Lab Assignment for ENGL 0305 Making Inferences
Lab Purpose: To practice making inferences, and learning how
those inferences help you understand and
interpret the text you are reading
When I finish this, I should be able Make use of inferences in comprehension and
Introduction to Inferences
Being a good reader means that you often make inferences—you figure out what isn’t
directly stated. Actually, you already know much about inferences. Probably daily, you infer much from people’s tone of voice. For example, you know there is a big difference between “NICE hair!” and “nice hair”—one is negative and one is positive. You infer
meaning from the tone of voice and the emphasis on “nice.”
Below you will try making inferences from the details of the text. Details that are offered in any text often allow us to draw meaning from what is stated to figure out what isn’t. Try it!
Part I: Making Inferences
Read the attached essay, at the bottom of the page, carefully. Take notes as you read. Then answer the following questions in as much detail as you can.
1) Write for a few minutes on what type of person Jan Gray, the author of the essay,
is. For example, is she responsible? What else?
2) Jan Gray never tells us what type of person she is, but she offers particular details
to make us think of her in a certain way. What details make you think the way you
do about her? Write for a few minutes about these details and what you infer from
3) What do you think about the family relationship? Write for a few minutes
investigating the relationship between mother and father, mother and daughter,
and daughter and father.
4) What details make you think what you do about these relationships? Write for a
few minutes about these details and what you infer from each.
Part II: Reflecting on what you can do with Inferences
1) What do the inferences you’ve made above help you understand about the essay?
Write for a few minutes about the importance of these inferences you’ve made. If
you did not make these inferences, what ideas would you miss out on?
2) Why do you think being able to make inferences is important? In your everyday
life, can you think of other ways you make inferences?
The Reading for this Lab
Take notes as you read. Underline, highlight, and make notes in the white spaces. There is an extra margin below to use for notes as you read.
By Jan Gray
My father’s hands are grotesque. He suffers from psoriasis, a chronic skin disease that covers his massive, thick hands with scaly reddish patches that periodically flake off, sending tiny
pieces of dead skin sailing to the ground. In addition, his fingers are permanently stained a dull yellow from years of chain smoking. The thought of those swollen, discolored, scaly hands touching me, whether it be out of love or anger, sends chills up my
By nature, he is a disorderly, unkempt person. The numerous cigarette burns, food stains, and ashes on his clothes show how little he cares about his appearance. He has a dreadful habit of running his hands through his greasy hair and scratching his scalp, causing dandruff to drift downward onto his bulky shoulders. He is grossly overweight and his pullover shirts never quite cover his protruding paunch. When he eats, he shovels the food into his mouth as if he hasn’t eaten for days, bread crumbs and food scarps settling in his untrimmed beard.
Last year, he abruptly left town. Naturally, his apartment was a shambles, and I offered to clean it so that my mother wouldn’t have to pay the cleaning fee. I arrived early in the morning
anticipating a couple hours of vacuuming and dusting and scrubbing. The newspapers and magazines were strewn throughout the living room; moldy and rotten food covered the kitchen counter; cigarette butts and ashes were everywhere. The pungent
aroma of stale beer seemed to fill the entire apartment.
As I made my way through the debris toward the bedroom, I tried to deny that the man who lived here was my father. The bedroom was even worse than the front rooms, with cigarette burns in the
carpet and empty bottles, dirty dishes, and smelly laundry scattered everywhere. Looking around his bedroom, I recalled an incident that had occurred only a few months before in my bedroom.
I was calling home to tell my mother I would be eating dinner at a
girlfriend’s house. To my surprise, my father answered the phone. I was taken aback to hear his voice because my parents had been divorced for some time and he was seldom at our house. In fact, I didn’t even see him very often.
“Hello?” he answered in his deep, scratchy voice.
“Oh, umm, hi Dad. Is Mom home?”
“What can I do for you?” he asked, sounding a bit too cheerful.
“Well, I just wanted to ask Mom if I could stay for dinner here.”
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea, dear.” I could sense
an abrupt change in the tone of his voice. “Your room is a
mess, and if you’re not home in ten minutes to straighten it
up, I’ll really give you something to clean.” Click.
Pedaling home as fast as I could, I had a distinct image of my enraged father. I could see his face redden, his body begin to
tremble slightly, and his hands gesture nervously in the air. Though he was not prone to physical violence and always appeared calm on the outside, I knew he was really seething inside. The incessant motion of those hands was all too vivid to
me as I neared home.
My heart was racing as I turned the knob to the front door and headed for my bedroom. When I opened my bedroom door, I stopped in horror. The dresser drawers were pulled out, and clothes were scattered across the floor. Everything on top of the
dresser—a perfume tray, a couple of baskets of hair clips and earrings, and an assortment of pictures—had been strewn about.
The dresser itself was tilted on its side, supported by the bed frame. As I stepped in and closed the door behind me, tears welled
up in my eyes. I hated my father so much at that moment. Who the hell did he think he was to waltz into my life every few months like this?
I was slowly piecing my room together when he knocked on the door. I choked back the tears, wanting to show as little emotion as possible, and quietly murmured, “Come in.” He stood in the doorway, one hand leaning against the door jamb, a cigarette dangling from the other, flicking ashes on the carpet, very smug in his handling of the situation.
“I want you to know I did this for your own good. I think it’s time you started taking a little responsibility around this house. Now, to show you there are no hard feelings, I’ll help you set the dresser back up.”
“No thank you,” I said quietly, on the verge of tears again. “I’d rather do it myself. Please, just leave me alone!”
He gave me one last look that seemed to say, “I offered. I’m the good guy. If you refuse, that’s your problem.” Then he turned and walked away. I was stunned at how he could be so violent one
moment and so nonchalant the next.
As I sat in his bedroom reflecting on what he had done to my room, I felt the utmost disgust for this man. There seemed to be no hope he would break his filthy habits. I could come in and clean
his room, but only he could clean up the mess he had made of his life. But I felt pity for him, too. After all, he is my father—am I
not supposed to feel some responsibility for him and to love and honor him?