Students Begin Internet Book Discussion on Salinas Stories


Students Begin Internet Book Discussion Groups on Salinas Stories

During April and May 2009 Mr. Wood’s Junior and Senior English classes at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas are participating with the Salinas Stories program sponsored by the Salinas Library system and the National Steinbeck Center. It is an effort to study themes of history in Salinas, beginning in 1935. Students from Mr. Wood’s classes have set up this blog and will be submitting their responses. They would love to hear from others also. Please respond.

…And the Earth Did Not Devour Him

…And the Earth Did Not Devour Him is composed of 27 episodes – 14 titled stories and 13 untitled vignettes placed between the stories. The first titled story (“The Lost Year”) introduces a young boy who has “lost” a year; the boy appears again in the last story (“Under the House”), having remembered the “year” he lost. The other 12 titled stories and the vignettes between them are the boy’s memories.

The unusual statement and characterization of this novel challenge the reader to interpret a great many things that can ordinarily be taken for granted in more traditional novels. Below are questions that critics of this novel have debated a great deal. Let’s start our blog discussion by noting interpretations and any details from the novel that support them.

1. Is the person in the first episode the same one who goes under the house in the last episode?

2. Many of the episodes between the first and last have a young male as a main character. Is it the same young male in each episode? Is it the person who appears in the first episode? The last episode?

3. Is the “lost year” exactly 12 months?

4. Is the person who goes under the house merely confused or deeply disturbed? Does his psychological state change?

Answer these, wait a day or two, then respond to others interpretations.

Invisible Man

Ellison is infamous for repitition, what do you think of the use of repeating refernces to buckets? Take a look at this speech from Booker T. Washington given at the Libety Paint Factory and see if it provides further meaning to the repeating image of the bucket.

Think about the colors: gold, red, black, white, blue and gray in the novel. What themes and motifs and emphasized using colors to enhance significance?

Invisible Man

What is the relationship between individual identity and community identity? Think of the Brotherhood and the college, or even Harlem and how it affects the narrator?

What does the briefcase mean to the narrator? Specifically how does this relate to this life on the run?

How does race unravel in the novel? Can the stereotypes and assumptions relate to the way we perceive race?


nineteeneightyfour1984dvda2What do you think about the manipulation of language and information to control human thought? How is that shown here in the first chapter?

What do you make of the Party’s Newspeak slogans: “War is Peace” Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength?” Do you feel the ideas and themes of surveillance and government control can relate to our lives today?

What is it about Winston’s life in Oceania you find the most similar to our lives today? Are there any of the same feelings or elements we can sympathize with in our current climate?

Background Reading…

In order to give you a little background information on the life and experiences of George Orwell I highly suggest you take a look at some of his earlier works. With a background touching everything from the Spanish Civil War to working in Burma with the Imperial Police, his colored experiences led him to become one of the most feared, inspirational and revolutionary authors of an era.

Here you can find some information about the critical essays he wrote for the Socialist Weekly Tribune, as well as some information about the publication itself.

The experiences in Homage to Catalonia which came out in 1938 explore Orwell’s development as a socialist and his objections to totalitarianism. You can place a hold on the item here with the Salinas Public Library, or here online with Project Gutenberg for a free full online copy of the text.

Newsspeak which holds the rights to the novel, has some great background information on the context and development of the novel which you can find online at their website here.

And last but not least, the man himself. provides background information on his major works, as well as a quick and complete biography of his life to lend insight to his perspective and world views which you can find online here.