LESSON FIVE Say Yes
A Profile : Tobias Wolff (1945---- ) • Tobias Wolff was born in Alabama in 1945. His parents divorced when he was a boy. Wolff’smother retained custody of him, while his brother Geoffrey who also became a writer who lived with their father. As a child, Wolff traveled with his mother, Rosemary, to the Pacific Northwest, where she remarried. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, young Tobias soon was forced to endure life under his strict and cruel stepfather. Hisefforts to get away from his stepfather led to his self-transformation. That period of Wolff’slife is recounted in This Boy’sLife: A Memoir, which was later made into a film. He lives with his family in upstate New York and teaches writing at Syracuse University.
From 1964 through 1968, Wolff served as a lieutenant with the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) in Vietnam. He later recounted his wartime experiences in the memoir In the Pharaoh’sArmy: Memoirs of the Lost War. In 1972 Wolff earned his B.A. and then his M.A. from Oxford University with First Class Honors in English three years later. That year, his first book, Ugly Rumours, was published in London. Also that year, he won a prestigious Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.
He is the author of the short novel The Barracks Thief, which won the 1985 PEN/Faulkner Award; • two collections of short stories, Back in the World (collecting “Say Yes”) and In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, which received the Saint Lawrence Award for fiction in 1982; • Mr. Wolff's work appears frequently in Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines and reviews.
Works: Old School • The Night In Question : Stories This Boy’s Life (autobiography)
BACK IN THE WORLD BARRACKS THIEF/SELE/ In Pharaoh's Army : Memories of the Lost War In The Garden Of The North American Martyrs The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories
Theme of the text: The idea of racism is a theme in the story, for the implication of the husband’s racism is what causes the couple to quarrel. The wife dislikes her husband’s beliefs that African Americans are different from whites. He maintains that it is not that he is prejudiced against African Americans, but that they come from a different culture than white people they even have their own language.
His protestation that I like hearing them talk because it makes him feel happy reveals much about his personality: his belief that African Americans are inherently foreign to whites, and his condescending(亲切却显出优越的）attitude. He needs something completely unlike himself to bring him pleasure. The husband’snegative response to Ann’squestion of whether he would marry her were she African American indicates the pervasive and destructive nature of his racism.
Husband The husband in the story is generally an unsympathetic character. He appears to have racist feelings and seems to be dishonest with himself. He claims to appreciate the stability of his life with Ann, yet he makes efforts to undermine it. He refuses to take responsibility for his actions. Throughout the evening, he is seen to be less than a genuine person; he does things for effect rather than out of a genuine, sincere desire. In the story, his most significant trait is his rejection of his wife, which she takes quite seriously, much to his surprise. By the end of the story, the husband demonstrates yet another shift in mood: excitement as he realizes that, in certain ways, his wife is unknowable to him. The final scene has him awaiting his wife in their darkened bedroom, imagining that she is a stranger that he seems to embrace, as demonstrated by the excited pounding of his heart.
Introduction: Wolff has often been likened to other writers of his generation such as Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. In his short stories, Wolff practices a direct, even nondramatic, style of writing. This is certainly the case in his story “Say Yes” which takes as its backdrop an average evening in the life of a married couple. When the conversation delves into an issue on which the couple do not agree, the relationship experiences a newfound rockiness. The husband’s reaction to this argument demonstrates the secret undercurrents that run through relationships.
Comments: Tobias Wolff is perhaps best known by the American reading public for his memoir This Boy抯 Life, which was later made into an acclaimed movie, but his literary reputation was first established on the merit of his short stories. He is still primarily known for these short stories, in which he depicts many characters’ voices and a wide range of emotions. Since the early 1980s, Wolff has produced several collections of short stories. These fictions focus on the important relationships and the moral choices in everyday people’s lives: men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children. As scholar Marilyn C. Wesley writes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Wolff writes about the basic needs of Everyman, written with a respect that Everyman deserves.
Historical Context: The Republican Years • The 1980s was a decade led by Republican policy. • Ronald Reagan took office as president of the United States in 1980, and served two terms, after which his vice president, George Bush, was elected to the nation’stop office.
Reagan held conservative political beliefs, both on the domestic front and when it came to foreign policy. Although his economic programs brought the national inflation rate down, they also seemed to favor the wealthy. During the Reagan era, many middle-class Americans saw their personal income shrinking, while the richest of Americans increased their wealth.
By the 1980s, as the United States and the Soviet Union built up a stockpile of nuclear weapons, the cold war had been ongoing for almost forty years. led by the two superpowers. Reagan, an ardent opponent of communism, encouraged his administration to greatly increase military spending.
Topics for Further Study 1. How do you think the husband and wife will resolve their situation? Do you think they will resolve it? Write a scene that takes place the following day. 2. Analyze the husband in terms of whether or not he is a racist character.
Topics: 3. Write a counterargument to the husband’s statement that African Americans don’t come from the same culture as whites.
Information background • 1980s: At the beginning of the 1980s, nine percent of all United States households are made up solely of a married couple. There are over forty-eight million married couples in the United States. 1990s: At the end of the 1990s, only three percent of all United States households are made up solely of a married couple. There are close to fifty-five million married couples in the United States. 1980s: In 1980, 67.2 percent of the white American population is married, and 51.4 percent of the African-American population is married. 1990s: While more than half of the American population continues to marry, the percentages for both whites and African Americans has decreased in the past ten years. In 1997, 62.1 percent of the white American population is married, and 42.4 percent of the African-American population is married. 1980s: In 1980, there are 651,0000 interracial couples in the United States....
a look at the new integrated Literatures • Units on Toni Morrison's Beloved, • Alice Walker's The Color Purple, • Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, • Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. • Johnnie Lee Gray was an African-American painter whose themes focused around the Jim Crow era. His paintings bring to life the experience of African Americans in the South of his youth and the South of today.
Band-Aid • A trademark for a piece of thin material that is stuck to the skin to cover cuts and other small wounds.
hypo- : prefix meaning “below, under” 1) in words denoting an organ or location below a given body part 在-- 下面 hypoderm 皮下组织 2) in terms denoting a body condition in which substances or functions are at below-normal levels 低于 hypotension 血压过低 hypothermia 体温过低 3) used in the names of chemical compounds that are in a lower state of oxidation（氧化） than a given compound 亚 4) counterpart to a word formed with “hyper”(在--上面，超越， 过于，极度) hypotension 血压过低 ---- hypertension 血压过高
hyper-: excessive上面, 超越， 过于，极度 hypersensitive hyperphysical超物质的 超自然的 hyperoxide 过氧化物 hypercritic 过于苛严，吹毛求疵的 hyperbole 夸张的 hyperacid胃酸过多
consider: v. E.g. Allthings considered, the reform is a success. • considerate: a. showing kind regard for the feelings, thoughtful, careful not to hurt or cause inconvenience to others E.g. It is considerate of you not to play the piano while I was having a sleep. • considerable: a. rather large or great , as in size , distance, or extent E.g. He bought a house at a considerable expense. considering: prep. in view of, having regard to E.g. She’s very active, considering her age.
break up: divide/ split, (a couple, relationship) come to an end break down: collapse, failure in machinery useless, suffer physical or mental weakening break in (to): enter a building by force break away: go away suddenly, give up (idea, belief) break through: make a way through break off: stop, pause His health has broken ____ from overwork. A. down B. in C. off D. away
ashamed: feeling shame感到羞愧的，惭愧的 E.g. You should feel ashamed of what you have done. shameful：可耻的，导致羞愧的 E.g. shameful conduct shameless: without shame, immodest厚颜无耻的 E.g. shameless exploiter
Ku Klux Klan: a secret white supremacist organization at various times in American history terrorized blacks and white sympathizers with violent acts of lynching, shootings, and whippings. pronunciation: kOO klucks klan also Known As: kKK KKK Symbol • Founder: Confederate Civil War veterans Captain John C. Lester, Major James R. Crowe, John D. Kennedy, Calvin Jones, Richard R. Reed, Frank O. McCord • Founded: 1866 • Headquarters: Imperial Klans of America is headquartered in Powderly, Kentucky; American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Butler, Indiana; Knights of the White Kamelia in Jasper, Texas. Background: The Klan has fragmented into scores of competing factions. Most of these are nominally independent, while a few remain affiliated with one of the umbrella groups listed above.
KKK • Estimated size: No more than a few thousand, organized into slightly more than 100 units. • Media: Mass mailings, leafletting and the Internet • Strategy: Public rallies and protests, "Adopt-A-Highway" programs, Internet • Ideology: Some Christian fundamentalist beliefs, Christian Identity, white supremacy • Connections: Militias, Aryans Nations, National Alliance • Financial support : Little. Even Imperial Wizards have to hold day jobs. Most funding comes from membership dues and sales of Klan paraphernalia.
Birth of the Klan • Six college students founded the Ku Klux Klan between December 1865 and the summer of 1866 in the town of Pulaski, Tennessee. Former Confederate officers, the six young men organized as a social club or fraternity and spent their time in horseplay of various types, including wearing disguises and galloping about town after dark. They were surprised to learn that their nightly appearances were causing fear, particularly among farmer slaves in the area. They quickly took advantage of this effect and the group began a rapid expansion. Various factions formed in different towns, which led to a meeting in April 1867 to codify rules and organizational structure.
Targeting those set free after the American Civil War - the African Americans, KKK designed to spread fear throughout the Black population that still lived in the southern states. This was the KKK. Only WASP’s could belong to it — White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. It is common that the KKK targeted only the Blacks - also the Jews, Catholics, liberals etc but most hatred was directed against the poor black families in the south who were very vulnerable to attack.
Reconstruction era kkk • In 1867, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Grand Wizard of the Empire, converted the Klan into a paramilitary force that served to directly oppose the formation of Republican governments set up by Congressional Reconstruction acts. Klansmen dressed in white robes and covered hoods, rode on horses, and dragged black people and some white republicans from their homes, assaulting them by whipping or lynching them. Such assaults were successful in keeping black men from the polls, and thus altering election results. • To stop the reconstruction era Klan, federal intervention was necessary. With the enactment of Congressional legislation and enforcement of the law by the federal government, the Klan was extinguished in 1871 – 1872.
The World War I Era Klan In 1915, the second Klan era began. As World War I was underway, a strong patriotism developed and anti-Catholic sentiments emerged. Along with these new ideas, white supremacist attitudes, the publication of Thomas Dixon’s novel, The Clansman (1905), and the 1915 movie, Birth of a Nation, by D.W. Griffith, a new Klan emerged. It was at this time that cross burning became a popular form of intimidation.
Periods: • The leader of the KKK in the 1920’s was a dentist called Hiram Wesley Evans whose name in the KKK was Imperial Wizard. The KKK were a violent organization. The white KKK burnt churches of the black population, murdered, raped, castrated etc and they were rarely caught as most senior law officers in the South were high ranking KKK men or sympathetic with their aims - which was a white protestant south. Even white people who had contacts with the blacks had reason to fear the KKK.
The Black Americans tried to fight back using non-violent methods. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) asked Washington for new laws to help combat the KKK violence but received very little, if any, help. • In the 1920’s Black Americans started to turn to the ‘Back to Africa’ movement which told blacks that they should return to their native America. This was started by Marcus Garvey but the whole movement faltered when he was arrested for fraud and sent to prison.
The Civil Rights Era Klan • By the 1960s, as the civil rights movement was emerging, the Klan’s membership reached almost twenty thousand. Like the former Klan organization, there was not a central leadership. • While the Klan still exists today, its membership is in the low thousands. The Klan has ties to other white supremacist organizations such as the Aryan Nations and the Skinheads.
Creation of the Jim Crow South • In the South, during the 1870s and 1880s, it was not uncommon for blacks and whites to use the same public facilities. However, Supreme Court decisions began to strip away the gains of Reconstruction, which led the way to the creation of Jim Crow laws.
Jim Crow Laws • After 1877, and the election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, the South quickly replaced Reconstruction laws with new ones that restricted the rights of blacks. These laws allowed the South's new upper class of planters, merchants and industrialists to prosper, while most blacks sank deeper into poverty. Between 1880 and 1900, the per capita income of the Deep South showed no increase at all, and the average black farmer's decreased. Racial segregation, called "Jim Crow," excluded blacks from public transport and facilities, jobs, juries, and neighborhoods. Blacks had separate hospitals, prisons, orphanages, parks and pools. The 19th century ended with the races firmly segregated -- culturally and legally.