Literary works:
"Mother to Son," Langston Hughes
"First Lesson," Phyllis McGinley
"Those Winter Sundays," Robert Hayden
"My Papa's Waltz," Theodore Roethke
"Do Not Go Gentle," Dylan Thomas
"Taught Me Purple," Evelyn Tooley Hunt
"The Secret Heart," R. Tristan Coffin
Short Stories:
"Father and I," Par Lagerkvist
"Discovery of a Father," Sherwood Anderson
"Shaving," Leslie Norris

Performance Objectives:
Understand dramatic literature, compare relationships in different families, write analytical essays, write similar themes in a different genre.

The FOCUS (Enduring Understandings) of this unit is "Family Relationships'
-how members of one family deal with disappointment in each other,
-how misunderstanding generates separation,
-how insights into others generate understanding and acceptance.


Individual Dignity The American Dream
The Tragic Hero Identity Crisis
Fantasizing the Truth Nature vs. The City
Unrealistic Expectations Mortality vs. Immortality

Quickwrite: Describe the kind of relationship you have with one of your parents or a close adult. Share with a partner. Class discussion follows the paired sharing.
Exploring Relationships in Poetry: Read a series of poems, choose one to study, and form poetry-alike groups. Prepare a short oral report to class members:

THE SECRET HEART by R. Tristam Coffin

Across the years he could recall
His father one way best of all.
In the stillest hour of night
The boy awakened to a light.
Half in dreams, he saw his sire
With his great hands full of fire.
The man had struck a match to see
If his son slept peacefully.
He held his palms each side the spark
His love had kindled in the dark.
His two hands were curved apart
In the semblance of a heart.
He wore, it seemed to his small son,
A bare heart on his hidden one,
A heart that gave out such a glow
No son awake could bear to know.
It showed a look upon a face
Too tender for the day to trace.
One instant, it lit all about,
And then the secret heart went out.
But it shone long enought for one
To know that hands held up the sun .

Group Discussion Questions: What is your favorite passage? Why? What words does the speaker use to describe the boy? the father? What might be the significance of the incident in the boy's life? ie. why do you think it made a lasting impression?

FIRST LESSON by Phyllis McGinley

The thing to remember about fathers is, they're men.
A girl has to keep it in mind.
They are dragon-seekers, bent on improbable rescues.
Scratch any father, you find
Someone chock-ful of qualms and romantic terrors,
Believing change is a threat--
Like your first shoes with heels on, like your first bicycle
It took such months to get.
Walk in strange woods, they warn you about the snakes there.
Climb, and they fear you'll fall.
Books, angular boys, or swimming in deep water--
Fathers mistrust them all.
Men are worriers. It is difficult for them
To learn what they must learn;
How you have a journey to take and very likely,
For a while, will not return.

Group Discussion Questions: What is your favorite passage? Why? What words does the speaker use to describe her father? men in general? Who has learned the first lesson: father or daughter?

MOTHER TO SON by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor-
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now--
For I'se still goin',honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Group Discussion Questions: What is your favorite passage? Why? Based on what the mother says to her son, what kind of a life has she had? What message is she offering her son?

TAUGHT ME PURPLE by Evelyn Tooley Hunt

My mother taught me purple
Although she never wore it.
Wash-gray was her circle,
The tenement her orbit.
My mother taught me golden
And held me up to see it,
Above the broken molding,
Beyond the filthy street.
My mother reached for beauty
And for its lack she died,
Who knew so much of duty
She could not teach me pride.

Group Discussion Questions: What is your favorite passage? Why? What words does the speaker use to describe her mother? What values does the speaker mention?

MY PAPA'S WALTZ by Theodore Roethke

The whisky on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Group Discussion Questions: What is your favorite passage? Why? What words does the speaker use to describe his father? What do you think the speaker was feeling as a boy? As he retells the incident?

DO NOT GO GENTLE By Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightening they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight,
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Group Discussion Questions: What is your favorite passage? Why? What words does the speaker use to describe his father? death? Do you agree with the speaker's advice? Why?


Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Group Discussion Questions: What is your favorite passage? Why? What words does the speaker use to describe his father? What is the speaker confessing? What tribute does he pay to his father?

Individual Journal entry: Now that you have discussed the poem, reread your first quickwrite about your relationship with a parent. Write how the situation in the poem is similar to or different from your own life.THROUGH:
Interpreting Dramatic Characters: Keep a tri-part journal to record instances in the play about chosen characters. Column headings: "Quote from Play," "Why I Chose It," "What I Think it Means."
Example: Quote from play: Biff: "Because I know he's a fake and he doesn't like anybody around who knows." (p.65) Why I Chose It: This passage tells me a little about Biff and Willy. Biff doesn't like his father for some reason, and I need to find out more about Willy to see if Biff is correct. What I Think it Means: Biff seems to think that his father is not genuine. He thinks he's a phoney, and that his father does not want to be around anybody who sees through him. Why Biff thinks that Willy is a fake I don't know yet, but I'll be looking for clues as I read on.
Use this journal as notes to write an essay on the relationship between two characters.

Examining Character Interaction: In this section students have an opportunity to respond to quotes which have been taken from DEATH OF A SALESMAN: Read the quote and write what you think these words reveal about the characters who are interacting. Think about what is happening at the time, who is speaking and to whom, and what the passage means.
If requested, reflect on the universality of its meaning.

Linda: "He's not the finest character that ever lived.
But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is
happening to him. So attention must be paid.
He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like
an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally
paid to such a person."

Linda: ...And you better go down to your friends, Biff.
The cellar is full of boys. They don't know what
to do with themselves.
Biff: Ah, when Pop comes home they can wait!
Willy: (laughs appreciatively): You better go down and
tell them what to do, Biff.

Biff: I'll see Oliver tomorrow...
Linda: Maybe things are beginning to-
Willy:(wildly enthused,to Linda): Stop interrupting! (To Biff) But don't wear your sport jacket and slacks...
Biff: No, I'll-
Willy: A business suit, and talk as little as little as possible.
Biff: He did like me. Always liked me.
Linda: He loved you!
Willy: (to Linda) Will you stop! (To Biff) Walk in very serious.
Linda: Oliver always thought the highest of him--
Willy: Will you let me talk?

Biff: Your hair...(He touches her hair) Your hair got so gray.
Linda: Oh, it's been gray since you were in high school. I just stopped dyeing it,
that's all.
Biff: Dye it again, will ya? I don't want my pal looking old. (He smiles)
Linda: You're such a boy!

Biff: Lend me ten bucks, will ya? I want to buy some new ties.
Happy: I'll take you to a place I know.Beautiful stuff.
Wear one of my striped shirts tomorrow.
Biff: She got so gray. Mom got awful old. Gee, I'm
gonna go in to Oliver tomorrow and knock him for a--
Happy: Come on up. Tell that to Dad. Let's give him a whirl. Come on.

Linda: It's changing, Willy, I can feel it changing!
Willy: Beyond a question. G'by. I'm late.(He starts to go again)
Linda: (calling after him as she runs to the kitchen table for a handkerchief)You got your glasses?
Willy: (feels for them, then comes back in) Yeah, yeah, got my glasses.
Linda: (giving him the handkerchief And a handkerchief.
Willy: Yeah, handkerchief.
Linda: And your saccharine?
Willy: Yeah, my saccharine.
Linda: Be careful on the subway stairs.

(Charley enters. He is in a vest, and he carries a bottle of bourbon)
Charley: Hey, you're going to miss that train. (He waves the bottle)
Bernard: Yeah, I'm going. (He takes the bottle) Thanks, Pop.
Charley: (an arm on Bernard's shoulder) How do you like this kid? Gonna argue a case in front of the Supreme Court!
Bernard: (protesting) Pop!...
Charley: Knock 'em dead, Bernard!

Happy : Shh! Take it easy. What brought you back tonight?
Willy: I got an awful scare. I nearly hit a kid in Yonkers.
God! Why didn't I go to Alaska with my brother Ben..
Happy: Well, there's no use in--
Willy: You guys! There was a man started with the clothes
on his back and ended up with diamond mines!
Happy: Boy, someday I'd like to knowhow he did it...Pop,
I told you I'm gonna retire you for life.
Willy: ...on seventy goddam dollars aa week? And your
women and your car and your apartment...

Biff: He had the wrong dreams, all,all, wrong.
Happy [almost ready to fight Biff]Don't say that!
Biff: He never knew who he was...
Happy: [infuriated] Don't say that!
Biff: Why don't you come with me, Happy?
Happy: I'm not licked that easily. I'm staying right in this
city, and I'm gonna beat this racket!...
Biff: I know who I am, kid.
Happy: ...I'm gonna show you...that Willy Loman did not die in vain.

Biff: (his weeping breaking from him) Dad...
Willy (infected by it) Oh, my boy-She's nothing to me, Biff. I was lonely...
Biff: You-you gave her Mama's stock-ings! (His tears break through and
he rises to go)
Willy (grabbing for Biff) I gave you an order!
Biff: Don't touch me, you liar!
Willy: Apologize for that!
Biff: You fake! you phoney little fake!
Willy: I gave you an order! Biff, come back here or I'll beat you!...I gave you an order...

Viewing Key Scenes: Students react to selected scenes from the video and write about the scene: two observations on Willy's dreams and one reflection on the requiem scene.

Study Questions to consider while reading/viewing play:
1. What do you think of Willy Loman? Biff Loman? What do you like about each character? What do you dislike?
2. Select a single phrase/line that stands out for you, and tell why you think it is important.
3. Explain how Ben and Charley are opposite from Willy. What brings success to Charley and Ben?
4. Describe the way the Loman family deals with problems. Do you see any similarities/differences in your own family? Explain.
5. Does anyone in the play remind you of someone you know? Explain.
6. Whom do you most identify with and why? Whom do you least identify with?
7. Identify and discuss three important ideas in the play.
8. Some critics argue that the play is about Willy Loman. Others believe the story is about Willy and Biff equally. Choose a position and argue for it.
9. How did Willy's attitude toward Biff when he was growing up hurt him as an adult?
10. Biff blames his father for many of his problems in life. When is a parent responsible for what happens in their child's life? When is the child responsible?


Creating a Script from a Short Story: Students read one of three short stories and write a script based on the short story:
1. Describe the relationship between father and son as it emerges in the scene in which Barry skillfully and gently shaves his father.
2. Near the end of the story, we read that the father had "let go all his authority, handed it over." Explain what you think this passage means.
3. Compare this father/ son relationship with the one in the play, Death of a Salesman? Explain.

"Father and I"
1. How does the young boy's feelings towards his father change from the beginning to the end of the story?
2. At the end of the story, the narrator says "It wasn't a real world, a real life. It just hurtled, blazing, into the darkness that had no end." Explain what he means.
3. Do you see any similarities/differences between this father/son relationship and the one in the play, Death of a Salesman? Explain.

"Discovery of a Father"
1. Sherwood Anderson says, "You hear it said that fathers want their sons to be what they feel they cannot themselves be, but I tell you it also works the other way." What does he mean?
2. "He had become blood of my blood; he the strong swimmer and I the boy clinging to him in the darkness. We swam in silence and in silence we dressed in our wet clothes, and went home." Using this phrase, explain the change that takes place in the author's ideas about his relationship with his father.
3. Compare this father/ son relationship with the one in the play, Death of a Salesman? Explain.

Original script: Students have option to write an original script.

Autobiographical Incident Biff Loman has a problem communicating with his father, Willy Loman. Their differences of opinion about success lead to arguments and misunderstandings. Write an essay of a time when a difference of opinion created a communications problem with your parents. State specifically what the problem was and tell what happened as a result of the differences. What did you learn from this experience?

Reflective Essay We learn about life through experiences, both real and fictional. For example, in Death of a Salesman, we learn more about how family members deal with disappointments, misunderstandings, separation, and finally insight and acceptance. Write an essay in which you consider life's disappointments and expectations in society by exploring the lives of people you know and the lives of the fictional characters in the play.

Interpretation Write an essay interpreting the relationship between Willy and Biff Loman in the play, Death of a Salesman. Include specific references from the work. Your aim is to convince your readers that your ideas about the two characters are reasonable, and based on a thoughtful reading of the play.

Evaluation The play, Death of a Salesman was first produced in 1949. Write an essay evaluating the play in terms of how it is relevant to families today. Support your judgment with experiences taken from the lives of yourself and your friends as well as with specific examples from the play.

Report of Information Willy Loman seemed to have a solid friendship with Charley, his next door neighbor. There are many qualities that make a good friend. Write an essay explaining several qualities that make a good friend. Support your ideas with details, facts, and examples.

Observational Writing Several times in the play Willy Loman returns to the happy times he spent with his family members. Write an essay about a happy event you have observed. Describe the people, the cause of the happiness, the event itself, where it took place, and the outcome. Use dialogue if appropriate. Include the kind of details that will help your readers imagine this event and why it stands out in your mind.

Speculation about Causes and Effects Willy Loman refuses to take the job that his friend, Charley offers him, and commits suicide at the end of the play. Write an essay explaining why you think Willy behaves in this manner. What effect does his suicide have on the rest of the Loman family? Develop these ideas with evidence. Convince your readers that you have read the play carefully and thought deeply about the possible reasons for Willy's actions.

Controversial Issue When Willy Loman asks his boss, Howard to give him a job at the office so he won't have to travel, Howard refuses. In this scene, Howard tells Willy to ask his sons to help him out, and suggests that "This is no time for false pride." Willy brushes off that suggestions, saying that his sons are working on "a very important deal," and that he can't impose on them. Should children be responsible for their aging parents? Or should society care for them? Write an essay on this problem. State your position and use arguments to defend it. Your goal is the persuade your readers to accept your viewpoint.

Discovering the Author may be used as an INTO or BEYOND activity as seen fit by the teacher. Students prepare a bio. of Miller

Timed writing: Death of a Salesman

A character's attempt to recapture the past is important in many plays, novels, and poems. In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, for example, may view the past with such feelings as reverence, bitterness, or longing. Show with clear evidence from the work how the character's view of the past is used to develop a theme in the work.


Unlike the novelist, the playwright does not use his own voice and only rarely uses a narrator's voice to guide a reader's or audience's responses to character and action. Write an essay in which you explain the techniques the playwright uses to guide his audience's responses to the central action and characters. You might consider the effect of things like setting, the use of comparable and contrasting characters, and the characters' responses to each other. Support your argument with specific references.

Read the passages and answer the following questions:
1. Who said it? 3. What was happening in the play?
2. To whom was it said? 4. What does it mean?

1. "He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person."
2. "Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eight-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved by so many different people?"
3. "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away--a man is not a piece of fruit!"
4. "Why boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich."
5. "He walked away. I saw him for one minute. I got so mad I could've torn the walls down! How the hell did I ever get the idea I was a salesman there? I even believed myself that I'd been a salesman for him! And then he gave one look and--I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! We've been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk."
6. "Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never get out of the jungle that way."
7. "I'm getting married, Pop, don't forget it. I'm changing everything. I'm gonna run that department before the year is up. You'll see, Mom."
8. "Oh, Ben, that's the whole beauty of it! I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand. Not like-like an appointment! This would not be another damned-fool appointment, Bend, and it changes all the aspects. Because he thinks I'm nothing, see, and so he spites me. But the funeral-- Ben, that funeral will be massive! They'll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old-timers with the strange license plates--that boy will be thunder-struck, Ben, because he never realized--I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey--I am known, Ben, and he'll see it with his eyes once and for all. He'll see what I am, Ben! He's in for a shock, that boy!"
9. "He had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong."
10. "Nobody dast blame this man. You don't understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back--that's an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you're finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.