Travels with Charley - Character Reactions - Picking Up Riders

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Discipline

History, Language Arts

Grade Level

8 – 12

Type of Activity

Individual, Small Group, Large Group, Writing

Objectives

  • Students will understand the broader historical and social messages behind the scenes in Rocinante when Steinbeck gives two different men a ride in Louisiana.
  • Students will have a broader understanding of race relations in America during the 1950s and 1960s.

Overview

“He clasped his hands in his lap, knotted and lumpy as cherry twigs, and all of him seemed to shrink in the seat as though he sucked in his outline to make it smaller” (201).

After witnessing the vitriol of the Cheerleaders and having his conversation with Monsieur Ci Git, Steinbeck once again hit the road. Along the way he picked up two passengers on two separate occasions. One, an older African American man; the other, a thirty-something white man.

In this activity, students will create an internal monologue for the characters in the scene to examine attitudes of race from different perspectives.

Materials Needed/Preparation

Estimated Time

  • 2 class periods

Procedures

Day 1

  • For each journal/writing topic, consider providing the journal topics as an advance organizer. You may also wish to provide a conversation map.
  • Journal topic #1: Recall the scene where Steinbeck gives a ride to the older African American man (201-202). How does the man act and why? What do you think about the way he acted? What does Steinbeck think about how the man acted
  • Journal topic #2: Why does Steinbeck interject the brief story about the African American man who worked for him in Manhattan?
  • Journal topic #3: Recall the scene where Steinbeck gives a ride to the thirty-something white man (203-206). How does the man act and why? What do you think about the way he acted? What does Steinbeck think about how the man acted?
  • Journal topic #4: Recall the scene where Steinbeck gives a ride to the young African American college student. How does the man act and why? What do you think about the way he acted? What does Steinbeck think about how the man acted?
  • Discussion
    • Depending on the age and maturity of the class, a discussion on racial prejudice could be launched from here. This could include talks about racial profiling, the Black Lives Matter movement, historical violence and lynching, and racially charged/motivated violence today.
      • These subjects can be very personal and tense. Teachers should be certain to maintain an environment that allows for open, honest discussion.
      • Consider allowing time to pair share before discussing as an entire class.

Day 2

  • Using the journal entries from the previous day, students will work in groups to develop internal monologues for the characters discussed.
  • Create student groups.
    • Assign each group one of the following perspectives to write for:
      • The older African American man
      • The thirty-something white man
      • The young African American college student
      • Optional: Charley
    • Or, with a large class, consider assigning more than one group for each character.
  • Each group works together to write an internal monologue for their character.
    • What is the character thinking and feeling during his conversation with Steinbeck? Try to put yourself into that person’s shoes (which may be difficult).
    • Allow enough time for the groups to create their monologue.
    • Share out to the class
      • Discuss/react to the monologues
        • Focus on why students think their character would have felt and thought a certain way.
      • Again, depending on the age and maturity of the class, a discussion on racial prejudice could be launched from here. This could include talks about racial profiling, the Black Lives Matter movement, historical violence and lynching, and racially charged/motivated violence today.
        • These subjects can be very personal and tense. Teachers should be certain to maintain an environment that allows for open, honest discussion.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • Post Activity
    • Writing prompt : How is Steinbeck’s experience with the young African American college student he picks up on page 206 different from the older African American man he picked up? Why do these two men act differently in Steinbeck’s presence?
      • Students should provide examples from the text to support their answers.
      • Students may need to refer to a text book for more historical background, or to the articles on the 1950s and the 1960s on the Steinbeck in the Schools website.
  • Takeaways
    • Students should have an understanding that race and gender issues played a large role in this scene as well as during this time period.
    • Students should be able to identify major differences and similarities between the characters.
  • Follow-up
    • As a homework assignment, have students write an internal monologue (just as they did with their group), this time they are writing as if they were a character in the scene. Same instructions apply, but individually this time (not a group assignment.
    • Consider having a few student volunteers share at the beginning of the next class meeting.

Assessment

  • Written monologues (this can also apply to individually written monologues):
    • How well did the group portray their character through the monologue?
    • How well did the group explain why their character felt and thought a certain way.

Standards Met

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details:  1, 2, 3
    • Craft and Structure: 5
  • Writing Standards 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes:  1, 3
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
    • Craft and Structure:  6
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
    • Comprehension and Collaboration:  1
    • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:  4
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details:  1