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

16. The Search For Identity

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Activities: Author Activities

Diane Glancy - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: In "Jack Wilson or Wovoka and Christ My Lord," Glancy's punctuation is untraditional and her language is colloquial. How do these formal techniques influence your understanding of the stories?

  2. Comprehension: Why do you think the narrator of "Jack Wilson" so frequently reminds us of her mixed-race heritage?

  3. Comprehension: What happens to the old woman at the end of "Polar Breath"?

  4. Context: The narrator of "Jack Wilson" tells about an Indian man who "can't fly really so heavy with his heritage." What does this mean? Compare this passage to Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," in which Dee/Wangero tells Maggie, "You just don't understand . . . your heritage." What is heritage and what does it mean to these characters? Is it a blessing or a burden?

  5. Context: The female narrator of "Jack Wilson" states of her relationship with men: "if he's willing to stay you usually let him empty as the house is even with him in it." And consider that although the old woman in "Polar Breath" seems to enjoy her solitude, she eventually moves toward reunion with her late husband. Compare these descriptions to Bambara's description of Sweet Pea and Larry's relationship in "Medley." Why do the women seem to want to be alone, yet return to these men?

  6. Context: Analyze [4203], in which Native American students protest the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1970 (the BIA is an often-criticized governmental agency charged with handling matters related to Native Americans). What do you make of the signs in this image, especially "Indians Are Red/B.I.A. What Are You" and "Stop Persecuting Indians"? Why might these people have been protesting?

  7. Exploration: The narrator of "Jack Wilson" tells us that the "changing surviving ole Coyote finally teaches in the end that there's no ultimate reality no foundation and whatever he/she believes is true." What are the implications of a belief in shifting realities, or of an ideology characterized by relativism? What would it mean for there to be no "absolutes"?

  8. Exploration: Compare Emily Dickinson's poetry with Glancy's prose, for example, when Glancy says, "Me and all the runny-nosed reservation children suffering alcoholism poverty want close-mindedness growing up to engender the same in their own." How do these authors' unique punctuation and word use either restrict or enlarge the possible meanings of their works? Why might they reject traditional punctuation and grammar?

  9. Exploration: The mixed-race narrator of "Jack Wilson" says, "it was years before I started saying what I thought" and "I saw right away I was invisible to him." In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey's narrator Chief Bromden is also half white and half Native American. Chief pretends to be deaf and mute, making him, in a sense, invisible. Read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and compare Chief's experiences with those of Glancy's narrator. What does it mean to be "invisible"? Is silence an effective mode of resistance in an oppressive society? What does it mean when the bird in "Jack Wilson" says, "presence. Substance. Something visible"?

  10. Exploration: The old woman in "Polar Breath" is described as "an exile in herself." What does this mean? How, if at all, is this possible? What is the significance of her dead husband and the spirits? Is she really alone?

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