“The Gilded Six Bits”
“The Yellow Wallpaper”
“A Small, Good Thing”
“Prisoner on the Hell Planet”
“Hills Like White Elephants”
Hurston, "The Gilded Six-Bits"
1. Look at the description of the house in the opening paragraphs. What kind of life and
feelings do these descriptions create about the young couple and their home life? (Remember
that many people were out of a job. Although Missy May and Joe aren't rich, as shown by the
descriptions, Joe has a job and Missy May keeps their home tidy and nice.)
2. What is the playful ritual of Missy May and Joe when he returns home from work? How
would you describe their relationship at the outset of the story?
3. Describe Slemmons. Why does Joe seem so impressed with him? Why does he want to
take Missy May to the ice cream parlor?
4. While Joe praises Slemmons to Missy May, she counters his praise with her own views of
him. What are they? How do they contrast with her views of Joe?
5. What is Joe's response to Missy May after her infidelity? Look at the examples of how he
uses the coin?
6. Why is there no reconciliation after Joe finds that Missy May is pregnant? When does he
finally forgive her?
7. How does the ritual at the end show his forgiveness and the renewal of their relationship?
1. Look for examples throughout the story of Sykes' cruelty to and exploitation and humiliation
2. How does Delia respond to each instance of his cruelty to her? This will help you trace
Delia's development from a passive person to someone who asserts and defends herself.
3. What did Delia look like before she married Sykes? What is her physical description like
after she marries him?
4. What is Delia most proud of, and what does she treasure?
5. What is the townsmen's view of Sykes? (Note: they serve as a kind of Greek chorus,
helping guide readers' opinions)
6. How is the ending ironic and a type of fitting justice for Sykes?
7. Note the references to the sun rising at the end of the story. Why do you think Hurston
focuses on and repeats that image?
Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”
1. Why is it important that the narrator mentions that John and her brother are physicians?
What is the narrator’s views of this medical advice, and does it influence her actions? 2. Describe the house.
3. Describe her room.
4. What are the pet names that John calls the narrator? Of course, many people have pet
names for loved ones, but in the context of this story, how do they help infantilize her? How do
these references also correlate with the room possibly having been a nursery?
7. Describe the wallpaper. What is the connection between the woman in the wallpaper and the
narrator? How does what she believe she sees not only show her descent into insanity but also
reflect something about the status of women in this time period?
8. Note all the times the word “creeping” is used. What is the meaning of this use?
9. The narrator keeps a secret journal, which is how we see the progress of her mental state.
Although, there aren’t actually letters or journal entries, this is a type of epistolary work. What is
the irony of this journal used to portray her thoughts; in other words, how does this relate to the
Walker, “Everyday Use”
1. Whose point of view is the story told from?
2. How does the mother’s dream contrast with her reality?
3. What is Maggie like?
4. What is the mother’s view of Dee?
5. Contrast the mother and Dee.
6. Is Dee’s education in contrast to her mother’s shown in a positive or negative light?
7. Describe the arrival of Dee and Hakim.
8. What do the quilt and other objects such as the churn and the dasher represent to Dee?
9. How does Dee’s view of the quilt differ from Maggie’s?
10. Since it is a central image, what does the quilt represent?
Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”
1. What does the early encounter between Sonny’s friend and the narrator show about the
2. When the narrator asks Sonny’s friend “why does he want to die? his friend says “He don’t
want to die. He wants to live.” The narrator is discussing Sonny’s self-destructive habits, but
how does his friend interpret Sonny’s actions as a desire to live?
3. Note the many references to darkness. What do these references show about the lives of
the people in this area?
4. Describe the neighborhood and its effect on the people who live there.
5. Why is it so important to their mother for Sonny and his brother to have a close relationship?
How does what happened to the father and his brother make her want her sons to care for each
6. Describe the two brothers. Refer to lines or scenes where you learn something about each
of them (e.g., their jobs, their relationships, their beliefs on how to live life, etc.).
7. Pick out as many scenes as you can where music is referred to, played in the background or
in the foreground, etc. How does it affect the people in Harlem? 8. Sonny often says that his brother doesn’t really hear what he’s saying, and the two of them
talk past each other. Pick out as many references to hearing and listening as you can. What do
you think the purpose of these references is?
9. What’s the importance of mentioning Grace?
10. What helps the narrator understand Sonny’s feelings? How do the two reconcile at the end
of the story?
11. The blues are a key metaphor in the story. How does it relate to