Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tonight's (12/16) homework

Please scroll down for tonight's homework - "A Ride Through Spain" by Truman Capote.

Stories for over vacation...due Jan. 5

For each story, please note one question, one quote, and one comment. I will check these first thing on January 5. Also, do the sheets for each: title, author, main character(s), short plot summary, style, pace, and characterization.

The Night the Ghost Got In by James Thurber
Adapted from “The Night the Ghost Got In” by James Thurber
(1) The ghost that got into our house on the night of November 17, 1915, raised such a hullabaloo of misunderstanding that I am sorry I didn’t just let it keep on walking, and go to bed. Its advent caused my mother to throw a shoe through a window of the house next door and ended up with my grandfather shooting a gun. I am sorry, therefore, as I have said, that I ever paid any attention to the footsteps.
(2) They began about a quarter past one o’clock in the morning, a rhythmic, quick-cadenced walking around the dining room table. My mother was asleep in one room upstairs; my brother Herman in another; and grandfather was in the attic. I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps. They were the steps of a man walking rapidly around the dining room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom shone down the back steps, which dropped directly into the dining room. The steps kept going round and round the table; at regular intervals a board creaked, when it was trod upon. I supposed at first that it was my father or my brother Roy, who had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home at any time. I suspected next that it was a burglar. It did not enter my mind until later that it was a ghost.
(3) After the walking had gone on for perhaps three minutes, I tiptoed to Herman’s room. “Psst!” I hissed in the dark, shaking him. “There’s something downstairs!” I said. Instantly the steps began again, circled the dining room table like a man running, and started up the stairs toward us, heavily, two at a time. The light still shone palely down the stairs; we saw nothing coming; we only heard the steps. Herman rushed to his room and slammed the door. I slammed shut the door at the stairs top and held my knee against it. After a long minute, I slowly opened it again. There was nothing there. There was no sound. None of us ever heard the ghost again.
(4) The slamming of the doors had awoken mother; she peered out of her room. “What on earth are you boys doing?” she demanded. “What was all that running around downstairs?” said mother. So she had heard the steps, too! We just looked at her. “Burglars!” she shouted intuitively. I tried to quiet her by starting lightly downstairs.
(5) “Come on, Herman,” I said.
(6) “I’ll stay with mother,” he said. “She’s all excited.”
(7) I stepped back onto the landing.
(8) Don’t either of you go a step,” said mother. “We’ll call the police.” Since the phone was downstairs, I didn’t see how we were going to call the police-nor did I want the police-but mother made one of her quick decisions. She flung up a window of her bedroom which faced the bedroom windows of the house of a neighbor, picked up a shoe, and whammed it through a pane of glass across the narrow space occupied by a retired engraver named Bodwell and his wife.
(9) It was now about two o’clock of a moonless night; clouds hung black and low. Bodwell was at the window in a minute, shouting, frothing a little, shaking his fist. “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria,” we could hear Mrs. Bodwell saying. It was some time before mother “got through” to Bodwell. “Burglars!” she shouted. “Burglars in the house!” Herman and I hadn’t dared to tell her that it was not burglars but ghosts, for she was even more afraid of ghosts than of burglars. Bodwell at first thought that she meant that there were burglars in his house, but finally he quieted down and called the police for us over an extension phone by his bed. After he had disappeared from the window, mother made as if to throw another shoe, not because there was further need of it but, as she later explained, because the thrill of heaving a shoe through a window glass had enormously taken her fancy. I prevented her.
(10) The police were on hand in a commendably short time. “Open up!” cried a hoarse voice. “We’re men from Headquarters!” I wanted to go down and let them in, since there they were, but mother wouldn’t hear of it. “You haven’t a stitch on,” she pointed out. “You’d catch your death.” I wound the towel around me again. Finally the cops put their shoulders to our big heavy front door with its thick beveled glass and broke it in: I could hear a rending of wood and a splash of glass on the floor of the hall. Their lights played all over the living room and crisscrossed nervously in the dining room, stabbed into hallways, shot up the front stairs and finally up the back. They caught me standing in my towel at the top. A heavy policeman bounded up the steps. “Who are you?” he demanded. “I live here,” I said. “Well whattsa matta, ya hot?” he asked. It was, as a matter of fact,cold; I went to my room and pulled on some trousers. On my way out, a cop stuck a gun into my ribs. “Whatta you doin’ here?” he demanded. “I live here,” I said.
(11) The officer in charge reported to mother. “No sign of nobody, lady,” he said. “Musta got away-whatt’d he look like?” “There were two or three of them,” mother said, “whooping and carrying on and slamming doors. “Funny,” said the cop. “All ya windows and doors was locked on the inside tight as a tick.”
(12) “No sign o’ nothing,” said the cop who had first spoken to mother. “This guy,” he explained to the others, jerking a thumb at me, “was nekked. The lady seems historical.” They all nodded, but said nothing; just looked at me. In the small silence we all heard a creaking in the attic. Grandfather was turning over in bed. “What’s ‘at?” snapped a policeman. Five or six cops sprang for the attic door before I could intervene or explain. I realized that it would be bad if they burst in on grandfather unannounced, or even announced. He was going through a phase in which he believed that General Meade’s men, under steady hammering by Stonewall Jackson, were beginning to retreat and even desert.
(13) When I got to the attic, things were pretty confused. Grandfather had evidently jumped to the conclusion that the police were deserters from Meade’s army, trying to hide away in his attic. He bounded out of bed wearing a long flannel nightgown over long woolen underwear, a nightcap, and a leather jacket around his chest. The cops must have realized at once that the indignant, white-haired old man belonged in the house, but they had no chance to say so. “Back, ye cowardly dogs!” roared grandfather. “Back t’ the lines, ye lily-livered cattle!” With that, he fetched an officer a flat-handed smack alongside his head that sent him sprawling. The others beat a retreat, but not fast enough; grandfather grabbed an officer’s gun from its holster and let fly. The report seemed to crack the rafters; smoke filled the attic. Somehow, we all finally got downstairs again and locked the door against the old gentleman. He fired once or twice more in the darkness and then went back to bed. “That was grandfather,” I explained to one officer, out of breath. “He thinks you’re deserters.” “I’ll say he does,” said the officer.
(14) The cops were reluctant to leave without getting their hands on somebody besides grandfather; the night had been distinctly a defeat for them. Furthermore, they obviously didn’t like the “layout”; something looked-and I can see their viewpoint- phony.
(15) “What was the matter with those policemen?” mother asked, after they had gone. “Grandfather shot at them,” I said. “What for?” she demanded. I told her they were deserters. “Of all things!” said mother. “They were such nice-looking young men.”
(16) Grandfather was fresh as a daisy and full of jokes at breakfast next morning. We thought at first he had forgotten all about what had happened, but he hadn’t. Over his third cup of coffee, he glared at Herman and me. “What was the idée of all them cops tarryhootin’ round the house last night?” he demanded. He had us there.


Analyzing Literature
In literature, humor refers to writing which attempts to evoke laughter. Humorists achieve this purpose by depicting comical incidents, situations, or personalities.
1. What makes Thurber's mother an unusual and amusing character?
2. What makes Thurber's grandfather an unusual and amusing character?
3. What is comical about the behavior of the police officers?
4. What malapropism, or humorous misuse of words, does the policeman commit when he describes the mother's behavior?
5. a) What is the usual reaction to hearing footsteps in the middle of the night? b) How does the contrast between the usual reaction and the Thurber family's reaction add to the humor of the story?

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
by Ambrose Bierce
A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the sleepers supporting the metals of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners--two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as "support," that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest--a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.
Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground--a gentle acclivity topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway of the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators--a single company of infantry in line, at "parade rest," the butts of the rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieu tenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.
The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good--a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well-fitting frock coat. He wore a mustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.
The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace. These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgment as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his "unsteadfast footing," then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move, What a sluggish stream!
He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift--all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by--it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each stroke with impatience and--he knew not why--apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer, the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.
He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. "If I could free my hands," he thought, "I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader's farthest advance."
As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man's brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.
Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with the gallant army that had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in war time. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in aid of the South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.
One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only toe, happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.
"The Yanks are repairing the railroads," said the man, "and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order."
"How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?" Farquhar asked.
"About thirty miles."
"Is there no force on this side the creek?"
"Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge."
"Suppose a man--a civilian and student of hanging--should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel," said Farquhar, smiling, "what could he accomplish?"
The soldier reflected. "I was there a month ago," he replied. "I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tow."
The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.
As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened--ages later, it seemed to him--by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well-defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fulness--of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river!--the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface--knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. "To be hanged and drowned," he thought? "that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair."
He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort!--what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. "Put it back, put it back!" He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire; his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!
He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf--saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the grey spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies' wings, the strokes of the water-spiders' legs, like oars which had lifted their boat--all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.
He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.
Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a grey eye and remembered having read that grey eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.
A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking into the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieu. tenant on shore was taking a part in the morning's work. How coldly and pitilessly--with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquillity in the men--with what accurately measured inter vals fell those cruel words:
"Attention, company! . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready! . . . Aim! . . . Fire!"
Farquhar dived--dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dulled thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.
As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther down stream nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.
The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning.
The officer," he reasoned, "will not make that martinet's error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!"
An appalling plash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, diminuendo, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps!
A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken a hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.
"They will not do that again," he thought; "the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me--the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun."
Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round--spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men--all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color--that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In a few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream--the southern bank--and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange, roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Æolian harps. He had no wish to perfect his escape--was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.
A whiz and rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.
All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman's road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.
By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famishing. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great garden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which--once, twice, and again--he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.
His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue--he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!
Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene--perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forward with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon--then all is darkness and silence!
Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.

A Ride Through Spain

A Ride Through Spain by Truman Capote
A Ride Through Spain
by Truman Capote
September 2, 1950

Certainly the train was old. The seats sagged like the jowls of a bulldog; windowpanes were out, and strips of adhesive held together those that were left; in the corridor a prowling cat appeared to be hunting mice, and it was not unreasonable to assume that his search would be rewarded. Slowly we crept out of Granada. The southern sky was as white and burning as a desert; in it was a single, tiny cloud. I was going to Algeciras, a Spanish seaport facing the coast of Africa. In my compartment there were five people, all told. One was a middle-aged Australian wearing a soiled linen suit; he had tobacco-colored teeth, and his fingernails were broken and dirty. Presently he informed us that he was a ship’s doctor. It seemed odd, there on the dry, dour plains of Spain, to meet someone connected with the sea. Then, there were two women, a mother and daughter. The mother was an overstuffed, dusty woman with sluggish, disapproving eyes and a faint mustache.
The focus for her disapproval shifted from place to place. First, she eyed me rather strongly, because, as the sunlight fanned brighter, waves of heat blew through the broken windows and I removed my jacket—which she must have considered, perhaps rightly, discourteous. Later on, she took a dislike to the third man in our compartment, a young soldier. The soldier and the woman’s not very discreet daughter, a buxom girl with the scrappy features of a prizefighter, seemed to have tacitly agreed to flirt. Whenever the wandering cat appeared at our door, the daughter pretended to be frightened, and the soldier gallantly shooed the cat into the corridor; this byplay gave them frequent opportunities to touch each other.
The young soldier was one of many on the train. With their tasselled caps set at snappy angles, they hung about in the corridors smoking sweet, black cigarettes and laughing confidentially. They seemed to be having a good time, and apparently this was wrong of them, for when an officer appeared, they would stare fixedly out the windows, as though enraptured by the landslides of red rock, the olive fields, and the stern mountains. Their officers were dressed for a parade—many ribbons, much brass, and some wore gleaming, improbable swords strapped to their belts. They did not mix with the soldiers but sat together in a first-class compartment, looking bored and rather like unemployed actors.
The compartment ahead of mine had been taken over by one family—a delicate, attenuated, exceptionally elegant man with a mourning ribbon sewed around his sleeve, and six thin, summery girls, his daughters. The girls, who resembled their father, were beautiful, all of them, and in the same way: hair that had a dark shine, lips the color of pimientos, eyes like sherry. In age, they ranged from about fourteen to twenty-one. The soldiers would glance into their compartment, then look away. It was as if they had seen straight into the sun.Whenever the train stopped, the man’s two youngest daughters, carrying parasols, would descend from the carriage and stroll under their shade. They enjoyed many lengthy promenades, for the train spent the greater part of its time standing still. No one appeared to be exasperated by this except me.
Several passengers seemed to have friends at every station with whom they could sit, usually around a fountain, and gossip long and lazily. One old woman was met by little groups in a dozen or so towns. Between these encounters, she wept, and with such abandon that the Australian doctor eventually became alarmed and asked, in Italian, if he could help her. Why, no, she said, there was nothing he could do; it was just that seeing all her relatives made her so happy.At each stop, cyclones of barefooted women and more or less naked children ran the length of the train, sloshing earthen jars of water and furrily squalling “Agua! Agua!” For two pesetas, you could buy a whole basket of dark, runny figs, and there were trays of curious white-coated candy doughnuts that looked as though they should be eaten by young girls wearing Communion dresses.
Toward noon, having collected a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a sausage, and a small cheese, I was prepared for lunch. My companions in the compartment were hungry, too. Packages were produced, wine was uncorked, and for a while there was a pleasant, almost graceful festiveness. The soldier shared a pomegranate with the girl, the Australian told an amusing story, the witch-eyed mother pulled a paper-wrapped fish from her bosom and ate it with a glum relish.Afterward, everyone was sleepy; the doctor went so solidly to sleep that a fly meandered undisturbed over his openmouthed face. Stillness etherized the whole train. In the next compartment, the lovely girls leaned against one another loosely, like six exhausted geraniums. Even the cat had ceased to prowl and lay dreaming in the corridor. We had climbed higher; the train moseyed across a plateau of rough yellow wheat, then between the granite walls of deep ravines, where strange, thorny trees quivered in the wind moving down from the mountains. Once, at a parting in the trees, there was something I’d wanted to see—a castle on a hill. It sat there like a crown.It was a landscape for bandits. Earlier in the summer, a young Englishman I know (rather, know of) had been motoring through this part of Spain when, on the lonely side of a mountain, his car was surrounded by swarthy scoundrels. They robbed him, then tied him to a tree and tickled his throat with the blade of a knife.
I was thinking of this when, without preface, a spatter of gunfire strafed the dozy silence. It was a machine gun. The train, with a wounded creak, slowed to a halt. For a moment, there was no sound except the machine gun’s cough. Then, in a loud, dreadful voice, I said, “Bandits!”“Bandidos!” screamed the daughter.“Bandidos!” echoed her mother, and the terrible word swept through the train.The result was slapstick in a grim key. All of us in the compartment collapsed on the floor, one cringing heap of arms and legs, except for the mother, who kept her head. She stood up and systematically stashed away her treasures. She stuck a ring into the bun of her hair, and, without shame, hiked up her skirts and dropped a pearl-studded comb into her bloomers. Airy twitterings of distress came from the charming girls in the next compartment. In the corridor, the officers bumped about, yapping orders and knocking into one another.Suddenly, within the train, silence. Outside, there was the murmur of wind in the leaves, of voices. Just as the weight of the doctor’s body was becoming too much for me, the outer door of our compartment swung open and a young man stood there. He did not look clever enough to be a bandit.
“Hay un médico en el tren?” he asked, smiling.The Australian, removing his elbow from my stomach, climbed to his feet. “I’m a doctor,” he admitted, dusting himself. “Has someone been wounded?”“Si, señor. An old man. He is hurt in the head,” said the Spaniard, who was not a bandit, alas, but merely another passenger.Getting back in our seats, the rest of us listened, expressionless with embarrassment, to the story of what had happened. It seemed that for the last several hours an old man had been stealing a ride by clinging to the rear of the train. Just now, he’d lost his hold, and a soldier, seeing him fall, had started firing a machine gun as a signal for the engineer to stop the train. My only hope was that no one remembered who had first mentioned bandits.
There was no indication that anyone did. The doctor, after acquiring a clean shirt of mine to use as a bandage, went off to his patient, and the mother, turning her back with sour prudery, reclaimed her pearl comb.Her daughter, the soldier, and I got out of the carriage and strolled under the trees of a small wood that smelled of oranges, where many of the passengers had gathered to discuss the incident. Two more soldiers appeared, carrying the old man. My shirt had been wrapped around his head. They propped him under a tree, and all the women clustered about, vying with each other to lend him a rosary; someone brought a bottle of wine, which pleased him more. He seemed quite happy, and moaned a great deal. Some children from the train circled around him, giggling. A path led to a shaded promontory, from which one looked across a valley where sweeping stretches of scorched golden grass shivered as though the earth were trembling. Admiring the valley and the shadowy changes of light on the hills beyond, the six sisters, escorted by their elegant father, sat on the grass with their parasols raised above them, like guests at a fête champêtre.
The soldiers moved around them in a vague, ambitious manner; they did not dare to approach, though one brash, sassy fellow went to the edge of the promontory and called, “Yo te quiero mucho!” The words returned with the hollow sub-music of a perfect echo, and the sisters, blushing, looked more deeply into the valley.A large cloud, sombre as the rocky hills, had massed in the sky, and the grass below was stirring like the sea before a storm. Someone said he thought it would rain. But no one wanted to go, including the injured man, who was well on his way through a second bottle of wine, and the children, who, having discovered the echo, stood happily carolling into the valley. It was like a party, and we all drifted back to the train as though each of us wished to be the last to leave. The old man, with my shirt like a grand turban on his head, was put into a first-class carriage, and several eager ladies attended him.In our compartment, the dusty mother, who had not seen fit to join the party, sat just as we had left her. She gave me a long, glittering look. “Bandidos!” she said, with a surly, unnecessary vigor. The train moved on so slowly that butterflies blew in and out the windows.

QUESTIONS:A simile is a comparison using the words "like" or "as."
1. Find 5 similes used by Capote in this selection.
2. Explain how each of these similes creates a vivid image, or word picture.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Baby news!

Hello everyone! As most of you probably already know, Ethan Paul Smith was born on October
1 (also my birthday) at 9:27 p.m. He weighed 6 lbs 15 1/2 oz and was 20 inches long. We're all doing fine, but I've been very busy with him these last two weeks. I'm sorry I'm just posting pictures now, but better late than never!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Accel 11 - Writing Assignment 1

In a well-written, organized 2-3 page essay with strong voice and few spelling and/or grammar errors, please address one of the following prompts.

Option 1: Discuss how Arthur Miller’s diction affects the tone and message of the play. Be specific and use examples.

Option 2: Discuss how the characterization of a major character affects how readers interpret the character. In other words, does what and how we learn about a character affect our opinions of him/her?

Option 3: Discuss how the allegorical nature of the play either increases or decreases the power of the play.

*All final drafts should be typed and double-spaced with a proper heading and title. Paragraphs should be indented and there should not be extra spaces between paragraphs.
*If you would like me to preview a first draft, then I will need a hard copy by Thurs. 9/18.
*Final draft due Friday, October 3, by 2 p.m., via hard copy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An excerpt from "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on the plot of ground which is given him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. It is not without pre-established harmony, this sculpture in the memory. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. Bravely let him speak the utmost syllable of his confession. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. It needs a divine man to exhibit anything divine. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the Eternal was stirring at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not pinched in a corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but redeemers and benefactors, pious aspirants to be noble clay under the Almighty effort let us advance on Chaos and the dark...

Society everywhere is in a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Whoso would be a man, must be a non-conformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world...
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Out upon your guarded lips! Sew them up with pockthread, do. Else if you would be a man speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon balls, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. Ah, then, exclaim the aged ladies, you shall be sure to be misunderstood! Misunderstood! It is a right fool's word. Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Start of the Year

Welcome to Room 514 and your English class for the year! I hope everyone had a relaxing summer and is ready for a new year. To answer your first question, for those of you who already know of me, I plan to work until September 19. Then I will be on maternity leave until mid-December.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Research Paper Resources

  • For information on using MLA format, please see the link on the right of the page.
  • For assistance incorporating your articles, or for more specific help, please see me during an extra help session: 5/14 2-3 p.m., 5/19 2-2:30 p.m., 5/21 2-3 p.m., 5/29 2-3 p.m. You can also stop by before school any day.
  • For simple questions, email me tlesniak@shschools.com.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Research Paper news

You will receive your research paper topics by the end of March and they will be due at the end of May for juniors and beginning of May for freshmen. For juniors, you should be thinking about aspects of the books we've read that you have enjoyed - things like what influenced the author to write in a certain style or about a certain topic, the themes of the novels, how characters might be symbols for other things. For freshmen, you should be thinking about a well-known person who has been influential in some significant way. Have a person in mind by March 15.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Accel 11 News

Since I was unable to be in class on the Friday before vacation, I'm going to extend the deadline for your final drafts until later this week...probably Thursday or Friday. We'll talk more about it Monday and I'll get your first drafts back to you. Hope everyone enjoyed their vacation.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Accel 11: Papers and Projects

Accelerated English 11
Ms. Lesniak
Of Mice and Men: Papers and Projects

Writing Assignment 5: Convince Me (choose one topic)

Topic 1: Although it was off the list in 2006, Of Mice and Men has repeatedly found a place on the “Top Ten Most Challenged or Banned Books List” according to the American Library Association. Those opposing its use in curriculum call the book “vulgar” and “offensive” mostly because of its language. In a well-written, cohesive, organized, and clear essay, convince me whether or not the book has academic value.

Topic 2: Given the language used in this book, one could make an argument that Steinbeck was a hateful man who believed in calling people the horrible names he used in the book. However, one could also argue that Steinbeck is using such language to demonstrate its ridiculousness. In a well-written, cohesive, organized, and clear essay, convince me whether or not Steinbeck truly believes in the words he uses, or if they’re just for show.

This is a persuasive essay, so you should pinpoint specific reasons. Be convincing. Be argumentative. Pick a side and defend it. You will not be graded on your opinion, but rather on your ability to defend your opinion and shoot down the opposing view point.

Grading Criteria: (Each weighted as 1/5.)

Mechanics, spelling, clarity, grammar, proper heading
Logical organization and length (about 1 ½ pages) that increase the persuasiveness of your essay.
Specific themes/examples from the book that defend your decision.
An engaging title, intro, and conclusion
Style – has strong voice, uses strong verbs, and flows clearly from one point to the next

Project: A Qaud-Fold
During our reading of Of Mice and Men, we have spent a great deal of time discussing the stereotypes in the novella, and whether those stereotypes are reinforced or challenged.
Working as a group of no larger than 3*, create a presentation that presents whether these stereotypes have ultimately been reinforced or challenged.
You should use a tri-fold display board for this, and should divided the middle section into two equal parts, so that you may address the four groups we’ve discussed: women, African-Americans, mentally and physically handicapped (combined into one category), and migrant workers.
Each category should be clearly labeled with the group and a brief description of its stereotype at the top.
Below that please list at least 3 quotes that reinforce or challenge the stereotype.
During your in-class presentation, you will be expected to elaborate on how these quotes reinforce or challenge.
You may use notecards during your presentation, but should not have the oral presentation written out word for word.

Grading Criteria: visual worth 30 points, oral worth 30 points
Display board meets all requirements and is presented in a clear and aesthetically pleasing manner.
Quotes all support either reinforcement or challenging.
Oral presentation is well-articulated and clearly explains how the quotes fit your belief.
Everyone in the group participates equally. This means everyone talks and everyone works on the display board.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Accel 11 News

  1. In the interest of preserving my sanity, as well as my students' sanity, I will use your short story mini-test as your first grade on third quarter.
  2. Please remember to send me an electronic copy of your short story this weekend, if you haven't already.
  3. Thank you to everyone who got their outside reading forms and short stories in on time. I really do appreciate your effort.
  4. Finally, to those of you attending the cotillion, please be careful and have a good time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hawaii pics!


Accel 11 Binder Check

Wednesday, January 16

Journals: 10 of your own, Journals 12-24
Quotes: 7 of your own, Quotes 12-22
Close Reading Guide
Scarlet Letter symbolism notes
literary criticism notes
Literary Terms 3 and Short Story Literary Terms

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Outcasts of Poker Flat

Copy and paste the address below into your address field for a full text version of the story.


Analyzing Literature #1-3
Regional literature captures the atmosphere, or mood, of an area, by showing the region's habits, speech, appearance and customs.
1. What specific details of the setting does Harte use to create a portrait of the California landscape?
2. Find three examples of a character's use of western dialect (speaking like they're from the West).
3. Explain why you think the story would not be effective if the setting were changed.

Critical Thinking and Reading #1-2
What guesses about the attitudes of the people of Poker Flat can you make from each of the following passages?
1. "A few of the committee had urged hanging him as a possible example, and a sure method of reimbursing themselves from his pocket of the sums he had won from them."
2. " 'It's a fine justice,' said Jim Wheeler, 'to let this yer young man - an entire stranger - carry away our money.' "

Monday, January 7, 2008

Writing Assignment 4 photos

The Fall of the House of Usher

Follow this link to the full text of the story.

**If the link does not work, simply google "the fall ofthe house of usher full text" and there will be many sites from which to choose.

Questions are as follows...
Thinking About the Selection
8. How is the physical appearance of the interior of the House of USher related to the condition of Usher's mind?
9. What details early in the story foreshadow the ending?
10. Critics have argued that Madeline and Roderick are not only twins but are phsyical and mental components of the same being? What evidence is there to support this theory?
11. What is the significance of the fact that rather than helping Usher, the narrator finds himself becoming infected by Usher's condition?
12. Explain the two meanings of the story's title.
13. In what way is the ending of the story ambiguous?
14. Poe's story may suggest that the human imagination is capable of producing false perceptions of reality. Do you agree with this suggestion? Why or why not?

Analyzing Literature
Poe asserted that a story should be constructed to achieve a single effect - in this story that effect is terror.
How do each of the events contribute to the growing sense of terror in this story?
1. the description of the house
2. the description of Usher's painting
3. the entombment of Madeline
4. storms and other natural phenomena

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Imagined Scenes

Here are the questions for today's classwork if you weren't able to finish in class. I could not find a link for the story, so just do your best from memory.

Thinking About the Selection
6a. What hints does Beattie provide that the relationship between the young woman and David is somewhat strained?
6b. What might be the main cause of this tension?
7a. How is the old man's attitude toward his sister similar to David's attitude toward the young woman?
7b. In what sense is the young woman's situation similar to the sister's situation?
7c. What is ironic, or surprising, about the sister's final comment?
8. What do you think the snow symbolizes, or represents, in the story?
9. Do you think it would be possible for the young woman to change her situation? Why or why not?

Analyzing Literature
"Imagined Scenes" is written in a postmodern format. It's written in a broken sequence of scenes that reflect the disjointed, fragmentary quality of contemporary life.
1. How are the beginning and ending of the stor unlike those in traditional short stories?
2. Why is the overall structure of the story appropriate for its subject?
3. What does the story suggest about the ability of people in contemporary society to communicate with one another?

Critical Thinking and Reading
In her story, Beattie captures the human tendency to think metaphorically, or to seek and understand the world through comparisons.
1. What do the postcards represent to the old man?
2. What do the scenes the young woman imagines represent to her?