Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Importance of Teaching Values in School Part IV of V

The Importance of Teaching Values in School Part IV of V
By Jill Jenkins

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

            One skill that students need to develop is how to select quality friends, associates and life partners. One of the most devastating events in an adolescent’s life is to select friends who are involved in unscrupulous behavior.  These no account rascals can lead an otherwise good child from a productive life to a life of crime and violence.  Flashy, gregarious youth who seem fascinating can lead a child astray like a moth to a light.
            In Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pacquette is a beautiful, sixteen year old girl who allows wealthy, aristocrats to use her and throw her away like a used tissue. Each time she is discarded, she continues with a man of lower social class and position, until finally she becomes involved with “The Prince of Thieves.”  Her behavior leaves her with an illegitimate child who she adores.  When her little daughter is kidnapped, she is destroyed and becomes the tattered recluse living in a Lady Rolande’s sanctuary praying and weeping.

            Esmeralda, her beautiful daughter who is raised by her biological father returns to Paris, but Pacquette doesn’t recognize her.  Esmeralda, now sixteen, shares her mother’s good looks, but devoutly clings to her chastity believing that if she does, she will meet her mother again.  Esmeralda is attracted to a handsome, police captain, Phoebus. Phoebus is engaged to his cousin, but is an alcoholic, womanizer who tries to seduce Esmeralda.  Esmeralda is unjustly accused and convicted of Phoebus’ murder even though he is not dead.  Quasimodo, the hunchback who lives in the cathedral, rescues Esmeralda and gives her sanctuary in Notre Dame.  

            It is a simple act of kindness that almost saves Esmeralda.  When Quasimodo, who has been bullied and ridiculed by the everyone for his disfigurement, is put on the pillory as punishment for kidnapping Esmeralda, Esmeralda is the only one who will bring him a sip of water.  Because of her kindness, Quasimodo falls in love with her and, consequently,  rescues her from the gallows.  If students are taught to understand that it is the simple act of kindness that often means so much to others, they can change the climate of a school.  Asking students to perform a simple act of kindness and write about it will help students understand that they can make a difference in another person’s life.
            Because Quasimodo loves the beautiful Esmeralda, he brings her two vases with roses.  The first one is in a crystal vase that is cracked, because it cannot hold water, the roses wilt.  The second one is a plain, earthenware vase that is not cracked, so the roses remain beautiful.  The vases represent the two men.  The crystal vase represents Phoebus who is handsome, but flawed.  He can never truly love Esmeralda.  The earthenware vase represents Quasimodo who is physically deformed, but not morally bankrupt, so his love can protect Esmeralda.  In the end, Esmeralda’s inability to understand this leads to her death. This could lead to another assignment by having students identify people in the world who might best be represented by the crystal vase and explain why with specific examples and one that might be represented by the earthenware vase supporting their choice with specific examples. 

            This piece of literature could be used to discuss and write about the importance of the quality of a man's character over physical appearance. (Warning: translations of this book vary considerably. If you are teaching in a conservative society, I suggest you look at the Scholastic version of the book.)  It could be used to discuss the importance of using that as a measurement of the quality of friends as well as life partners.  One essay that you might consider is for students to list what qualities are the most important for an individual for a life partner or a best friend and prioritizing these qualities and justifying these choices with rationale.

  Other discussion questions that could be used in literary circles or for writing assignments include:
  • Jehan and Quasimodo are both raised by Claude Frollo as his sons. Which is the better son? Why? Why does Claude Frollo fail to recognize this?
  • Claude Frollo, Pacquette and Esmeralda all fail to recognize that what they have been looking for is right before their eyes. What makes them so blind to the truth?  Describe an event in real life where people are blind to the truth.
  • Quasimodo's name is Latin means almost formed. Compare Quasimodo, Claude Frollo, Phoebus and Jehan Frollo to determine who is the most complete person.
  • At the end of the book, everyone is trying to save Esmeralda.  Explain how a lack of communication ends in everyone's death.
  • During the election of the King of Fools, people with various degrees of deformities place their face or other parts of their anatomy out the window and the crowd laughs. When Quasimodo displays his deformities, they elect him the King of Fools.  Victor Hugo might be implying that we all in some degree Quasimodo; therefore, the reason people taunt Quasimodo is because they do not want to admit their own shortcomings.  When the crown sees the beautiful Esmeralda, they likewise taunt and scuff at her appearance.  What role does being "different" play in bullying?
  • Pierre Gringoire's play is suppose to be a morality play, but it is an ironic mix of mythological characters and religious ones.  In what way is the novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a morality play? 
  • When Claude Frollo rescues the infant Quasimodo from a group of women who were about to burn the deformed child, it is obvious that finding homes for orphans who are handicapped is difficult.  How difficult is it today to find homes for children with disabilities?  Why is it difficult?
  • Victor Hugo's description of the architecture of the buildings in Paris represents the complicated value system of the era.  Look at our school. What does the architecture of today say about our society?
  • Since Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Phoebus and Claude Frollo are all judged by the people of Paris by their appearance, it is likely that Victor Hugo is making statement about the problems created when people judge others by what they appear to be, instead of the "quality of their character."  What problems occur when people judge others by their appearance, rather than their characters?  How do people at this school judge others by their appearance?  What stereotypes exist in this school?  Are the assumptions made about these people based on their appearance true or false?  What problems occur when students judge other students based on their appearance? 
  • If Quasimodo is not the most distorted character, who does the title, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, really represent? 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Importance of Teaching Values in School Part III of V By Jill Jenkins

The Importance of Teaching Values in School Part III of V
By Jill Jenkins

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

     Another of Charles Dickens’ novels that illustrates that treating others kindly and respectfully is the road to a more fulfilling relationship is Great Expectations.  Joe Gargery is the quintessential example of a healthy, caring person.  Joe is married to Pip’s sister, Mrs. Joe.  Despite Mrs. Joe’s application of “the tickler’ to Pip’s behind and her verbal abuse of both Joe and Pip, Joe remains loyal and caring.  Because Joe’s father had been abusive to his mother, Joe refuses to reduce himself to that level.  Raising his wife’s younger brother as his own, Joe loves Pip and teaches him to work in his blacksmith shop hoping that one day they will be full partners. When Mrs. Joe is rendered a vegetable after Dolge Orlick attacks her, Joe remains loyal and caring until her death. After Mrs. Joe’s death, he marries Biddy, a girl who helps to nurse Mrs. Joe and tutors Pip when he was a boy. She is equally as kind and caring as Joe. 
     In contrast, Miss Havisham let’s anger and revenge rule her life after Compeyson, a swindler, abandons her on her wedding day.  She adopts Estella, the daughter of Magwitch and Molly, and raises her to become a dignified lady whose sole purpose in life is to “break men’s hearts.”  She becomes Miss Havisham’s revenge.  Pip falls in love with Estella.  As she is trained to do, she lures him only to break his heart.  In the end, Miss Havisham burns to death in her worn, yellowing wedding dress that she never removes.  Abandoned by Estella, she is a lonely, bitter woman. Estella marries Bentley Drummle, a rich, but self-centered cruel man or abuses her.   Eventually Bentley Drummle abandons Estella leaving her lonely and alone. 

     Pip receives an opportunity to become educated and cultured. As he wishes Pip becomes a gentleman, not on Miss Havisham’s money as he erroneously believes, but on Abel Magwitch’s money, an escaped prisoner who he helped on the swamp as a child.  
      Pip loses all of his money and position through mismanagement.  It is not the wealthy people of position that he so admires who rescues him.  It is Joe.  He pays off his debt and nurses him back to health.  It is his old friend who Pip once helped, Herbert Pocket, who takes him into his business when his health returns. 
        This book is an excellent example of helping others, and treating others with respect brings people the kind of wealth that really matters.  To help students understand this you could again use a graphic organizer, a Venn Diagram, to help them develop ideas and support them with details from the book.  

  •    Compare and contrast Joe Gargery’s life and qualities to those of Miss Havisham's.  Record them on the circle charts, or compare and contrast Pip and Estella’s life and character qualities.  

Using the information on your Venn Diagram, write an essay comparing and contrasting either Joe Gargery and Miss Havisham or Pip and Estella.  Show how their past and their attitude toward other people affected the outcome of their life.  Make sure you add specific examples from the novel to support your observations.

Other discussion questions that could be used for literary circles or writing assignments include:
  • Pip wants to become a gentleman.  Define the term gentleman and apply the definition to each of the following characters:
    • Joe Gagery
    • Herbert Pocket
    • Mr. Jaggers
    • Bentley Drummel 
    • Abel Magwitch 

  • “But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane, 
In proving foresight may be vain: 
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, 
Gang aft agley, 
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, 
For promis'd joy!”  Robert Burns
    In this quote by Robert Burns, “the best laid”…plans “of mice and men” often go astray….apply this quote to Great Expectations.  In a well organized and well supported five-paragraph essay discuss how the best laid plans of the following characters did not occur in the way that they had designed or expected them to occur:  Pip, Magwitch, Molly, Mrs. Havisham and Estella.  Discuss what each character expected from their lives and how those dreams were destroyed or changed. 

  • “One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him.”

    In a five-paragraph essay (containing from seven to ten sentences each), discuss the meaning of this quote by Socrates.  In the first paragraph discuss what the quote means and how one could apply it to Pip.  In the second paragraph explain how Joe lived his life by the idea the Socrates has described and what happened as a result.  In the third paragraph, describe how Mrs. Havisham did not follow Socrates advice as a result hurt herself.  In the fourth paragraph, describe how Mrs. Joe did not follow Socrates advice and as a result suffered a great deal.  In the fifth paragraph, evaluate Molly’s and Magwitch’s behavior deciding if they followed Socrates advice or not and how it affected them.  Use paraphrases and quotes from the book to support your answer.