Honors English 11
Summer Reading Assignment for 2009 - 2010
The first part of the summer reading assignment for English Honors 11 is to read John Steinbeck’s novel,
The Grapes of Wrath; you are required to take thematic notes in response to the reading, to learn the vocabulary words
from the novel that are listed here, and to prepare to write an essay in class sometime during the first week of school.
The Grapes of Wrath is a powerful novel of the Great Depression that brought instant fame to the author and was, in large part, responsible for Steinbeck’s winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. The Swedish Academy praised Steinbeck for not being a writer who only comforts and entertains his readers, but for being a writer who challenges us and our complacency while he celebrates the indomitable spirit of the American people at a very harsh time thin our history. The novel is a classic – one of the most widely read and highly regarded works by an American in the 20
As you read, notice those elements that make Steinbeck’s style so distinctive: his lavish descriptions, his
masterful recreation of dialect, his rich use of metaphors and figurative language, and his mighty themes. Notice the manner in which he connects the story of the struggle of the Joad family with the story of America in the 1930’s. Be
conscious as you read of the great love the author has for our country and its people and his passion for justice. And don’t
miss his earthy sense of humor.
In order to prepare to write a well-supported, cohesive essay and to facilitate class discussions of the novel, it is
essential that you take notes on the reading. Participation is critical in an honors level class, and that good notes will give you a springboard into discussion.
Concentrate your efforts on looking for references to the following themes and taking notes on them as you read the novel:
1. The Land and its place in the lives of the people
3. Materialism in American society
4. The Journey
5. Organizing to Effect Social Change
7. Biblical symbolism in the novel and its significance
Keep the following suggestions in mind when you take notes:
1. Establish a dialogue with the novel by selecting textual references to the various themes and
responding to them. How do the lines in the novel reveal the author’s philosophy or present his/her
view of how the world operates? How do the lines you select explore the author’s understanding of
human nature? How do the lines you highlight allow you to discover and assess the author’s
underlying purpose in writing the book? Does the author wish to entertain? To inspire? To create a
climate for change in society? To protest against the ills of society? To celebrate the good and heroic
2. Actively respond to the ideas you recognize from the novel. Speculate. Question. Anticipate.
Comment upon. Agree or disagree. Enthuse.
3. Avoid summarizing the novel. Do not respond to a quotation by restating it in your own words. Do
not retell the story. Your ability to determine what is important in what you are reading and your
ability to determine how you feel about that important idea are what count here.
4. Take notes from the entire book. Steinbeck does not drop themes and ideas as the book progresses;
if anything, the themes grow stronger as the novel goes along leading to the final, culminating scenes.
The notes you take should reflect this.
5. Do not use Spark Notes or any other “aid” to understanding the novel. This is a long book, but it
is easy to read. Trust yourself and your ability, confront the text boldly, and don’t deprive yourself of
an opportunity to tangle with a great book by a great American author.
Here’s an example of how you might react to a section of text. In Chapter 17, Steinbeck describes the way the migrant families come together to camp be the side of the road each night:
“At first the families were timid in the building and tumbling of worlds, but gradually the technique of building worlds became their technique. Then leaders emerged, then laws were made, then codes came into being. And as the worlds moved westward they were more complete and better furnished, for their builders were more experienced building them.”(250)
Living together in an orderly way is an inherent talent of human beings. Just as our ancestors saw the need to make laws so that all members of society may be safe and secure, so did the migrants instinctively realize what rules must be understood and obeyed by all. People who had the natural talent to lead would emerge from the crowd and take up the responsibility of leadership. They didn’t need college degrees to form a society, only common sense, a respect for justice, and a little practice. Steinbeck has great faith in the ability of the common people to do right by one another and create viable and just societies.
The second summer reading assignment for English Honors 11 is Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and
Dimed, a bestselling book that explores the world of the working poor in the United States. The author has
been praised as “our premiere reporter of the underside of capitalism” (Dorothy Gallegher, critic for The
New York Times). You are required to write ten post-it note responses on whatever ten statements in the
book you feel strongly about. Three notes from each of the book’s three sections and one “free choice”
would do it.
This book may be purchased for a reduced price ($10.00) if you bring in the money and order it from us.
Please learn these words and their parts of speech over the summer. You will be quizzed on them when school begins in the fall.
dissipate – scatter, disperse
listless – limp, lacking energy, languid
sharecropper – a poor farmer who pays a portion of his crop as rent
scuttle – scurry, scamper
parapet – a fortification, a wall
proboscis – nose, snout
resinous – filled with sap, as pine
zenith – peak, summit, pinnacle
baptize – name (ritually)
declivity – a downward inclination, a slope in the land
penitent – sorry, contrite, regretful
pique – (1)stimulate, intrigue (2) bother, annoy, irritate
truculent – hostile, defiant, confrontational
wane – diminish, fade
transcend – rise above, go beyond, excel
petulant – huffy, snappish, irritable
incredulous – disbelieving, skeptical
ostracize – exclude, banish, shun
lithe – supple, flexible
supplication – entreaty, prayer, request
tentative – hesitant, uncertain, unsettled
conjecture – guess, infer, speculate
feral – untamed, natural, wild
benediction – blessing
fatuous – idiotic, stupid, inane
lucent – transparent, clear
fallow – unplanted, unsown
covet – desire, yearn, crave
imperious – commanding, haughty, over-bearing
vivacious – lively, cheerful, energetic
languid – relaxed, lazy, drowsy
restive – fidgety, twitchy, restless
morose – miserable, gloomy, pessimistic
belligerent – aggressive, quarrelsome
paradox – contradiction, irony
disconsolate – unhappy, dejected
prostrate – face-down, drained, exhausted
derelict – dilapidated, in ruins, abandoned
unkempt – untidy, disheveled, scruffy
exhort – urge, press, encourage
pustule -- boil, pimple, skin eruption
ravenous – famished, very hungry, starving
rakish – jaunty, stylish, dashing
nebulous – vague, imprecise, ill-defined
sullen – surly, brooding, somber
agrarian – of or having to do with agricultural persons or pursuits
contrite – remorseful, apologetic
wry – dryly humorous, cynical
intermittent – alternating, sporadic, irregular
wizened – wrinkled, shriveled, aged
circuitous – indirect, meandering, roundabout
contemptuous – disdainful, sneering, despicable
fetid – putrid, stinking, squalid
For those of you who feel sure that you’ve heard the title of this novel somewhere before now, we include the following.
Steinbeck, aware that he might be accused of anti-American sentiment – and he was – for having written the book, insisted that these
words be printed as an introduction to the novel when it was first printed in 1939.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic
by Julia Ward Howe
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible, swift sword: His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory Hallelujah!
Glory, glory, Hallelujah!
Glory, glory, Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on!
I have seen him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps, They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps: His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel: “As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal:”
Let the Hero born of woman crush the serpent with His heel, Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat; Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him, be jubilant, my feet! Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on.