Answer Litterateur questions

Answer Litterateur questions

96 CHARACTER

Sourdi’s husband had to go. We followed him to the driveway. My

sister kissed him before he climbed into his Buick. He rolled down the Win

dow, and she leaned in and kissed him again.

I turned away. I watched Duke standing in the doorway, holding the

baby in his arms, cooing at its face. In his tough wannabe clothes, the super.

wide jeans and his fancy sneakers and the chain from his wallet to his belt

loops, he looked surprisingly young.

Sourdi lent us some blankets and matching his-and-hers Donald and Daisy

Duck sweatshirts for the trip back, since our coats were still wet and worthless.

“Don’t tell Ma I was here, O.K.?” I begged Sourdi. “We’ll be home by

afternoon. She’ll just think I’m with friends or something. She doesn’t have

to know, O.K. Sourdi pressed her full lips together into a thin line and nodded in a way

that seemed as though she were answering a different question. And I knew that I couldn’t trust my sister to take my side anymore.

As we pulled away from Sourdi’s house, the first icy snowflakes began to fall across the windshield.

Sourdi stood in the driveway with the baby on her hip. She waved to us as the snow swirled around her like ashes.

She had made her choice, and she hadn’t chosen me.

Sourdi told me a story once about a magic serpent, the Naga, with a mouth so large, it could swallow people whole. Our ancestors carved Naga into the stones of Angkor Wat to scare away demons. Sourdi said people used to believe they could come alive in times of great evil and protect the temples. They could eat armies.

I wished I was a Naga. I would have swallowed the whole world in one gulp. 230 But I have no magic powers. None whatsoever.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING AND WRITING 1. FIRST RESPONSE. How does your response to Nea develop over thecourse of the story? Is she a dynamic or a static character? 2. Explain how Nea and Sourdi serve as character foils to one another.3. Discuss whether you think Duke is a flat or a round character.4. What is the effect of the story’s being told from Nea’s perspective? Howmight the story be different ifit were told from the mother’s point ofview?5. Do you think Mr. Chhay is a good or bad husband?6. How does the information about Nea and Sourdi’s trip through theminefield affect your understanding of Nea’s relationship with her sister?7. Comment on the title. Why wouldn’t an alternative like “Nea theTroublemaker” be appropriate?

8. CONNECTION To ANOTHER SELECTION. Compare the characterization ofNea in “saving Sourdi” and ofSammy in John Updike’s “A & P” (p. 149). In what sense do both characters see themselves as rescuers?

98 CHARACTER

business, the business of curating, the business of public responsibility, the

business in general. I was hoping to get him on his arch tirade about

the average intelligence in his department couldn’t make a picture by

necting the dots, a routine which Cody could dial up like a phone

But I wasn’t going to get it tonight; he was already on business, his favorite

topic.

The truth is that Maxwell is a simple crook. He uses his office to travel5 like a pasha; he damages borrowed work, sees to the insurance, and then buys

some of it for himself; he only mounts three shows a year; and he only goes in

four days a week.

Cody came in for one of her favorite parts, Maxwell’s catalogue (includ-

ing stores and prices) of the clothing and jewelry he was wearing tonight. Cody always asked about the clerks, and so his glorious monologue was sprinkled with diatribes about the help. Old Maxwell.

When his girlfriend, Laurie, finally did arrive, breathless and airy at the same time, Maxwell had all three rings on the coffee table and he was show- ing Cody his new watch. Laurie tossed her head three times taking off her coat; we were in for a record evening.

Maxwell would show her off for a while, making disparaging remarks about exercise of any kind, and she would admire his rings, ranking them like tokens on the table, going into complex and aesthetic reasons for her choices. I would fill her full of the white wine that all of Maxwell’s girlfriends drink, and then when she asked where the powder room was, I would rise with her and go into the kitchen, wait, count to twenty-five while selecting another Buckhorn out of the fridge, and let Max in.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING AND WRITING

1. FIRST RESPONSE. Why do you think the story is titled “Max” rather than

“Maxwell”?

2. What details are especially effective in characterizing Maxwell and his

girlfriend?

3. How does the narrator serve as an implicit foil to Maxwell?

4. CREATIVE RESPONSE. Write an additional final paragraph that describes

what happens when Max is let back into the house, a paragraph that is

worthy of the humor in the rest of the story.

5. Why do you think Carlson didn’t write that paragraph?

HERMAN MELVILLE (1819-1891) Herman

Melville left

New York and went to sea as a young common sailor. He

returned to be-

134 SETTING

“No,” Krebs said.

His mother looked at him across the

started crying.

“I don’t love anybody,” Krebs said.

shiny. Sh

It wasn’t any good. He couldn’t tell her, he couldn’t make her see it. It was

silly to have said it. He had only hurt her. He went over and took hold ofher arm. She was crying with her head in her hands.

“I didn’t mean it,” he said. “1 was just angry at something. I didn’t mean I didn’t love you.”

His mother went on crying. Krebs put his arm on her shoulder.

“Can’t you believe me, mother?”

His mother shook her head.

“Please, please, mother. Please believe me.” 80

“All right,” his mother said chokily. She looked up at him. “I believe you, Harold.”

Krebs kissed her hair. She put her face up to him.

“I’m your mother,” she said. “I held you next to my heart when you were a tiny baby.”

Krebs felt sick and vaguely nauseated. 85 “I know, Mummy,” he said. “I’ll try and be a good boy for you.”

“Would you kneel and pray with me, Harold?” his mother asked.

knelt down beside the dining-room table and Krebs’s mother prayed.

“Now, you pray, Harold,” she said.

“I can’t,” Krebs said. 90

“Try, Harold.”

“I can’t.”

“Do you want me to pray for you?”

“yes.”

So his mother prayed for him and then they stood up and Krebs kissed 95

his mother and went out of the house. He had tried so to keep his life from being complicated. Still, none of it had touched him. He had felt sorry for his

mother and she had made him lie. He would go to Kansas City and get a job and she would feel all right about it. There would be one more scene maybe before he got away. He would not go down to his father’s office. He would miss that one. He wanted his life to go smoothly, It had just gotten going that

way. Well, that was all over now, anyway. He would go over to the schoolyard

and watch Helen play indoor baseball.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING AND WRITING

1. FIRST RESPONSE. The title, “Soldier’s Home,” focuses on the setting. DO

you have a clear picture of Krebs’s home? Describe it, filling in missing

details from your associations of home, Krebs’s routine, or anything else you can use.

2. What does the photograph of Krebs, the corporal, and the German girls reveal?

FAY WELDON 135

3. Belleau Wood, Soissons, the Champagne, St. Mihiel, and the Argonnewere the sites of fierce and bloody fighting. What effect have thesebattles had on Krebs? Why do you think he won’t talk about them to the people at home?

4. Why does Krebs avoid complications and consequences? How has the war changed his attitudes toward work and women? How is his home- town different from Germany and France? What is the conflict in the story?

5. Why do you think Hemingway refers to the protagonist as Krebs rather than Harold? What is the significance of his sister calling him “Hare”?

6. How does Krebs’s mother embody the community’s values? What does Krebs think of those values?

7. What is the resolution to Krebs’s conflict?

8. Comment on the appropriateness of the story’s title.

9. Explain how Krebs’s war experiences are present throughout the story

even though we get no details about them.

10. CONNECTION TO ANOTHER SELECTION. Contrast the attitudes toward

domestic life implicit in this story with those in Gail Godwin’s “A Sor-

rowful Woman” (p. 38). How do the stories’ settings help to account

for the differences between them?

11. CONNECTION TO ANOTHER SELECTION. How might Krebs’s rejection of

his community’s values be related to Sammy’s relationship to his super-

market job in John Updike’s “A & P” (p. 149)? What details does

Updike use to make the setting in “A & P” a comic, though nonethe-

less serious, version of Krebs’s hometown?

FAY WELDON (B. 1933)

Born in England and raised in New Zealand,

Fay Weldon graduated from St. Andrew’s

University in Scotland. She wrote advertis-

ing copy for various companies and was a

propaganda writer for the British Foreign

Office before turning to fiction. She has

written novels, short stories, plays, and radio

scripts. In 1971 her script for an episode

of

Upstairs, Downstairs won an award from

the Society of Film and Television Arts.

She has written more than thirty novels, in-

142 SETTING

i children, andand a whole generation, and their children,

on and on forever. If he’d just hung on a bit, théFöiifSäfäJevo;xnat June day, he

might have come to his senses. People do, sometimes quite quickly.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING AND WRITING

1. FIRST RESPONSE. Do you agree with Weldon’s first line, “This is a sad

story”? Explain why or why not.

2. How does the rain establish the mood for the story in the first five

paragraphs?

3. Characterize Peter. What details concerning him reveal his personality?

4. Describe the narrator’s relationship with Peter. How do you think he

regards her? Why is she attracted to him?

5. Why is Sarajevo important for the story’s setting? What is the effect of having the story of Princip’s assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife woven through the plot?

6. Describe Mrs. Piper. Though she doesn’t appear in the story, she does have an important role. What do you think her role is?

7. What is “Ind Aff” ? Why is it an important element of this story?

8. What is the significance of the two waiters (paras. 38-41)? How do they affect the narrator?

9. Why does the narrator decide to go home (para. 46)? Do you think she makes a reasoned or an impulsive decision? Explain why you think so.

10. CONNECTION TO ANOTHER SELECTION. Compare and contrast “IND AFF” and David Updike’s “Summer” (p. 155) as love stories. DO you think that the stories end happily or the way you would want them to? Are the endings problematic?

MARK HALLIDAY (B. 1949)

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mark Halliday earned a B.A. and an from Brown University and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. A teacher

at

Ohio University, his short stories and poems have appeared in a variety of

periodicals, including the Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Re

view, Chicago Review, and the New Republic. Among his six collections of

poetry, Little Star was selected by the National Poetry Series for publication

in 1987. He has also written a critical study on poet Wallace Stevens titled

Stevens and the Interpersonal (1991).


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