The Caste System in School 2

Here’s what was impressive — most of my classes really seem to understand this stuff. they get it, and they point out the ridiculous behavior of these characters. Even more important is how they began to notice all the secret things authors do to explain the characters in these stories. For example :

  • In “Born Worker,” Soto tells us right off that our two characters are from different classes. He says it outright.

  • In “Oranges,” however, we have to look at the details –

    • He tells us the girl lives in a house, but he doesn’t say the boy does.

    • The girl is wearing gloves in the middle of the winter, but the boy doesn’t have any.

    • He shows us how much change the boy has in his pockets.

    • He makes them walk through a used car lot.

    • He makes the boy carry his food with him.

  • And in “Checkouts,” Rylant does the same sort of things. We learn more about the characters by what isn’t said about them:

    • The girl and the bagboy never speak to one another.

    • She lives in a house with beveled windows and several porches.

    • He wears no socks, tattered shoes, touseled hair, and can’t seem to keep his collar straightened.

    • Eventually, she seeks out a boy “down the street” (meaning, in her same nice neighborhood).

    • That new guy is also “intelligent” (a slight hint that the idea that college is for the upper crust).

    • And the boy goes off in search of girls at the local bookstore (A hint that he’s looking to move up the ladder).

The kids picked up on all these details, compared and contrasted the characters from all three texts and then moved forward with a discussion about what would have happened in each story if things turned out differently.

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