Classic Literature

Assignments 3 & 4
Assignments 5 & 6

Grapes of Wrath

Assignments 7 & 8

To Kill a Mockingbird

Assignments 1 - 3

Begin Reading:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Writing Exercise

The novel begins with an epigraph by Charles Lamb: “Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” Based on what you’ve learned from the Audio Guide, why do you think Lee chose this quote to begin her novel? Write two paragraphs on how this statement relates to what you have learned about Lee’s life. (handout)
Assignment 

Read Chapters 1–3. Read approximately thirty pages per night in order to complete this book in ten lessons. If you average more; we can adjust your lessons accordingly. What happens to Scout on her first day of school? What kind of teacher is Miss Caroline, Scout’s first grade teacher?

FOCUS: BIOGRAPY

FOCUS: Culture and History

FOCUS: Narrative and Point of View

FOCUS: Characters

FOCUS: Figurative Language

FOCUS: Symbols

FOCUS: Character Development 

FOCUS: The Plot Unfolds

FOCUS: Themes of  the Novel

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Begin Reading:

The Grapes of Wrath Novel by John Steinbeck

FOCUS: BIOGRAPY

Examining an author’s life can
inform 
and expand the reader’s
understanding 
of a novel.
Biographical criticism is the

practice of  analyzing a literary work through the lens of an author’s experience.  In this lesson, explore the author’s life to understand the novel more fully. John Steinbeck reported on the Depression-era migrant workers of his native California for various newspapers and journals. A chronicler of the poor and dispossessed, he was a frequent visitor to migrant encampments, an experience that compelled him to write The Grapes of Wrath—the novel for which he won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize and is best remembered today.

Writing Exercise
Write a one-page response to a book that taught you something about a group to which you do not belong. If the book changed the way you see a certain group (a race, a religion, a social class, a subculture), write at least three ways your perspective was changed. How might a novel adjust a readers views.

Assignment 
Read Chapters 1–5. Think about how the Oklahoma landscape shapes the lives of the people who live in it. How does your own landscape shape the your life? Explain different reasons a person or family would migrate from one place to another. 

This Lesson Material found at the National Endowment for the Arts

FOCUS: Culture and History

Writing Exercise

Write a short essay on the ways artists of the twenty-first century are being influenced by the current political and social climate. In your essay, use specific examples of movies, books, or art. Are writers and filmmakers chronicling current events much as Steinbeck reported the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants? Why or why not?


Assignment 

Read Chapters 6–9 for discussion during the next lesson. 

Writing Exercise

Choose one character who has appeared so far: Tom, Casy, Ma, Pa, Uncle John, Grampa, or Granma. Rewrite the novel’s beginning from this character’s perspective. Think about how a story can be told from multiple perspectives. What might Steinbeck be trying to tell us by writing about a whole family and a whole community?


Assignment 

Read Chapters 10–13. Trace the motivations and development of the same character you chose for the writing exercise. Is the family itself a character in the novel? Keep track of each character’s way of talking. What particularities do you notice in the phrases, word choices, and education of your chosen character?

FOCUS: Narrative and Point of View

FOCUS: Characters

The central character in a work of literature is called the protagonist. The protagonist usually initiates the main action of the story and often overcomes a flaw, such as weakness or ignorance, to achieve a new understanding by the work’s end. A protagonist who acts with great honor or courage may be called a hero. An antihero is a protagonist lacking these qualities. Instead of being dignified, brave, idealistic, or purposeful, the antihero may be cowardly, self-interested, or weak. The protagonist’s journey is enriched by encounters with characters who hold differing beliefs. One such character type, a foil, has traits that contrast with the protagonist’s and highlight important features of the main character’s personality. The most important foil, the antagonist, opposes the protagonist, barring or complicating his or her success. The novel begins with Tom Joad’s release from prison. He is a convicted killer who acted in self-defense and has served his debt to society. Soon he joins his family for the trip to California. Many readers consider Tom Joad the protagonist of The Grapes of Wrath, a man who struggles against violent instincts while standing up for the rights of the dispossessed. Several foils propel Tom into manhood. Reverend Casy speaks a language of pantheism and growing political awareness. Ma is a restraining figure, always reminding Tom of his checkered past and responsibility to the family. Even poor Muley, a solitary outcast on the land, unwittingly warns Tom of the consequences of social exile. These foils vie to lead Tom toward his final choices.

Writing Exercise
Steinbeck often alludes to myth to reveal something essential about his characters. Other times, he’ll include a story within the novel. For example, Steinbeck tells the story of the Joads’ first-born son, Noah. Can you  find another example of this technique? Consider the value of telling stories to develop a character.

Assignment 
Read Chapters 14–17.
Find examples in the text where Steinbeck makes readers see the landscape in a new way by comparing it to something else. Find moments where inanimate objects are compared to animate ones.


Submit your findings for assignment.

FOCUS: Figurative Language

Writers use figurative language such as imagery, similes, and metaphors to help the reader visualize and experience events and emotions in a story. Imagery—a word or phrase that refers to sensory experience (sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste)—helps create a physical experience for the reader and adds immediacy to literary language. Some figurative language asks us to stretch our imaginations, finding the likeness in seemingly unrelated things. Simile is a comparison of two things that initially seem quite different but are shown to have significant resemblance. Similes employ connective words, usually “like,” “as,” “than,” or a verb such as “resembles.” A metaphor is a statement that one thing is something else that, in a literal sense, it is not. By asserting that a thing is something else, a metaphor creates a close association that underscores an important similarity between these two things.

Assignment

Read Chapters 18-19

Sometimes Steinbeck uses a mix of sensory images to introduce a metaphor: “The ancient Hudson, with bent and scarred radiator screen, with grease in dusty globules at the worn edges of every moving part, with hub caps gone and caps of red dust in their places—this was the new hearth, the living center of the family.” Find some imagery in the text and make it into a metaphor, as Steinbeck makes the car into “the new hearth” in the passage above. When is an image merely an image, and when does an author place metaphorical weight on it? Steinbeck uses metaphor when he writes the following: “66 is the mother road, the road of flight.” Write two paragraphs about a road trip you have taken, using several examples of figurative language to color your account of the journey. Try to include metaphors as well as similes.

FOCUS: Symbols

Symbols are persons, places, or things in a narrative that have significance beyond a literal understanding. The craft of storytelling depends on symbols to present ideas and point toward new meanings. Most frequently, a specific object will be used to refer to (or symbolize) a more abstract concept. The repeated appearance of an object suggests a non-literal, or figurative, meaning attached to the object. Symbols are often found in the book’s title, at the beginning and end of the story, within a profound action, or in the name or personality of a character. The life of a novel is perpetuated by generations of readers interpreting and reinterpreting the main symbols. By identifying and understanding symbols, readers can reveal new interpretations of the novel.

To summarize, a symbol is an object or action that suggests additional meanings. Use this class period to analyze three major symbols in the novel: the road, the West, and the grapes of wrath.

The Road:

Route 66 As America’s major east-west road, Highway 66 was also known as Route 66, The Mother Road, and The Main Street of America. A trip from Oklahoma to California was not taken lightly in this pre-interstate era. Focus on the description of the road in Chapter 12: “66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land.” How does this tone change by the time we reach Chapter 21? What has changed in the Joad family?

The West

For Americans, the West in general and California in particular have symbolized a new life, or the Promised Land. Building on the homework from Lesson Five, why did so many families in the 1930s—including the fictional Joad family—pin their hope for a better life on California? Pay particular attention to Chapter 18, when the Joad family reaches Tehachapi and sees the vineyards and orchards for the first time.

The Grapes of Wrath

Steinbeck’s title quotes from Julia Ward Howe’s “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a famous Civil War anthem associated with the anti-slavery movement. Howe’s allusion to “the grapes of wrath” comes from the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Revelation. From what you have read so far, do you think Steinbeck chose a good title? Does it have patriotic, religious, and political connotations? (Students will read the famous passage, “In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy,” when they reach Chapter 25.) Homework Read Chapters 20–21. Students should return to their original Joad character from the homework in previous lessons. How has their character changed? If their character has died, ask them to consider the ways that the death has affected other members of the Joad family.

Read Chapters 20–21.

Return to the original Joad character from the homework in previous lessons. How has their character changed? If their character has died,  consider the ways that the death has affected other members of the Joad family.

FOCUS: Character Development

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I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

FOCUS: Figurative Language

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

FOCUS: Figurative Language

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

FOCUS: Figurative Language

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

FOCUS: Narrative and Point of View

Writing Exercise

Choose one character who has appeared so far: Tom, Casy, Ma, Pa, Uncle John, Grampa, or Granma. Rewrite the novel’s beginning from this character’s perspective. Think about how a story can be told from multiple perspectives. What might Steinbeck be trying to tell us by writing about a whole family and a whole community?


Assignment 

Read Chapters 10–13. Trace the motivations and development of the same character you chose for the writing exercise. Is the family itself a character in the novel? Keep track of each character’s way of talking. What particularities do you notice in the phrases, word choices, and education of your chosen character?