Read “Richard Cory,” “Miniver Cheevy,” “Eros Turranos,” and “Mr. Flood’s Party.” 1.What are some of Richard Cory’s most distinguishing characteristics?Would you view him as more a positive or a negative character? 2.Does the ending of the poem shock you?Why or why not?How do you explain it? 3.What really makes Miniver Cheevy so unhappy? 4.How do we respond to Miniver Cheevy’s thoughts about Camelot, Thebes, and the Medici? 5.Why does the woman in “Eros Turannos” stay with her husband? 6.What is the significance of the “we” in the final stanza of “Eros Turannos”? 7.In “Mr. Flood’s Party,” why is Eben Flood alone? 8.Line 47 of “Mr. Flood’s Party” refers to “two moons.”How are we to understand this image? Read “Mending Wall,” “Home Burial,” “The Road Not Taken,” “‘Out, Out–,'”, “Fire and Ice,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Departmental,” and “Desert Places.” 1.Why is the narrator in “Mending Wall” rebuilding the wall if “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” (ln. 1)? 2.The neighbor says “‘Good fences make good neighbors.'”Do you agree or disagree?Why? 3.How do the husband and wife’s grief differ in “Home Burial?” 4.The husband says, “A man must partly give up being a man/ With womenfolk” (ll. 52 – 53).Is this statement true?If so, is it also true of women? 5.In “The Road Not Taken,” how do you explain the repetition of “I” at the end of line 18 and the beginning of line 19? 6.Why write a poem about a road NOT taken? 7.Read the soliloquy in Macbeth that includes the words “out, out.”How is it relevant to the poem? 8.Do you think the surviving characters are cruel at the end of the poem?Why or why not? 9.Notice that “Fire and Ice” was first published in 1923, more than a decade before the nuclear age and modern Weapons of Mass Destruction.How does the advent of WMD affect the way you read the poem? 10.Why does the narrator in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” pause? 11.Does the description of the woods as “lovely, dark, and deep” (ln. 13) inspire desire, fright, or both?Why? 12.What do you think ants represent in “Departmental?”Is the any community a sort of microcosm? 13.Comment on the tone in the last two lines of “Departmental.” 14.”Desert Places,” like “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” presents snow images.What do you think snow represents here? 15.Is being scared of desert places common throughout human experience?Why or why not? Read “Chicago,” “Child of the Romans,” “Fog,” and “Grass.” 1.How does “Chicago” reflect the influence of Walt Whitman? 2.In what ways does Sandburg make the city of Chicago seem particularly alive? 3.How does comparison/contrast make “Child of the Romans” more poignant? 4.Is there anything ironic about the “roses and jonquils” (ln. 10) “[s]tanding slender on the tables in the dining room cars” (ln. 12)? 5.How does “Fog” reflect Imagist influences? 6.How is the city affected by the fog? 7.Why do you think “Grass” refers to so many battles? 8.What is the real work of the grass? Read “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” and “The Gilded Six-Bits.” 1. “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” is a non-fiction essay. What attitude does Hurston express about her own blackness? 2. How does Hurston claim to be freer than her white contemporaries? Do you agree or disagree? Why? 3. In “The Gilded Six-Bits,” give your own characterization of the relationship between Missie May and Joe. Now describe it as Joe sees it at the beginning of the story. 4. What does the ice cream parlor represent to Joe? to Missie May? 5. Slemmons is able to deceive Joe and Missie May in multiple ways. Explain. 6. How is “The Gilded Six-Bits” affected by seeing set in Eatonville, an all black town? Read all the selections from Toomer in the book. 1.In “Georgia Dusk,” what does the setting sun seem to represent for the characters? 2.How is the image of the juju man related to that of Christ (ln. 28)? 3.What does the narrator mean about “Fern” when he says that “[s]he became a virgin?” 4.What is the “vision” repeated in “Fern,” and how does it relate to the recurring image of the Jewish cantor? 5.What does it mean that “Portrait in Georgia” contains images of the lyncher’s rope, the fagot, and the blister? 6.What is the overall mood on “Seventh Street?” 7.Toomer was a writer of the Harlem Renaissance who sometimes chose to pass for white.What signs of internal racial dissonance and harmony do you find in the selections from Cane? Read As I Lay Dying. 1.Influenced by Marcel Proust and James Joyce, Faulkner wrote in the stream of consciousness technique.Do you find that it actually enhances your understanding, at times, of the novel? 2.Which of the speakers do you find most reliable?Why? 3.Do you consider Cash’s decision to make the coffin even before Addie dies and where she can see him cruel?Why or why not? 4.Which of Addie’s children receives more of your sympathy?Explain. 5.Why is Dewey Dell so anxious to go to Jefferson? 6.One section consists entirely of Vardaman saying, “My mother is a fish.”What does he mean? 7.Why does Anse refuse to abandon the journey to town, despite the flood and the injury to Cash? 8.Explain the last line of the novel: “‘Meet Mrs Bundren,’ he says.” Read “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” 1.What ails Harry physically?What might this illness symbolize? 2.When does Harry first acknowledge that he expects to die?How does the acknowledgement affect the way you read the rest of the story? 3.Why are certain passages italicized? 4.How do you react when Harry calls the woman a “bitch?” 5.What does Paris seem to represent to Harry? 6.What do you make of the fact that Harry is a writer? 7.How is the hyena in the last paragraph foreshadowed earlier? 8.Discuss the ways “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” illustrates what Hemingway called the “iceberg principle.” Read “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “I, Too,” “Mulatto,” “Song for a Dark Girl,” “Silhouette,” and “Democracy.” 1.How are the particular rivers listed in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” significant? 2.What does it mean to say one’s “soul has grown deep like the rivers?” 3.What is the version of America sung in “I, Too?” 4.Given the origin of the term “Mulatto,” why would Hughes use it as a title? 5.How does “Mulatto” seem to explain the white man’s lust for the black woman’s body yet his refusal to accept their offspring? 6.In “Song for a Dark Girl,” do the images go too far or not far enough in portraying a response to a lynching. 7.What does the speaker see of the woman in “Silhouette?”What might she be seeing at the same time? 8.What objection does the narrator seem to be answering in “Democracy?”
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AS I LAY DYING
Copyright 1930, and renewed 1957, by William Faulkner
Jewel and I come up from the field, following the path in single file. Although
I am fifteen feet ahead of him, anyone watching us from the cottonhouse can see
Jewel’s frayed and broken straw hat a full head above my own.
The path runs straight as a plumb-line, worn smooth by feet and baked
brick-hard by July, between the green rows of laid-by cotton, to the cottonhouse
in the center of the field, where it turns and circles the cottonhouse at four
soft right angles and goes on across the field again, worn so by feet in fading
The cottonhouse is of rough logs, from between which the chinking has long
fallen. Square, with a broken roof set at a single pitch, it leans in empty and
shimmering dilapidation in the sunlight, a single broad window in two opposite
walls giving onto the approaches of the path. When we reach it I turn and follow
the path which circles the house. Jewel, fifteen feet behind me, looking
straight ahead, steps in a single stride through the window. Still staring
straight ahead, his pale eyes like wood set into his wooden face, he crosses the
floor in four strides with the rigid gravity of a cigar store Indian dressed in
patched overalls and endued with life from the hips down, and steps in a single
stride through the opposite window and into the path again just as I come around
the corner. In single file and five feet apart and Jewel now in front, we go on
up the path toward the foot of the bluff.
Tull’s wagon stands beside the spring, hitched to the rail, the reins
wrapped about the seat stanchion. In the wagon bed are two chairs. Jewel stops
at the spring and takes the gourd from the willow branch and drinks. I pass him
and mount the path, beginning to hear Cash’s saw.
When I reach the top he has quit sawing. Standing in a litter of chips, he
is fitting two of the boards together. Between the shadow spaces they are yellow
as gold, like soft gold, bearing on their flanks in smooth undulations the marks
of the adze blade: a good carpenter, Cash is. He holds the two planks on the
trestle, fitted along the edges in a quarter of the finished box. He kneels and
squints along the edge of them, then he lowers them and takes up the adze. A
good carpenter. Addie Bundren could not want a better one, better box to lie in.
It will give her confidence and comfort. I go on to the house, followed by the
Chuck. Chuck. Chuck.
of the adze.
So I saved out the eggs and baked yesterday. The cakes turned out right well. We
depend a lot on our chickens. They are good layers, what few we have left after
the possums and such. Snakes too, in the summer. A snake will break up a henhouse
quicker than anything. So after they were going to cost so much more than
Mr Tull thought, and after I promised that the difference in the number of eggs
would make it up, I had to be more careful than ever because it was on my final
say-so we took them. We could have stocked cheaper chickens, but I gave my
promise as Miss Lawington said when she advised me to get a good breed, because
Mr Tull himself admits that a good breed of cows or hogs pays in the long run.
So when we lost so many of them we couldn’t afford to use the eggs ourselves,
because I could not have had Mr Tull chide me when it was on my say-so we took
them. So when Miss Lawington told me about the cakes I thought that I could bake
them and earn enough, at one time to increase the net value of the flock the
equivalent of two head. And that by saving the eggs out one at a time, even the
eggs wouldn’t be costing anything. And that week they laid so well that I not
only saved out enough eggs above what we had engaged to sell, to bake the cakes
with, I had saved enough so that the flour and the sugar and the stove wood
would not be costing anything. So I baked yesterday, more careful than ever I
baked in my life, and the cakes turned out right well. But when we got to town
this morning Miss Lawington told me the lady had changed her mind and was not
going to have the party after all.
“She ought to taken those cakes anyway,” Kate says.
“Well,” I say, “I reckon she never had no use for them now.”
“She ought to taken them,” Kate says. “But those rich town ladies can
change their minds. Poor folks cant.”
Riches is nothing in the face of the Lord, for He can see into the heart.
“Maybe I can sell them at the bazaar Saturday,” I say. They turned out real
“You cant get two dollars a piece for them,” Kate says.
“Well, it isn’t like they cost me anything,” I say. I saved them out and
swapped a dozen of them for the sugar and flour. It isn’t like the cakes cost me
anything, as Mr Tull himself realises that the eggs I saved were over and beyond
what we had engaged to sell, so it was like we had found the eggs or they had
been given to us.
“She ought to taken those cakes when she same as gave you her word,” Kate
says. The Lord can see into the heart. If it is His will that some folks has
different ideas of honesty from other folks, it is not my place to question His
“I reckon she never had any use for them,” I say. They turned out real
The quilt is drawn up to her chin, hot as it is, with only her two hands
and her face outside. She is propped on the pillow, with her head raised so she
can see out the window, and we can hear him every time he takes up the adze or
the saw. If we were deaf we could almost watch her face and hear him, see him.
Her face is wasted away so that the bones draw just under the skin in white
lines. Her eyes are like two candles when you watch them gutter down into the
sockets of iron candle-sticks. But the eternal and the everlasting salvation and
grace is not upon her.
“They turned out real nice,” I say. “But not like the cakes Addie used to
bake.” You can see that girl’s washing and ironing in the pillow-slip, if ironed
it ever was. Maybe it will reveal her blindness to her, laying there at the
mercy and the ministration of four men and a torn-boy girl. “There’s not a woman
in this section could ever bake with Addie Bundren,” I say. “First thing we know
she’ll be up and baking again, and then we wont have any sale for ours at all.”
Under the quilt she makes no more of a hump than a rail would, and the only way
you can tell she is breathing is by the sound of the mattress shucks. Even the
hair, at her cheek does not move, even with that girl standing right over her,
fanning her with the fan. While we watch she swaps the fan to the other hand
without stopping it.
“Is she sleeping?” Kate whispers.
“She’s just watching Cash yonder,” the girl says. We can hear the saw in
the board. It sounds like snoring. Eula turns on the trunk and looks out the
window. Her necklace looks real nice with her red hat. You wouldn’t think it
only cost twenty-five cents.
“She ought to taken those cakes,” Kate says.
I could have used the money real well. But it’s not like they cost me
anything except the baking. I can tell him that anybody is likely to make a
miscue, but it’s not all of them that can get out of it without loss, I can tell
him. It’s not everybody can eat their mistakes, I can tell him.
Someone comes through the hall. It is Darl. He does not look in as he
passes the door. Eula watches him as he goes on and passes from sight again
toward the back. Her hand rises and touches her beads lightly, and then her
hair. When she finds me watching her, her eyes go blank.
Pa and Vernon are sitting on the back porch. Pa is tilting snuff from the lid of
his snuff-box into his lower lip, holding the lip outdrawn between thumb and
finger. They look around as I cross the porch and dip the gourd into the water
bucket and drink.
“Where’s Jewel?” pa says. When I was a boy I first learned how much better
water tastes when it has set a while in a cedar bucket. Warmish-cool, with a
faint taste like the hot July wind in cedar trees smells. It has to set at least
six hours, and be drunk from a gourd. Water should never be drunk from metal.
And at night it is better still. I used to lie on the pallet in the hall,
waiting until I could hear them all asleep, so I could get up and go back to the
bucket. It would be black, the shelf black, the still surface of the water a
round orifice in nothingness, where before I stirred it awake with the dipper I
could see maybe a star or two in the bucket, and maybe in the dipper a star or
two before I drank. After that I was bigger, older. Then I would wait until they
all went to sleep so I could lie with my shirt-tail up, hearing them asleep,
feeling myself without touching myself, feeling the cool silence blowing upon my
parts and wondering if Cash was yonder in the darkness doing it too, had been
doing it perhaps for the last two years before I could have wanted to or could
Pa’s feet are badly splayed, his toes cramped and bent and warped, with no
toenail at all on his little toes, from working so hard in the wet in homemade
shoes when he was a boy. Beside his chair his brogans sit. They look as though
they had been hacked with a blunt axe out of pig-iron. Vernon has been to town.
I have never seen him go to town in overalls. His wife, they say. She taught
school too, once.
I fling the dipper dregs to the ground and wipe my mouth on my sleeve. It
is going to rain before morning. Maybe before dark. “Down to the barn,” I say.
“Harnessing the team.”
Down there fooling with that horse. He will go on through the barn, into
the pasture. The horse will not be in sight: he is up there among the pine
seedlings, in the cool. Jewel whistles, once and shrill. The horse snorts, then
Jewel sees him, glinting for a gaudy instant among the blue shadows. Jewel
whistles again; the horse comes dropping down the slope, stiff-legged, his ears
cocking and flicking, his mis-matched eyes rolling, and fetches up twenty feet
away, broadside on, watching Jewel over his shoulder in an attitude kittenish
“Come here, sir,” Jewel says. He moves. Moving that quick his coat,
bunching, tongues swirling like so many flames. With tossing mane and tail and
rolling eye the horse makes another short curvetting rush and stops again, feet
bunched, watching Jewel. Jewel walks steadily toward him, his hands at his
sides. Save for Jewel’s legs they are like two figures carved for a tableau
savage in the sun.
When Jewel can almost touch him, the horse stands on his hind legs and
slashes down at Jewel. Then Jewel is enclosed by a glittering maze of hooves as
by an illusion of wings; among them, beneath the up-reared chest, he moves with
the flashing limberness of a snake. For an instant before the jerk comes onto
his arms he sees his whole body earth-free, horizontal, whipping snake-umber,
until he finds the horse’s nostrils and touches earth again. Then they are
rigid, motionless, terrific, the horse back-thrust on stiffened, quivering legs,
with lowered head; Jewel with dug heels, shutting off the horse’s wind with one
hand, with the other patting the horse’s neck in short strokes myriad and
caressing, cursing the horse with obscene ferocity.
They stand in rigid terrific hiatus, the horse trembling and groaning.
Then Jewel is on the horse’s back. He flows upward in a stooping swirl like the
lash of a whip, his body in midair shaped to the horse. For another moment the
horse stands spraddled, with lowered head, before it bursts into motion. They
descend the hill in a series of spine-jolting jumps, Jewel high, leech-like on
the withers, to the fence where the horse bunches to a scuttering halt again.
“Well,” Jewel says, “you can quit now, if you got a-plenty.”
Inside the barn Jewel slides running to the ground before the horse stops.
The horse enters the stall, Jewel following. Without looking back the horse
kicks at him, slamming a single hoof into the wall with a pistol-like report.
Jewel kicks him in the stomach; the horse arches his neck back, crop-toothed;
Jewel strikes him across the face with his fist and slides on to the trough and
mounts upon it. Clinging to the hay-rack he lowers his head and peers out across
the stall tops and through the doorway. The path is empty; from here he cannot
even hear Cash sawing. He reaches up and drags down hay in hurried armsful and
crams it into the rack.
“Eat,” he says. “Get the goddamn stuff out of sight while you got a
chance, you pussel-gutted bastard. You sweet son of a bitch,” he says.
It’s because he stays out there, right under the window, hammering and sawing on
that goddamn box. Where she’s got to see him. Where every breath she draws is
full of his knocking and sawing where she can see him saying See. See what a
good one I am making for you. I told him to go somewhere else. I said Good God
do you want to see her in it. It’s like when he was a little boy and she says if
she had some fertilizer she would try to raise some flowers and he taken the
bread pan and brought it back from the barn full of dung.
And now them others sitting there, like buzzards. Waiting, fanning
themselves. Because I said If you wouldn’t keep on sawing and nailing at it
until a man cant sleep even and her hands laying on the quilt like two of them
roots dug up and tried to wash and you couldn’t get them clean. I can see the
fan and Dewey Dell’s arm. I said if you’d just let her alone. Sawing and
knocking, and keeping the air always moving so fast on her face that when you’re
tired you cant breathe it, and that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick
less. One lick less until everybody that passes in the road will have to stop
and see it and say what a fine carpenter he is. If it had just been me when Cash
fell off of that church and if it had just been me when pa laid sick with that
load of wood fell on him, it would not be happening with every bastard in the
county coming in to stare at her because if there is a God what the hell is He
for. It would just be me and her on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down
the hill faces and teeth and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn
adze going One lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet.
We watch him come around the corner and mount the steps. He does not look at us.
“You ready?” he says.
“If you’re hitched up,” I say. I say “Wait.” He stops, looking at pa.
Vernon spits, without moving. He spits With decorous and deliberate precision
into the pocked dust below the porch. Pa rubs his hands slowly on his knees. He
is gazing out beyond the crest of the bluff, out across the land. Jewel watches
him a moment, then he goes on to the pail and drinks again.
“I mislike undecision as much as ere a man,” Pa says.
“It means three dollars,” I say. The shirt across pa’s hump is faded
lighter than the rest of it. There is no sweat stain on his shirt. I have never
seen a sweat stain on his shirt. He was sick once from working in the sun when
he was twenty-two years old, and he tells people that if he ever sweats, he will
die. I suppose he believes it.
“But if she dont last until you get back,” he says. “She will be
Vernon spits into the dust. But it will rain before morning.
“She’s counted on it,” pa says. “She’ll want to start right away. I know
her. I promised her I’d keep the team here and ready, and she’s counting on it.”
“We’ll need that three dollars then, sure,” I say. He gazes out over the
land, rubbing his hands on his knees. Since he lost his teeth his mouth
collapses in slow repetition when he dips. The stubble gives his lower face that
appearance that old dogs have. “You’d better make up your mind soon, so we can
get there and get a load on before dark,” I say.
“Ma aint that sick,” Jewel says. “Shut up, Darl.”
“That’s right,” Vernon says. “She seems more like herself today than she
has in a week. Time you and Jewel get back, she’ll be setting up.”
“You ought to know,” Jewel says. “You been here often enough looking at
her. You or your folks.” Vernon looks at him. Jewel’s eyes look like pale wood
in his high-blooded face. He is a head taller than any of the rest of us, always
was. I told them that’s why ma always whipped him and petted him more. Because
he was peakling around the house more. That’s why she named him Jewel I told
“Shut up, Jewel,” pa says, but as though he is not listening much. He
gazes out across the land, rubbing his knees.
“You could borrow the loan of Vernon’s team and we could catch up with
you,” I say. “If she didn’t wait for us.”
“Ah, shut your goddamn mouth,” Jewel says.
“She’ll want to go in ourn,” pa says. He rubs his knees. “Dont ere a man
mislike it more.”
“It’s laying there, watching Cash whittle on that damn . . .” Jewel says.
He says it harshly, savagely, but he does not say the word. Like a little boy in
the dark to flail his courage and suddenly aghast into silence by his own noise.
“She wanted that like she wants to go in our own wagon,” pa says. “She’ll
rest easier for knowing it’s a good one, and private. She was ever a private
woman. You know it well.”
“Then let it be private,” Jewel says. “But how the hell can you expect it
to be–” he looks at the back o£ pa’s head, his eyes like pale wooden eyes.
“Sho,” Vernon says, “she’ll hold on till it’s finished. She’ll hold on
till everything’s ready, till her own good time. And with the roads like they
are now, it wont take you no time to get her to town.”
“It’s fixing up to rain,” pa says. “I am a luckless man. I have ever
been.” He rubs his hands on his knees. “It’s that durn doctor, liable to come at
any time. I couldn’t get word to him till so late. If he was to come tomorrow
and tell her the time was nigh, she wouldn’t wait, I know her. Wagon or no
wagon, she wouldn’t wait. Then she’d be upset, and I wouldn’t upset her for the
living world. With that family burying-ground in Jefferson and them of her blood
waiting for her there, she’ll be impatient. I promised my word me and the boys
would get her there quick as mules could walk it, so she could rest quiet.” He
rubs his hands on his knees. “No man ever misliked it more.”
“If everybody wasn’t burning hell to get her there,” Jewel says in that
harsh, savage voice. “With Cash all day long right under the window, hammering
and sawing at that–”
“It was her wish,” pa says. “You got no affection nor gentleness for her.
You never had. We would be beholden to no man,” he says, “me and her. We have
never yet been, and she will rest quieter for knowing it and that it was her own
blood sawed out the boards and drove the nails. She was ever one to clean up
“It means three dollars,” I say. “Do you want us to go, or not?” Pa rubs
his knees. “We’ll be back by tomorrow sundown.”
“Well …” pa says. He looks out over the land, awry-haired, mouthing the
snuff slowly against, his gums.
“Come on,” Jewel says. He goes down the steps. Vernon spits neatly into
“By sundown, now,” pa says. “I would not keep her waiting.”
Jewel glances back, then he goes on around the house. I enter the hall,
hearing the voices before I reach the door. Tilting a little down the hill, as
our house does, a breeze draws through the hall all the time, upslanting. A
feather dropped near the front door will rise and brush along the ceiling,
slanting backward, until it reaches the down-turning current at the back door:
so with voices. As you enter the hall, they sound as though they were speaking
out of the air about your head.
It was the sweetest thing I ever saw. It was like he knew he would never see her
again, that Anse Bundren was driving him from his mother’s death bed, never to
see her in this world again. I always said Darl was different from those others.
I always said he was the only one of them that had his mother’s nature, had any
natural affection. Not that Jewel, the one she labored so to bear and coddled
and petted so and him flingi …
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