Homework for Dec 12th, 2013 class

Homework for December 12th class

1. Keep going with Count of Monte Cristo.

2. Re-read the story from last week (A Jury of Her Peers) and find evidence to answer/support any two of the short answer questions, and one of the longer answer questions. Be ready to discuss together, and you will want to write down at least your thoughts and ideas, if not an organized essay/answer.


Short Answer questions:

— Show that the men in the story consider themselves superior to the women.

— characterize John Wright. What kind of man was he?

— The first and last sentences of a short story, as well as the title, are often very important. Explain the relationship of the sentences/title to rest of story.

— The first paragraph of the story has Martha Hale leaving things in her kitchen undone. Argue for or against the assertion that the story leaves “things undone”.


Long Answer Questions:

— Midway in story, Mrs. Hale says that Minnie Foster “was kind of like a bird herself”. How is this comparsion developed in story, and how does it affect your reaction to the killing?

— Irony is a discrepancy in of one sort or another; a discrepancy between what we say and what we mean, between what we think is true and what is actually true, between what we expect to happen and what in fact happens. Explain several ironies from story and then relate ironies to central meaning of story.

— Compare (how are they the same) and contrast (how are they different) the treatment of marriage in the stories “The Murder” and “A Jury of Her Peers”. (remember we read that story about the rancher who killed his wife’s cousin when he found them in bed together).


3. Read the following two poems:


This Is Just To Say

by William Carlos Williams


I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox


and which

you were probably


for breakfast


Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15535#sthash.G2QNhQW6.dpuf


And please read anyone lived in a pretty how town

By E. E. Cummings


4. Read the following very short story, “The Use of Force” by William Carlos William:


We’ll discuss together – but let’s say I am the student this week, and you two are the teachers, so come up with some good questions for me to make sure I read the story and really thought about the various elements of the story: tone, mood, figurative language, characters, plot, etc.

5. Read an excerpt from Henry Louis Gates’ memoir, “Colored People”. We’ll be doing some sentence work with his writing, but for now, just read through his excerpt and enjoy it, he is a good writer.

Here is his Wikipedia entry:


Here’s an interview with him discussing his book (both video and transcript):

Gates’ chapter “Sin Boldly”
In 1968, here of the Fearsome Foursome graduated from high school. Soul Moe was called upon to serve his country in Vietnam, and Swano and I would head down to Potamac State. (Roland had been held back a couple of years). I gave the valedictory address at graduation defying tradition by writing my own speech – surreptitiously, because this was not allowed. I had practiced delivering the traditional prepared speech with I miss Twigg, our senior English teacher, then had gone home to to rehearse my real speech with Mama. Mama had a refined sense of vocal presentation and a wonderful sense of irony and timing. My speech was about Vietnam, abortion and civil rights, about the sense of community our class shared, since so many of us had been together for twelve years, about the individual’s rights and responsibilities in his or her community and about the necessity to defy norms out of love. I searched the audience for Miss Twigg’s face, just to see her expression when I read the speech! She turned red as a beet, but she liked the speech, and as good as told me so with a big wink at the end of the ceremony.

My one year at Potomac State College of West Virginia University, in Keyser, all go five miles away, was memorable for two reasons: because of my English classes with Duke Anthony Whitmore and my first real love affair, with Maura Gibson.

I came to Potomac State to begin that long, arduous trek toward medical school. I enrolled in August 1968, a week before Labor Day, and is as scared to death. While I had been a good student at Piedmont High, I had no idea how well I would fade in the big-time competition of a college class that included several of the best students from Keyser High, as well as bright kids from throughout the state. I had never questioned my decision to attend Potomac State; it was inevitable: you went there after Piedmont High, as sure as the night follows the day. My uncles Raymond and David had attended it in the fifties, my brother in the early sixties, and my cousin Greg had begun the year before. I would attend too, then go off to “the university” – in Morgantown- to become a doctor.

Greg had told me about life on campus, about the freedom of choice, about card parties in the Union, and of course, about the women. But he had also told me one thing early in his freshman year that had stayed with me throughout my senior year in Piedmont. “There’s an English teacher down there,” he had said, “who’s going to blow your mind.”
“”What’s his name?” I responded.
“”Duke Anthony Whitmore,” he replied.
“Duke?” I said. “What kind of name is Duke? Is he an Englishman?”
“No, dummy,” Greg replied. “He’s a white guy from Baltimore.”
So as I nervously slouched my way through registration a year later, i found myself standing before the ferocious mr. Gallagher, who enjoyed the reputation of being tough. He gave me the name of my adviser.
I looked at the name; it was not Whitmore. “Can I be assigned to Mr. whitmore?”. I ventured. “Because I’ve heard quite a lot about him from my cousin.”
“You’ll have to ask him,” Mr. Gallagher said. “He’s over there.”
I made my way to Mr. Whitmore’s table, introduced myself tentatively, stated my case, telling him my cousin Greg had said that he was a great teacher, a wonderful inspiration, etc., etc. What Greg had really said was: “This guy Whitmore is crazy, just like you!” It was love at first sight, at least for me. And that, in retrospect, was the beginning of the end of my twelve-year-old dream of becoming a doctor.

Learning English and American literature from the Duke was a game to which I looked forward to everyday. I had always loved English and had been blessed with some dedicated and able teachers. But reading books was something I had always thought of as a pasttime, certainly not as a vocation. The Duke made the study of literature and alluring prospect.

Duke Whitmore did not suffer fools gladly. He did not suffer fools at all. Our classes – I enrolled in everything he taught, despite his protests, which I have to say weren’t very strenuous – soon came to be dominated by three or four voices. We would argue and debate just about everything from Emerson and Thoreau to the war in Vietnam and racial discrimination. He would recite a passage from a poem or play, then demand that we tell him, rapid-fire, its source.

“King Lear,” I responded one day.

“What act, what scene, Mr. Gates?” he demanded.

“Act Three, Scene Four,” I shouted out blindly, not having the faintest clue as to whether the passage that he had recited was from Hamlet or the Book of Job.

“Exactly,” he responded with a certain twinkle in his eye.

“Sin boldly,” he would tell me later, citing Martin Luther. My reckless citation was wrong, of course, but he wished to reward me for my audacity.

It was a glorious experience. Words and thoughts, ideas and visions, came alive for me in his classroom. It was he who showed me, by his example, that ideas had a life of their own and that there were other professions as stimulating and rewarding as being a doctor.

After an academically successful year, Professor Whiotmore encourgaed me to transfoer to the Ivy League. I wrote to Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Since I had cousins who had gone to Harvard and Princeton, I decided to try for Yale. I sent off the application and took a summer job in the personnel office of the paper mill. I’d been hired for the express purpose of encouraging a few black people to transfer into the craft unions; I recruited them and administered the necessary tests. In three months, each union had been integrated, with barely an audible murmur from its members. Things were changing in Piedmont – a little. ‘

Though we didn’t become an item until our freshman year at otomac State, Maura Gibson and I had known each other form a distance in high school. I used to run into her at the bowling alley and at Jimmy’s Pizza next door. She was sharp on her feet and loved to argue. Once, she took me to task for talking about race so much. You can’t talk about the weather without bringing up race, she charged. I was embarrassed about that at first, then pleased.

Once we were at college, Maura and I started having long talks on the phone, first about nothing at all and then about everything. The next thing I remember happening between us was parking in her green Dodge up in the colored cemetery on Radical Hill, near where just about all the Keyser colored, and much of the white trash lived. “Radical” is a synonym in the valley for tacky or ramshackle. I’m not sure which came first, the name, or what it came to mean. That’s where we were when Horse Lowe (the coach of the college’s football team and the owner of the property that abuts the colored cemetery) put his big red face into Maura’s window, beat on the windshield with his fist, then told me to get the hell off his property.

Horse Lowe would wait until a couple had begun to pet heavily, then he’d sneak up on the car. He liked to catch you exposed. Even so, we used to park up there all the time. I figured he’d get tired of throwing us out before I got tired of parking.

On weekends during the summer of 1969, I’d drive over to Rehoboth Beach, in Delaware, to see Maura, who was working as a waitress at a place called the Crab Pot. I’d leave work on a Friday at about four o’clock, then drive all the way to Delaware, through Washington and the Beltway, past Baltimore and Annapolis, over the Chesapeake Bridge, past Ocean City, arriving at Rehoboth before midnight, with as much energy as if I had just awakened. We’d get a motel room after shift ended, and she’d bring a bushel of crabs, steamed in the hot spice called Old Bay. We’d get lots of ice-cold Budweiser and we’d have a feast, listening to Junior Walker play his saxophone, play “What Does It Take” over and over and over again. “What does it take to win your lvoe for me?…”

Since Maura was white, I felt that I was making some sort of vague political statement, especially in the wake of Sammy Davis Jr., and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Other concurred. We were hassled at the beach. Somehow, for reasons having to with nudity and sensuality, blacks were not allowed to walk along most beachfronts or attend resorts. I personally integrated many places at Rehoboth Beach that summer.

I was used to being stared at and somewhat used to being the only black person on the beach, or in a restaurant, or at a motel. But I hadn’t quite realized how upset people could be until the day that some white guy sicced his Saint Bernard on me as Maura and I walked by. Certainly Maura and I had been no strangers to controversy, but we usually took pains not to invite it. Back home, we had sneaked around at first, hiding in cemeteries and in a crowd of friends, almost never being seen together in public alone. Until we were found out — by her father, of all people. A man called “‘Bama,” of all things.

It was the evening we had agreed to meet at the big oak tree on Spring Street in Keyser, near one of her friends’ houses. I picked her up in my ’57 Chevrolet, and we went up to harass the Horse. Afterward, I dropped her off, then drove the five miles back to Piedmont. By the time I got home, Maura had called a dozen times. It turned out that her father had followed her down the street and hidden behind a tree while she waited, had watched her climb into my car. He knew the whole thing.

And he, no progressive on race matters, was sickened and outraged.

Soon, it seemed, all of the Valley knew the whole thing, and everybody had an opinion about it. We were apparently the first interracial couple in Mineral County, and there was hell to pay. People began making oblique threats, in the sort of whispers peculiar to small towns. When friends started warning my parents about them, they bought me a ’69 Mustang so I could travel to and from school — and the colored graveyard — safely. (The Chevy had taken to conking out unpredictably.) Some kids at Potomac State started calling us names, anonymously, out of dormitory windows. And in the middle of all this chaos, ‘Bama Gibson, Maura’s father, decided he was going to run for mayor.

Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.

In his own redneck way, ‘Bama Gibson was a perfectly nice man, but he was not exactly mayoral material. He had been a postman and became some sort of supervisor at the post office. He was very personable, everybody liked him, and he knew everybody’s business, the way a postman in any small town does. With the whole town talking about how terrible it was that his daughter was dating a colored boy, and the men giving him their sympathy and declaring what they’d do to that nigger if that nigger ever touched their daughter, old ‘Bama up and announced his candidacy.

Dr. Church, former president of the college, was the obvious front-runner. People were saying he’d already started to measure the mayor’s office for new curtains. Certainly no one would have given ‘Bama any hope of beating Dr. Church, even before my nappy head came on the horizon.  With you on these crackers’ minds, Daddy told me, he’s got two chances: slim and none. Boy, how do you -get- into all this trouble?

Meantime, at the height of the campaign, Roland, Jerry, Swano, and I decided to integrate the Swordfish, a weekend hangout where all the college kids went to listen to a live band — usually E. G. Taylor and the Sounds of Soul, a white band with a black, Eugene Taylor, as lead singer. Eugene could -sing-. He wasn’t so great with learning the words, but that Negro could warble. He’d make up words as he went along, using sounds similar to those he could not remember but making no sense.

Still, we wanted the right to hear Eugene mess up James Brown’s words, same as anybody else, so we started to plot our move. Late one Friday night, when the Swordfish was rocking and packed, we headed up New Creek in our Soul Mobile, which we had washed for the occasion, even replacing the old masking tape over the holes in the roof. The Fearsome Foursome made their date with destiny. We were silent as we drove into the parking lot. There was nothing left to say. We were scared to death but just had to get on with it.

We parked the car and strolled up the stairs to the Swordfish. Since there was no cover charge, we walked straight into the middle of the dance floor. That’s when the slo-mo started, an effect exacerbated by the strobe lights. Everybody froze: the kids from Piedmont and Keyser who had grown up with us; the students from Potomac State; the rednecks and crackers from up the hollers, the ones who came to town once a week all dressed up in the Sears, Roebuck perma-pressed drawers, their Thom McAn semi-leather shoes, their ultimately -white- sox, and their hair slicked back and wet-looking. The kids of rednecks, who liked to drink gallons of 3.2 beer, threaten everybody within earshot, and puke all over themselves — they froze too, their worst nightmare staring them in the face.

After what seemed like hours but was probably less than a minute, a homely white boy with extra-greasy blond hair recovered and began to shout “Niggers” as his face assumed the ugly mask of hillbilly racism. I stared at this white boy’s face, which turned redder and redder as -he- turned into the Devil, calling on his boys to kick our asses: calling us niggers and niggers and niggers to help them summon up their courage. White boys started moving around us, forming a circle around ours. Our good friends from Keyser and Potomac State were still frozen, embarrassed that we were -in- there, that we had violated their space, dared to cross the line. No help from them. (I lost lots of friends that night.) Then, breaking through the circle of rednecks, came the owner, who started screaming: Get out of here! Get out of here! and picked up Fisher and slammed his head against the wall. It wasn’t easy to see because of all the smoke and because of the strobe effect of the flashing blue lights, but I remember being surprised at how Roland’s Afro had kept its shape when his head sprang back off the wall, the way a basketball keeps its shape no matter how much or how hard you dribble it.

Moe and I hauled Fisher off the ground, with Swano’s broad shoulders driving through the ‘necks the way Bubba Smith used to do for the Baltimore Colts. I wondered if Roland’s head would stop bleeding. Fuck you, motherfucker, I heard myself say. We’re gonna shut your racist ass down. We’re gonna shut your ass down, repeated Moe and Swano in chorus. Take a good look around you, you crackers, cuz this is your last time here.

We dragged Fisher to the car, ducking the bottles and cans as we sped away. Roland’s head had stopped its bleeding by the time we passed Potomac Valley Hospital, which we called the meat factory because one of the doctors was reputed to be such a butcher, so we drove on past it and headed for my house. What’ll y’all do now? Daddy asked as Mama bandaged Roland Fisher’s head.

And yes, the place was shut down. We called the State Human Rights Commission on Monday, and the commissioner, Carl Glass, came up to Piedmont a few days later. He interviewed the four of us separately, and then we went out to the Swordfish and interviewed the proprietor, who by this time had told everybody white and colored in Keyser that he was going to get that troublemaker Gates. He swore to the commissioner that he would close down before he let niggers in. The commissioner took him at his word and sent an official edict telling him to integrate or shut down. As the man promised, he shut it down. And that is why the Swordfish nightclub is now Samson’s Family Restaurant, run by a very nice Filipino family.

Well, all of this broke out in the middle of ‘Bama Gibson’s campaign to be the first postman elected as Mayor of Keyser, West Virginia, the Friendliest City in the U.S.A., as the road sign boasted — to which we chorused “bullshit” whenever we passed it.

The whole town talked about the campaign, from sunup to sundown. And there were some curious developments. Our family doctor, Dr. Staggers (our high school principal, Mr. Staggers’s son), went out of his way to tell me that lots of his friends, well-educated and liberal, had decided to suspend disbelief and vote for ‘Bama, just to prove (as he put it) that Keyser is not Birmingham. Then the colored people, who never voted, decided to register and turn out for good ole ‘Bama. The college kids at Potomac State, the ones not busy calling Maura “nigger-lover” from their dormitory windows, turned out in droves. And all the romantics who lived in Keyser, those who truly respected the idea of love and passion, voted for ‘Bama. All both of them. Bizarrely enough, the election was turning into a plebiscite on interracial relationships.

I stayed out of Keyser on the day of the election, terrified that I’d already caused Maura’s father to lose. If it’s close, there’s no sense aggravating the ones sitting on the fence, rubbing their nose in it, Daddy had said. And so I waited for Maura’s phone call, which came around eleven-thirty and informed me that we had nothing more to worry about, her father had trampled Dr. Church. No longer would the police follow us, daring us to go even one mile over the speed limit. That’s what she told me, and I could scarcely believe it. I started parking my car on red lines and in front of fire hydrants, just to test her assertion. She was right.

It was also because of ‘Bama’s new office that I learned that the West Virginia State Police had opened a file on me in Mineral County, which identified me for possible custodial detention if and when race riots started. Maura gave me the news late one night, whispering it over the phone. Old ‘Bama, whom victory had made magnanimous, had wanted me to know and to be warned.

I remember feeling sick and scared . . . and then, when that passed, a little flattered.  I was eighteen, had scarcely been outside Mineral County, and someone in authority decided I was dangerous? I mean, -I- liked to think so. But that an official establishment should collude with my fantasies of importance was quite another matter.

I took it as a sign that it was time for me to leave the Valley and go Elsewhere. I did leave it, that very fall, packing my bags for New Haven. But leaving it -behind- was never a possibility. It did not take me long to realize that.

The “Personal Statement” for my Yale application began: “My grandfather was colored, my father was Negro, and I am black.” And it concluded: “As always, whitey now sits in judgment of me, preparing to cast my fate. It is your decision either to let me blow with the wind as a non-entity or to encourage the development of self. Allow me to prove myself.”

I wince at the rhetoric today, but they let me in.

– from “Sin Boldly” by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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