Upper School Summer Reading 2018

Freshman Summer Reading:  Steinbeck’s The Red Pony

For each of the following questions, respond in a paragraph of 250 words (minimum) using the pattern of literary analysis:  statement (the topic sentence)—evidence (relevant, corroborating passages from the novel)—connection (how the evidence supports the statement).  Each question is worth 10 points.

  1. Identify the physical and emotional strengths and weaknesses of the following characters: Jody Tiflin, Cody Tiflin, Billy Buck, Gitano, Grandfather Tiflin.
  1. The water-tub and cypress tree are two focal symbols in Part One of the novel. What does each symbolize and how does each serve to unite the “emotional polarities” within Jody?

(To answer this question, first define your understanding of “emotional polarities”; then develop your response from the framework of that definition.)

  1. Structured as a prism, with each side of the prism comprising one of the four stories, the novel reveals a different perspective within Jody. Identify each of those perspectives and explain why, collectively, they are a means to understand Jody’s character.
  1. Meaningful stories reveal the “universal in the particular”—that is, how a single, particular story reflects an all-inclusive, common truth of humanity and life. How is The Red Pony a novel that reveals the universal in the particular?

10th Grade: Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya (1954)

MLA header and format required. Double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 Point font. Provide evidence from the text in MLA format whenever referencing anything from the text.

  1. How is the novel structured and why is that important to the theme? Note that Rukmani is telling a tale, the end of which we are already somewhat aware off very early on. What is the importance of Markandaya choosing first person narration?
  2. How would you describe the style of this novel?
  3. What are the roles of women in this novel? Be specifc, offering textual evidence with page numbers. Are the roles of women seen to be changing over the course of the novel? If so, why? Does Rukmani1’s role change?
  4. Who, if anyone, is to be seen as heroic in this tale? Are Nathan and Rukmani heroic? What about Kenny? Others?
  5. What are Rukmani’s attitudes toward the land/nature? Do these attitudes change over the course of the novel?
  6. What are Rukmani’s attitudes towards the coming of modernization and industrialism to her village? How does her attitude compare with those of other characters? Do these attitudes change over the course of the novel?
  7. What might Markandaya be trying to show about the values inherent in rural life in India?
  8. What does this novel illustrate about the seeming contradiction between the “shame” of not being able to bear children, especially males, which drives Rukmani to seek Kenny’s help and the harsh reality of a population too large to be sustained (both in the very local sense of Rukmani’s immediate family and the more general manifestation in the teeming hordes of the city.
  9. How do their experiences in the city affect Rukmani’s and Nathan’s values, habits, expectations? Is there a different morality at work in the city compared to the village?
  10. Can you pinpoint a specific place where there is a downward turn in Rukmanis fortunes? What are the identifiable causes for this turn? What forces are at work? Could Rukmani and Nathan have done anything at all to prevent their fortunes from declining?

11th Grade: Blue Highways; Journey Into America (Heat Moon) 

MLA header and format required. Double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 Point font.

  1. While speaking with a stranger he meets, the author says, “Maybe experience is like a globe – you can’t go the wrong way if you travel far enough.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
  1. Did you like the book? If so, what was your favorite part of the book? If not, why not? Provide textual evidence.
  1. In Tennessee, the author meets a man who says, “Satisfaction is doing what’s important to yourself. A man ought to honor other people, but he’s got to honor what he believes in too.” What do you think of this philosophy?
  1. What problems observed by the author still exist today? Provide textual evidence.
  1. The author gives a soldier a lift. The author writes, “I thought of the machinist whose name I never learned. He had gone out and come back only to find a single change: he was older. Sometimes a man’s experience is like the sweep second hand on a clock, touching each point in its circuit but always the arcs of movement repeating.” What are your thoughts about this?  Why?
  1. How has America changed in the years since the book was written? Provide textual evidence including outside research quoted in MLA format.
  1. In Texas, the author writes, “A popular piece of sociology holds that Americans are losing confidence in the future because they are losing sight of the past.” Reactions? What do  you think about that? Why?
  1. Has anyone had an experience with Hacklebarney? That’s the place Missourians speak of that’s “a nonexistent town you try to get to that is forever just around the next curve or just over the next hill, a town you believe in but never get to.”
  1. Where would you go today to “find” America?
  1. Are there any questions you would like to ask? What are some research topics that you are interested in after reading this book? Why?

Senior Summer Reading Assignment: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

  1. In a 200+ word paragraph identify the significance of Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, and King Arthur. What do they collectively define for the medieval world? (Research required; locate source on mythology.)
  1. To a medievalist, living by a definitive code is the ultimate goal of an individual, and that code can firmly fix one’s place in the universe. Explain in a 250+ word paragraph how that belief is revised by Gawain’s failure and new self-awareness at the end of the tale.
  1. In “Part Two” of the poem, Gawain prepares himself for his rendezvous with the Green Knight. He carries a shield which bears a pentangle star.  Although we read that all virtues met “in this one man” (Gawain) and that he had “freedom from sin,” Gawain, nevertheless, fails his final test.  Explain in a 250+ word paragraph how the green belt is Gawain’s new shield reflecting a renewed and edifying self image.
  1. In a 1,000+ word analytical essay, explain how Sir Gawain and the Green Knight reveals the verisimilitude of the following passage and its relevance to humanity regardless of time, place, culture, or gender:

Encircled in white

Does shadow afflict–

Yet brings to light:

Pride and true virtue conflict.

The essay must have the following sections in this order:  title page, outline page, the essay (with at least nine parenthetical notations, three each from the beginning, middle, and end of the poem), and a Works Cited page.

Note:  All written work must comply with MLA style requirements.  For reference, see online, “Mini-Manual for Using MLA Style in Research Papers.”