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They will place them on a time line of writers about the West and select elements in their works that demonstrate a distinctly Western voice.
On the morning of November twenty-third, eighteen fifty, he saw some men talking as he walked down the main street of town. He said to himself, “Hmmm, I guess they are talking about me. Some of the town’s leaders had met secretly and decided to force some people to leave. Around noon, Mother Shipton became so tired she fell off her horse. Oakhurst tried to make them move on because they had no food or fuel. Instead they began to drink alcohol that Uncle Billy had hidden.
They were the “Duchess” as she was called, and “Mother Shipton.” A man called “Uncle Billy” was added to the group. Some people thought that he had also stolen some gold.
Have students look up the definition of "irony" and then discuss with them the term "dramatic irony." Ask them to record in their reading logs examples of its use in the story.
Call students' attention to Harte's use of elevated language to describe his stereotypical characters, most of whom exemplify types on the margins of society.
He guessed it would take Tom at least two days, if not more, to get there. And that is the way they were found the next morning when help arrived from Poker Flat. The rescuers from town said that they had been right to force the outcasts to leave Poker Flat. He handed in his cards on the seventh of December, the same year.” Oakhurst sat there, cold and still. A single bullet from a small hand gun nearby had ended his life.
The snow had continued to fall and was deeper than ever. He gave Tom Simson a pair of snowshoes and asked him to try to walk back to Poker Flat for help. The Duchess and Piney were surprised, and frightened, when Oakhurst also turned to leave. They passed the stormy night holding each other close. On the card was written: “Beneath this tree lies the body of John Oakhurst, who had some bad luck starting the twenty-third of November, eighteen fifty.
Do the thoughts of the characters need to be written in the same dialect? Have students watch Episode 3, "Speck of the Future" from the beginning through the first 7 minutes.
Continue viewing segments detailing the life and writings of pioneer/adventurer, William Swain (beginning at , , and ).
Have them make charts or webs of these different literary genres and examples. Discuss historical fiction they know about that has been made into film.
For homework, have them bring to class a current fiction best-seller list to analyze and categorize according to the types they have discussed and others they may discover. Tell students that in the following classes they will read selections of historical fiction that once made the best-seller list; students will then compare those works of fiction with non-fiction writings, unintended for publication, that were written during the settlement of the West.