Plot: It is a series of carefully devised, interrelated
events that progress through a struggle of
opposing forces to a climax and to a
conclusion/not always a resolution.
Complication: an
element that
introduces some
problem or
Conflict: the tension
that results from the
struggle of opposing
forces in a plot.
Person vs Person
Person vs Environment
Person vs Self
Resolution / Denoument
The “Players” in a Short story
Protagonist: He or she is the leading figure both
in terms of importance in the story and in terms of
his or her ability to enlist our interest and
sympathy, whether the cause is heroic or ignoble.
Antagonist: The character (or force) in a story
who stands directly opposed to the protagonist, a
rival or an opponent of the protagonist.
Greek roots
Agon = “struggle” or “contest” (conflict)
Proto = “first”
Agonistes = “one who struggles for a cause”
Agony = “mental struggle”
Discussion prompt to intensify your literature-related neuron firing
“Where Are You Going
Where Have You Been”
Regarding plot, which story do you think is
more well crafted? Focusing on the story’s structure,
please explain your choice.
John Updike
“A & P” discussion questions
1. Of what significance is the 10 paragraph expository section?
(Par 11 begins: “Now here comes the sad part of the story . . . .”)
Sammy then says that his “family thinks it’s sad” but he does not.
(He’s obviously told them the same (?) story) However, based
on the implied ambiguity of “sad part,” do you think they might
be siding with his being chivalrous or do you think they would
remain faithful to Lengel’s interpretation of events?
2. Often in first person narratives we learn the
name of the narrator early on in the story. Why does
Updike wait almost twenty paragraphs before
revealing “Sammy”? (Even his age is held back
until par. 8)
“A & P” discussion prompt
What do you consider to be the primary dramatic conflict,
and do you think the narrative’s ending effects a resolution?
Conflict in fiction:
Person vs Person
Person vs Environment (Societal norms / Nature)
Person vs Self
“A & P” discussion prompts
Do you think that Updike might want readers to see the following
back and forth between Lengel and Queenie as ironic?
(Verbal irony is when an author uses words to convey a
meaning that is the opposite of the literal meaning).
Par. 16: “We want you decently dressed when you come in here.”
Par. 17: “We are decent, Queenie says suddenly . . . .
At what point in the story come a crisis and climax?
“A & P” discussion prompt
Do you think women readers characterize Sammy
differently than men do? Explain.
“A & P” discussion prompts
Critics of the story offer various interpretations
for Sammy’s quitting:
*A typical teenager’s vaingloriousness
*The dehumanization of people caused by the
economic system’s penchant for commodification
*An Emersonian rebelliousness against the
forces of conformity
*A symbolic presaging of the iconoclastic behavior
of so much of the youth in the 1960s
What is your interpretation?
Why do you think he titled the story “A&P,” rather than something like
“Sammy Strikes Out” or “Sammy’s Dilemma,” etc. ?
Joyce Carol Oates
Born 1938
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Discussion Prompts
What is the purpose of the expository
section in this story?
Does the story have any foreshadowing
incident or incidents?
(Foreshadowing is a literary device by which an
author hints at what is to come. It is used to avoid
disappointment, and sometimes used to arouse readers).
What do you think constitute crisis and
climax in this plot?
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Discussion Prompts
What is your impression of Connie?
Is she in any way appealing? Is she
imperceptive and immature?
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Discussion Prompt
What is your impression of Arnold Friend?
As some critics have suggested, is he a
“supernatural” character?
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Discussion Prompts
Why doesn’t Connie succeed in breaking loose
from Arnold’s spell?
(Several critics think “music” is very important
in answering this question)
Do you think the story’s ending is clear or abstruse?
Early Transistor Radio Modern Transistor Radio
AKA: I Pod
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Discussion Prompt
Critics Gretchen Schultz and R. J. R. Rockwood
posit the idea that Friend is not a real person, but is
created by Connie’s imagination, as a means of
dealing with her adolescence and its confusions.
Do you agree or disagree?
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Discussion Prompt
The story is a very good example of literary ambiguity; there are many
layers of possible meaning: It can be read as
1. A crime story: a fictionalized account of the historical character Charles Schmid,
the Pied Piper of Tucson
2. A moral parable: a cautionary tale for young girls (stay away from deceptive
stalker types)
3. A cultural document of the 1960s, in which the innocence of America was
giving way to the more hard-edged, turbulent, troublesome, violent and
unpredictable times, an era being prophesied, ushered-in by none other
than Bob Dylan (among others), to whom the story is dedicated
4. An expression of the powerlessness and vulnerability of women trapped by
their vanity (feminist perspective), which is imposed on them by a
cultural expectation that women must always be pretty, women who make
easy prey for predatory males like Ellie Oscar and Arnold Friend
Are you in alignment with one of these more than another, or do you have a
different interpretation? Explain.
Smooth Talk, 1985, directed by Joyce Chopra
Charles Schmid
“The Pied Piper of Tuscon”
Bob Dylan
Hades abucting Persephone
Death and the Maiden
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