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Consider the way that Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Joyce, and Toni Cade Bambara have written about the “quest for something more” in their stories. Keep in mind the audio you heard regarding the way that we strive for “something more” to give our lives meaning. What are the similarities in the quests or journeys taken by the protagonists in these three stories? What do these characters have in common, and what are their differences?
Next, choose ONE story and answer the following questions:
How would you describe the character at the beginning of the story? How does the character feel before setting out on his/her journey? Look for specific language the author uses to set a tone or mood. Then, compare that to the way he/she feels at the end of the story. Why does he/she feel the way he/she does? Has the journey been “successful” in leading the character towards finding greater meaning in his/her life? What meaning or understanding has the character found?
What effect does/might this type of experience have on the kind of person the protagonist might become? On their attitude? On future relationships? Why? Look for clues in the story, which might be clearly stated or might require a bit more of our own guesswork based on what we know about the character.
Each of these stories is trying to communicate what the author considers to be a truth or fact of life, which would be a statement of the theme. How would you communicate the main idea of one of these stories as a one-sentence statement of the theme? Tell us what message you think one writer is trying to communicate, and offer evidence from the story to support your analysis.
Finally, compare the protagonist’s feelings and experiences to your own “journey,” focusing on a similar experience you might have had in your own life. Did the author accurately depict what it’s like to be young and searching for your purpose in life? Why or why not?