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英语短篇小说教程 虞建华 高等教育出版社 课后答案

Keys to Unit Two

(1) I. B. Singer: The Washwoman

(2) Frank Sargeson: A Piece of Yellow Soap

1) Questions for Discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1) Does the piece of washing soap have the ―power‖ as the narrator tells us? What is the ―power‖

that forces him to take off?

(The piece of yellow washing soap is, of course, an ordinary one. The narrator is a ―na?ve narrator‖who believed that it had some sort of mysterious ―power,‖while the readers are expected to know better. This power comes from the narrator’s deep sympathy for the tragic fate of the washing woman. Seeing the situation, he simply could not continue to demand the payment which he knew the woman was unable to produce.)

(2) In this Unit, we have two stories about two washwomen. There are a lot of similar descriptions

and common characteristics in the two stories. Find and list them.

(They were both reduce to desperation, depending solely on washing for living. Both were hard-working and uncomplaining, quietly but almost heroically bore their burden and struggled for a hard existence. The author describes their common feature –the white and shrunken fingers – as symbol of suffering in the lives of the working people. They both were both dead by the end of the stories.)

(3) The two first-person narrators tell two stories of two washwomen who shared similar tragic

fate. Discuss the differences in the narrators that result in the differences in the way the two short stories are told.

(Singer’s narrator knows more and tells more about the washing woman, often making direct comments and revealing his own feelings about the life of the woman whose story he is telling. He frequently emphasizes that what he is telling is real, and hints that the story has significance. The narrator’s voice is very close to the author’s. Please see more in ―Reading Tips‖ on page 11. On the other hand, Sargeson’s narrator is a na?ve one, that is, the narrator’s understanding is purposely made shallow, and the reader need find by himself the real meaning in the situation. So the narrator stands at some distance from the author. Please see more in ―Reading Tips‖on page 15. Therefore, in Text I, we, as readers, are basically ―given‖ or ―received‖ the story, while in Text II, we need to participate imaginatively in the story to ―dig out‖ the true meaning the na?ve narrator has left unexplained.)

2) Explanation and Interpretation:

(Explain the implied meaning of the following sentences, and point out their significance in the context of the story.)

From “The Washwoman”:

(1) She had been so sick that someone called a doctor, and the doctor had sent for a priest.

(According to the custom, a priest should be present while one is dying. The implied message is the doctor thought that he could do nothing to save her, and the best thing to do was to prepare for her death.)

(2) ―With the help of God you will live to be a hundred and twenty,‖ said my mother, as a


―God forbid!...‖

(―My Mother‖ extended a good wish for long life to her, but the washing woman thought that a long life was a terrible thing, because it only meant suffering longer.)

(3) Her soul passed into those spheres where all holy souls meet, regardless of the roles they

played on this earth, in whatever tongue, of whatever religion.

(A good person, like the old washwoman, would go to heaven because she had a noble soul.

She would rise above all the earthly considerations of class, race, nation and religion. )

From “A Piece of Yellow Soap”:

(4) My eyes would get fixed on her fingers and the soap, and after a few minutes I would lose all

power to look the woman in the face. I would mumble something to myself and take myself off .

(The narrator could not bear to look at this washing-tub slave for too long. He would have to find some excuse and leave. He could not push her over the cliff while she was standing on the verge of total desperation.)

(5) She had a way too of feeling inside her handbag as she passed me, and I always had the queer

feeling that she carried there a piece of soap. It was her talisman powerful to work wonders…

(Possibly in the bag there were a few pennies that the woman had earned from her washing, and she was going to buy food or some necessities. Seeing the narrator, to whom she knew she owed money, she unconsciously or protectively put her hand in the bag. The narrator, being ―na?ve,‖ misunderstood her reaction while they met in the street.)

Suggested Homework:

Translate the following paragraphs from “The Washwoman” into Chinese:

The bag was big, bigger than usual. When the woman placed it on her shoulders, it covered her completely. At first she stayed, as though she were about to fall under the load. But an inner stubbornness seemed to call out; no, you may not fall. A donkey may permit himself to fall under his burden, but not a human being, the best of creation.

She disappeared, and mother sighed and prayed for her.

More than two months passed. The frost had gone, and then a new frost had come, a new

wave of cold. One evening, while mother was sitting near the oil lamp mending a shirt, the door opened and a small puff of steam, followed by a gigantic bag, entered the room. I ran toward the old woman and helped her unload her bag. She was even thinner now, more bent. Her head shook from side to side as though she were saying no. She could not utter a clear word, but mumbled something with her sunken mouth and pale lips.

For reference only:




Keys to Unit Four

Somerset Maugham: Mr. Know-All

2) Questions for Discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1)What are the undesirable qualities of Mr. Kelada according to the narrator? Find them out in

the text and list them. Are they good proof that Mr. Kelada is an unpleasant person?

1)…my fellow passenger’s name was (not) Smith or Brown. (not Anglo-Saxon sounding) (line 9).

2) When I went on board I found Mr. Kelada’s luggage ..and toilet things (showing bad taste) (lines 11-16)

3) Mr. Kelada was short and of a sturdy build, cleanshaven and dark skinned, with a fleshy, hooked nose and very large lustrous and liquid eyes. His long black hair was sleek and curly. (His physical features indicate that he is not a white European.) (lines 32-34)

4) He spoke with a fluency in which there was nothing English and his gestures were exuberant. (lines 34-35)

5) Mr. Kelada was chatty. (line 57)

6) Mr. Kelada was familiar. …(observing) no such formality. (lines 64-68)

7) ―The three on the four,‖ said Mr. Kelada (participating in other person’s card game, being rather nosy) (lines 71-81)

8) I not only shared a cabin with him and ate three meals a day at the same table, but I could not walk round the deck without his joining me. (caring little about other people’s privacy) (lines 85-86)

9) He was a good mixer, and in three days knew everyone on board. He ran everything. (line 90-91)

10) He was certainly the best hated man in the ship. We called him Mr. Know-All. (line 94)

11) He was … argumentative. He knew everything better than anybody else. (lines 96-97)

But the above list only proves that Mr. Kelada was a person of different culture and behaved differently. Nurtured by his more Oriental culture, he behaved in a way that was nothing wrong in itself, but was disliked by the narrator of the story, who held a prejudice against non-Western culture.

(2) Underline the descriptions of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, and discuss the contrast between the couple.

Mr. Ramsay:

1) He was as dogmatic as Mr. Kelada and resented bitterly the Levantine’s cocksureness. (lines 103-104)

2) He was a great heavy fellow from the Middle West, with loose fat under a tight skin, and he bulged out of his ready-made clothes. (lines 106-108)

3) He was argumentative (lines 122-124) and insensitive (lines 155-170)

Mrs. Ramsay:

1) Mrs. Ramsay was a very pretty little thing, with pleasant manners and a sense of humor. (lines 110-111)

2) She was dressed always very simply; but she knew how to wear her clothes. She achieved an effect of quiet distinction. (lines 111-113)

3) You could not look at her without being struck by her modesty. It shone in her like a flower on a coat. (lines 115-116)

(The husband and the wife are very different almost in every way. One is loud, fatty, aggressive and the other is quite, pretty and modest. The contrast gives the reader an impression that the man is unworthy of the lady and may indicate at possible lack of harmony in the marriage.)

(3) We have been given enough hints about the true value of the necklace and the possible story behind it. Can you find them?

1) ―They’ll never be able to get a cultured pearl that an expert like me can’t tell with half an eye.‖ He pointed to a chain that Mrs. Ramsay wore. ―You take my word for it, Mrs. Ramsay, that chain you’re wearing will never be worth a cent less than it is now.‖ (lines 134-137)

2) Mrs. Ramsay in her modest way flushed a little and slipped the chain inside her dress. (line 136)

3) ―Oh, in the trade somewhere round fifteen thousand dollars. But if it was bought on Fifth Avenue, I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that anything up to thirty thousand was paid for it.‖ (lines 145-147)

4) ―Oh, Elmer, you can’t bet on a certainty,‖ said Mrs. Ramsay. (line 155)

5) ―But how can it be proved?‖ she continued. ―It’s only my word against Mr. Kelada’s.‖(line 159-160)

6) Mrs. Ramsay hesitated a moment. She put her hands to the clasp. (line 164)

7) ―I can’t undo it,‖ she said. ―Mr. Kelada will just have to take my word for it.‖ (line 165)

8) The Levantine took a magnifying glass from his pocket and closely examined it. A smile of triumph spread over his smooth and swarthy face. (lines 170-172)

9) … Mrs. Ramsay’s face. It was so white that she looked as though she were about to faint. She was staring at him with wide and terrified eyes. They held a desperate appeal. (lines 173-175)

(4) Why did Mr. Kelada choose not to tell the truth of the value of the pearl necklace?

(Obviously he wanted to help the helpless lady by not revealing the true value of the necklace. Otherwise she would have to face an awful and embarrassing explanation. He might have regarded Mr. Ramsay as being unworthy for the lady and acted out of disdain.)

(5) Why did the narrator say by the end of the story ―I did not entirely dislike Mr. Kelada‖?

(He seemed to be aware of his own prejudice after he had seen the positive quality of the Levantine: wisdom, self-sacrifice, and sensitiveness to other’s misfortunes.)

3) Explanation and Interpretation:

(Explain the implied meaning of the following sentences, and point out their significance in the context of the story.)

(1) I was prepared to dislike Max Kelada even before I knew him.

(This indicates that the narrator, the English gentleman, had a deep-rooted racial and cultural bias against non-English. It is not the person, but what his name represents that he disliked.)

(2) But when I was told the name of my companion my heart sank…. I should have looked upon it with less dismay if my fellow passenger’s name had been Smith or Brown.

(―Smith‖and ―Brown‖are typical English surnames. The name ―Max Kelada‖indicates a man from a different, most likely ―inferior‖ culture in the opinion of the narrator.)

(3) The Consular Service is ill paid, and she was dressed always very simply.

(This foreshadows the fact that the pearl necklace was far too expensive for her purse.)

(4) Mrs. Ramsay in her modest way flushed a little and slipped the chain inside her dress.

(She quickly hid the chain inside, an act that reveals her fear of its true value being noticed by somebody.)

(5) ―If I had a pretty little wife I shouldn’t let her spend a year in New York while I stayed at Kobe,‖ said he.

(Mr. Kelada hinted that the husband’s leaving her alone in New York was unwise and had led to some consequences. She had now a wealthy suitor. )

4) Suggested Homework:

Let us suppose that in the afternoon on the same day when Mr. Kelada got back the 100 dollars, he met Mrs. Ramsay somewhere on the deck, and there were no other people around. They had a short conversation about what had happened previously. Using your imagination, write out the short dialogue between the two. The conversation may begin like this:

(-- Good morning, Mrs. Ramsay. It’s a surprise to see you alone here.

-- Good morning, Mr. Kelada. I don’t feel well, so I come out for a bit of fresh air.

-- It’s always a pleasure to see a charming lady like you.

-- Thank you for saying so. I’m extremely sorry for what happened yesterday, and I’m grateful for what you did, for me.)

-- Lying about the necklace?

-- Lying for my sake. You are generous and have a good heart.

-- Anyway, I got the 100 dollars back. You delivered it yourself?

-- Yes, I did. You did me a great service, and there is no way that you should be paying that money.

-- I have been the laughingstock of everybody on board.

-- You have my respect. I was real terrified yesterday, and fortunately you came to the rescue.

-- It is a wonderful gift, that necklace, from a true admirer, I guess?

-- You embarrass me, Mr. Kelada, but you seem to notice everything.

-- It’s a good match to a pretty lady like you.

-- Don’t laugh at me, I beg. I don’t think I’ll be wearing it anymore. Thank you again, and I think I’ll be going back to the cabin.

Keys to Unit Six

Mary Gavell: The Swing

1) Questions for Discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1) What is the significance of the opening sentence ―As she grew old, she began to dream again‖? Is it only the old age that causes the mother to dream and daydream more often now?

(Dream is a replacement of what she cannot have in real life. As she grew old, she became less active physically and felt more lonely in her emotional life. That is why, most of her dreams are about the remembered past, the life with her son.)

(2) What is it about Julius, the husband, that annoys the wife? Is he an annoying person? Why do you think he behaves the way he does? Does he understand her emotional situation?

(The husband, Julius, suffers from the same problem. Old age made him physically weak so he moved about less and talked less. He shares the feeling of loneliness, but the man’s reaction is different from his wife. The ending part of the short story proves that. He keeps the emotion to himself, becoming more withdrawn and behaving, in his wife’s eyes, rather strangely.)

(3) In one of the flashbacks, there is description of one of the Sunday dinners at the adult son’s home. How is the mother-son conversation different from her talks with her boy on the swing?

(The conversation between the mother and her adult son does not have the intimacy and attachment it once had when the son was a boy. Behind the mature politeness, there is some distance between generations. While in the past, they could talk about anything and everything and could share true sentiments.)

(4) How do you explain the jacket hanging on the nail?

(We cannot explain it realistically or rationally, unless we regard is also as part of the dream. There is a literary school of writing called ―magic realism,‖ in which the real and the fantastic are merged for a special effect. So, this can best be understood as a touch of ―magic realism.‖)

3) Explanation and Interpretation:

(Explain the implied meaning of the following sentences, and point out their significance

in the context of the story.)

(1) (The mother thought:) ―I wish that when I ask him how he is he wouldn’t tell me that there is every likelihood that the Basic Research Division will be merged with the Statistics Division.‖(The grown-up son’s interest is in his work, while the mother’s interest is in his personal life. Her question shows her concerned of him as a son, but his mind bends on his career. He is now living in a world that his mother knows little about, and he is no longer as dependent on her as he was when he was a child. The mother feels some sadness because the conversation once again reminds her of the fact that her son has left her nest and now is flying on his own wings.)

(2) she had had the ancient piano tuned… had been reading books on China… and was going to dig it (phlox) all up and try iris (in the garden)…

(She has been trying to find things to do, possibly to kill boredom and loneliness.)

(3) He came every night or two after that, and she lay in bed in happy anticipation, listening

for the creak of the swing.

(She waits, lying in bed, for the happy time with eagerness. So the meeting with her son

in dream highlights the problem in her old age living with a reticent and inactive husband. It is her only moment of great joy – remembering the life of the past.)

(4) … she sat and watched as he walked down the little back lane that had taken him to school, and off to college, and off to a job, and finally off to be married…

(It is the boy’s growing-up process: leaving home, going to school, to college, to working unit and establishing his own family. The scenes pass before her mind’s eye quickly and there is a tragic sense reminding her that her son, as a child, has left her forever.)

Unit Seven

James Joyce: Araby

2) Questions for Discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1) Why does the boy isolate himself in his room reading books and why does he retreat into dreams of idealized love? Find the contrasts between his real life and the imagined perfection.

The boy’s real life:

1. The living place was musty, cold, damp and gloomy.

2. The neighborhood was described as being ―the most hostile to romance.‖ (line 50)

3. The rigid religious life seems to deprive a boy’s pursuit for romance, so the protagonist resorted to imagination as his escape from the day-to-day existence.

3. The protagonist’s Uncle and Aunt seem accustomed to living the kind of monotonous life.

The boys imagined beauty and romance:

1. ―I had never spoken to her, except for a few cas ual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.‖ (lines 48-49)

2. ―Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance.‖ (line 50)

3. ―I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.‖ (61-63)

4. The girl was even nameless, being called Mangan’s sister, but she appears like an angel on earth.

(2) Why is the journey to the bazaar so important to the boy? Has he taken the matter over-seriously?

(The journey and the buying of something is not important in itself. What is important is the boy’s promise to Mangan’s sister. The boy regarded it as a sacred mission that he had to fulfill. It became a token of his youthful love and everything that was beautiful and ideal.)

3) Explanation and Interpretation:

(Identify what literary device the writer uses in each (or each pair) of the following expressions)

(1) The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces. (personification)

(2) a. The light … lit up the hand upon the railing.

b. the lamplight (shone)… at the hand upon the railings…(symbol)

(3) a. I kept her brown figure always in my eye…

b. seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my imagination.. (symbol)

(4) When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. (personification)

(5) Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity.


4) Suggested Homework:

In the short conversation with Mangan’s sister, the boy promised to get something for her from the bazaar. The journey made him realize something, but a promise was still a promise though the girl might not take it seriously. Suppose you were the boy and wanted to explain and apologize for not being able to fulfill your promise. Now write a few lines on a piece of paper and try to slip the letter into her hand next time you meet her.

For reference only:

―I think I have to humbly apologize to you for being unable to do something that I have promised. I’m sure you remember that in our last short conversation I told you I would go to the Bazaar for you and buy you a gift. However, it was unfortunate that circumstances prevented me from doing this little service for you. Please don’t feel disappointed. I seriously promise I will get you something somehow, even just to prove that I am sincere. I’ll keep that promise, and you, in the heart of mine.

Truly yours‖

Unit Eight

Frank Stockton: The Lady or the Tiger?

1) Questions for Discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1) Why didn’t the king approve of the love between his daughter and the young man of his court?

(Because of the difference in social positions, one is the princess, the other is a lowly courtier. The king would not care whether there was true love between them.)

(2) Why did the princess love the courtier so much? Can you briefly describe what sort of person she was?

(The princess was a ―fervent and imperious‖ person, like her father. She also inherited from her father the semi-barbaric nature and had hot blood that made her care little about the consequences. What is more, the courtier was ―handsome and brave to a degree unsurpassed in all this kingdom‖ and the princess was well-satisfied with the young man in spite of his station.)

(3) Why did the King believe the trial of the arena was a good way of solving some of the problems in his kingdom?

(In two respects. 1. Generally, because of the suspense, the masses would be entertained and pleased. 2. ―The thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan.‖ (lines 86-87) In this particular case with the courtier, ―No matter how the affair turned out, the youth would be disposed of, and the king would take an aesthetic pleasure in watching the course of events.‖(line 116-117)

(4) In a sense, it was not the young man but the princess who was actually under the trial -- in the court of conscience. Did she save her love by pointing to the door leading to the lady-in-waiting, or did she prefer to see her lover die rather than see him marry someone she hated?

(This is a question that has not ―right‖ or ―wrong‖ answers. Possibly we should say, it is not even the princess who was actually put under the trial, it is the reader who is making a decision according to his / her inclination.)

2) Explanation and Interpretation:

(Explain the implied meaning of the following sentences, and point out their significance in the context of the story.)

(1) He was greatly given to self-communing, and, when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done. (line 7)

(That means the king was a despot. He discussed only with himself, and there was not law to prevent him from anything that he decided to do.)

(2) the accused person was instantly punished if he found himself guilty…(line 78)

(By the king’s logic, it was the accused who opened the door by his own hand and led to the consequences. So the accused himself ―decided‖ whether he is guilty or not.)

(3) …she loved him (the young courtier) with an ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong. (line 97)

(The love relation was made warm and strong by the very nature that the princess had inherited from her semi-barbaric father.)

(4) Often had she seen, or imagined that she had seen, this fair creature throwing glances of admiration upon the person of her lover, and sometimes she thought these glances were perceived, and even returned. (line 151)

(It indicates that the princess was not really sure that the fair maid had shown her love or admiration for the courtier. The love relation between them might be imagined, out of the princess’ jealousy towards the pretty maid.)

Suggested Homework:

Write a story summary in 200 words. The summary may begin like this:

For reference only:

(Frank Stockton’s ―The Lady, or the Tiger?‖ is a story about a man sentenced to an unusual punishment for having a romance with the king's beloved daughter. Taken to the public arena, he was faced with two doors, behind one of which stood a fierce tiger, and behind the other a fair lady. The king was not sure whether a person so low in station could aspire to one so far above him, but anyway put the young man in the arena. He was either to be eaten by the beast or married to the young lady. Somehow the princess had acquired the secret hidden even from the king himself and knew behind which of the two doors stood a woman that she hated intensely out of jealousy. On the day of the trial, the arena was filled with people with the king and the princess sitting opposite the twin doors. The young man bowed to the king and threw a glance at the princess. She made a quick movement toward the right. Without hesitation, he went directly to the door on the right. Now the problem remains: what was behind the close the door on the right, the lady or the tiger? )

Keys to Unit Nine

Frank O’Connor: Guests of the Nation

By Frank O’Connor

2) Questions for Discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1) Why do you think the author chose ―Guests of the Nation‖ as the title of the short story?

(Obviously, ―guests‖ in the title refers to the two English prisoners, and ―the nation‖ refers to Ireland. Unconsciously, the Irish guards referred to them as ―our guests‖rather than ―enemy soldiers.‖The four of them could play cards together, or argue on some topics and generally enjoyed the time they spent together. It’s ironic that the ―guests‖were finally shot for doing nothing wrong on their part.)

(2) What were the reasons for killing Hawkins and Belcher? Were they good reasons? The answer can be both yes and no. Please support your argument.

Most of the ―reasons‖ justifying the killing of Hawkins and Belcher are given by the petty office Donovan:

1. "The enemy have prisoners belonging to us"' he says, "and now they're talking of shooting them. If they shoot our prisoners, we'll shoot theirs." (lines 125-126)

2. "There were four of our fellows shot in Cork this morning and now you're to be shot as a reprisal." (lines 219-220)

3. "I never said I had anything against you. But why did your people take out four of our prisoners and shoot them in cold blood?" (lines 236-237)

4. "…because you'd know you'd be shot for not doing it." (line 269)

5. "You understand that we're only doing our duty?" (line 243)

One the one hand, these are good reasons because the war demands such actions: soldiers should obey orders, to fulfill their duty, or they would be shot for disobeying orders; violence should be repaid by violence as a reprisal. But on the other hand, the war logic is against the common sense and against human nature – when people could enjoy being together, why should they kill each other?

(3) How do you understand J. Donovan?

(On the surface, he seemed cold-blooded, and personally executed the two Englishmen, but if we read very careful between the lines, we would find that he, as a petty office, had to do something unpleasant in his position. He was also a victim, and had to suppress his own true feelings before his subordinates. He actually had sympathy with the captured soldiers, but was not understood by his men. We should notice that the narrator is, to some degree, a na?ve narrator.)

(4) What characteristics of realism can we find in the short story?

1. It is the details that make up the most of the short story.

2. The language used is common speech of common soldiers.

3. The author tries to be faithful to the real life as he understands it.

4. The five main characters are ―small potatoes,‖victims of the forces that they have no control of.

5. There is a sharp criticism of the absurdity of the war.

3) Explanation and interpretation:

(Explain the implied meaning of the following sentences, and point out their significance in the context of the story.)

(1) It wasn't the hanging round that was a trouble to me at all by this time. I had worse things to worry about.

(―Worse things‖ refer to the two Irish guards’ sincere concern and deep worry about the ill fate that might befall the two English prisoners of war.)

(2) I rose from the table and caught him before he reached the door. "What do you want?" I asked.

(Hearing the footsteps, the narrator quickly went to the door to stop Donovan from coming in. He knew the officer might be bearing the bad news, and blocked the entrance. Unconsciously, he stood on the side of the English, and acted as if he were their protector.)

(3) …she didn't stop advising them until Jeremiah Donovan lost his temper and turned on her. He had a nasty temper, I noticed.

(Donovan had a bad temper that day. Why? The bad temper might be caused by the nasty job ahead of executing the two English youngsters. This probably had very much saddened him.)

(4) Belcher sounded as though whatever unforeseen thing he'd always been waiting for had come at last.

(Belcher was a person with few words, but he was observing and thinking all the time. He seemed to know and anticipate that something bad might happen to them.)

(5) Noble, just as if he couldn't bear any more of it, raised his fist at Donovan, and in a flash Donovan raised his gun and fired.

(Raising his fist is a signal. The unspoken words might sound like this: ―Why don’t you shoot?!‖Noble noticed that Donovan was suffering from intense mental pain by talking and talking, and he wanted Donovan to end that pain immediately.)

(6) "What did ye do with them?" she asked in a whisper, and Noble started so that the match went out in his hand.

(The old lady had only whispered the question, but it so frightened noble that the match went out in his hand. Noble must have had a terrible sense of guilt and felt as if he himself had killed his ―guests‖ and had done something enormously wrong. )

Unit Ten

Jack London: The Law of Life

2) Questions for Discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1) What do you think of the Indian tradition of abandoning their sickly elders? Was it the writer’s intention to reveal and condemn the inhumane and inhuman practice?

(From our perspective, such practice is of course cruel and inhuman, but the writer’s central concern is to provide an illustration and to explain one idea: that human beings are ―determined‖by ―the law of nature‖– the larger forces of the universe as well as their own biological nature. The idea expressed in the short story is typical in naturalistic literature.)

(2) What has the setting to do with the theme of the short story?

(Naturalist writers have special preference to certain settings that can provide ―laboratory conditions,‖ so that the stories can convey their understanding of the relationship of man and the natural or social forces. The arctic region within which the story of ―The Law of Life‖occurs, intensifies the human struggle with the Nature, and thus is ideal in bringing out the basic conception of Naturalism in literature.)

(3) What is ―the law of life‖? Can you underline some of the words in the story that explain what the ―law‖ is?

The ideas about ―the law of life‖ is mostly expressed in the reflection of Old Koskoosh:

1. He did not complain. It was the way of life, and it was just. He had been born close to the earth, close to the earth had he lived, and the law thereof was not new to him. It was the law of all flesh. Nature was not kindly to the flesh. She had no concern for that concrete thing called the individual. Her interest lay in the species, the race. (lines 68-72)

2. The rise of the sap, the bursting greenness of the willow bud, the fall of the yellow leaf—in this alone was told the whole history. But one task did nature set the individual. Did he not perform it, he died. Did he perform it, it was all the same, he died. Nature did not care… . (lines 73-78)

3. Therefore it was true that the tribe lived, that it stood for the obedience of all its members, way down into the forgotten past, whose very resting places were unremembered. They did not

count; they were episodes. They had passed away like clouds from a summer sky. He also was an episode, and would pass away. (lines 80-83)

4. Nature did not care. To life she set one task, gave one law. To perpetuate was the task of life, its law was death. (lines 83-85)

5. (Determined to give up his cling to life) Koskoosh dropped his head wearily upon his knees. What did it matter after all? Was it not the law of life? (202-203)

(4) On what basis can we categorize this short story as a piece of Naturalistic writing?

1. The setting highlights the conflict between man and Nature.

2. The natural force seems to be overwhelming while the human efforts are rather futile. Man can only adapt to Nature rather than change it.

3. The story reveals the pessimistic attitude on the part of the writer.

4. There is a prevailing sense of determinism and amoralism.

3) Explanation and interpretation:

(Explain the implied meaning of the following sentences, and point out their significance in the context of the story.)

(1) He listened, who would listen no more.

(Old Koskoosh knew what was going to happen. While he was still alive and listening, he would soon die and ―listen no more.‖)

(2) Then his hand crept out in haste to the wood. It alone stood betwixt him and the eternity which yawned upon him.

(The word ―eternity‖here means death. The old man’s life defended on this small pile of wood that could supply warmth and keep the wolves away. When the wood burnt out, Death, with its mouth open, would quickly swallow him.)

(3) Nature was not kindly to the flesh. She had no concern for that concrete thing called the individual. Her interest lay in the species, the race.

(According to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, the living beings have adapted to the environment in the long history of evolution. In that long process, according to the natural law, only the survival of the group, of the species, has significance. Nature does not care for individual survival. Only the group that fits the environment has a change to continue.)

(4) For a while he lis tened to the silence. Perhaps the heart of his son might soften…

(The old man’s reflection reveals that he, alike any individual, wished to be given a chance to live. Even though he understood the law of nature and had a brave heart in facing death, he still had a natural and humanly yearning for life.)

Keys to Unit Eleven

James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

2) Questions for discussion:

(Suggested answers for reference)

(1) How are reality and fantasy associated in this story? Give examples.

(Usually it is in this way: something in the real life, for example, doing, seeing or hearing something, would triggers off some fantasy. Driving a car leading to the fantasy of piloting a hydroplane; putting on gloves and hearing the name of Dr. Renshaw leading to the operation episode; hearing a newspaper boy shouting something about the trial leading to the courtroom episode; sitting in the lobby and reading news about Second World War leading to the bomber-pilot episode and standing against the wall of a drug-store leading to the episode of facing a firing squad.)

(2) Does Mitty appear to be a comic, grotesque, and ridiculous person?

(It is not the author’s intention to show the ridiculous side of Mitty’s life. Through creation of such a character, the writer intends to reveal the unfortunate life of some city dwellers. Their lives, like that of Mitty’s, are suffocated by the monotony and triviality of the modern middle-class life. The daydreams seem to be the only escape from the meaning less repetition of the day-to-day existence.)

(3) Find out what is in common in the five pieces of Mitty’s daydream: the hydroplane, the medical operation, the trial, the bomber and the execution. What do these fantasies reveal to you about Walter Mitty?

(These pieces of daydreams have one thing in common in which life is more adventurous, more heroic or more exciting than the actual existence, and in which he is a brave, respected or even a tragic central figure, rather than a nobody dominated by an bossy wife.)

(4) How do you like the ending of the story? What is your interpretation?

(There is a tragic sense in the last episode – the man being executed. This may reveal the inner wish of the protagonist that he would rather be a heroic victim than a person of no significance. And also, there is a hint of tragedy in his life.)

(5) Compare Walter Mitty with Cervantes’Don Quixode (唐·吉诃德). What similarities and differences do you find in the two characters?

(Mitty’s daydreams embody the clichés of adventure or war fiction and movies. While Cervantes’ Don Quixode is also influenced by the popular romance of his time and ridiculously acts out his fantasies, Mitty does not even have courage to do that and seems satisfied with dreaming about a sort of heroism as an escape from the imprisonment in triviality. In this sense, he is a modern Don Quixode)

3) Explanation and interpretation:

(Explain the implied meaning of the following sentences, and point out their significance in the context of the story.)

(1) He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd.

(Mitty was lost in his daydream, and was suddenly awakened from it and the world around him seemed rather unfamiliar.)

(2) "You're tensed up again," said Mrs. Mitty. "It's one of your days. I wish you'd let Dr. Renshaw look you over."

(―Tensed up‖ refers to Mitty’s state of fantasizing. His wife’s words indicate that Mitty had a habit of falling into daydreams and had once consulted a doctor for this problem.)

(3) He put them (gloves) on, but after she had turned and gone into the building and he had driven on to a red light, he took them off again.

(He obeyed to his wife humbly, but when she did not see him, he book them off as and act of rebellion.)

(4) "Back it up, Mac! Look out for that Buick!" Walter Mitty jammed on the brakes. "Wrong lane, Mac," said the parking-lot attendant.

(He didn’t seem to be able to do anything well and even a parking lot attendant could order and criticize him. This adds to his sense of depression, of being nobody.)

(5) Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and

motionless, proud and disdainful…

(The last episode of the fantasy reveals the mixed feelings of being a victim and being a hero. The end seems inevitably tragic but to Mitty’s imagination, maintaining a sort of heroism is possible. Mitty felt that he was beaten down by life, but in his heart he still kept high aspirations.)

Suggested Homework

Allow Walter Mitty to continue his fantasy once he arrived home from the shopping trip with his wife. Using your imagination and write a paragraph that may begin like this:

He parked his car. In a few quick steps, he rushed to the door and pushed it open with determined suddenness. ―Hands up, gentlemen!‖ he said.

For reference only:

He parked his car. In a few quick steps, he rushed to the door and pushed it open with determined suddenness. ―Hands up, gentlemen! ‖ he said, pointing his gun at the three men sitting there. ―FBI. We have been following you for quite some time.‖ The men in the room were totally unprepared. Two raised their hands over their heads, one hesitated and quietly moved his right hand to a pistol on the coffee table. He aims his gun at that man, ―push that pistol to me, slowly.

That’s right. It’s no use trying to do anything funny, let me warn you.‖

―Why do walk so quickly and push open the door like this? Go back to get the things in the car!‖ his wife said angrily.