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Autumn Quarter '13

English 270: English through Literature


Below are two critical views of Jasmine.  They obviously represent a great difference of opinion about what this book is about.  Yet both critics have read the same book.  That means that one or both has either missed something, or very differently understood what the book offers its readers.  But it can’t be both. 

Your job:  Using one of the two passages below argue either

that Jasmine is a novel that shows Mukherjee rejoices in the idea of assimilation and of America as the place to makes “something significant of her life,” or

that Jasmine is a novel that despairs at the notion of significance and meaningful places in life at all.  You can cite things outside of your page, but only as a way to explain what is on your page. 

As has been true with our reading of poetry, you will be most successful when you find concrete textual evidence—images, metaphors—that you think backs your point of view, and when you explain as fully as you can How Do You Know by pointing to that evidence and explaining your understanding of specific words and phrases.  

This is, like all we have done this quarter, an exercise in Noticing, Exploring, and Explaining.

Word Limit:  1000 words. 
Due at 12:30 pm today, December 11.


To SUBMIT your final, block and copy it, and then insert it in an email to me--at  

Final passages


“I’m leaving for L.A.  My sister works in a taco stand.  She can look after me, she said.  Thank Dad for everything he’s done.  Tell  him I’m sorry.”  His eyes are glittery with a higher mission.  Abandonment, guilt, betrayal:  the boy in front of me would consider them banal dilemmas.

“He’s got his own kid coming.  He never wanted me.” 

Blood is thick, I think.  Du, my adopted son, is a mystery, but the prospect of losing him is like a miscarriage.  I had relied on him, my silent ally against the bright lights, the rounded, genial landscape of Iowa.  I want to say—to be able to say—you’re wrong, Bud loves you, he needs you like I do, but I know Du’s right.  Du has practiced without a net; he knows his real friends.

“I love you, du.”

I see him duck his head.  The perfect young, unblemished face has aged into a hundred jagged cracks.  The face is small, wrinkled, old.  He runs down the hall, slams his door.

I have never seen him cry. 

The line is free.  “Karin Ripplemeyer, please.  Privately.”  As briefly as possible I say that I have just come from Darrel Lutz’s and I fear for his sanity.

“How do you know?” she demands.  I tell her I’ve seen it.  Murder or suicide is a fine line.  A good friend of mine, a girl I once knew, has been there.  (221-222)


“New York’s over.  We’re heading west.”  Taylor shouldered the door closed.

“I’ve never been west of Lincoln, Nebraska.”

“We’re going all the way to California.”  He moves around the room, reading Bud’s citation.

What am I to do? 

I back off toward the window.  The window’s caulking crumbles as I pick at it.  The chilly sparkle of afternoon light tempts.  “I have family in California.”

Taylor stops in front of the wooden cardinal.  “That’s quite a prize,” he says.  Then he says, “You never told me.  That you had family in California.”

“I didn’t have him then.”

Taylor bears down on me, confused.  “You’ve already brought a relative over?”

“I can’t leave.  How can I?”  I want to do the right thing.  I don’t mean to be a terrible person.

“Why not, Jase?” Taylor says.  “It’s a free country.”

Bud’s face, gray, ghostly, bodyless, floats in narrowing circles around me.  It’s the anguished face of a man who is losing his world.  I squeeze my eyes so tight that Taylor rushes again to hold me.

Just pull down an imaginary shade, he whispers, that’s all you need to do.  I remember the thick marking pen in his hand printing a confident RETURN on packages of books, records, knife sets I’d thought I wanted.  The cord feels dusty. (239-40)




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