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American Lit Homework 2011-12

In class today, you began (some may have finished) chapter two using the questions in the reading guide.  Please finish reading chapter two or in your newer California editions, sections 2 and 3 of chapter one, using the relevant questions in same reading guide.
And figure out a way (T.V. news, the internet, newspaper) to start following the campaigns waged by the presidential candidates and their political parties.  Inform yourselves.

August 20, 2012 Homework for D, E and F blocks

posted Aug 20, 2012, 10:56 AM by Thomas Thompson

Monday night:  please be sure you have read section 3 of chapter 1, pages 21 to 30.  Before you start, look at "main idea," "why it matters now," and "terms and names" at head of section (good habit for reading all sections in this text--to orient and direct you); take time to read "One European's Story."  Also take time to examine "picture pages" found on page 22 and 27.  Read captions to pictures (e.g. the picture caption on tope of page 24).  Study the maps on pages 25 and 29--do the skill builders in your head.
By the end of the week, read rest of chapter--section 4, pages 31 to 40--examining maps and pictures and reading all sidebars such as "key players" on page 36.

Work on your reading and visual skills--consciously, skills that transcend this particular course.

August 15, 2012

posted Aug 15, 2012, 1:37 PM by Thomas Thompson

D Block Students:  Please read section 1 of chapter 1, pages 4--8, about the native American peoples.  Where appropriate, use the study guide handed out in class, but pay attention to the map of the U. S. on page 7, examining the various major tribal regions shown on map.  What common characteristics were shared among the native American groups? (page 8).  ALSO read section 2 of chapter 1, pages 14--20, using study guide where appropriate.  Examine the diagram on page 15 illustrating the Columbian Exchange.  Write out the identifications in your notebook.  Take time to look also at the various voyages undertaken by explorers on page 17.  Finally, get a sense of the Spanish Empire established in the Americas.  What has been the legacy of Spanish in many parts of the Americas today?
E and F block students:  the same as above, though I forgot to hand out study guide to E block students.

Essay topics for American literature final--Think, jot down ideas, outline, structure a good answer

posted May 21, 2012, 8:51 PM by Thomas Thompson   [ updated May 21, 2012, 8:54 PM ]

Three or four of  these essays will appear on the final

1. What does Fitzgerald say about the American Dream?  How does Gatsby represent the American dream of the 1920’s?  In what ways do the themes of dreams, wealth, and time relate to each other in the novel’s exploration of the idea of America?

2. The Catcher in the Rye contains several symbols that reveal Holden’s character.  Explain the symbolic meaning of the following:  the red hunting hat,   Allie’s baseball glove,   his concern about the ducks in Central Park,   the exhibits in Natural History Museum,   the obscenities on the school stairways and the museum

3. Many complaints have been made about the teaching of The Catcher in the Rye in high school.       Among them:  Holden’s use of vulgar language, his negative attitudes about almost everything most people take for granted, his view on religion which some see as blasphemous, and that the novel is sad, depressing and hopeless.   Do you agree or disagree with these criticisms?  In what ways did you find Holden Caulfield to be a sympathetic or quixotic figure?

4. Aristotle defines the tragic hero as a person who is neither completely virtuous nor utterly villainous.  The downfall of this tragic figure is brought about “not by vice of depravity but by some error in judgment or frailty.”  The tragic hero is “highly renowned or prosperous” so that the fall from good fortune to disaster will arouse strong emotions.  How does Jay Gatsby fit Aristotle’s description of a tragic hero?  

5. How does the chapter, “The Man I Killed,” mirror the chapter “On the Rainy River”?  How does the this story humanize the enemy?  What is its purpose?

6. “A good piece of fiction, in my view, does not offer solutions. Good stories deal with our moral struggles, our uncertainties, our dreams, our blunders, our contradictions, our endless quest for understanding. Good stories do not resolve the mysteries of the human spirit but rather describe and expand up on those mysteries.”  Write an essay in which you apply Tim O’Brien’s assessment to the several of the works we read this year—the three novels and the short stories.  (choose at least two)   ("The Open Boat,"  "Sophistication,"  "In Another Country," "Winter Dreams,"  "The Bear,"  "Phoenix Jackson")


posted May 17, 2012, 11:20 AM by Thomas Thompson


May 14: study for test on The Things They Carried

posted May 14, 2012, 2:55 PM by Thomas Thompson

Take time to review novel as a whole and the individual chapters as short stories, particularly "The Things They Carried,"  "On the Rainy River," "The Man I Killed," "Speaking of Courage," "The Lives of the Dead."
Test will have 17 multiple choice questions and two matching sections worth 18 points (35 objective questions in all); most of these deal with your ability to recall characters and events from the novel.  The written part of the test will deal with your reflection and thoughts on what you have read and understood to be the novel's meaning.  This part of the test will provide you with a number of topics from which you can choose as well as a number of quotes.

The score on this test will probably be your last major grade before the final.

Week of May 6, 2012--A, D and F: FINISH THE NOVEL; READ AND FINISH THE NOVEL; TEST . . .

posted May 7, 2012, 8:18 AM by Thomas Thompson   [ updated May 8, 2012, 8:54 AM ]


1. Monday night     "Ghost Soldiers"  pages 180 to 207.
2. Tuesday night    "Night Life," "The Lives of the Dead"  pages 208--233, the end of the novel.

reading guide:
"Ghost Soldiers" and "Night Life"
1. Knowing Rat Kiley's personality, why does he hug O'Brien when he gets lifted off by the chopper?  Does it show a little more insight into who Rat Kiley really is?  How were you affected by this show of emotion?
2. What was the main "ghost" in Vietnam?  How did O'Brien become the ghost of this story?
3. How had the relationship between O'Brien and the rest of the soldiers from Alpha Company changed after O'Brien's transfer?
4. Why did O'Brien want revenge against Bobby Jorgensen?  What was Tim's plan to get revenge against Jorgensen?  How did Tim feel after carrying out that plan?  Why?
5. How did the relationship between O'Brien and Jorgensen change after the "trick" O'Brien and Azar played on Jogensen?  Why do you think Azar went along with O'Brien's trick only to turn on him once Jorgensen figured out what was going on?
6. How does Tim change during the war?
7. How did Rat Kiley get out of active duty in Vietnam?
"The Lives of the Dead"
1. Reread the first paragraph of this chapter.  How does O'Brien set the reader up to believe this story?  What techniques does he use to convince the reader that the story is "true"?  In general, how are details used in this collection of stories in such a way that their truth is hard to deny?
2. Who was Linda and what happened to her?
3. Why do you think the narrator tells us the story about Linda?  What does it accomplish?
4. According to O'Brien what was the role of stories in Vietnam and after?  Why does he continue to tell stories about the Vietnam War, about Linda?
5. Reread the final two pages of the novel.  Consider what the young O'Brien learns about storytelling from his experience with Linda.  How does this knowledge prepare him not only for the war, but also to become a writer?  Within the parameters of this story, how would you characterize O'Brien's understanding of the purpose of fiction?  How does fiction relate to life, that is, life in a historic sense?
6. Would it change how you read this story, or this novel, if Linda never existed?  Why or why not?
7. At the end of the novel, Tim says, "I realize it is Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story."  Explain what you think he means by that.

May 2--4--the week's assignments including the weekend

posted May 2, 2012, 7:43 AM by Thomas Thompson   [ updated May 4, 2012, 11:02 AM ]

Punctuation review TEST on MONDAY!!!!  Use following link to practice proper use of apostrophes, commas, semicolons, colons, italics and quotation marks: 
Please take some time each night to practice proper punctuation and to review those vocabulary words for the final.  Internalize both.
Reading assignments in O'Brien's The Things They Carried:
1. "Stockings," "Church," "The Man He Killed," "Ambush" and "Style"  (in the new editions, 111--130.)
2. "Speaking of Courage," and "Notes" (in the new editions, 131--154)
3. "In the Field," "Good Form," and "Field Trip" (in the new editions, 155--179)

"In the Field" and "Field Trip"
1. What does Jimmy Cross blame himself for?  Why?
2. What was in Kiowa's rucksack when they found it?
3. Who do you think the "boy" was?
4. Why did the boy think he was responsible for Kiowa's death?
5. What, for Tim, was the symbolism of the field where Kiowa died?
6. When Tim returned to Vietnam twenty years after the war, what did he bring with him and what did he do that surprised his daughter?
7. What is the significance of this action for Tim?

A and D blocks: read several short chapters; use reading guide; annotate.

posted May 1, 2012, 12:03 PM by Thomas Thompson

"Stockings" and "Church"
1. Why did Henry Dobbins continue to carry his girlfriend's stockings even after she broke up with him?
2. What was Kiowa's reaction to setting up camp in a pagoda?  Why?

"The Man I Killed" and "Ambush" and "Style"
1. When O'Brien introduces the subject of "The Man I Killed," he does it with the following description:  "His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star-shaped whole, his eyebrows were thin and arched like a woman's, his nose was undamaged, there was a slight tear at the lobe of one ear, his clean black hair was swept upward into a cowlick at the rear of the skull . . ."  Why does he start here?  Why use these details?
2. This chapter describes fairly intimate aspects of the dead man's life.  Where do these details come from?  How can O'Brien know them?  What is going on here?  "From his earliest boyhood the man I killed had listened to stories about the heroic Trung sisters and Tran Hung Dao's famous rout of the Mongols and Le Loi's final victory against the Chinese at Tot Dong.  He had been taught that to defend the land was a man's highest duty and highest privilege.  He accepted this . . ."
3. For the remainder of the story O'Brien portrays himself as profoundly moved by his death:  "Later Kiowa said, "I'm serious.  Nothing anybody could do.  Come on, Tim, stop staring"  How would you describe O'Brien's emotional state in this scene?
4. In "Ambush" O'Brien tells part of "The Man I Killed" story to his daughter, Kathleen.  Consider that O'Brien might not actually have a daughter.  Would that change how you felt about the story?  If he does not have a daughter, what is she doing in this novel?
1. Why did Azar make fun of the dancing girl later back at the camp?  More importantly, maybe, why do you think Dobbins defended her?
2. For what reason do you think the girl had to dance around all the death and destruction of her village?
3. Why do you think O'Brien include this story in the book?  How did this event impact the soldiers in the company?

monday, april 30, READ "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" (pages 85 to 110 in newest edition)

posted Apr 30, 2012, 1:23 PM by Thomas Thompson

Study guide questions:
1. Is this war story?  Who is the main character and why?
2. Again the story plays with the truth.  In the first paragraph, O'Brien writes:  "I heard it from Rat Kiley, who swore up and down to its truth, although in the end, I'll admit, that doesn't amount to much of a warranty."  How does O'Brien engage you in a story which, up front, he has already admitted is probably "not true."  How dose this relate to his ideas for a "true war story" found in the previous chapter?
3. How does O'Brien use physical details to show Mary Anne's change?  consider gestures, her clothes, her actions--How specifically has she changed?  And why?
4. Why do you think O'Brien keeps stopping the story so that other characters can comment on it?  How do these other conversations ad to Mary Anne's story?
5. Does it matter what happened in the end to Mary Anne?  Would this be a better story if we knew, precisely what happened to her after she left camp?  Or does this vague ending ad to the story?
6. Why do you think she changed?  What did the change symbolize?

Over the weekend, read up to page 84 in The Things They Carried

posted Apr 26, 2012, 11:00 AM by Thomas Thompson   [ updated Apr 26, 2012, 11:01 AM ]

All students in A, D and F blocks should read up to the chapter entitled "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong."  Please use the study guide questions.

"Enemies" and "Friends"
1. What agreement did Jensen and Strunk make?
2. Why did Dave Jensen break his own nose?
3. Why was Jensen releived of "an enormous weight" when he learned that Strunk had died?
"How to tell A True War Story" and "The Dentist"
1. Why does this story begin with the line:  "This is true?"  How does that prepare you for the story?  In what sense is "this" true?
2. In this story O'Brien relates a number of episodes.  What makes these episodes seem true?  Or, to put it another way, how does O'Brien lull you into the belief that each of these episodes is true?
3. Find a few of O'Brien's elements of a "true war story" such as "A true war story is never moral."  Why does O'Brien believe these elements are important to a "true" war story?
4. In what sense is a "true" war story true?  That is, in  O'Brien's terms, what is the relationship between historical truth and fictional truth?  Do you agree with his assessment that fictional truth and historical truth do no need to be the same thing?
5. According to O'Brien, why are stories important?  In your opinion, what do we, as people, need from stories--both reading them and telling them?
6. Why is the baby water buffalo scence more disturbing than the death of one of O'Brien's platoon members, Dave Jensen?
7. Why does Rat Kiley torture and kill the baby water buffalo?  Explain the complex emotions he experiences in this scene?
8. Explain how, according to the narrator, war can be both ugly and beautiful.
9. O'Brien explains that this story was "not a war story.  It was a love story."  In what sense is this a "love story?"  Why?
10. Finally, O'Brien says that "none of it happened. None of it.  And even it did happen, it didn't happen in the mountains, it happened in this little village on the Bantangan Peninsula, and it was raining like crazy . . ."  If O'Brien is not trying to communicate historical fact, what is he trying to communicate?  Why change the details?  What kind of truth is he trying to relate, and why is the truth set apart from historical truth?  Is it o.k. that this "true" war story may or may not be entirely true?
11. What additional things does Tim O'Brien say about war stories at the end of this chapter?
12. Why did Curt Lemon want his tooth pulled?

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