1. What is a novel? In small groups, students discussed what a novel is. The most useful points were
fed to the whole group and the following list was compiled.
A novel has:
a deep and long story
complex narration with a well-defined storyline
many characters – protagonist, main and side characters
an action that can jump from present to the past and from place to place
or, multiple stories that are linked amongst them by a common element
a theme or themes which is the general idea or idea behind the novel
an organization – sometimes it is divided into chapters
complex language – e.g. figures of speech
a point of view from which it is told, which can be the 1st person of a fictional narrator, or
the 3rd person of a so-called omniscient narrator .
Other defining features of the novel that were identified by students were: literary prose of over
40,000 words; allows the reader to identify with the characters; elaborate story allows psychological
development; usually fiction; many types or genres, such as sci-fi, fantasy etc.; the narration is based
in real-life problems, though their treatment is not necessarily realistic (i.e. J.R.R.Tolkien).
Some ideas about the novel from author Ursula K. Le Guin:
Even in mystery, so formally plot-driven and end-directed, resolution is by no
means always the goal. The end of a mystery is very often a let-down. The end of
most novels is a let-down. As Leonard Woolf remarked, the journey not the arrival
matters. I’ve lost my copy of Aspects of the Novel and am trying to recall E.M.
Forster’s definition — “the novel is an extended prose fiction that ends
disappointingly”? (The source is the writer’s blog).
A summary of the book mentioned above by E. M. Forster (1879-1970) follows:
E M Forster was a successful novelist and later an academic. Three of his novels, A Room with a
View (1908), Howard’s End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924) have been made into films.
In 1927 he was invited to give a series of lectures which were later published as Aspects of the Novel. To the
modern reader Forster’s comments may suffer from their age. When he first shared his thoughts, talking
movies were new and many of the twentieth century’s leading novelists and playwrights had still to emerge.
More recently, with the appearance during the 1980s and 1990s of detailed manuals on the craft of
storytelling, his insights can seem superficial.
But his observations are a primer in the essentials of storytelling. He makes a clear distinction between story
and plot, and emphasises the relationship between character and incident. And his discussion of fantasy,
prophecy and rhythm encourages us that truly great writing goes beyond storytelling.
A story is a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence — it simply tells us what happened
and in what order. It is the time sequence which turns a random collection of episodes into a story.
But chronological sequence is a very primitive feature and it can have only one merit: that of
making the audience want to know what happens next. The only skill of a storyteller is their
ability to wield the weapon of suspense, making the audience eager to discover the next event in
This emphasis on chronological sequence is a difference from real life. Our real lives also unfold
through time but have the added feature that some experiences have greater value and meaning
than others. Value has no role in a story, which is concerned with the life in time rather than the life
by values. And because human lives measured by time consist of nothing more than the business of
getting old, a story cannot sincerely lead to any conclusion but the grave.
The basis of a novel is a story — the narration of events in the order they happened — but
storytelling alone can never produce a great novel. The simple chronological narrative of War and
Peace only manages to achieve some kind of greatness because it has extended over space as well
as time, and the sense of space until it terrifies us is exhilarating, and leaves behind it an effect like
music. After one has read War and Peace for a bit, great chords begin to sound, and we cannot
exactly say what struck them. They come from the immense area of Russia, over which episodes and
characters have been scattered, from the sum-total of bridges and frozen rivers, forests, roads,
gardens, fields, which accumulate grandeur and sonority after we have passed them.
A novelist can only begin to explore the value of human experiences by developing the characters of
the story. But Forster emphasises that characters are not real people; rather they are like real
people. Characters’ lives are different from real lives, and common activities such as sleeping and
eating occupy little space in novels, whereas love is greatly over-represented. Sometimes characters
can seem to be more real than the people around us, and this is because a novelist is able to reveal
the character’s hidden life. In daily life we never understand each other, neither complete
clairvoyance nor complete confessional exists. But people in a novel can be understood completely
by the reader, if the novelist wishes; their inner as well as their outer life can be exposed. We cannot
understand each other, except in a rough and ready way; we cannot reveal ourselves, even when we
want to; what we call intimacy is only makeshift; perfect knowledge is an illusion. But in the novel
we can know people perfectly.
It is this completeness that allows characters to take on the air of being real, and gives us a
definition as to when a character in a book is real: it is real when the novelist knows everything
about it. He may not tell us all he knows, but he will give us the feeling that though the character
has not been explained, it is explicable.
Forster distinguishes between flat characters and round characters. The really flat character can be
expressed in one sentence such as ‘I will never desert Mr Micawber.’ There is Mrs Micawber — she
says she won’t desert Mr Micawber; she doesn’t, and there she is. These characters are easily
recognised when first introduced and easily remembered afterwards, and their memorability
appeals to our yearning for permanence. They are best when they are comic. A serious or tragic flat
character is apt to be a bore.
Dickens wrote flat characters superbly well. Nearly every one can be summed up in a sentence, and
yet there is this wonderful feeling of human depth. Probably the immense vitality of Dickens causes
his characters to vibrate a little, so that they borrow his life and appear to lead one of their own. It is
a conjuring trick. Part of the genius of Dickens is that he does use types and caricatures, people
whom we recognize the instant they re-enter, and yet achieves effects that are not mechanical and a
vision of humanity that is not shallow.
A round character by contrast has further dimensions to their personality, which are revealed as
events demand them. A flat character never surprises us with their behaviour, but a round
character may well surprise us with these unsuspected aspects of their nature; and the test of a
round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. Even if events never
require these characters to extend themselves, they nevertheless have the capacity. All the Jane
Austen characters are ready for an extended life, for a life which the scheme of her books seldom
requires them to lead, and that is why they lead their actual lives so satisfactorily.
Looking back to a fictional technique common in eighteenth and nineteenth century novels — that
of telling different sections of the story through different characters — Forster believes the effect of
changing viewpoint is less important than the power of the writer to bounce the reader into
accepting what he says and having a proper mixture of characters.
We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a
narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died,’ is a
story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot. The time sequence is preserved, but
the sense of causality overshadows it. Consider the death of the queen. If it is in a story we say ‘and
then?’ If it is in a plot we ask ‘why?’
A plot demands intelligence and memory on the part of the reader, to remember incidents and
create connecting threads between them. This allows the novelist to delay explanations and
introduce human mystery to the narrative. Mystery is essential to a plot, and cannot be appreciated
without intelligence, part of the mind must be left behind, brooding, while the other part goes
This relationship between cause and effect also connects the characters with the plot. Incident
springs out of character, and having occurred it alters that character. People and events are closely
connected. The balance between them is sometimes difficult to achieve though,
because characters, to be real, ought to run smoothly, but a plot ought to cause surprise. Sometimes
a plot triumphs too completely. The characters have to suspend their natures at every turn, or else
are so swept away by the course of Fate that our sense of their reality is weakened.
Fantasy and Prophecy
The general tone of novels is so literal that when the fantastic is introduced it produces a special
effect. Fantasy implies the supernatural, but it may do this by no more than simply hinting through a
magical quality in events. The stuff of daily life will be tugged and strained in various directions, the
earth will be given little tilts mischievous or pensive.
Forster includes parodies and adaptations of earlier works as forms of fantasy which allow another
writer’s imagination to take flight. Parody or adaptation have enormous advantages to certain
novelists, particularly to those who may have a great deal to say and abundant literary genius, but
who do not see the world in terms of individual men and women — who do not, in other words, take
easily to creating characters.
Prophecy is an accent in the novelist’s voice. His theme is the universe, or something universal. The
characters and events still have a specific meaning within the story, but they also have greater
resonances. In Dostoyevsky the characters and situations always stand for more than themselves;
infinity attends them.
This is different from symbolism, in which characters and events represent concrete meanings.
Rather prophecy is about mysterious, imprecise meanings which connect us with the history of
humankind. It is not a veil, it is not an allegory. It is the ordinary world of fiction, but it reaches
back. Melville — after the initial roughness of his realism — reaches straight back into the universal,
to a blackness and sadness so transcending our own that they are undistinguishable from glory.
Pattern and Rhythm
A novel has a pattern when it has a geometric shape, such as the hour-glass shape of one
character’s social fall crossing over with another’s social climb, or the circular shape of a character
moving from one new acquaintance to the next until they finally return to their starting
point. Pattern is an aesthetic aspect of the novel, and though it may be nourished by anything in the
novel — any character, scene, word — it draws most of its nourishment from the plot. Whereas the
story appeals to our curiosity and the plot to our intelligence, the pattern appeals to our aesthetic
sense, it causes us to see the book as a whole.
But forcing the characters to fit an external pattern, instead of allowing the plot to grow organically,
causes a novel to lose the immense richness of material which life provides. To most readers of
fiction the sensation from a pattern is not intense enough to justify the sacrifices that made it, and
their verdict is ‘Beautifully done, but not worth doing.’
Rhythm on the other hand is like a musical motif which reappears with slight variations and helps to
unify the novel. Such a motif has a life of its own, unconnected with the lives of its auditors. It is
almost an actor, but not quite, and that ‘not quite’ means that its power has gone towards stitching
[the] book together from the inside.
The appearance of a motif is not an artificial pattern, and there are times when it means nothing
and is forgotten, and this seems to me the function of rhythm in fiction; not to be there all the time
like a pattern, but by its lovely waxing and waning to fill us with surprise and freshness and hope. I
doubt that it can be achieved by the writers who plan their books beforehand, it has to depend on a
local impulse when the right interval is reached. But the effect can be exquisite, it can be obtained
without mutilating the characters, and it lessens our need of an external form.
2. 3 extracts from Austen, Dickens and Atwood (Literature and Criticism LC page 10+). Students read
and extract information about plot, characters, language.
3. Higher level students read opening pages of Tess D’Urbervilles. Vocabulary, context hints, and
advice on how to read a difficult novel. Use of idiosyncratic spelling to convey regional variant
(Wessex) of the English language – why? How does language help characterization?
4. Aspects of the novel quote by E. M. Forster: “The king died and then the queen died is a storyline;
the king died and then the queen died of grief is a plot”; characters, setting, language and style,
narrative point of view).
5. Students did the activity on page 38 of English A1 Course Companion, analyzing characters in
fragment of Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence (group work). Character analysis and plot prediction
6. John Cheever. The Enormous Radio. Creating a thesis statement based on a text / finding
evidence in the text to support it:
In “The ER”, JC offers a critical view of hypocrisy in the American upper middle class.
“The ER” is a symbol of the protagonist’s conscience.
Irene Wescott undergoes a significant change as a consequence of “the ER”.
New technology influences deeply the lives of the characters in “The ER”.
In “The ER”, the characters stick to traditional gender roles until they are faced with conflict.
7. Higher level students read 4 poems that deal with the theme of language imperialism / cultural
hegemony (Discovering Poetry pp. 126-127). In pairs, they improvised recitations and the others
formed buzz groups that responded to the poems. The following period they brainstormed ideas
for a commentary on a poem of their choice. Their notes were e-mailed to all students.
A Black Man’s Song (Ina, Noam, Ana)
Theme: the difference between the way we see ourselves and the way others see us
Language: rhetorical questions; slang; repetitions; similes; epithets
Structure: 7 stanzas, written on two columns facing each other, in order to emphasize how
a black man is seen by others and by himself.
Format: Stanzas divided into columns; it looks like he (the black man) is facing a mirror.
The stanzas on the left are questions about himself and the answers on the right side are
descriptions of what he sees in the mirror.
This England? (Jonathan, Scotty)
Police appears out of nowhere in the middle of the night with weapons to intimidate some
Question mark in title: rhetorical question containing irony. The promised land of England
comes with guns and police?
The policeman shows two faces, trying to intimidate the immigrants but also assuring them
they have nothing to fear “if they’re legal”. Also he means that they’re in trouble if they
The brevity makes the poem like a snapshot of an event
The use of enjambement
This England? (Brenda, Sasha)
3 stanzas: 2 couplets, 1 quatrain
The poem starts with an ellipsis … which shows that the action doesn’t have a clear start –
starts in the middle
Enjambement is present throughout the poem: “…guests at midnight / stopping / outside
the house” – showing the speed with which the action develops; “demands/ her name” –
creates suspense; makes the reader wonder what will the man demand; “(through/ an
interpreter)” – shows the ignorance of “the man without the gun”.
“This England?” is a quote from a famous play by W. Shakespeare in which King Henry V
delivers a patriotic speech; rhetorical question; sarcastic; refers to the decline of the English
tolerance and morals.
The theme is the oppression of the immigrants
“Mammie” – stereotypical name for an elderly black woman
Civilisation (Ada, Andreea G, Gianina)
The title refers to the time when the white people came to Australia
Epithets – “white man”, “strange cult”
The theme is racism
The poem is written in blank verse; it sounds like the poet is telling a story.
It’s a narrative poem that has many repetitions and enumerations: “policemen’, “lawyers”,
“middlemen”. “brokers”, “financiers”, “millionaires”
from mamma dot (Charles, Andreea S)
Each couplet represents a day of the week and an event
Topic: an Afro-American woman who is traumatized by events such as becoming a slave.
Format: it sounds like a song, probably to make the content seem less horrible.
Structure: poem is structured in 7 couplets.
Language: does not use long, difficult words; stylistic devices; uses improper English on
purpose to show the intelligence of a person [???] back then
The text is fluent, dynamic, which once again tries to minimalize the hardship the woman
The text begins with her birth and ends with her freedom, even though she dies.
The whole poem represents a metaphor itself.
8. Higher level students read Not Waving, But Drowning by Stevie Smith with accompanying
commentary (Unit 12 in Persuade and Analyse, The Literacy Kit by Geoff Barton), which was
deconstructed listing good points and points in need of improvement. Students were asked to write
a one-page commentary on a poem of their choice.
9. Higher level students watched the first 20 minutes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999). This
was introduced by a brief presentation of Shakespeare and The Globe.
10. Students read Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield. In groups, they wrote outlines of plot,
characters, theme, setting, language and a thesis statement for a future essay.
11. Higher level students read the first act of MSND with teacher guidance. Students watched the
next 20 minutes of MSND (up to Act 3, Scene 1). Students watched Act 3 of MSND. Students
summarize the plot of the first 3 acts.
12. Students reflect in writing on the components of a literary commentary (teacher assessed).
These ought to include:
Analysis - what you notice about the text
Judgment / interpretation – what you think about the text
Evidence in the form of summary, paraphrases and quotes (separate and embedded)
Use of specific terminology – characters, narrator, point of view, plot, theme, imagery,
Structure and unity, given by an original thesis or main point of the commentary and
developed in a distinct introduction, body and conclusion
Use of formal register
13. Students engage with three poems (Literature and Criticism pp. 54-55) with the goal of
understanding the text by suggesting ways to recite the poems. They record their readings and
explain why they adopted a certain tone or voice.
14. Higher level students finished watching MSND.
15. Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Students created posters of the five main
characters, including quotes for characterization.
16. Higher level finished reading MSND. Quote from The Tempest (“We are such stuff as dreams are
made on…”) and brief discussion of the theme of reality and illusion in Shakespeare. Some
questions that were asked:
What is the purpose of the play within the play?
What is the effect of the use of so many oxymorons in MSND? What is the coincidence of
What is the purpose of the juxtaposition of the happy/ unhappy love stories in MSND?
Who are ‘the shadows’ in Puck’s Epilogue?
17. Handout: Tips for a good opinion essay. Outlined the main components: analysis (what we
notice), judgment (what we think), evidence (summary, paraphrase, quote – do a separate lesson),
use of literary terms.
18. Higher level students re-read the end of Act 3 Scene 3 and beginning of Act 4 scene 1 of MSND
and re-wrote the script in modern English (line by line). They also read a short handout on
Shakespeare’s plot scheme (introduction – complication – complication – complication –
resolution), dynamic / symmetric structure, themes (conflict, change, love, order and disorder,
appearance and reality), and language (creating atmosphere and imagery).
19. Students presented their character sketches of Nick Carraway, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, and
Jordan Baker. A class discussion on characterization was then followed up with an independent
writing activity – students wrote a brief character sketch of a classmate, which was then read out
loud to the group and ‘deciphered’.
20. Higher level students read and discussed the section on Shakespeare from English A1 Course
Companion pp. 148-152, paying attention to the themes of love, reality and illusion, change, in A
Midsummer Night’s Dream.
21. Preparation for Paper 2 – Students brainstormed in groups in response to prompts in the
literature section from past papers.
22. Higher level students read The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.
23. Students watched the film version of 1984 by George Orwell (with John Hurt).
24. Higher level students read the opening scene from Hamlet and discussion of the possible
reasons for Shakespeare’s success both in his time and nowadays. Students will do short
presentations on Shakespeare plays, starting with Andreea Savu on Shakespeare and The Globe.
Act I, 1, 112 Horatio: “A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.”
25. In groups, students wrote summaries of the first five chapters of The Great Gatsby and
presented their summaries, along with one significant quote from each chapter, to the class.
26. In groups, students scripted and produced dramatizations of the first five chapters of The Great
Gatsby: dinner party at the Buchanans’ in East Egg; party at Myrtle Wilson’s place in Manhattan;
garden party at Gatsby’s house in West Egg; Jordan Baker tells Nick Carraway all about Daisy
Buchanan’s pre-marital affair with Gatsby; Gatsby meets Daisy for the first time in five years (shirt
scene). All groups presented coherent and credible performances. The group that performed
Chapter V (Alex, Rares, Vlad, Marin) did an outstanding job.
27. We read a poem and attempted to comment on it at first sight (as students must do for Paper
1). The poem chosen was Writing by Jan Dean (Poetry Then and Now). Guiding questions were used
and students gave their answers orally as they would in the individual oral exam, with as little
interruption as possible from the others.
28. Higher level students give Shakespeare presentations as followes: Charles Elian – The Tempest;
Noam Yossef – Hamlet; Sasha – Richard III; Ada – As You like It; Andreea G – Comedy of Errors;
Scotty – King Lear; Ana – Macbeth; Brenda – All’s Well That Ends Well; Ina – Othello; Andreea S –
The Merchant of Venice; Iulia – The Taming of the Shrew.
29. Students prepared a table of symbols in The Great Gatsby by looking up the pages where they
appear, finding a relevant quote, and giving an explanation for each symbol. The symbols chosen for
the exercise were Daisy’s voice “full of money”; Gatsby’s car; the green light at the end of the
Buchanans’ dock in East Egg; the clock on the mantelpiece at Nick’s place; Dr. T. J. Eckelberg’s eyes;
“the valley of ashes” where George Wilson’s garage was situated.
30. Students sat a Paper 1 test. The test contained two similar prose texts drawn from Tales from
Other Cultures, one about a school for the blind in India, the other about a boarding school in China.
They were allowed to consult their textbook on Commentary Writing.
31. The Great Gatsby chapter questions (see below – this was also e-mailed to all students). The
pre-reading and post-reading questions along with the questions for one chapter to be chosen by
the student were assigned as homework over the semester break. The chapter questions for
chapter 7 were answered in class in groups.
The Great Gatsby Chapter Questions
1. Why are we still reading a book written in the 1920's? What gives a book its longevity?
2. How was the 1920's a reaction to WWI?
3. Some people think that having money leads to happiness. Do you agree? Why or why not? What are the advantages or
disadvantages of being wealthy.
4. What is the "American Dream"? Where did it originate, and how has it changed over the centuries?
5. Have you ever wanted to relive a moment from your past, to redo it? Describe the situation. How and why would you change
1. Notice how many times Fitzgerald uses the words hope, or dream. Why does he do this?
2. Nick starts the novel by relaying his father's advice "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the
people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." List Nick's advantages. Does he reserve judgement in the
3. Pay attention to time. What is the day and year during the first scene at Daisy's house?
4. Describe Nick. What facts do you know about him, and what do you infer about him? What kind of a narrator do you think he
5. What image does the author use to describe Jordan Baker? What does it mean?
6. How does Nick react to Jordan?
7. What does Tom's behavior reveal about his character?
1. Describe the "valley of ashes." What does it look like and what does it represent?
2. Describe Mr. Wilson and Myrtle. Do they seem to fit into the setting?
3. What more have you learned about Nick in this chapter? Is he similar or different than the people he spends his time with?
4. Describe the violent act Tom committed against Myrtle. What does this reveal about him?
1. Pay attention to Nick's judgements. What do they reveal about his character that he does this (especially in relation to his
2. Describe Gatsby the first time Nick sees him.
3. What rumors have been told about Gatsby? Why does Fitzgerald reveal rumors rather than fact?
4. What does Nick think of Gatsby after meeting him?
5. How is Gatsby different from his guests?
6. Why does Nick choose to share his thoughts and feelings with Jordan?
7. Nick thinks he's one of the few honest people he knows, why? Do you think he is honest?
1. List all of the rumors told about Gatsby.
2. Why does Fitzgerald list all of Gatsby's party guests?
3. Why does Gatsby tell Nick about his life? Do you believe Gatsby? Does Nick?
4. What role does Meyer Wolfsheim play in the novel? Why is there so much focus on his nose and what does this tell you
about Fitzgerald's politics?
5. What does Jordan's story of Daisy's marriage reveal about Daisy?
6. Why did Gatsby want Daisy to see his house?
7. Nick says, "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired." What does Nick mean? How does each
character in the novel fit into this schema?
1. Why does Gatsby deliver so many goods and services to Nick's house?
2. Describe the effect of rain on the plot.
3. Why does Gatsby offer Nick work? How does Nick feel about this?
4. Explain the significance of the green light.
5. Why does Gatsby get so many phone calls? What does this say about him?
1. How truthful was Gatsby when he relayed the story of his life to Nick? Why does Fitzgerald tell the story of Jay Gatz now?
2. Describe the meeting of Tom and Gatsby. What does this meeting reveal about them?
3. Why did Daisy and Tom find Gatsby's party loathsome?
4. How did Gatsby measure the success of his party?
5. When Nick told Gatsby that "you can't repeat the past", Gatsby replied, "Why of course you can!" Do you agree with Nick or
1. Who is Trimalchio? Explain how this describes Gatsby.
2. Describe Daisy and Gatsby's new relationship.
3. Compare George Wilson and Tom. What did each man learn about his wife and how did they each react?
4. If Daisy says she's never loved Tom, is there someone whom she thinks she loves?
5. Describe the fight between Gatsby and Tom. What do these men think of each other? How are they similar and how are
6. What was significant about Nick's 30th birthday?
7. What do you think Tom and Daisy were saying to each other in the kitchen? Do you think that Tom knew Daisy was driving
the "death car"? Why, why not?
8. At this point, how would you end the novel?
1. How does Fitzgerald achieve a melancholic mood in the beginning of this chapter?
2. How are seasons used in constructing this novel?
3. Who is Dan Cody and what is his significance in Gatsby's life?
4. How does Nick's statement "You're worth the whole bunch put together" show a change in Nick from the beginning of the
5. How does T. J. Eckleberg affect Mr. Wilson?
1. Why did Nick take care of Gatsby's funeral?
2. How was Jay Gatz's childhood schedule consistent with the adult Gatsby's behavior?
3. Who attended Gatsby's funeral? How and why is this significant?
4. What is the purpose of Nick's last meeting with Jordan?
5. Why does Nick call Tom and Daisy "careless people"?
1. Does this novel have villains and heroes? Why, why not? If yes, who fits into these categories and why?
2. Nick is both part of the action and acting as an objective commentator. Does this narration style work? Why, why not?
3. How did Fitzgerald use weather to reflect the mood of the story?
4. Again, why are we still reading a book written in the 1920's? What gives a book its longevity? And which of its themes are
eternal in the American psyche?
From TeacherVision: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/literature/resource/2924.html?detoured=1#ixzz1E0f1iZwM
32. HL1 – Students wrote reflections on what they have learned from studying A Midsummer
Night’s Dream. Some answers are summarized below:
- Shak. creates stereotypical characters that still exist in our society and hence can give us
clues about human behaviour.
- Love has a happy end.
- There is a thin line between reality and fantasy.
- Shak.’s themes can be generalized – jealousy, love, revenge, justice, fantasy – despite the
different historical context of the plays.
- Shak.’s settings are abstract and symbolical.
- Shak. had a flair for creating “immortal” characters.
- Shak. was a very diverse writer who created many worlds in his comedies, tragedies, and
- The Elizabethan era is reflected in Shak.’s work.
- The theme of good vs. Evil and “the forbidden fruit” are often apparent in Shak.’s plays.
- Playing Shak. helps us better understand the symbols in his plays.
33. Students began reading The Chosen People by Stuart Ewen (handout). The article and how it
relates to the context of The Great Gatsby will be discussed Friday 4 March.
34. HL1 – Introduction to Pride and Prejudice. Who was Jane Austen? When did she live? What do
we know about life in Georgian England?
35. HL1 – Handout with rondel, sonnet, limerick; we read Sonnet 130 of Shakespeare; students
were asked to write a fixed form poem of their own.
36. Students read To a Mouse (1785) by Robert Burns, comparing the English of the poem with
standard modern English. The poem contains the proverbial line “The best laid plan of mice and
men / Oft go awry” and we discussed the significance of the title of Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and
Men. Students then finalized the proposals and dates for the first oral interactive activity.
37. HL1 – Chapters 1, 2 from Pride and Prejudice. Some of the topics that were discussed include:
Economic forces and social structure in Georgian England – especially the place occupied by
women and the importance of class distinctions
Social norm and form – forming and maintaining relationships; courtship and marriage
Modern norm and form – introductions, behaviour at parties, socializing, finding a spouse
Author’s wit and dialogic style – quick repartee and subtle humour contributing to the
overall impression of light-hearted, yet uncannily lucid social satire
38. Watched The Great Gatsby (1974). Discussed the screen version of the novel by Scott Fitzgerald.
39. HL1 – Pride and Prejudice cont’d.
“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” (p.7)
“There is so much of gratitude and vanity in every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to
itself. ...When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.”
“We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say
something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with the éclat of a
proverb.” (p. 88)
Learning how to learn: taking notes, making comments, i.e. on the art of saying nothing p. 89, 94;
the art of being tart p. 91; the characters’ apparent inability to think or feel for themselves, always
gossiping, talking about others and influencing one another’s opinion to the point where it might be
difficult to determine what each one DOES feel.
Students illustrated several Jane Austen quotes:
A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to
matrimony in a moment.
A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.
Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies.
Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.
Husbands and wives generally understand when opposition will be vain.
Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jane_austen.html#ixzz1IAdPrsHu
40. In groups, students identified the plot, characters, setting, language, theme, and symbols in the
novella Of Mice and Men. They created posters and added significant quotes from the text.
In class discussion, we identified the structure of classical Greek tragedy present in the novella,
“inverted” by Steinbeck as classical Greek tragedy contained characters that belonged to the ruling
class and the nobility, whereas Steinbeck’s story contains characters from the opposite end of
society; we commented on the humanity of the characters, and wondered whether the characters
seemed idealized; and discussed the role played by Crooks as “spokesperson” for the theme (p. 82
in the Penguin edition).
41. HL1 – Students wrote a paragraph comparing and contrasting the views of romantic love in A
Midsummer Night’s Dream vs. Pride and Prejudice. Their papers were read by peers and a list of
similarities and differences was produced. Views of romantic love in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
and Pride and Prejudice
Both works present the social factor in love, and especially marriage, using the father
figures to impose their wishes on their daughters. Through the union of their respective
daughters, both Mr. Bennett and Egeus seek advance on the social ladder.
In MSND, love is expressed in a lively, active, always changing way.
The love in P&P is stiff, based on the social principle of finding a man who can support a
Both works use their settings to describe the different aspects of love. P&P is set in the
socially-conscious, rule-bound early 19th century England, in contrast with the dominant
nature setting of ASND in which the characters elope. (Brenda’s group)
In both cases, a female character decides to follow her heart and marry the man she
In both works, the parents have an important role in the characters’ lives. They try to
be the ones who make the decision about the marriage of their children.
The relationships between the characters keep changing, and are not stable and
constant throughout the whole development of the plot.
In MSND, some elements of fantasy are used, whereas P&P has a more realistic
In MSND, there is a low class society too, whereas in P&P there is no such class.
Priority for marriage is love in MSND, whereas in P&P the important thing is the social
Marriage as a result of love (MSND) vs. marriage as a result of social conditions (P&P).
42. Students watched Of Mice and Men, 1939, with Lon Chaney Jr and Burgess Meredith.
43. In four groups, students explored the themes of good life (Radu, France, Yonathan, Noam; Iulia,
Ada, Rares, Alex, Marin), racism (Vlad, Brenda, Geanina, Charlie, Andrees G) and love (Razvan, Ina,
Ioana, Ana, Scotty) in Steinbeck’s novella. They created posters and/or presentations that included
representative quotes. Some questions that arose from the presentations were:
Good life – Does Steinbeck put forth a global vision of his own of what a good life is?
Racism – “Books is no good...” (Crooks). Can the origin of racism be fear? Can there be other forms
of discrimination that are based on fear? Why is Curley’s wife such a source of anxiety around the
Love – Does Lennie’s death signify that love has a dark side, too? That its dark side – so to speak –
can only be controlled to some extent, like Lennie’s superhuman strength?
44. HL1 – Pride and Prejudice – plot summary up to Chapter 36; done by students with teacher help,
identifying Longbourne, Netherfield, London, Hunsford, and later on Pemberley as “centers of
action”; discussion of Darcy’s letter as the turning point: “She grew absolutely ashamed of herself...
I have been blind, prejudiced...” (p.202); theme: truth vs. appearance; impossibility/difficulty of
45. Literary option test with the following questions:
1. Discuss instances of courage in the two works that we have studied. Based on these
instances, how would you define courage?
2. Show how good and evil forces are represented in two literary works that you have studied.
3. What do authors’ descriptions of places contribute to our understanding of their stories?
Discuss with reference to the two works studied.
1. Discuss the role that regret plays in at least two works studied. How is regret important to
the works’ central ideas or themes?
2. A good life means different things to different people. Consider how a good life is
represented in at least two works studied.
3. Literature often depends on the use of suspense. Consider how suspense is created and
sustained in the two works studied.
46. SUMMARY OF ORAL INTERACTIVE PRESENTATIONS
5.04.11 Noam, Andreea
Shakespeare’s view of love and use of the love theme in different works
- why Shak’s plays have withstood the test of time – great story-teller, invented unequalled
characters, created language by inventing expressions that have become clichés, such as
“To be or not to be, that is the question” (Hamlet), “something rotten in Denmark”
(Hamlet), “O, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Romeo and Juliet).
- in many plays and sonnets, there is a love triangle.
8.04.11 Rares, Alex, Radu, Vlad, Marin
The Modern Gatsby – film presentation
I James Gatz playing billiards with Dan Cody
II Nick Carraway visits the Buchanans’; Tom Buchanan does business in China and hates the Chinese
III Daisy asks Tom for new shoes and clothes
IV Party at Gatsby’s house; attended by Columbeanu, Gaddafi, Justin Bieber
V Gatsby asks Nick to arrange a meeting with Daisy
VI Tom takes Daisy home from the party
VII Daisy meets Gatsby and visits his house; he shows her his miniature airplane fleet
VII Daisy and Gatsby stroll in the garden, exchanging memories and promises
VIII Gatsby, Nick, Tom and Daisy meet in Gatsby’s office located in the WTC; all 4 die in the terrorist
attack of 11 September 2001; this marks the end of the “American Dream”.
13.04.11 Iulia, Ada, Andreea G, Geanina, Ioana
Rehearsing Shakespeare (Act III, Scene 2 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
During the rehearsal of act III, scene 2 of MSND, the director (Iulia) is occasionally stepping in and
stopping the rehearsal to give advice, scold, of have a tantrum; there is a heated exchange between
the director and the actress playing Helena (Andreea), who wants to take ‘baby steps’ and a fight
with the actor playing Lysander (Ada), ‘the most poetical lover’, who eventually returns on stage
and apologizes; great acting by Geanina (Hermia)!
After the rehearsal, based on the entirely rewritten script of Act III, Scene 2, the players talk about
their characters and the theme of the ‘play within the play’, so often used by Shakespeare himself
(for example in MSND, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet).
15.04.11 Ana, Ina, Brenda, Sasha, Scotty
Shakespeare Night Live
The host of a talk show about Shakespearean characters (Brenda) invites different characters from
Shakespeare’s plays on stage to talk about themselves. The show has two parts and two sets of
characters accordingly: The Supernatural (Ariel- Ana and Titania-Ina) and Questionable Morals
(Richard III-Sasha and Macbeth-Scotty). Ariel is a personification of intelligence and high feelings,
who represents the belief that ‘optimism and delight are possible’, Titania talks about her marital
troubles with Oberon, Richard III tries to play the part of a courageous and innocent leader,
pretending not to know anything about the people he had murdered, and Macbeth seems to be
possessed of a great sense of humor concerning his meeting with the weird sisters, the
assassination of the rightful king, his wife’s madness, and the whole horrific chain of events he
initiates throughout the play.
Bruce Wayne vs. Jay Gatsby
The presentation pointed out some of the similarities between the two protagonists, such as that
both have two faces (nocturnal / diurnal; James Gatz/Jay Gatsby; a selfless goal (save the world;
‘save’ a woman); are created by another character (Joe Chill; Daisy Buchanan); have a sidekick
(Robin; Nick); inspire a degree of fear.
21.04.11 Francesco, Jonathan
Becoming Jay Gatsby – film presentation
The film introduces Wolfsheim (France) and Gatzby (Jonathan) after WWI, when the latter was
penniless. The script is an addition to the novel that sheds light on Gatzby’s ascension to power and
wealth as Wolfsheim’s ‘apprentice’. There are humorous touches of parody in the movie, inspired
by Stallone’s character Rocky and various Dons of Mafia movies, as Gatsby learns how to conduct
the illegal business of bootlegging. Secondary characters appear in the film as well, such as Gatsby’s
personal trainer and Wolfsheim’s manservant (Radu), a bodyguard (Vlad), and a mafia boss
47. HL1 We read chapter 59 of Pride and Prejudice and discussed Mr. Bennett’s reaction to Lizzy’s
announcement of engagement to Darcy. Is P&P a myth-in-disguise after all? Why are myths so
powerful? Do they continue to influence us? We discussed these questions in relation to the much-
televised wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a typical Cinderella story.
48. After a discussion in TOK about emotions as a way of knowing, the students read a summary of
the novel Of Mice and Men and extracted the main ideas from its different sections. The result of
their work was compiled and e-mailed to all students and can also be found below.
Context (summarized by Vlad, Razvan and Rares)
John Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas, California, and as a teenager, he spent his summers
working as a hired hand on neighboring ranches.
In his acceptance speech for the 1962 Nobel Prize in literature, Steinbeck said:
“I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication
nor any membership in literature.”
Steinbeck sets Of Mice and Men against the backdrop of Depression-era America. Depression forced
agricultural workers to migrate to California. California, for numerous reasons, seems like a
Critics have faulted his work for being superficial, sentimental, and overly moralistic. Of Mice and
Men suffers from one-dimensional characters and an excessively deterministic plot.
Plot Overview (summarized by Noam and Jonathan)
George, a small, dark man with sharp features
Lennie: opposite of George; tall, shapeless face, mild mental disability, depended on George.
They share a dream of buying their own farm.
Lennie thinks that the wife of the owner’s son is pretty but George tells him to stay away.
Carlson tells Candy that they should shoot Candy’s old dog. Candy agrees he should be put out of
Candy overhears George and Lennie talking about their plan and offers his lifelong savings if they
will let him join them.
Lennie meets Curley’s wife when petting the puppies and tells her about his love for soft things, and
she lets him touch her hair. Accidentally, he pets her hair too hard and in order to shut her mouth,
he breaks her neck.
George is not angry when he finds out about the girl and out of mercy, he kills Lennie.
Only Slim understands what George had done and why.
Section 1 (summarized by Radu and Andreea S.)
During the story it becomes clear that the larger man has a mild mental disability and George is the
companion who looks out for him.
There is a strong friendship between the men and their speech is emotionally rich.
Neither of them changes significantly during the course of the narrative.
The characters are considered by critics representations of purity, goodness and fraternal devotion.
Steinbeck makes the reader sympathize with people whom society and storytellers deem unworthy
because of their class, physical or mental capacities, or the color of their skin.
The farm is their dream. A simple farm / dream means a lot to them.
Steinbeck makes the fraternal bond between George and Lennie so strong and the vision of the
farm so beautiful in order to place his protagonists at a considerable height from which to fall.
Section 2 (summarized by Charlie, France, Ada)
Lennie and George make their way to the ranch where they are greeted by Candy. He is described
as a handyman. George asks about the boss and Candy says that he is ‘a pretty nice man.’
The boss asks Lennie and George why they were late. They respond with an excuse which puts the
blame on the bus driver. When the boss asks them about their work experience, George speaks for
George warns Candy that he doesn’t like other people sticking their noses in his business. Curley, an
ex-boxer, senses that he might ‘have some fun’ at Lennie’s expense.
George and Lennie have a discussion about Curley. Curley’s wife appears.
Carlson suggests that Candy should shoot his dog. As George and Lennie prepare to leave, Curley
appears looking for his wife.
The hardships that George and Lennie go through are emphasized through details such as the
mattress that might be infested with lice and the suggestion that Carlson makes to Candy
concerning the replacement of Candy’s old dog.
Curley gets angry and becomes violent, accusing Slim of messing around with Curley’s wife. It
becomes apparent that Curley’s strength comes from dominating others.
The men in Of Mice and Men dominate the scene and long to live peaceful, untroubled lives.
Of Mice and Men derogatorily assigns women only two lowly functions: caretakers of men and sex
objects. Regardless of their place in the real world, the novel dismisses women from its vision of
Section 3 (summarized by Brenda and Andreea)
George starts confiding in Slim about his and Lennie’s past and the incident at their last farm in
Lennie returns to the bunkhouse, where Carlson complains about Candy’s dog and proposes to
shoot him because he is too old. Candy accepts and the dog is shot.
The men start playing cards and talk about Curley’s wife and a whorehouse. Curley nervously
appears and asks about Slim.
George and Lennie tell Candy about their dream of purchasing a farm and Candy is interested. He
wants to be part of the project as he has money put aside.
Curley wants to fight Slim, but instead he punches Lennie. Defending himself, Lennie breaks Curley’s
Characters (summarized by Ina and Ioana)
- although among the principal characters, the least dynamic
- undergoes no significant development throughout the novel
- loves to pet soft things
- devoted to George and their vision of the farm
- flat character
- his simplicity is central to Steinbeck’s conception of the novel
- his innocence raises him to a standard of pure goodness
- aspires to freedom
- short-tempered, loving and devoted
- changes as the story progresses
- he is an idealist
- aspires to freedom
- one of the book’s major themes and several of the dominant symbols revolve around
- old, maimed, he finds consolation in his equally old, toothless, foul-smelling dog
- relatively complex and interesting character
- when she admits to Lennie her dream of becoming a movie star, she becomes utterly
- seeks out greater weakness in others, preying upon Lennie’s mental handicap, Candy’s
age and Crooks’s skin color
- lively, sharp-witted, black stable-hand who takes his name from his crooked back
- extremely lonely
- disempowered character who turns his vulnerability into a weapon
- exhibits the corrosive effects of loneliness
Themes, Motifs and Symbols (summarized by Iulia and Ana)
“Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson about the nature of human existence”: all human beings
struggle to avoid being a prey. Because in life all humans are both prey and predators, all “seek to
destroy those who are even weaker than them.”
Lennie and George are bound by the same common dream and come to achieve the ideal
brotherhood. But a friendship that strong leads to sacrifices which can only be fully understood by
ones who have encountered such powerful friendships.
Every character in the story has his own vision of happiness and they all have their personal dream
that they want to achieve, but the harsh real world shows them that “such paradises of freedom,
contentment and safety are not to be found in this world.”
Women are perceived as corrupting powers. Among the only women presented in the book, there
are the ones at the cheap hotel, who only add to the unflattering portrayal of women, and Curley’s
wife who only causes conflicts among the men at the ranch.
In that time, “the life of ranch-hands is among the loneliest of lives. All the characters suffer from
profound loneliness and all need a companion or search for a true friend.” For George, “the hope of
such companionship dies with Lennie, and true to his original estimation, he will go through life
George and Lennie’s common dream of having their few acres of land on which they will grow their
own food represents their dream of freedom, self-reliance, and protection from the cruelties of the
Analysis of significant quotes from the novel (summarized by Geanina and Sasha)
Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They
don’t belong no place…With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that
gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got
no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not
Steinbeck idealizes male friendship, suggesting that they are the most dignified and satisfying way
to overcome the loneliness that pervades the world.
As self-declared “watchdog” of society, Steinbeck set out to expose and chronicle the circumstances
that cause human suffering.
In this environment, in which human life is utterly disposable, the loss of such a beautiful and
powerful friendship should be mourned.
“S’pose they was a carnival or a circus come to town, or a ball game, or any damn thing.” Old Candy
nodded in appreciation of the idea. “We’d just go to her,” George said. “We wouldn’t ask nobody if
we could. Jus say, ‘We’ll go to her,’ an’ we would. Jus’ milk the cow and sling some grain to the
chicken an’ go to her.”
The vision of the farm is the fuel that keeps them going. As soon as Candy offers up his life savings
for a down payment on the property, George’s vision of the farm becomes even more real.
A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin’ books or thinkin’ or stuff like that. Sometimes he
gets thinkin’, an’ he got nothing to tell him what’s so an’ what ain’t so. Maybe if he sees somethin’,
he don’t know whether it’s right or not. He can’t turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it
too. He can’t tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out there. I wasn’t drunk. I don’t
know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an’ then it would be all
right. But I jus’ don’t know.
Crooks speaks these words to Lennie on the night that Lennie visits Crooks in his room. As a black
man with a physical handicap, he is forced to live on the periphery of ranch life. Crooks’s desire for a
friend by whom to “measure” things echoes the theme of loneliness, displayed by all men on the
I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’
that same damn thing in their hands…every damn one of ‘em got a little piece of land in his head.
Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody ever gets
to heaven, and nobody gets no land.
49. HL1 – We read the final chapters 60 and 61 of P&P and watched la last 45 minutes of the
feature film (2009). The screen version is much more romantic than the book, although of course
the happy ending does lend itself to this interpretation (which might or might not have been a
concession that ‘realist’ Austen made to decorum and public taste; considering that she herself
never married, one wonders). The final lesson of the book seems to be contained in the
protagonist’s words: ”I’ve been blind…” as we are encouraged to look harder and deeper than what
can be superficially observed.
50. HL1 – Presentation of Thomas Hardy (1840-1926) , author of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and the
connection with Wessex, an ancient Saxon region that has retained many traces of historical and
pre-historical living, where his novels are placed.
The Windle map of Hardy's Wessex, 1906.
Bertram Windle published a topographical guide titled The Wessex of Thomas Hardy.
(This map, courtesy of The Thomas Hardy Association, has been chosen for its relative clarity.)
Thomas Hardy first used the term "Wessex" in his 1874 novel, Far From the Madding
In reprinting this story for a new edition I am reminded that it was in
the chapters of "Far From the Madding Crowd," as they appeared
month by month in a popular magazine, that I first ventured to adopt
the word "Wessex" from the pages of early English history, and give
it a fictitious significance as the existing name of the district once
included in that extinct kingdom. The series of novels I projected being
mainly of the kind called local, they seemed to require a territorial
definition of some sort to lend unity to their scene.
--- from Hardy's Preface to the novel, 1895-1902
The extinct kingdom to which Hardy refers, of course, is that ancient kingdom of the West
Saxons known as Wessex. From the sixth to the tenth centuries the boundaries of Wessex
expanded and contracted as wars went favorably or otherwise, but the heart of the
kingdom, with its capital at Winchester, always lay in southwest England, and in large part
approximated the area indicated by the map displayed above.
King Alfred the Great of Wessex, who styled himself King of the English, ruled from 871-
899, and did much to consolidate the kingdom and advance the development of what was
to become the English monarchy. It was during the reign of King Athelstan (925-939),
however, that the royal house of Wessex reached a peak of splendor and success, and the
Wessex king could proudly lay claim to the title "King of all Britain".
The Battle of Hastings in 1066 sounded the death knell of the Saxon monarchy. When
William the Conqueror claimed the English throne he quickly put down all resistance, and
the Saxon nobility were largely destroyed and almost entirely dispossessed.
The bones of many of the kings of Wessex repose in mortuary chests within Winchester
Cathedral. That city was the royal and ecclesiastical center of Wessex, and the site of a
minster church since the year 648.
Hardy's concept of Wessex, as we know it today, did not spring full-blown from his mind
at an early stage. Rather, it evolved over the years in both size and exactitude as his
imagination formulated a unifying geographic canvas for his novels and poems.
It was not until about 1884, when he began to write The Mayor of Casterbridge, that
"... Hardy achieved a full realization of the Wessex concept, a realization which depended
on the establishment of Casterbridge itself... as the central point, the economic,
administrative, and social capital, of a whole region". (From Michael Millgate's Thomas
Hardy: His Career as a Novelist, which devotes a chapter to "The Evolution of Wessex".)
In 1895-96, Hardy painstakingly revised his novels for the Osgood, McIlvaine collected
editions soon to be published. He systematically changed place names and topography to
conform consistently with the fictitious Wessex he had formulated. For example, actual
place names were used in The Trumpet-Major when originally published in 1880; now
Dorchester became Casterbridge, Weymouth became Budmouth, and so on. In other cases
distances and directions were changed to conform to the actual landscape of the region. In
Far From the Madding Crowd, for example, when driving the funeral cart from
Casterbridge to Weatherbury, Joseph Poorgrass originally went up a hill, looked left to the
sea, and saw high hills; this was modified to down a hill, looked right to the sea, and saw
long ridges. The new wording more accurately describes what one would actually
experience in traveling that route from west to east. Further revisions were made in later
years for later editions, until finally Hardy's vast works conformed to the region that he
envisioned and called Wessex. But as Thomas Hardy himself always maintained, "This is
an imaginative Wessex only".
51. Watched documentaries about the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression
Follow the links below to watch on your own.
52. HL1 – Tess, Phase the First, Chapters I-XI, The Maiden
We re-read the beginning and end of the first chapter (p. 5 and 10, 12, 13); then the end of the
book at Stonehenge (p. 466-468) and the character of Tess was briefly introduced: “the invincible
instinct toward self-delight.”
p. 5 In the very beginning, the parson meets John Durbeyfield and reveals to him the noble ancestry
of the D’Urbervilles, a family of Norman knights, now extinct, whose tombs and effigies are to be
found in famous churches. Immediately John Durbeyfield’s view of himself changes and he asks a
boy who was passing by to send for a horse and carriage.
p. 10 In the historic district of Blackmoor – aka the Forest of the White Hart – a group of teenage
girls enact an ancient ritual known as club-walking – a May Day dance. The girls are all dressed in
white, holding flowers and willow wands in their hands. Only one of them, Tess Durbeyfield, “wore
a red ribbon in her hair, and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such a
pronounced adornment.” John Durbeyfield, drunk, passes by in a chaise belonging to the tavern
called The Pure Drop.
p.12-13 Three gentlemen “from a superior class” look on the girls’ dance. One of them joins in, but
leaves when the church clock strikes. One girl stands apart as she looks longingly across the hill as
the departing figure diminishes in the distance – Tess.
p. 466-8 The two lovers who have come full circle take refuge among the ruins of Stonehenge. The
ancient pagan temple is a place of mystery and peace, suggesting that the remote past may be the
only place where lovers may still find sanctuary. The police find them there and her husband Angel
Clare lets go of Tess as she is taken into custody for the murder of Alec d’Urberville (Stokes).
Tess is an outsider or a non-conformist not because she chooses a revolutionary path in life, but
simply because she aspires to a greatness of life to match the greatness of her heart. The world in
which she lives is too small to contain her. Like any tragic hero or heroine, she explores life to the
fullest, until she is, in the end, or seems to be, quite done with it: “I have had enough, and now I
shall not live for you to despise me.”
53. – Arthur Miller, “Tragedy and the Common Man”; “Death of a Salesman” Act I – class reading.
Linda: “Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a man.” (p. 39)
Willy: “Lick the world.” (p. 45)
54. Tess, Phase the First, Chapter III
Students read and summarized this chapter in class. We discussed the importance that Hardy assigned to
family in shaping one’s destiny, and, in the case of Tess, the disastrous effect of her parents’ inability to deal
with the reality of their lives on the children, especially Tess, the eldest.
Some questions we addressed: What is the role of myth or fairy tale in Tess? How does the past influence the
future? What embedded myths do we have today (if we can uncover them) and how do they influence us?
In class, students began working on the following task.
Read the quotes below and write a short comment based on one of them (100-150 words). The first one is an
Mrs. Durbeyfield habitually spoke the dialect; her daughter, who had passed the Sixth Standard in the National
School under a London-trained mistress, spoke two languages: the dialect at home, more or less; ordinary
English abroad and to persons of quality.”
By identifying “the dialect at home” and “ordinary English” as “two languages”, Hardy suggests that the
barrier between mother and daughter is more than just a difference of education. The daughter can speak
and understand the mother’s language, which, metaphorically, implies that she can relate to her mother and
embrace her mother’s own understanding within hers (but not the other way around). However, because of
her other language, the daughter is also a participant in a world outside of her mother’s grasp. There is a mild
irony in Hardy’s tone: by juxtaposing “home” and “abroad”, Mrs. Durbeyfield and “persons of quality”, he
seems to make a veiled allusion to Tess’s real or perceived haughtiness. The two languages she possesses
represent two worlds or two levels of reality: the world at home, with its comforts and shortcomings, and the
world abroad, with its dangers and perspectives.
Even now, when burdened with a young family, Joan Durbeyfield was a passionate lover of tune. No ditty
floated into Blackmoor Vale from the outer world but Tess’s mother caught up its notation in a week.
What can you infer about Joan Durbeyfield from this detail? Can you think of contemporary examples of the
kind of attitude toward fashion or novelty that she represents?
The personal charms which Tess could boast of were in main part her mother’s gifts, and therefore unknightly,
“Unknightly, unhistorical” in this passage refers to Tess’s humble ancestry on her mother’s side, in contrast
with her knightly, historical ancestry on her father’s side. In your opinion, what is Hardy’s irony directed at?
Paraphrase this quote.
A sort of halo, an occidental glow came over life then... […] and regarding him only in his ideal presentation as
lover. (p. 22)
In this passage, Hardy comments on Joan Durbeyfield’s ability to deal with the reality of her life. What is her
attitude towards it? Do you think Hardy finds it justified? What is his tone in this passage?
All these young souls were passengers in the Durbeyfield ship – entirely dependent on the judgment of the two
Durbeyfield adults … […] shiftless house of Durbeyfield. (p.23)
What does Hardy allow the reader to infer about the role of parents and family in general in shaping human
lives? What is the role of the extended metaphor he uses here?
Liza-Lu then went to bed, and Tess, locking them all in, started on her way up the dark and crooked lane or
street not made for hasty progress, a street laid out before inches of land had value, and when one-handed
clocks sufficiently subdivided the day.
What is the meaning of “a street laid out…one-handed clocks”? How do you interpret Tess’s nocturnal
progress through this maze of streets, laid out ages ago? What does it symbolize?
55. HL1 – Tess, Phase the First.
We watched the first 20 minutes of Part 1 from the 2008 BBC production with Gemma Aterton in
the title role and discussed the change in the screenplay according to which Tess was dreaming to
become a school teacher.
We discussed “the tragic mischief” that Hardy points out in Chapter V:
He watched her pretty and unconscious munching through the skeins of smoke that pervaded the
tent, and Tess Durbeyfield did not divine, as she innocently looked down at the roses in her bosom,
that there behind the blue narcotic haze was potentially the ‘tragic mischief’ of her drama – one
who stood fair to be the blood-red ray in the spectrum of her young life. She had an attribute which
amounted to a disadvantage just now; and it was this that caused Alec d’Urberville’s eyes to rivet
themselves upon her.
56. “Death of a Salesman” Act II- finished reading the play.
Some useful quotes from “Tragedy and the Common Man” by A. Miller:
“The heroic attack on life…”
“The fateful wound from which the inevitable events spiral is the wound of indignity, and its
dominant force is indignation. Tragedy, then, is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to
evaluate himself justly.”
“From this total examination of the unchangeable environment comes the terror and the fear that
is classically associated with tragedy.”
“…fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what
and who we are in this world.”
“The thrust for freedom is the quality in tragedy which exalts. The revolutionary questioning of the
stable environment is what terrifies.”
These quotes may cast some light on our understanding of the tragedy of Willy Loman.
We discussed the tragic hero or heroine and in connection with this, students were assigned topics
for a short research-and-report activity. The topics researched: Pyrrhic victory (Radu); zugzwang
(Andreea Savu); Antigone (Rareș); groupthink (Vlad); confirmation bias (Noam); King Lear (Alex).
The reports included a presentation of Solomon Ash’s experiment with confirmation bias, i.e. the
individual’s tendency to adopt the opinions of the group due to number pressure.
57. HL1 – Tess, Phase the First – finished.
We watched the rest of Part I of the 2008 BBC production with Gemma Aterton and discussed
whether or not it is important for the economy of the novel and the development of the
protagonist’s character to find out exactly if the sex was consensual or not, in legal terms.
We discussed the social and economic conditions that lead to the “fateful” conclusion of Phase the
first : “As Tess’s own people down in those retreats are never tired of saying among each other in
their fatalistic way: ‘It was to be.’ There lay the pity of it.”
We analyzed the seemingly implacable chain of events that starts with the parson’s revelation of
John Durbeyfield’s lineage; his ensuing drunkenness and inability to take the beehives to market;
Tess’s trip by night; her sleepiness; the accident that claims the horse’s life (a horse symbolically
and ironically named Prince); Tess’ ensuing feeling of guilt and responsibility toward her family; her
decision to go “claim kin” as instructed by her mother; Alec’s inclination toward her and her
subsequent employment at Trantridge Farm; the party in town; her falling out with the rest of the
company; her rescue by Alec d’Urberville on a white horse, no small irony on Hardy’s part, and her
subsequent rape against the background of ancient forest in the mist.
Some questions that we addressed in whole-class session were : What is the effect of Hardy’s tight
construction of this sequence of events in which each leads unavoidably to the next? What is the
conclusion we are led to draw, almost as implacably, from this “plotting”?
58. A few key terms of literary theory from Aristotle’s Poetics were discussed as they relate to
“Death of a Salesman”: hamartia, “the tragic flaw”; anagnorisis, “recognition”, and peripetia,
“reversal of fortune.” The teacher retold the story of Oedipus as told by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex –
starting not at the beginning, but at the end – and tried to put it in the context of Arthur Miller’s
article “Tragedy and the Common Man.” The following is a summary of the class discussion that
Willy Loman’s tragic flaw could be his self-deceit and his ensuing attachment to what he imagines
people and the world to be. Thus he imagines his son to be a charismatic leader, his boss, a caring
benefactor, and his inability to sell, a temporary drawback; in reality, his son is a drifter, his boss is a
ruthless businessman without any sense of loyalty or duty to an old employee, and his inability to
sell door to door, a permanent impairment due to mental and physical exhaustion. Ironically, the
tragic flaw is a consequence of Willy Loman’s main positive qualities: his ability to dream and his
loyalty to his family. Because of these qualities, he is an endearing character and the audience can
feel pity for him. The “recognition” is present throughout the play, as Willy Loman slips in and out of
lucidity; his suicide in order to give the family a chance to cash in the life insurance policy is the
“reversal of fortune” that reveals Willy Loman, finally, as what he had always dreamed he was, a
leader and protector of his family. Whether or not he achieves this dream by dying, he is a tragic
hero, that is, larger than life, because he is willing to sacrifice his own life in order to achieve this
59. HL - Quotes from Tess commented by students – Ina, Iulia, Ana
60. HL – Thomas Hardy’s Prefaces to the 1st and last edition of Tess (1891 – 1912).