Category Archives: Short Stories

“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Rockville, MD: Wildside, 2005. Print.

In the opening scene, Goodman Brown says goodbye to his wife Faith before he leaves for his journey into the forest. After he leaves faith, he is overwhelmed, yet intrigued, by the wood’s darkness. He starts to believe that everyone he knows is evil, except Faith. The darkness that takes place in the wilderness is compelled with evil and Goodman Brown, finds himself surrounded by it. The question is what drives Goodman through the wilderness? Goodman Brown starts off his journey realizing his intentions because the narrator tells the reader, “With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose”(Hawthorne 420). The women in this story are seen as outsiders because they represent everything Goodman brown and the church are against. Furthermore, the women characters are portrayed as witches.  The women with power in this story use it for evil, instead of good. The male role in “Young Goodman Brown” is dominating and reliant on the women characters. In Beauvoir’s book, “The Second Sex,” she defines otherness, “… because the male perceiving consciousness must view itself as good, the other must become its opposite; the other must represent evil.” The main female influence in “Young Goodman Brown,” Faith, embodies evil through her witchcraft and associations with the Devil.

There are many critical lenses that can be used to read “Young Goodman Brown.” There is a moral, or religious, and a feminist perspective evident throughout the short story. For the purpose of teaching this short story along with “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” I will describe a mini lesson with the theme a spiritual journey & an awakening. Throughout “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne illustrates evil, often. There is a fine line between what is morally right and wrong in this narrative and “Young Goodman Brown,” is exposed to all of the darkness the wilderness has to offer. His spiritual awakening occurs as he realizes evil does exist. Then, he begins to question if what is god-like is the same as being morally right.

I would give out a Reading Guide for the improvement of the student’s reading comprehension.

1. Why is the title, “Young Goodman Brown,” significant?

2. How did the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, perceive Salem, Massachusetts in 1804 according to the story?

3. How is the main character, Goodman Brown, portrayed as he enters the woods?

4. Why do you think Goodman Brown is paranoid that the wilderness is filled with evil?

5. Give three examples of specific descriptions that include the word “evil.”

6. Give three examples of specific descriptions that include the word “pure.”

7. Where has Goodman Brown landed at the end of his journey? What has changed since his departure?

 

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“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Orlando: Harcourt, 1977. 1-23. Print.

The grandmother, in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” desires to take a vacation to Tennessee and protests the family’s current vacation plans in Florida. Tennessee seems like an interesting place to visit with her family, because she found an article that announced the Misfit, a runaway convict, was last seen in Tennessee. On the road to Florida, the
e2048602480452f900280a4fbcee8595grandmother uses her “wise instincts” and comments on all the men that are not good. She is a hypocrite for judging others before she analyzes herself. Her pessimistic outlook towards the moral good in humanity shows as the family stops at a restaurant. At the restaurant, the owner starts complaining about people and the grandmother realizes she and the owner see life in the same way. Of course, the grandmother tells the owner he is a good man. Back on the road, the grandmother and her family continue driving until the grandmother realizes they are in Tennessee, not Georgia. She is terrified and startles her cat. The cat, and the grandmother, create chaos in the car and the family swerves off the road. The car is wrecked. The moment the Misfit and his gunmen approach the grandmother and her family, the grandmother immediately recognizes him from the article. She tries to charm him and persuade him that he doesn’t really want to kill a lady. Once the grandmother realizes the Misfit is serious about killing her, she asks him if he ever prays. The Misfit talks about his past without Jesus. As gunshots go off, the Misfit continues and tells the grandmother that Jesus’s resurrection from the dead confuses him. The grandmother’s epiphany is revealed when she says, “You are one of my children,” to the Misfit.

images“A Good Man is Hard to Find” teaching strategy:

Before reading O’Connor, the First Lines reading assignment gives young adult readers the appropriate anticipation for the text. Adolescent readers must identify the mood of “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The First Lines assignment will give the students a chance to predict the mood of the entire piece. O’Connor, a Southern Catholic author, is known for her regional writing.

Guidelines for First Lines:

1. Read the first three lines of “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

2. Predict the mood and setting of the short story.

3. Prepare and expect to share your predictions with the class.

4. There is NO such thing as a right or wrong prediction, however you MUST support your predictions with information given in the first three sentences.

5. Write down and KEEP your predictions in your reading journals.

The First Lines strategy is beneficial to the students and the teacher. While reading the first lines, students anticipate the narrative before they read it and use prior knowledge to make connections. The teacher is able to observe the students’ responses and determine how much the students’ already know about the text.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Other Stories. Unabridged ed. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1997. Print.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a feminist author from the early 1900s, struggled with a severe depression which inspired her short-story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The protagonist, and narrator, of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a woman escaping the reality of her exterior life and diving deeper into her internal life and psyche. Her husband, a psychiatrist, tries to reassure her if she stays in her room and rests she will feel better. She is isolated from most human contact and activity. Although she is passionate about writing, she is advised that writing will only make her illness worse. The illness refereed to is never actually diagnosed. In her external reality, she interacts with her husband and housekeeper. She also experiences relationships with the objects surrounding her in her room, i.e. the yellow wallpaper she becomes obsessed with. As the story progresses, her interactions become more absurd. She desires independence as she writes after her husband and house keeper lock her in. Her dreams of traveling fade away as she enters further into her internal world. This is a story about an isolated woman fighting for independence and discovering the role of her identity in both her internal and external realities.

Prior to reading “The Yellow Wallpaper,” it is essential for students to understand the stereotypes towards a woman’s role. As an introduction to the story, I recommend giving the students a virtual anticipation guide, on GoogleForms, as a do-now to engage them in the topics of feminism and female stereotypes. The anticipation guide for these topics should include yes or no/true or false questions that clearly state stereotypes about women. After the students complete the anticipation guide, a class discussion is necessary for them to share their reactions. The following terms must be defined in the lesson; gender, stereotype, and feminism.

While reading the text, selective highlighting benefits reading comprehension for students struggling and comfortable with the text. Selective highlighting improves reading comprehension because students practice close-reading and note significant moments. In regards to “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the selective highlighting should be focused on moments of oppression for the protagonist.

There is often an ambiguity between what is actually happening in the narrator’s external reality and the events taking place in her internal. After students read the text, the Question-Answer Relationship assignment will benefit their overall understanding of Gilman’s purpose of ambiguity. I would demonstrate this assignment as an example to the students. First, the students are shown the question. For example, “Explain the reason for the events during the last scene in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and determine how the narrator escapes isolation.” I would chose the last scene, as an example, because Gilman alludes to two different tragic endings. One, the narrator murders her husband or two, the narrator commits suicide. After the questions are presented, I would the read the scene out loud to the students. Then, I would demonstrate how to collect information throughout the story in order to answer the question.

One purpose of this assignment is for students to practice critical thinking. Instead of focusing on the correct answer, students must focus on the process or steps leading them to an answer. If students practice this often, they will be capable of applying these skills towards other texts and their own writing.  Eventually, they will also be able to craft questions for this assignment independently.

 

 

 

Short Stories

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Other Stories. Unabridged ed. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1997. Print.

O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Orlando: Harcourt, 1977. 1-23. Print.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Rockville, MD: Wildside, 2005. Print.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Print.

Listening to the Journey: A Critic or an Artist?

 

“Bullet in the Brain”

by Tobias Wolf

The New Yorker Fiction podcast

Sharma, Akhil. “Akhil Sharma Reads Tobias Wolff: “Bullet in the Brain”” Review. Audio blog post. Thenewyorker.com/podcasts. Ed. Deborah Treisman. The New Yorker: Fiction/ Conde Nast, 9 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.

Key Words to Define:

1. Proxemics

2. Conflict

3. Climax

4. Dialogue

5. Body Gestures

6. Characterization

7. Dramatic Scene vs. Narrative Summary

While listening to the podcast, note the sentences that stick out to you and interesting comments from the review.

Here is an example of productive note taking:

Notes on Podcast, Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolf
  • Takes you into a space you couldn’t imagine- inconceivable
  • Finding a small idea for a small story
  • Published in 1995
  • Cartoon universe, then we see his humanness
  • “The Critic”- comic figure, genius comes after the bullet in the brain in the ending lines
  • audience feels something unexpected
  • Anders is oblivious- sarcastic attitude,
    • confused by facts in the life and the fiction he reads.
    • This is told without telling us.
    • He is in a critical view of the bank robbery.
    • It is amusing to him.
    • He doesn’t know it’s real.
  • The reader knows it is dangerous territory.
  • Cliché expressions before the bullet.
  • Language- at the beginning elated (in the perspective of a critic)
  • changes after the bullet to child like
After Reading Assignment:

After listening to Akhil Sharma’s reading of Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain,” create a journal entry. 

Also…

Focus on the “bullet scene,” and it’s placement in the story. How would you describe the perspective of the Critic before the bullet and how would you describe his perspective after? By the end of the story, how did you feel about the Critic’s character?

Guidelines for journal entry:

1. Refer to the podcast for evidence and use direct quotes.

2. Demonstrate a clear understanding of key terms and use the key terms to analyze the “bullet scene.”

3. Think critically about how Wolff uses proxemics to enhance the narrative.

4. Write about the Critic’s change of perspective.

6. See if you can find the climax in this story.

7. Describe something that was interesting to you in the story, the review, or both.

8. Explain your experience listening to this story.

Below, is my example journal entry on listening to “Bullet in the Brain.”

What is most interesting to me about “Bullet in the Head” is Tobias Wolff’s artistic use of the proxemics. Artistic, because of the choices he makes, the placement of dramatic scenes and narrative summary, are intentional for the overall aesthetic of the narrative. The beginning lines are narrative summary, but essential to the reader. It is crucial to know Anders’ vocation, a critic, because his vocation is the reason for his inner conflict and attitude. Immediately, after the first lines, Wolff brings in the action: a dramatic scene. We are introduced to the woman in line and her purpose serves the setting and furthermore, triggers Anders’ voice. “One of those little human touches that keep us coming back for more,” the woman says. Her sarcasm seems to trigger the “sarcastic, unaware, and cartoon-like” voice of the protagonist, as mentioned in the New Yorker Fiction podcast.

In regards to the proxemics, Anders is now emotionally involved with a “towering hatred” of the teller, but he immediately turned it on the “presumptuous crybaby in front of him,” the woman in line. Wolff’s choice of describing Anders’ hatred at this point is clever. I would have expected Anders’ to target his emotions at the teller, but instead he becomes passive-aggressive towards the woman. This is unpredictable. It would be easy for the writer, Wolff, to make Anders respond to the teller, but his dialogue with the woman adds a new layer. “‘Damned unfair,’ he said. ‘Tragic really. If they’re not chopping off the wrong leg or bombing your ancestral village, they’re closing their positions.’” The way Anders’ speaks is true to his vocation: a critic. In dialogue, his voice is consistent.

In the following moment, Wolff describes gesture, “She sucked in her cheeks.” The characters bodies and gestures reflect the conflict. Then, the robbers make their entrance into the scene. At this point, I asked myself “How does Wolff create a bank robbery that is not cliché’ and still entertaining?” I realized Anders, as stated in the New Yorker Fiction podcast, is a cartoon-like and narcissistic critic mocking the cliché’. For instance, the cliché’ “dead meat” and Anders “… turned to the woman in front of him. ‘Great script, eh? The stern, brass-knuckled poetry of the dangerous classes.” His voice, via dialogue, keeps the scene fresh.

After the robber shoots Anders in the head, Wolff makes an interesting choice in proxemics. Instead of zooming out into the setting of the bank and the reaction of the other characters, he focuses in on the object of the bullet and it’s gestures. This is a technique I would like to practice in my writing assignment for the dramatic scene. The objects, I believe, and their relationships to the protagonist are telling. In this scene, the object’s gestures and actions are necessary to unleash Anders’ psyche. Specifically, what he does not remember and what he does remember gives his character background and purpose.

It was interesting to hear in the New Yorker Fiction podcast that this narrative can be looked at in two parts. These two parts are before the bullet and after, or before the perspective change and after. As a writer, I think it is helpful to view the structure of short narratives in this way. Instead of focusing on the building of events, thinking of the cause and effect in perspective change is a different angle. Also, noted from the podcast, the change of language before and after the bullet. The language shifts from mocking to elated. I would like to practice this technique, as well, because it is only natural that the language changes with the perspective. For example, the different perspectives show in the “towering hatred” towards the woman and the elated metaphor of the bullet at the end. “The bullet is already in the brain; it won’t be outrun forever, or charmed to a halt. In the end it will do its work and leave the troubled skull behind, dragging its comet’s tail of memory and hope and talent and love into the marble hall of commerce.”