By: Rosa M. Reyes, Ph.D.

Literature is a noun.  One of the Fine Arts.  And it has different meanings too…

Encarta Dictionary says that literature is…


1.      Written works with artistic value:  written works such as fiction, poetry, drama, and criticism that are recognized as having important or permanent artistic value.

2.      It is the body of written works:  the body of written works of a culture, language, people, or period of time.  Like the Russian Literature.

3.      Writings on specific subjects:  the body of published work concerned with a particular subject.  Like scientific literature.

4.      Printed information:  printed matter that gives information, in the form of, for example, brochures or flyers.

5.      Production of literary works: the creation of literary work, especially as an art or occupation.

Literature happens all around the world, in all countries, among all races, all languages, all over.  That is why we have:  English Literature, American Literature, Literatura Española, Litterature Francaise, Literatura Italiana, Puertorican Literature = Literatura Puertorriqueña and many others.  But all literature has the same literary terms.  And they are the same all around the world.

Now, let’s begin with the basic terms that you should know about literature.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY – is the art or practice of writing the story of one’s own life. 

A biography or narrative of one’s life, written by oneself.

BALLAD – a song or a poem that tells a story in short stanzas and simple words, with repetition, refrain, etc.:  most old ballads are of unknown authorship and have been handed down orally, usually with additions and changes.

BIOGRAPHY – the histories of individual lives, considered as a branch of literature.  An account of a person’s life, written or told by another; life story.

COMEDY – originally, any play or other literary composition with a nontragic ending.  A word of literature having a theme suitable for comedy or certain characteristics of comedy.

DIALOGUE – a talking together; conversation.  A written work in the form of a conversation.

DRAMA – a literary composition that tells a story usually of human conflict, by means of dialogue and action.

The principal forms of the drama are tragedy or comedy; from modifications or combinations of these result the lyric drama or grand opera, melodrama, tragicomedy, opera bouffe or comic opera, farce, and burlesque.

ESSAY – a short literary composition dealing with a single subject, usually from a personal point of view and without attempting completeness.

FABLE – a fictious narrative intended to teach some moral truth or precept, in which animals and sometimes inanimate objects are represented as speakers and actors.  A story or a legend invented and developed by imagination or superstition and at one time generally believed, but now known to be imaginary; a myth.

FANTASY- to conceive in the mind; to imagine.

FICTION – the act of inventing, or imagining.  Any literary work portraying imaginary characters and events, as a novel, play, etc.

FOLK LITERATURE – a type of literature that has been passed orally from generation to generation and written down some centuries later.  The authorship of folk literature, which includes epics, fables, fairy tales and myths, is unknown.

HUMOR – the quality that makes something seem funny, amusing, or ludicrous; comicality.  In literature, writing whose purpose is to amuse or to evoke laughter.  Humorous writings can be sympathetic to human nature or can be satirical.

LEYEND – a story of some wonderful event, handed down for generations among people and popularly believed to have a historical basis, although not verifiable:  distinguished from myth.  A story handed down from the past, often associated with some period in the history of a people.

MYSTERY – something unexplained, unknown, or kept secret.  Any thing or event that remains so secret or obscure as to excite curiosity;  as a murder mystery; a novel, story, or play involving such an event.  A work of fiction that contains a puzzling problem or event not explained until the end, so as to keep the reader in suspense.

MYTH – a traditional story of unknown authorship, ostensibly with a historical basis, but serving usually to explain some phenomenom of nature, the origin of man, or the customs, institutions, religious rites, etc. of a people; myths usually involve the exploits of gods and heroes.  A myth has less historical background than a legend.

NARRATIVE – the art or practice of relating stories or accounts.  It may be either fictional or true.

NONFICTION – literature about real people and events.

NOVEL – a relatively long fictional prose narrative with a more or less complex plot or pattern of events, about human beings, their feelings, thoughts, actions, etc.  A long work of prose fiction dealing with characters, situations, and settings that imitate those of real life.  A “novelette” is a short novel.

POETRY – a type of literature that creates an emotional response by imaginative use of words patterned to produce a desired effect through rhythm, sound, and meaning.  Poetry may contain rhyme or be unrhymed.

SHORT STORY – a prose narrative that is shorter than a novel and that usually describes just one event or a tightly constructed series of events.

SPEECH – a literary composition written to be given as a public talk.  A speech may be formal or informal in style, and the topic usually depends on the intended audience.

SCIENCE  FICTION – a works that takes place in an unreal world and that often concerns incredible characters.  It is a kind of fantasy, that tends to deal chiefly with events that take place in the future or on other planets and concerns that cannot currently be explained by science.

MUSICAL THEATER – drama or comedy mixed with lyrics and music specially written for it.  It is the new burlesque show.


An author is a person who produces, creates, or brings into being.  It is one who composes or writes a book.  There is a long list of authors very well known around the world, but in the English Literature, the most famous one is William Shakespeare.  It is said that a library is complete if it has “The Bible”, “Don Quixote” and the works of Shakespeare.  But talking about authors we must find out who wrote The Bible.  Many people did it.  Don Quixote was written by Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a Spaniard who wrote his master piece while been imprisoned in jail.  This book has been translated into all languages of the world.  And William Shakespeare born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England has all his works translated into all the languages of the world too.  We can say that these two authors are very well known in the literature field but none of them ever won a prize for any of their works.  Now-a-days, all writers dream in winning a big prize.  And there are many of them to dream with.  Many countries do have literary prizes.  Well known are:  Juan Rulfo Award, Príncipe de Asturias Award, American Literature Award but the most famous are the The Pulitzer and the Nobel Awards.

Elements of Fiction

The word fiction means “anything made up or imagined.  And the two major types of fiction are novels and short stories.

A NOVEL is a long work of fiction and a short story is a brief work of fiction that can be read in one sitting.

The CHARACTERS in fiction are the people who take part in the action of the story.  And the events of the story center on the most important characters.  The less important characters are known as minor characters.

The THEME is the main idea that the author wants to share with the reader.  And the reader must find it because the author usually doesn’t    name it clearly.

The EVENTS of a story occur in a particular time and place.  This is called a SETTING.  But a story can be set in a realistic or an imaginary place and can occur in the past, present or future.  When  making a movie we have people who are specialists in “locations” and they are the ones who decides where the action of the story will take place.

Now, the PLOT usually confuses with the theme, but it is the chain of related events that make up a story.  It centers on at least one major problem or conflict.

The plot has five parts:  exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and the resolution.

The EXPOSITION provides the background information that the reader needs to know.  It introduces the characters, describes the setting and may recap important events that occurred before the action of the story.  The exposition can introduce the conflict.

As the story progresses, the chain of events becomes more complex.  The actions and feelings of the characters intensify as their problems become more complicated.  And this is known as the RISING ACTION, which creates a desire in the reader to find out what will happen next.

The CLIMAX is when the intensity of the story reaches a peak, the turning point of the action.  It involves an important event, decision, or a discovery that affects the final outcome.

The FALLING ACTION describes the results of the major events as the action winds down.

The final part of a story tells how the story ends is called the RESOLUTION.

When you begin reading any literary work, you will look ahead to see what the title, art, or any other noticeable features tell you about the selection.  So you will preview the story.

As you read the exposition of the story you will picture in your mind the descriptions of the characters and setting.  Simply look for specific adjectives that help you imagine how the opening scene looks.

Become an active reader by making observations and asking questions about the story.  Ask yourself what the central problem or conflict seems to be.  Ask why the characters behave as they do.

The questions you ask yourself about the story can also help you set purposes for your reading.  You can rephrase the questions.

Then, once you begin to understand the problems the characters face, you can predict what will happen next.  Try to guess what the characters will do or say in a particular situation.  Try to predict what will happen in the climax.

As you read, you will notice that the reasons for certain characters’ actions become clear.  Continue to clarify your understanding of the story.  Reread particular sections of the text to fully understand what has happened or why.

Any reading experience leaves you with thoughts and feelings.  When you finish reading, take a few minutes to reflect on, or think about your impressions.  Ask yourself how you feel about the story’s events.  What is your reaction to the main characters?  What message about life does the story convey to you?


“Like Mexicans”

by Gary Soto

Let’s see what you know.

In this true story, the narrator faces pressure from his family and friends to marry someone of his own ethnic group and social class.

How important do you think it is to marry someone from your own background?

How important would  your decision be to your parents or other relatives?

How important is marrying someone of your own ethnic group?

How important is marrying someone of your own social class?

Write a description of a kind of person you would like to marry.

Describe this person’s personality, interests, and goals as well as his or her physical appearance and background.  Entitle this profile “My Perfect  Mate.”


Gary Soto

My grandmother gave me bad advice and good advice when I was in my early teens.  For the bad advice, she said that I should become a barber because they made good money and listened to the radio all day.  “Honey, they don’t work como burros,”  she would say every time I visited her.  She made the sound of donkeys braying. “Like that, honey!”  For the good advice, she said that I should marry a Mexican girl.  “No Okies, hijo – she would say -  “Look my son.  He marry one, and they fight every day about I   don’t know what.”  For her, everyone who wasn’t Mexican,  black, or Asian was an Okie.  The French were Okies;  the Italians in suits were Okies.  When I asked about Jews, whom I had read about, she asked for a picture.  I rode home on my bicycle and returned with a calendar depicting the important races of the world.  “Pues si, son Okies también!”  she said, nodding her head. 

She waved the calendar away, and we went to the living room where she lectured me on the virtues of the Mexican girl:  first, she could cook, and second, she acted like a woman, not a man, in her husband’s home.  She said she would tell me about a third when I got a little older.

I asked my mother  about it – becoming  a barber and marrying a Mexican.  She was in the kitchen.  Steam curled from a pot  of boiling beans;  the radio was on, looking as a squat of a loaf of bread.  “Well, if you want to be a barber – they say they make good money.”  She slapped a round steak with a knife, her glasses slipping down with each strike.  She stopped and looked up.  “If you  find a good Mexican girl, marry her  of course.”  She returned to slapping the meat, and I went  to the backyard, where my brother and David King were sitting on the lawn….

I ignored them and climbed the back fence to see my best friend, Scott, a second-generation Okie.  I called him, and his mother pointed to the side of the  house where his bedroom  was a small aluminum trailer, the kind you gawk at when they’re flipped over on the freeway, wheels spinning in the air.  I went around to find Scott pitching horseshoes.

I pitched up a set of rusty ones and joined him.  While we played, we talked about school and friends and record albums.  The horseshoes scuffed up dirt, sometimes  ringing  the iron that threw  out a  meager shadow like a sundial.  After three argued over games, we pulled two oranges a piece from his tree and started  down the alley, still talking school and friends and record albums.  We pulled more oranges from the alley and talked about who we would marry.  “No offense, Scott,”  I said  with an orange lice in my mouth, “but I would never marry and Okie.”  We walked in step, almost touching, with a sled of shadows dragging behind us.  “No  offense, Gary,” Scott said, “but I would never marry a Mexican.”  I looked at him:  a fang of orange slice showed from his munching mouth.  I didn’t think anything of it.  He had his girl and I had mine.  But our seventh-grade vision was the same:  to marry, get jobs, buy cars and maybe a house if we  had money left over.

We talked  about our future lives until, to our surprise, we were on the downtown mall,  two miles from home.  We bought a bag of popcorn at Penney’s and sat  on a bench near the fountain watching Mexican  and Okie girls pass.  “That one’s mine,”  I pointed  with my chin when a girl  with eyebrows arched into black rainbows ambled by.  “She’s cute, “Scott said about a girl with yellow hair and a mouthful full of gum.  We dreamed aloud, our chins busy pointing out girls.  We agreed that we couldn’t wait to become men and  lift them onto our laps.

But the woman I married was not Mexican but Japanese.  It was a surprise  to me.  For years, I went about wide-eyed in my search for the brown girl in a white dress at a dance.  I searched the playground at the baseball diamond.  When the girls raced for grounders,  their hair bounced like something that couldn’t be caught.  When they sat together  in the lunchroom, heads pressed together, I knew they were talking about us Mexican guys.  I saw them and dreamed  them.

I threw my face into my pillow, making up sentences that were good as in the movies.

I was in love and there was no looking back.

But when I was twenty, I fell in love with this girl who worried my mother, who had my grandmother asking once a gain to see the calendar of the important races  of the world.  I told her I  had thrown it away years  before.  I took a much-glanced-at snapshot from my wallet.  We looked at it together, in silence.  Then grandma reclined in her chair, lit a cigarette, and said, “Es pretty.”  She blew and asked  with all her worry pushed up to her forehead:  “Chinese?”

I was in love and there  was no looking back.  She was the one.  I told my mother, who was slapping hamburger into patties,  “Well, sure if you want to marry her,”  she said.  But the more I talked, the more concerned she became.  Later I began to worry.  Was  it all a mistake?  “Marry a Mexican girl,”  I heard  my mother say in my mind, I heard it at breakfast.  I heard it over math problems,  between Western civilization and cultural geography.  But then one afternoon while I was  hitchhiking home from school, it struck me  like a baseball in the back:  my mother wanted me to marry someone  of my own social class – a poor girl.  I considered my fiancée, Carolyn, and she didn’t look  poor, though I knew she came from a family of farm workers and pull-yourself-up-be-your-bootstraps ranchers.  I asked my brother, who was marrying a Mexican poor that fall, if I should marry a poor girl.  He screamed, “Yeah,” above his terrible guitar playing in his bedroom.  I considered my sister who had married Mexican.  Cousins were dating Mexican.  Uncles were remarrying poor women.  I asked Scott, who was still my best friend, and he said, “She’s too good for you, so you better not.”

I worried  about it until Carolyn took me home to meet her parents.  We drove in her Plymouth  until the houses gave way  to farms and ranches and finally her house fifty feet from  the highway.  When we pulled into the drive, I panicked and begged Carolyn to  make a U-turn and go back so we could talk about it over a soda.  She pinched my cheek, calling me a “silly boy.”  I felt better, though,  when I got out of the car and saw the house:  the chipped paint, a cracked window, boards  for a walk to the back door.  

There were rusting cars near the barn.  A tractor with a net of spiderwebs under a mulberry.  A field.  A bale of  barbed  wire like children’s scribbling leaning against an empty chicken coop. Carolyn took my hand and pulled me to my future mother-in-law, who was coming out to greet us.

We had lunch:  sandwiches, potato chips, and  ice tea.  Carolyn and her mother talked mostly about neighbors and the congregation at the Japanese Methodist Church in West Fresno.  Her father, who was in khaki work clothes, excused himself with a wave that was almost a salute and  went outside.  I  heard a truck start, a dog bark, and then  the truck rattle away.

Carolyn’s mother offered another sandwich, but  I declined with a shake of my head  and a smile.  I looked around  when I could, when I was not saying  over and over  that I was a college student, hinting that I could take care of her daughter.  I shifted my chair.  I saw newspapers piled in corners, dusty cereal boxes and vinegar bottles in corners.  The wallpaper was bubbled from rain that had come in from a bad roof.  Dust. Dust lay on lamp  shades and window sills.  These people are just like Mexicans, I thought.  Poor people.

Carolyn’s mother asked me through Carolyn if I would  like a  sushi.  A plate of  black and white things was held in front of me.  I took one, wide-eyed, and turned it over like a foreign coin.  I was biting into one when I saw a kitten crawl up the window screen over  the sink.  I chewed, and the kitten opened his mouth of terror as she crawled higher, wanting  into paw the leftovers from our plates.  I looked at Carolyn, who said that the cat was just showing off.  I looked up in time to see it fall.  It crawled up, then fell again.

We talked for an hour and had apple pie and coffee, slowly.  Finally, we got up, with Carolyn taking my hand.  Slightly embarrassed, I tried to pull away, but her grip held me.  I let her have her way  as she led me down the hallway with her mother right behind me.  When I opened the door, I was startled by a kitten clinging to the screen door, it’s mouth screaming “cat food”, dog biscuits, sushi…”  I opened the door, and the kitten, still holding on, whined in the language of hungry animals.  When I got into Carolyn’s car, I looked back:  the cat  was still clinging.   I asked Carolyn if  it was possibly hungry, but she said the cat was being silly.  She started the car, waved to their mother, and bounced us over the rain poked drive, patting my thigh for being her lover baby.  Carolyn waved again. I  looked back, waving, then gawking at a window screen  where there were now three kittens clawing and screaming to get in.  Like Mexicans, I thought.  I remembered  the Molinas and how the cats clung  to their screens---cats they shot down with squirt guns.  On the highway, I felt happy, pleased by it all.  I patted Carolyn’s thigh.  Her people were like Mexicans, only different.




1.        Name all the characters in the story and describe them.

2.        Describe the setting of the story and explain if it is the right one for the characters and the plot.

3.        Is the narrator’s decision to marry Carolyn “the right choice?”  Write down your thoughts about it.

4.        What do you think about the grandmother’s advice that Soto should marry a Mexican girl?

To  give your  opinion about this question think about…

v     your decision on the importance of marrying in your social class.


v     what you wrote in your profile of the perfect mate.


v     what the grandmother says about people who marry Okies.


v     how Soto reacts to her advice.

5.        Do you think that any of the characters in this selection are prejudiced  against other groups?  Explain.

6.        Why does  Soto ask so  many people for advice on whom to marry?

7.        Why does Soto say that Carolyn’s relatives are just “like Mexicans”? 

To answer  this question think about…

v     what he associates with being Mexican.


v     what he expects to find at Carolyn’s farm.


v     what he actually finds.

8.     The way a writer tells a story is called the ‘point of view”.  The narrator in ”Like Mexicans” tells the story from the first person point of view to show the narrator’s thoughts and reactions.  Could any other character have written about this experience as effectively as Soto has?  EXPLAIN.

9.    Soto asks a lot of people for advice before making his decision to marry   Carolyn.  Write a letter he might have sent to a newspaper advice columnist.  The write the columnist’s advice to Soto.

10.  What if Carolyn’s house had been a mansion, complete with servants, immaculate and richly decorated rooms, and elegant and sophisticated parents.  Would Soto  have made  the same decision?   Explain your answer.





“A person might think Mr.  Nuttel had just seen a ghost, so quickly  did he run out the front gate.”

My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel,” said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen;  “in the meantime you must try and put up with me.” 

Framton Nuttel endeavoured to say the correct something which should  duly flatter the niece  of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come.  Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much toward helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

“I know how it will be,” his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; “you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping.  I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there.  Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice.”

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was  presenting one of the letters of introduction, came into the nice division.

“Do you know many people around here?” asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.

“Hardly a soul,” said Framton.  “My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of  the people here.”

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

“Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?”  pursued the self-possessed young lady.

“Only her name and address,” admitted the caller.  He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in  the married or widowed state.  An indefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

“Her great tragedy happened just three years ago,” said the child;  “that  would be since your sister’s time.”

“Her tragedy?” asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of  place.

“You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon,” said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a  lawn.

“It is quite warm for the time of the year,” said Framton; “but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?”

“Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off  for their day’s shooting.  They never came back.  In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground they were all  three engulfed in a treacherous  piece of fog.  It had been that  dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe  in other years gave way suddenly without warning.   Their bodies were never recovered.  That was the dreadful part of it.”  Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed  note and became falteringly human.  “Poor aunt always thinks hat they will come back  some day,  they  and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walked in at that window just as they used to do.  That is why the window is kept opened every evening  till it is  quite dusk.  Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing, “Bertie,  why do you bound?”  as he always  did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves.  Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window-“

She broke off with a little shudder.  It was a relief to Framton when  the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

“I hope Vera has been amusing you?” she said.  “She has been very interesting,”  said Framton.  “I hope you don’t mind the open window,”  said Mrs. Sappleton briskly;  “my husband and brothers will  be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way.  They’ve been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets.  So like you menfold, isn’t it?”

She rattled on cheerfully about shooting and scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter.  To Framton it was  all purely horrible.  He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic; he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly  straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly and unfortunate coincidence that he should  have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

“The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise,” announced  Framton, who laboured under the tolerably wide-spread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are  hungry for the least detail of one’s ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure.  “On the matter of diet the yare not so much agreement,” he continued.

“No?” said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment.  Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention-but not to what Framton was saying.

“Here they are at last!” she cried.  “Just in time for tea, and don’t they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!”

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension.   The child was staring out through the  open window with dazed horror in her eyes.  In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deeping twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window;  they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened  with a white coat hung over his shoulders.  A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels.  Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk:  “I said, Bertie, why do you bound?”

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat;  the hall-door, the gravel-drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat.  A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

“Here we are, my dear,”  said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window;  “fairly muddy, but most of it’s dry.  Who was that who bolted out as we came up?”

“A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel,” said Mrs. Sappleton;   “could only talk about his illness, and dashed off without a word of goodbye or apology when you arrived.  One would think he had seen a ghost.”

“I expect it was the spaniel,” said the niece calmly; “he told me he had a horror of dogs.  He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him.  Enough to make any one lose their nerve.”

Romance at short notice was her specialty.



1.      Explain why Mr. Nuttel has moved to the countryside.

2.      Why did Framton’s sister give  him “letters of introduction” to persons she knew when she lived  in the area?

3.      According to Vera, her aunt is still in shock from what tragedy?

4.      Why is the large French window leading to the lawn wide open?

5.      How does Framton interpret Mrs. Sappleton’s talk about  her husband and brothers coming home soon from hunting?

6.      Why does Framton “bolt” out the hall door at the sight and sounds of the returning hunters?

7.      Explain Mrs. Sappleton’s reaction to Framton’s sudden departure.

8.      What is the meaning of the last line of the story?

9.      When is Vera’s second romance and how does it let the reader know the truth about Vera before the last line is read?

10. Reexamine the story.  How does Saki’s characterization of Vera fool the reader?  Are there any clues to Vera’s true nature?




PROSE is the ordinary language of men in speaking or writing.  It is a literary medium distinguished from poetry especially by its greater irregularity and variety of rhythm and its closer correspondence to the patterns of everyday speech.


Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston and completed her education at Cambridge University in England.  She wrote collections of poetry and a novel,  “The Bell Jar.”  A prolific writer, she kept many journals.  Plath took her own life at the age of thirty one.

Seventeen-year-old Sylvia Plath, who was to become a noted American poet, records her turbulent feelings in this entry from her diary.

November 13, 1949

As of today I have decided to keep a diary again – just a place where I can write my thoughts and opinions when I have a moment.  Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen.  Every day is so precious I feel infinitely sad at the thought of all this time melting farther and farther away from me as I grow older.  Now, now is the perfect time of my life.

In reflecting back upon these last sixteen years, I can see tragedies and happiness, all relative – all unimportant now – fit only to smile upon a bit mistily.

I still do not know myself.  Perhaps I never will.  But I feel free – unbound by responsibility, I still can come up to my own private room, with my drawings hanging on the walls. . . and pictures pinned up over my bureau.  It is a room suited to me – tailored, uncluttered and peaceful . . . I love the quiet  lines of the furniture, the two bookcases  filled with poetry books and fairy tales saved from childhood.

At the present moment I am very happy, sitting at my desk, looking out at the bare trees around the house across the street . . . Always I want to be an observer.  I want to be affected by life deeply, but never so blinded that I cannot see my share of existence in a wry, humorous light and mock myself as I mock others.

I am afraid  of getting older.  I am afraid of getting married.   Spare me from cooking three meals a day – spare me from the relentless cage of routine and rote.   I want to be free – free to know people and their backgrounds – free to move to different parts of the world, so I may learn that there are other morals and standards besides my own.  I want, I think, to be omniscient . . . I think I would like to call myself  “The girl who wanted to be God.”  Yet if I were not in this body,  where would I be?  Perhaps I am destined to be classified and qualified.  But, oh, I cry out against  it.  I am – I am powerful – but to what extent?  I am I.

Sometimes I try to put myself in another’s place, and I am frightened when I find I am almost  succeeding.  How awful to be anyone but I.  I have a terrible egotism.  I love my flesh, my face, my limbs, with overwhelming devotion.  I know that I am “too tall” and have a fat nose, and yet I pose and prink before the mirror, seeing more and more how lively I am . . . . I have erected in my mind an image of myself – idealistic and beautiful.  Is not that image, free from blemish, the true self – the true perfection?  Am I wrong when this image insinuates itself between me and the merciless mirror?  (Oh, even now I glance back on what I have just written – how foolish it sounds, how overdramatic.)

Never, never, never will I reach the perfection I long for with all my soul – my paintings, my poems, my stories – all poor, poor reflections . . . for I have been too thoroughly conditioned to the conventional surroundings of this community … my vanity desires luxuries which I can never have . .

I am continually more aware of the power which change plays in my life. . . . There will come  a time when I must face myself at last.  Even now I dread the big choices which loom up in my life – what college?  What career?  I am afraid.  I feel uncertain.  What is best for me?  What do I want?  I do not know.  I love freedom.  I deplore constrictions and limitations. . . . I am not as wise as I have thought.  I can see, as from a valley, the roads lying  open for me, but I cannot see the end -  the consequences.

Oh, I love now, with all my fears and forebodings, for now I still am not completely molded.  My life is still just beginning.  I am strong.  I long for a cause to devote my energies too. . . .

Think and discussion . . .


1.      What was Sylvia’s purpose in keeping a diary again?

2.      According to Sylvia, what is the perfect time of her life?

3.      As  Sylvia  sits at her desk, what does she say she always wants to be?

4.      Cite evidence that suggests  Sylvia was happy, fearful, and vain.

5.      Sylvia makes a number of comments about being free of desiring freedom.  What does freedom seem to mean to her?

Write about freedom…

Assume that you have a pen pal same age who comes from a country where the people have less freedom  than you do.  Write a  three or four-paragraph letter in which you describe individual freedoms you have experienced.


Martin  Luther King, Jr.

A clergyman and civil rights leader,  Dr. King was born in Atlanta in 1929  and educated at Morehouse College,  Crozer Theological Seminary, and Boston University.  He achieved national prominence in 1955  when he led a nonviolent boycott of a bus line in Montgomery,  Alabama.  He founded the Southern  Christian Leadership Conference and, in recognition of these efforts  in defense of the rights of blacks in the United States, he was awarded the Nobel  Peace Prize in 1964.  While planning a Poor People’s March on the nation’s capital in 19968, he was assassinated in Memphis.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr. addressed over 200,000 people who had marched on Washington, D.C. for “Jobs and Freedom

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.  It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.  One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.  One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.  One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American Society and finds himself an exile in his own land.  So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s Capital to cash a check.  When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent  words of the Constitution And 

the Declaration  of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed  the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is  obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned.  Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check;  a check which has come  back marked “insufficient funds.”  But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. 

So we have come to cash this check – a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.  We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.  This is no time to engage in  the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquillizing drug of gradualism.  Now is the time to make real  the promises of Democracy.  Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.  Now is the  time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.  Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It  would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro.  This sweltering  summer of  the negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.  Nineteen sixty-three is not  an end,  but a beginning.  Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening  if the nation returns to business as usual.  There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.  The whirlwinds off revolt  will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm  threshold which leads into the palace of justice.  In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.  Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.  We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.  The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all  white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with  our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.  We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead.  We cannot turn back.  There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?”  We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. 

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the  motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.  We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.  We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.  No, no we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not  unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.  Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.  Some of you have come from areas  where  your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.  You have been the veterans of creative suffering.  Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.  Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you  today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident;  that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of  former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of  brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation  where they will not be judge by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the  state of Alabama,  whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day  every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.  This is the faith with which I return to the South.  With this faith we will be able to hew out  of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of  brotherhood.  With this faith we will be able to work together, to go to jail together, to pray together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This  will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning.


     My country, ‘tis of thee,

     Sweet land of liberty,

          Of thee I sing:

     Land where my fathers died,

     Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

     From every  mountain-side

          Let freedom ring.

And if America is to be  a great nation this must become true.  So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.  Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of  Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that;  let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let  freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.  From every mountain side, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every  state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing  in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God almighty, we are free at last!

 Think and discussion…

1.      What is the “tragic fact” to which Dr. King alludes?

2.      Who was the “great American” to whom Dr. King refers in the first paragraph?  What proclamation  did he signed?

3.      If black people were legally emancipated one hundred years before Dr. King spoke, why then does he call for action?

4.      King speaks of “meeting physical force with soul force” and of “creative suffering.”  What do you  think he means by these terms?  How might these be used to attain his dream?

5.      Dr. King states that the marchers have come to Washington, D.C. to “cash a check.”  In your own words, explain the meaning of this statement.  Do you think this metaphor  is well chose?  Why or why not?

6.      Which is the dream of Dr. King?

7.      Do you agree with his dream?  Explain yourself…

8.      Do  you have a dream like Dr. King?  Explain it…

9.      Assume that you have a sister or brother younger than you.  She/he observes you reading “I  Have a Dream…” and asks you to tell her/him what it is about.  Summarize the selection in language appropriate to your audience and your purpose so that she/he can understand you and Dr. King.

10. Do you think that the Puerto Ricans should have a dream too?  Which one would it be and defend your hypothesis. 


POETRY is a special way of using a language.  The poets present ideas, feelings and even stories.  They do use sound and rhythm to emphasize their ideas and appeal to the emotions of the readers.  It is said that poetry creates experiences to be enjoyed and remembered.  This is why we do know by heart some poems that we never forget.

To understand poetry we must study some terms that will help us to enjoy the poems.


Poems are written in lines.  The  lines are grouped together in stanzas instead of paragraphs.  Sometimes the poet uses the lengths of lines and the placements of words to create a shape on the page.  The shape can add meaning or emphasis.


Poetry depends on the sounds as well as the meanings of words.  The sound of a word can help create feeling and reinforce meaning.  It can also give a musical quality  to a work.

There are some techniques that poets use to create different sounds:


Is the repetition of a consonant sound at the beginnings  of words:

Example:  live and let live


Is the repetition of a vowel sound within words.

Example:  rise and shine, down and out.


Is the use of words that imitate sounds.

Examples:  whir, creak, clunk, quack


Is the repetition of sounds at the end of words as in trod and plot.  Rhyming words usually come at the ends of lines of poetry.


In a poem refers to the pattern of accented and unaccented syllables in a line.  Some poems have a steady, regular rhythm or beat.

In other poems, the rhythm resembles the patterns of everyday speech.  This type of rhythm is called  free verse.


Are the words that poets choose to help the readers to see, hear, feel, taste and smell the things being described.


Is the one that describes things in a fresh new way.  Poets often use figurative language to create word pictures.  They include the following ones:


Compares two dissimilar things by using  “like” or as”.


Is a direct comparison of unlike things.  The words “like” or “as” are not used in the comparison.

Example:  Your courage was a small coal that you kept swallowing.


Is another type of comparison.  It gives human qualities to an object, animal or idea.

Example:  A basketball…”A hook shot kisses the rim and hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop.

When reading poetry, do the following to understand it easier.

1.      Read the poem aloud.  Listen carefully in order to enjoy the sounds and rhythm of the words.  Pay attention to the punctuation.  Read to a period, comma, or question mark rather than stopping at the end of each line.

2.      Close your eyes and try to visualize any images in the poem.

3.      Imagine the source of the voice you hear in the poem.  Is the speaker a person, an animal or an object?  Is the speaker male or female, young or old, rich or poor?  Does the speaker sound happy or sad, silly or serious?

4.      Think about the words the poet has chosen.  Remember always that in poetry every word is important;  every word counts.

5.      What is the theme (the message) of the poem.  What did you learn from it.

6.      Paraphrase, or put in your own words the meaning or purpose of the poem.  Also describe how the poem makes you  feel.



By Luis Palés Matos

Luis Palés Matos (1898-1959) is considered one of the greatest poets Puerto Rico has ever produced.  His description in”Hurricane” gives you the feeling of being part of the event


When the hurricane  unfolds

Its fierce accordion of winds,

On the tip of its toes,

Agile dancer, it sweeps whirling

Over the carpeted surface of the sea

With the scattered branches of the palm.



1.      To what does the poet compare the winds of the hurricane?.

2.      Does this poem make a hurricane seem frightening?  Why or  why not?

3.      Have you ever lived the experience  of  having a hurricane passing by your  home, your country, your island?  Explain.

4.      Is there any metaphor or simile in this poem?  Show it and explain it.

5.      Do you know any other poem written by Luis Palés Matos?  If yes, give the title and say the theme of it.


This is the literature about real people.  And we must understand that the  world is made up with real people.  But not everybody is the same.  Some has handicaps, some others have lived different experiences and so on.  This shows that even though we are all different from each other, we are important,  we do have he same opportunities and that we can succeed in whatever we want if we work for it.  This is the case of Christy Brown.

Christy Brown was born in 1932 in Dublin, Ireland.  And he was born with cerebral palsy.  This is a medical condition caused by disease or injury to a baby’s brain before or during birth or in early infancy.  Cerebral palsy’s major symptom is a lack of muscle control.  In some cases the condition is mild and barely noticeable, but in others there may be constant jerking motions, an inability to walk or use the hands and arms, and great difficulty in speaking.  Cerebral palsy may also damage sight, hearing, and intelligence, though many people with the condition have average or above –average intelligence.  No cure exists for cerebral palsy, but physical therapists can teach patients to move  with greater ease.

Christy  was raised in a slum as one of twenty-two children.  He was unable to walk or talk and needed help to eat and drink.  With the help of  his family, he learned to read and write.  Using just his left little toe, he typed a novel over a period of fifteen years.  Brown developed  into a poet and artist as well as the author of seven published books.  He has been ranked  with the outstanding writers of his generation.  Christy died in 1981.


Christy Brown

I was born in the Rotunda Hospital on June 5th, 1932.  There were nine children before me and twelve after me, so I myself belong to the middle group.  Out of this total  of twenty two, seventeen lived, but four died in infancy, leaving thirteen still to hold the family fort.

Mine was a difficult birth, I am told.  Both mother and son almost died.  A whole army of relations queued outside the hospital  until the small hours of the morning, waiting for news and praying furiously that it would be good.

After my birth, Mother was sent to recuperate for some weeks, and I was kept in the hospital while she was away.  I remained there for some time, without name, for I wasn’t baptized until my mother was well enough to bring me to church.

It was Mother who first saw that there was something wrong with me.  I was about four months old at the time.  She noticed that my head had a habit of falling backward  whenever she tried to feed me.  She attempted to correct this by placing her hand on the back of my neck to keep it steady.  But when she took it away, back it would drop again.  That was the first warning  sign.  Then she became aware of other defects as I got older.  She saw that my hands were clenched nearly all the time and were inclined to twine behind my back., my mouth couldn’t grasp the teat of the bottle because even at that early age my jaws would either lock together tightly, so that it was impossible for her to open them , or they would suddenly become limp and fall loose, dragging my whole mouth to one side.  At six months I could not sit up without having a mountain of pillows around me.  At twelve months it was the same.

Very worried by this, Mother told my father her fears, and they decided to seek medical advice without any further delay.  I was a little over a year old when they began  to take me to hospitals and clinics, convinced that there was something definitely wrong with me, something which they could not understand or name, but which was very real and disturbing. 

Almost every doctor who saw and examined me labeled me a very interesting but also a hopeless case.  Many told Mother very gently that I was mentally defective and would remain so.  That was a hard blow to a  young mother who had already reared five  healthy children.  The doctors were so very sure of themselves that Mother’s faith in me seemed almost an impertinence.  They assured her that nothing could be done for me.

She refused to accept  this truth, the inevitable truth – as it then seemed – that I was beyond cure, beyond saving, even beyond hope.  She could not and would not believe that I was an imbecile, as the doctors told her.  She had nothing in the world  to go by, not a scrap of evidence to support her conviction that,  though my body was crippled, my mind was not.  In spite of all the doctors and specialists told her, she would not agree.  I don’t believe she knew why – she just knew, without feeling the smallest shade of doubt.

Finding that the doctors could not help in any way beyond telling her not to place her trust in me, or, in other words, to forget I was a human creature, rather to regard me as just something to be fed and washed and then put away  again, Mother decided there  and then  to take matters into her  own hands.  I was her child, and therefore part of the family.  No matter how dull and incapable I might grow up to be, she was determined to treat me on the same plane as the others, and not as the ‘queer one’ in the back room who was never spoken of when there were visitors present.

That was a momentous decision as far as my future life was concerned.  It meant that I would always have my mother on my side to help me fight all the battles that were to come, and to inspire me with new strength when I was almost beaten.  But it wasn’t easy for her because now the relatives and friends had decided otherwise.  They contended that I should be taken kindly, sympathetically, but not seriously.  That would be a mistake.  “For your own sake,” they told her, “don’t look to this boy as you would to the others;  it would only break your heart in the end.”   Luckily for me, Mother and Father held out against the lot of them.  But Mother wasn’t content just to say that I  was not an idiot:  she set out to prove it, not because of any  rigid sense of duty, but out of  love.  That is why she was so successful.

At this time she had the five other children to look after besides the “difficult one,” though as yet it was not by any means a full house.  They were my brothers, Jim, Tony, and Paddy, and my two sisters, Lily and Mona, all of them very young, just a year or so between each of them, so that they were almost exactly like steps of stairs.

Four years rolled by, and I was now five, and still as helpless as a newly born baby.  While my father was out at bricklaying, earning our bread and butter for us, Mother was slowly, patiently pulling down the wall, brick by brick, that seemed to thrust itself between me and the other children, slowly, patiently penetrating beyond the thick curtain that hung over my mind, separating it from theirs.  It was hard, heart-breaking work, for often all she got from me in return was a vague smile and perhaps a faint gurgle.  I could not speak or even mumble, nor could I sit up without support on my own, let alone take steps.  But I wasn’t inert or motionless. 

 I seemed, indeed, to be convulsed with movement, wild, stiff, snakelike movement that never  left me, except in sleep.  My fingers twisted and twitched continually, my arms twined backwards and would often shoot out suddenly this was and that, and my head lolled and sagged sideways.  I was a  queer, crooked little fellow. 

Mother tells me how one day she had been sitting with me for  hours in an upstairs room, showing me pictures out of a great big storybook that I had got from Santa Claus last  Christmas and telling me the names of different animals and flowers that were in them, trying without success that were in  them.  This had gone on  for hours  while she talked and laughed with me.  Then at the end of it  she  leaned over me and said gently into my ear:

“Did you like it, Chris?  Did you like the bears and the monkeys and all the lovely flowers?  Nod your head for yes, like a good boy.”

But I could make no sign that I had  understood her.  Her face was bent over mine hopefully.  Suddenly, involuntarily, my queer hand reached up and grasped

one of the dark curls that fell in a thick cluster about her neck.  Gently she loosened the clenched  fingers, though some dark strands were still clutched between them.

Then she turned away from my curious stare and left the room, crying.  The door closed behind her.   It all seemed hopeless.  It looked as though there was some justification for my relatives’ contention that I was an idiot and beyond help.

The now spoke of an institution.

“Never!” said my mother almost fiercely, when this was suggested to her.  “I know my boy is not an idiot.  It is his body that is shattered, not his mind.  I’m sure of that.

Sure?  Yet inwardly, she prayed God would give her some proof of her faith.  She knew it was one thing to believe but quite another thing to prove.

I was now five, and still I showed no real sign of intelligence.  I showed no apparent interest in things except  with my toes --- more especially those of my left foot.  Although my natural habits were clean, I could not aid myself, but in this respect my father took care of me.  I used to lie on my back all the time in the kitchen or, on bright warm days, out in the garden, a little bundle of crooked muscles and twisted nerves, surrounded by a family that loved me and  hoped for me and that made me part of their own warmth and humanity. 

I was lonely, imprisoned in a world of my own, unable to communicate with  others, cut off separated from them as though a glass wall stood between my existence and theirs, thrusting me beyond the sphere of their lives and activities.  I longed to run about and play with the rest, but I was unable to break loose from my bondage.

Then, suddenly,  it happened!  In a moment everything was changed, my future life molded into a definite shape, my mother’s faith in me rewarded and her secret fear changed into open triumph..

It happened so quickly, so simply after all the years of waiting and uncertainty, that I can see and feel the  whole scene as if it had happened last week.  It was the afternoon of a cold gray December day.  The streets outside glistened with snow, the white sparkling flakes stuck and melted on the  window panes and hung on the boughs of the trees like molten silver.  The wind  howled dismally, whipping up little whirling columns of snow that rose and fell at every fresh gust.  And over all, the dull, murky sky stretched like a dark canopy, a vast infinity of grayness.  Inside, all the family were gathered round the big kitchen fire that lit up the little room with a warm glow and made giant shadows dance on the walls and ceiling.

In a corner Mona and Paddy were  sitting, huddled together, a few torn school primers before them.  They were writing down little sums onto an old chipped slate, using a bright piece of yellow chalk.  I was close to them, propped up by a few pillows against the wall, watching.

It was the chalk that attracted me so much.  It was a long, slender stick of vivid  yellow.  I had never seen anything like it before, and it showed up so well against the black surface of the slate that I was fascinated by it as much as if it had been a stick of gold.

Suddenly,  I wanted desperately to do  what my sister was doing.  Then  ---  without thinking or knowing exactly what I was doing, I reached out and took the stick of chalk out of my sister’s  hand --- with my left foot.

I do not  know why I used my left foot to do this.  It is a puzzle to many people as well as to myself, for, although I had displayed a curious interest in my toes at an early age, I had never attempted before this to use either of my feet in any way.  They could have been as useless to me as  were my hands.  That day, however, my left foot, apparently by its own volition, reached out and very impolitely took the chalk out of my sister’s hand.

I held it tightly between my toes, and, acting on an impulse, made a wild sort of scribble with it on the slate.  Next moment I stopped, a bit dazed, surprised, looking down at the stick of yellow chalk stuck between my toe, not knowing what to do with it next, hardly knowing how it got there.  Then I looked up and became aware  that everyone had stopped talking and was staring at me silently.  Nobody stirred.  Mona, her black curls framing her chubby little face, stared at me with great big eyes and open mouth.  Across the open heart

, his face lit by flames, sat my father, leaning forward, hands outspread on his knees, his shoulders tense.  I felt the sweat out on my forehead.

My mother came in from the pantry  with a steaming pot in her hand.  She stopped midway between the table and the fire, feeling the tension flowing through the room.  She followed their stare and saw me in the corner.  Her eyes looked from my face down to my foot, with the chalk gripped between my toes.  She put down the pot.

Then she crossed over to me and knelt down beside me, as she had done so many times before.

“I’ll show  you what to do  with it, Chris,” she said, very slowly and in a queer, choked way, her face flushed as if with some inner excitement.Taking another

“Copy that,” she said, looking steadily at me.  “Copy it, Christy.”I couldn’t.

I looked about me, looked around at the faces that were turned toward me, tense, excited faces that were at that moment frozen,  immobile, eager, waiting for a miracle in their midst.

The stillness was profound.  The room was full of flame and shadow that danced before my eyes and lulled my taut nerves into a sort of waking sleep.  I could hear the sound of the water tap dripping in the pantry, the loud ticking of the clock on  the mantelshelf, and the soft hiss and crackle of  the logs on  the open hearth.

I tried again.  I put out my foot and made a  wild jerking stab  with the chalk which produced a very crooked line and nothing more.  Mother held the slate steady for me.

“Try again, Chris,” she whispered in my ear.  “Again.”

I did.  I stiffened my body and put  my left foot  out again, for the third time.  I drew one side of the letter.  I drew half the other  side.  Then the stick of chalk broke and I was left  with a stump.  I wanted to fling it away and give up.  Then I felt my mother’s hand on my shoulder.  I tried once more.  Out went my foot.  I shook, I sweated and strained every muscle.  My hands were so tightly clenched that my fingernails bit into the flesh.  I set my teeth so hard that I nearly pierced my lower lip.  Everything in the room swam  till the faces around me were mere patches of white.  But --- I drew it --- the letter “A”.  There it was on the floor before me.  Shaky, with awkward, wobbly sides and a very  uneven center line.  But it was the letter “A.”  I looked up.  I saw my mother’s face for a moment, tears on her cheeks.  Then my father stooped and hoisted me on to his shoulder.

I had done it!  It had started --- the thing that was to give my mind its chance of expressing itself.  True, I couldn’t speak with my lips.  But now I would speak through something more lasting than spoken words --- written words.

That one letter, scrawled on the floor with a broken bit of yellow chalk gripped between my toes, was my road to a new world,  my key to mental freedom.  It was to provide a source of relaxation to the tense, taut thing that was I, which panted for expression behind a twisted mouth.



1.      Write down several words that express you feelings as  Christy slowly draws the  letter “A”.

2.      What do you think of Christy Brown’s mother?

3.      Why is writing the letter “A” such a momentous event in Christy Brown’s life?

4.      What do you think Christy Brown’s purpose was in writing this account of his life?

5.      Write a speech to nominate Christy’s mother for “Mother of the Year.”

6.      You know the first letter Christy wrote.  If you were Christy, what would your first sentence be?  Write the sentence;  then explain why this would be your first message.

7.      Explain the theme of “My Left Foot.”

8.      Name the characters in the story and explain who are they.

9.      Where does the action of “My Left Foot” takes place ?

10. Do you consider that your left or right foot is important to you?  Explain yourself the best you can.



A monologue is a dramatic soliloquy.  A dramatic sketch performed by one actor.  It is also a long speech monopolizing a conversation.

The following piece of literature is the famous monologue that William Shakespeare wrote for the play Julius Caesar.  Antony is the character who say it while in the Roman Senate.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones.

So let it be  with Caesar.  The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious.

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answered it.

Here, under  leave of  Brutus and the rest

(For Brutus is an honorable man;

So are they all, all honorable men),

Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.

He hath brought many captives home to Rome,

Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honorable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse.  Was this ambition?

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And sure he is an honorable man.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did love him once,  not without cause.

What cause witholds you then to mourn for him?

O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason!  Bear with me,

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,

And I must pause till it come back to me.



Now, you will select one of the characters that are to be analyzed and will represent him/her in front of your class  saying a monologue that will be written by you.  Talk to your English teacher and find out the characters.  This is a project that has a value of five (5) grades.

You  pick out the character that appeals the most to you and do a research about the life of the character.  Learn the most you can about him/her.  You will copy all the information you can find from no less   than three different books, or authors.  Present in a nice project to your English teacher and that will be the first  grade you will receive on this work.

You are supposed to know your character and you are going to select a part of his/her life that appeals the most to you.  And you are going to write a monologue about that part of his/her life but…saying  what you think that he/she said or must have said.  This is not the biography of your character.  It is something that are you going to invent.  You are going to create, to fantasize.  Present it like a project to your  English teacher and this is  your second grade in this work.

Study how your character  used to live and dressed.  And you are going to dress like he/she to come and present your monologue.  Don’t go and rent a costume,  You will have more points if you invent your costume from scratch or old rags.  This is your third grade on this work.

All actors do need a scenery, so you are going to build up one.  It can be from a poster to a set,  curtains, furniture, props, what ever you think it is the best for you presentation.   And you will be graded for this too.  This is your fourth grade.

You are supposed to memorize the monologue you wrote and come to the classroom and present your monologue by memory, all dressed up like your character and with your setting to place your presentation.  This is the fifth grade.  And you are done.  But if you read your monologue, you will loose a lot of points that might make you flunk this project that you must do to be graduated from the Instituto Cumbres.