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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

14. Becoming Visible

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
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•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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Activities: Author Activities

Saul Bellow - Author Questions

Back Back to Saul Bellow Activities
  1. Comprehension: In "Looking for Mr. Green," why might Bellow name an elusive black man "Mr. Green"? How does that name contribute to the atmosphere or themes of the story?

  2. Comprehension: What are the obvious differences between George Grebe's attitude towards African Americans and the attitude of the Italian grocer? What purpose do these differences serve in the story? What does the author's attitude seem to be regarding racism and stereotyping?

  3. Comprehension: What are readers to make of the ending of "Looking for Mr. Green"? Does Grebe feel a true or a false sense of elation? Does Grebe seem more cynical or idealistic to you?

  4. Context: Bellow was born in poverty in an ethnic neighborhood in a French Canadian city. He graduated from Northwestern University, a prestigious American school. What transformations, expansions, and compromises might be required in making a journey from poverty to an exclusive American institution of higher education? Are the effects of such a journey evident in "Looking for Mr. Green," particularly in the personality of Grebe?

  5. Context: Many of the literary works of the mid-twentieth century focus on protagonists who create illusions of a better world in order to cope with the harsh and unpleasant reality they find themselves in. Can you think of stories where this happens? Do you think this is happening in "Looking for Mr. Green"?

  6. Exploration: Bellow often gives his protagonists unusual names, and assertion of ethnicity is not always the obvious objective. For example, a grebe (Podicipedidae) is a small, stocky bird that spends most of its time in the water and is ungainly on land. Why call a protagonist "Grebe"? How does the name affect our response to Grebe? Bellow's naming his character after a bird may remind us of a famous parallel: Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." If "Grebe" recalls "Crane," who also goes into a strange place as a confused, over-educated, inquisitive outsider, what thematic parallels should we consider between "Looking for Mr. Green" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

  7. Exploration: One of Bellow's favorite themes is that a liberal arts education, the kind acquired with great effort and expense at institutions like Columbia, Amherst, Chicago, Georgetown, and other elite universities, teaches no skills for surviving in the "real" world. How are such American campuses designed to be places apart? When you consider the relationship between the landscape of a great campus and the landscape of a major city, what questions can you form about the relationship between education and life?

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