Writing Activity #2

  1. Imagine that a friend who frequently finds himself or herself left out of social activities has asked you to explain why. You want to be helpful. Write a personal letter explaining, as tactfully as possible, what it is that makes your friend an outsider. OR
  2. In a well organized and carefully written essay of about 350 words, discuss the topic “Conformity: Who Needs It?” Your essay should identify three areas in which you (or people in general) are pressured into doing things that are distasteful, boring, harmful, or undesirable or some other reason.

Duncan Campbell Scott, “The Desjardins”

  1. What is foreshadowing? Can you find some examples of foreshadowing in this story?
  2. How do you react to the situation of the Desjardins? What details does Scott include that affect you emotionally?
  3. What does Philippe mean when he says, “It is hard, but there is only one thing to do.” What is the one thing? Why?
  4. This story is written by the same man who wrote “The Forsaken.” What do the two selections suggest to you about the author’s character and interests? Can you see any similarity between the old woman in “The Forsaken” and the brother and sister in “The Desjardins”?

Al Purdy, “Lament for the Dorsets”

  1. Purdy suggests two possible causes for the destruction of the Dorsets. What are they? Was the disappearance for the Dorsets inevitable?
  2. What similarities does Purdy suggest between the Dorsets and modern man? Does modern man have similar interests and reactions? In what ways do the two cultures differ?
  3. Were the Dorsets victims of progress? How would you define progress?
  4. Why do you suppose Purdy chose a swan as a subject for Kudluk’s carving? Does the swan suggest qualities of Kudluk’s mind that would not be suggested by a polar bear or a walrus or a seal? In what sense does one of Kudluk’s thoughts turn to ivory?
  5. What meaning does “After 600 years/the ivory thought/ is still warm” suggest to you? In what sense do the Dorsets still live?
  6. In one well-written paragraph explain why Purdy “laments” the passing of the Dorsets.

Eli Mandel, “Houdini”

  1. Who was Houdini?
  2. The poem suggests a parallel between Houdini and the poet. Why did Houdini continually bind himself? What is it that binds the poet?
  3. Examine the diction (word choice) of the poem. How does Mandel suggest a parallel between the tools used by Houdini and those used by the poet? In what sense are the poet and Houdini motivated by the same compulsion? Can you suggest a double meaning for “like that mannered style, his formal suit”?
  4. The words “escape, escape . . . there’s no way out” spoken by the “manacles, cells, handcuffs” and other chains that bind him, challenged Houdini to struggle to free his body. What is it that the poet struggles to free? In what sense are trunks metaphors?
  5. In what sense are the crowds of spectators “bound”? Why do they sigh? Can you equate the crowds before whom Houdini performs with the public for which the poet writes?