from this pattern, even though he recognizes it as a “the game.”
Not until his encounter with Marty does Ned (and Davin’s story) break away from the self-enclosed world of adolescent agonies. The terrible fact of Dulcie’s abortion and death interrupts “the game,” with its bruising, but at the same time protective, rules. Hearing of her death, Ned suddenly finds himself in that “other country” where “the sort of thing that happens once the gloves are off” actually takes place, where he is sized up by someone he admires and is not found wanting, where not knowing what to say is somehow the right response. Ned has the maturity to know that although this is the place he yearned to be, he would rather be “anyplace else in the world.” Davin’s accomplishment is that he reminds us that a boy grows up, not in a steady purposeful ascent to maturity, but through a slow accumulation of inglorious episodes like this one.
Ned, in the “The Quiet One,” spends a good deal of time worrying about being “a different breed” from his friends. By Contrast, the protagonist of “An Ounce of Cure” agonizes over the “painful banality” with which she behaves while in love with Martin Collingwood. Both, however, are shocked out of their dramatized feelings by what Munro calls, “the terrible and fascinating reality of … the way things happened.”
- Analyze and compare the incidents that startle the two adolescents out of their more or less self-inflicted miseries. What do the two incidents have in common? In what ways do they differ? How would you feel if you had experienced these incidents? Do you think they would change your life? If so, in what way? Now, compare what the two protagonists have to say about how they were affected by the incidents. Are you convinced by what they say their experiences did to them? Explain why or why not in an essay.
- Imagine that Ned, in the “The Quiet One,” attends the same school as the narrator of “An ounce of Cure.” Their English Language Arts teacher has instructed them to work together as a group to analyze the pressures adolescents unwittingly exert on each other. Write a narrative in which your characters discuss the pressures their peers do or do not exert on them.