1. Susan Glaspell:
COUNTY ATTORNEY [Looking around.] I guess we’ll go upstairs first–and then out to the barn and around there. [To the Sheriff.] You’re convinced that there was nothing important here–nothing that would point to any motive.
SHERIFF Nothing here but kitchen things.
[The County Attorney, after again looking around the kitchen, opens the door of a cupboard closet. He gets up on a chair and looks on a shelf. Pulls his hand away, sticky.
COUNTY ATTORNEY Here’s a nice mess.
[The women draw nearer.]
PETERS [To the other woman.] Oh, her fruit; it did freeze. [To the Lawyer.] She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire’d go out and her jars would break.
SHERIFF Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves.
COUNTY ATTORNEY, I guess before we’re through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.
HALE Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.
[The two women move a little closer together.]
COUNTY ATTORNEY [With the gallantry of a young politician.] And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? [The women do not unbend. He goes to the sink, takes a dipperful of water from the pail and pouring it into a basin, washes his hands. Starts to wipe them on the roller-towel, turns it for a cleaner place.] Dirty towels! [Kicks his foot against the pans under the sink.] Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?
MRS. HALE [Stiffly.] There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm. (754)
How is the broken jar of preserves a clue that points to a motive for murder?
The broken jar of preserves is a clue that points to a motive for murder by exploding which in essence elude to something that occurred. But more so, I believe the dead bird that Mrs. Hales and Mrs. Peter hide serve more as evidence. Therefore, the broken jars, to me, represent her hard work.
Explain the body language of the women. (They “draw nearer” and “move a little closer
together” and Mrs. Hale stands/speaks “stiffly.”) What are they communicating?
Why are women “used to worrying over trifles” as Mr. Hale suggests?
Both Hales and Mrs. Peters, ate still loyal to idea of sisterhood/womanhood during a time of oppression. When they move a little closer, this is a symbol of the women still feeling deep for Minnie, trying to understand what has she endured. Coming across the signs that she has been abused and held almost hostage from society. Mr.Hales symbolizes that but women are worried about the wrong issue here, “trifles” Therefore overlooking the woman works, by mocking Both ladies and judging the home, they overlook the highest evidence possible.
2. from Sula by Toni Morrison:
Nel was the one person who had wanted nothing from her, who had accepted all aspects of her. Now she wanted everything, and all because of that. Nel was the first person who had been real to her, whose name she knew, who had seen as she had the slant of life that made it possible stretch it to its limits. Now Nel was one of them. One of the spiders whose only thought was the next rung of the web, who dangled in dark dry places suspended by their own spittle, more terrified of the free fall than the snake’s breath below. Their eyes so intent on the wayward stranger who trips into their net, they were blind to the cobalt on their own backs, the moonshine fighting to pierce their corners. If they were touched by the snake’s breath, however fatal, they were merely victims and knew how to behave in that role (just as Nel knew how to behave as the wronged wife). But the free fall, oh no, that required—demanded—invention: a thing to do with the wings, a way of holding the legs, and most of all a full surrender to the downward flight if they wished to taste their tongues or stay alive. But alive was what they, and now Nel, did not want to be. Too dangerous. Now Nel belonged to the town and all its ways. (119-120)
What does Sula mean when she says she and Nel had seen the “slant of life that made it possible to stretch it to its limits”?
Explain the metaphor of the spiders, specifically:
“whose only thought was the next rung of the web”
“they were merely victims and knew how to behave in that role (just as Nel knew how to behave as the wronged wife)”
“Now Nel belonged to the town and all its ways”
Explain why Sula feels betrayed by Nel.
What comment is Morrison making about female friendship?
3. from “Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros:
The men at the ice house. From what she can tell, from the times during her first year when still a newlywed she is invited and accompanies her husband, sits mute beside their conversation, . . . Cleofilas concludes each is nightly trying to find the truth lying at the bottom of the bottle like a gold doubloon on the sea floor.
They want to tell each other what they want to tell themselves. But what is bumping like a helium balloon at the ceiling of the brain never finds its way out. It bubbles and rises, it gurgles in the throat, it rolls across the surface of the tongue, and erupts from the lips–a belch.
If they are lucky there are tears at the end of the long night. At any given moment, the fists try to speak. They are dogs chasing their own tails before lying down to sleep, trying to find a way, a route, an out, and–finally–get some peace. (1617-18)
What does it mean that the truth is “lying at the bottom of the bottle”?
Explain: “They want to tell each other what they want to tell themselves.”
Why is it lucky if they cry at the end of the night?
Explain the final image of the men like “dogs chasing their own tails.”
4. from “No Name Woman” by Maxine Hong Kingston:
“The village had also been counting. On the night the baby was to be born the villagers raided our house. Some were crying. Like a great saw, teeth strung with lights, files of people walked zigzag across our land, tearing the rice. Their lanterns doubled in the disturbed black water, which drained away through the broken bunds. As the villagers closed in, we could see that some of them, probably men and women we knew well, wore white masks. . . . Familiar wild heads flared in our night windows; the villagers encircled us. Some of the faces stopped to peer at us, their eyes rushing like searchlights. . . .
The villagers broke in the front and the back doors at the same time, even though we had not locked the doors against them. Their knives dripped with the blood of our animals. They smeared blood on the doors and walls. . . . We stood together in the middle of the house, in the family hall with the pictures of the ancestors around us, and looked straight ahead.” (1544-45)
Explain the significance of these details:
–some of the villagers were crying
–the family had not locked the doors to keep the villagers out
–the family stands in the hall with the photos of their ancestors
In what way does the literal destruction here (of the land, animals, house) represent a figurative destruction—what is that intangible thing whose vitality has been threatened by the aunt’s pregnancy?
5. from “homage to my hips” by Lucille Clifton (whole poem):
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places, these hips.
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have know them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top! (1496)
What power is the speaker celebrating?
What do lines 4-5 mean? “they don’t fit into little / petty places, these hips” (4-5)
What is the effect of the speaker writing about her hips as if they had a mind of their own?
What words tell you it’s good to have these hips?
6. from “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin:
There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.
Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under hte breath: “free, free, free!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.
She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.
There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination. (447-48)
Why is Louise waiting “fearfully” for “this thing that was approaching to possess her”?
Why does she strive “to beat it back with her will”? Why is she resisting the new feelings?
Explain Chopin’s idea about “that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.”
Explain why Chopin does not distinguish between a “kind intention” or a “cruel intention.” What is she saying about possession?
7. from “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison:
I was puzzled by [Roberta] telling me Maggie was black. When I thought about it I actually couldn’t be certain. She wasn’t pitch-black, I knew, or I would have remembered that. What I remember was the kiddie hat, and the semicircle legs. I tried to reassure myself about the race thing for a long time until it dawned on me that the truth was already there, and Roberta knew it. I didn’t kick her; I didn’t join in with the gar girls and kick that lady, but I sure did want to. We watched and never tried to help her and never called for help. Maggie was my dancing mother. Deaf, I thought, and dumb. Nobody inside. Nobody who would hear you if you cried in the night. Nobody who could tell you anything important that you could use. Rocking, dancing, swaying as she walked. And when the gar girls pushed her down, and started roughhousing, I knew she wouldn’t scream, couldn’t—just like me—and I was glad about that. (1440)
What comment does Morrison make about memory in this passage? About race?
What guilt does Twyla feel about Maggie?
What/Who does Maggie stand for?