Discussion questions, ideas, and lesson topics

Welcome to the Teacher's Guide to The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived. The questions and discussion topics under each of these categories and characters are our suggestions for exploring the subject in depth.

The Questions and topic suggestions on this website section were written by Jeremy Salter, Dan Karlan, and Claudia Menza, using ideas of our own, ideas in general circulation, and concepts offered or mentioned in discussion by Allan Lazar, Jean Gastfriend (Eastwick College in Ramsey,  NJ), and others. If you submit a question or suggestion we use, we will credit you (unless you ask us not to). We'd love to hear from you, and learn how you use this book in your classes.

You can save this entire Guide: you don't have to remain connected to browse the contents. Click "File", then "Save Page" or "Save as" (depending on your browser). You can double-click on the saved file and it will automatically appear in your default browser, from which you can print any or all of it, and the hyperlinks will work as if you were still connected to the book's main site.

You can scroll through this page, or use one of four kinds of indices.  In the first table, click on one of our 17 chapters to go directly to the general questions and topics, plus a table with all its characters.  Click on a name to go to 4 to 12 specific topic ideas.   Farther down there are all the chapters, and ALL the character questions in the same order as the book uses, followed by the General Questions.

Many of the characters in our book could have been put in a dozen categories, so at the bottom, we include a Topic Index -- and near the bottom of the page, there's an Alphabetical Index.  Or simply scroll down and browse.  We've got lots of suggestions waiting for you.

 

Or click here for the 600+ discussion topics on individual characters.

or General Class questions and exercises, including combining any two fictional characters.

Tell us what you think, and some of your own lesson ideas

 

Categories (chapters)

Greek and Roman Myths Children's Literature
Folktales Theater
Legends Movies
Monsters Women's Liberation
Stereotypes Comics and Animation
Adventure Commerce
Crime Propaganda
Americana Television
Literature

(click on one of these to see a list of the characters there, or use the Alphabetical Index)


Greek and Roman Myths

  • What facets of ancient myths and tales are relevant today?

  • Can a god represent a culture? Why or why not? Choose any five adjacent countries and select or create a god for each; what are their personalities, family relationships?

  • For any Greek god: are there similar deities in other cultures? What are the parallels? Differences? Example: Eos and Eostre (Ger.).

  • How do the Greek gods compare to the gods of India?

  • What traces of the earlier matriarchal god system can be seen in how goddesses were treated? Give examples.

  • Which gods represent personality types? Explain.

  • Pick a god and search for parallel characters or stories in other myths.

  • Anubis and Ganesh (for example) are animal-headed gods; how does that influence their interactions with other gods and with humans? How are the Greek and Roman gods different from them? Take a Greek god and assign to it an animal face (bird, fish, etc, included); why have you chosen this? How does the new representation relate to his or her powers, responsibilities, and personality? How would that change the role and influence?

  • Discuss how other people's religions become "mythology."  What factors transform a religious story into a myth?

Prometheus Odysseus
Apollo and Dionysus Midas
Venus and Cupid Pygmalion
Pandora Icarus
Helen of Troy Hercules

 

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Folktales

  • What purposes do such stories serve?

  • How much of folktales subjects seem rooted in fact? Explain.

  • Examine a folktale for elements that can be seen as symbols of family conflict.

Santa Claus Hansel and Gretel
The Pied Piper Cinderella
The Wandering Jew

 

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Legends

  • How are legends, myths, tales, etc, different from one another? How are they the same?

  • How much of fact is there in legend? Pick one and sort through what might be factual.

  • Take a newspaper story and rewrite it as a legend. Would it have a moral? Would it need to, and why or why not?

Lilith Robin Hood
Saint Valentine William Tell
King Arthur Don Juan

 

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Monsters

  • Why do we need monsters?

  • What qualifies a character as a monster?

  • What are the synonyms of "monster" and what did the words originally mean?

  • Describe some monsters that can be seen as good.

  • Examine a story from the monster's point of view. What sort of creatures are we humans?

  • Bonus: What types of creatures did heroes fight? Did the monsters exist or were they symbolic? Explain.

Dr. Frankenstein's Monster King Kong
Loch Ness Monster Godzilla

 

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Stereotypes

  • Are stereotypes useful? How?

  • Describe some characters who can be seen as stereotypes.

  • Describe some people in the news who can be seen as stereotypes.

Prince Charming Mammy
Jim Crow

 

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Adventure

  • Name some of the great modern movie adventures, and discuss how they compare to the classics.

  • Compare the classic adventures and such TV reality programs as Survivor and Amazing Race.

  • Compare Sindbad, Odysseus, and Robinson Crusoe.

  • Discuss the elements of adventure.

  • Take an ordinary event in your neighborhood and rewrite it as an adventure.

Sindbad Tarzan
Robinson Crusoe Luke Skywalker
Buck

 

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Crime

  • Do criminals watch movies or television in order to get ideas? Should we do anything about that? Explain.

  • What sort of deeds are criminal?

  • Why should anything be criminal?

  • Find an example where a crime fighter has been wrong (exclude "Law and Order" franchise).

  • Justify a crime from the perpetrator's point of view.

  • Justify a harsh punishment from the victim's point of view.

  • What do we mean by "crime fighting"? How do police actually spend their time?

  • What crimes are the police permitted? Give examples.

Sherlock Holmes Hans Beckert
Batman Dick Tracy

 

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Americana

  • Pick a foreign character and discuss how he or she might influence an American audience.  Resources: library, foreign language readers, literature books.

  • Pick a city; what character can be used to represent the town? Explain.

Uncle Sam Paul Bunyan
Uncle Tom Amos 'n' Andy
Hiawatha G. I. Joe
The American Cowboy John Doe
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

 

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Literature

  • What tales meant for adults are now viewed as children's stories?  Which are appropriate for children?

  • What characters dealing with children are actually meant more for adults?

  • What makes a novel a classic?

  • What can poetry do that prose cannot?

  • What is the effect of having a story only in an oral version?

  • How does literature add to human experience?

  • How much fact is in fiction? Pick a work and identify how much is plainly made up, what is realistic (advanced: what elements come from the author's life).

Don Quixote Captain Ahab
Ivanhoe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Ebenezer Scrooge The Great Gatsby

 

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Children's Literature

  • Discuss the issues in one of Dr. Seuss's stories. What does it say about tradition, religion, morality, nutrition, habits...?

  • What qualities are needed in children's literature?  How would you rewrite Sheridan's The Rivals as an animal story for children?

  • What changes transform Hamlet into The Lion King?  Discuss King Lear as an Aesop fable.

  • Compare a modern children's story with a tale from the 1920s or earlier.

The Little Engine That Could Peter Pan
The Ugly Duckling The Cat in the Hat
Alice (in Wonderland)

 

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Theater

  • How did theater evolve from rituals?

  • How is classical Greek theater different from modern theater?

  • How is professional wrestling different from a play? How is dance different? Compare the elements of the story, compare the movement of the characters on the stage.

  • How is visualizing an action (a sports training technique) different from viewing a play?

Oedipus Figaro
Romeo and Juliet Faust
Hamlet Madame Butterfly
Othello Siegfried
Shylock Willy Loman

 

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Movies

  • Do disaster movies reflect the times, or predict real problems?

  • What roles have been played by several actors? What is the effect on the character?

  • What were the first stories made into films? Why?

  • Compare the book and movie versions of a story. What was changed or taken out, and why?

  • What is our viewpoint in a movie? Should we view the world through one character?

  • The characters don't know we (the audience) exist. Why doesn't this bother us?

The Little Tramp Elmer Gantry
Dracula Norman Bates
Dorothy Gale Dr. Strangelove
Sam Spade Bond, James Bond
Citizen Kane Atticus Finch
Richard Blaine HAL 9000

 

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Women's Liberation

  • Pick out a character who is pro-feminist, and one who is anti-feminist.  Explain.

  • What female action heroines can you name? Do they have male counterparts, and how are they different from male heroes?

  • Compare Hester Prynne, Rosie the Riveter, and Mary Richards.

  • What restrictions were placed on women in the 1920s? Overseas?

  • What restrictions were placed on women in the 1820s? Overseas?

  • List female gods; what happened to them? When?

Hester Prynne Nancy Drew
Nora Helmer Mary Richards
Lady Chatterley Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 

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Comics and Animation

  • Why do we so readily accept and enjoy drawn characters?

  • What is the difference in the effect of print comics, ordinary movies, and 3D movies?

  • Take two photographs and reduce them to line drawings (trace over a photocopy); Explain how much detail is needed to get the idea across. What do you gain by adding more detail? Color?

  • What subjects can be covered in newspaper comic strips? Why and why not?

  • Describe cartoon characters who are parodies of real people.

  • What hidden messages are there in cartoons? Give examples. (contributed by anon.a)

  • How do current cartoons compare to those of the 1950s? (Example: Bugs Bunny)

Mickey Mouse Superman
Betty Boop Bambi
Buck Rogers

 

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Commerce

  • What's the ideal character for selling 7-Up? Coffee? Insurance?  What do we look for in commercial characters?

  • What happens when a non-commercial fictional character becomes a figure of commerce? Give examples.

  • Write an ad for a soap with a character from literature giving the pitch.

  • Write an adventure story for a product spokescharacter. Example: Joe Camel sells cigarettes in Mongolia; Mr. Clean gets lost in Antarctica.

The Marlboro Man Joe Camel
Barbie

 

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Propaganda

  • Is propaganda always bad? Is there such a thing as good propaganda? Explain.

  • Create a propaganda campaign for or against a household item; examples: ban peanut butter, red grapes cause tooth decay, pink soap gives you strength. Create one that's correct and one that's false.

  • Create propaganda characters for war. Pick the warring countries at random.

  • Find and discuss propaganda from an old war.

Smokey Bear Big Brother
Rosie the Riveter

 

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Television

  • If you found yourself talking with a TV character, what would you say? What situation would you be in? How would that character deal with you?

  • Write yourself into an episode of Dallas (J. R. Ewing) or All In the Family (Archie Bunker), or some other program featuring a favorite fictional character.

  • What's the natural end of a TV series? Pick a show and write what should be/should have been the last episode, or discuss what actually was the series finale.

  • How much adventure is there in TV reality programs? How much fiction? (Survivor...)?

Perry Mason J. R. Ewing
Archie Bunker Kermit the Frog
Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock

 

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Starting with the first character in the book, here are the 600+ questions and discussion topics.

Prometheus

  • Discuss as many ways as you can in which fire has been of use to humans.

  • Why was a Titan a friend of mankind?

  • What do Prometheus and the other Titans mean in Greek culture? In prehistory?

  • How old is Prometheus?

  • Why does Zeus trust Prometheus with the job of creating men?

  • What do we mean when we refer to someone as a Titan?

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Apollo and Dionysus

  • What are the arts Apollo's Muses aren't in charge of?  How many Muses do we need?

  • If Apollo and Dionysus divide the personality into order and disorder, what other pairs of gods can be seen as personality halves?

  • Where exactly did Apollo come from?

  • Did Apollo's powers and responsibilities change over time?

  • Why have a god in charge of the arts? Is Apollo responsible for Western Civilization?

  • Which gods were responsible for practical knowledge?  Create gods for math, transportation, optometry, shoes, lighting, whiskey, and ice cream.

  • Why have a god in charge of intoxicants?

  • What modern forms of entertainment would Dionysus be in charge of?  MTV?

  • Dionysus and Apollo split the world of entertainment between them.  What other gods had a hand in the arts?  Which god would get coffee for the others?  Which deity would be in charge of stimulants, and why?

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Venus and Cupid

  • Discuss political decisions swayed by love or sex.

  • Must our politicians be beautiful, or have beautiful spouses? Why?

  • What is the role of beauty in musical performance?  Name three ordinary-looking stars or musicians.

  • Why is love seen as a child?

  • The Romans called him Cupid, which now evokes images of a chubby tyke playing with a toy bow and arrow. The Greeks called him Eros, which evokes images of earthiness and adult sexuality. How does the name affect how we think of him?

  • Some Greeks saw Eros as a prime mover, earlier than Zeus.  How did this change? Why?  Is he in the Iliad?

  • What makes Cupid a figure in commerce? Discuss.

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Pandora

  • What does Pandora represent?  In human terms?  In political terms?

  • Pandora is set up to stumble into problems -- how is her situation different from Willy Loman's? from Siegfried's? from Uncle Tom's? The Wandering Jew's?

  • What is the significance of hope for the human spirit?

  • Create a scapegoat for a recent event, and write it up as a Greek myth.

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Helen of Troy

  • How responsible is she for the Trojan war? Explain.

  • What does her story say about beauty?

  • When Helen's past childbearing age, what does her husband do?  How does each view their marital relation?

  • What was the Greek view of marital infidelity? Did this apply to heroes? Did this apply only to men? Has this changed? Explain.

  • Why does Helen protect Odysseus when she finds him in disguise in Troy?

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Odysseus

  • Compare the banquet scenes in Beowulf with those in the Odyssey -- how similar are the cultures?

  • What's his leadership style? How does that influence his followers?

  • What other stories use a wandering character, a clever person, a trickster? How does each relate to Odysseus?

  • Discuss the hero's weak points.

  • How is the story about the search for identity?

  • Why does Odysseus give us a grand tour of the Aegean?  Describe the cultures he finds there.

  • What does Odysseus' wanderings tell us about ourselves?

  • Why was Odysseus' bow considered important?  What qualities does archery have that differentiates it from spearthrowing, swordfighting?

  • Considering the topography of Greece, where and why were chariots important?  What does Greek weaponry of the Trojan War era tell us about them?

  • What areas was Odysseus unafraid to travel in/to, and why?

  • If Odysseus met a Neanderthal, how would he describe him?  Her?

  • Compare Odysseus and Batman.  How would their behavior at Troy differ? Why?

  • What actions now considered war crimes were tolerated by the Greek alliance?

  • What actions were considered intolerable on either side of the Trojan war?

  • How do other characters use trickery to win a battle or contest? If this is admirable, why?

  • What types of trickery were tolerated by the Greeks, and what forms punished?

  • What forms of copying are allowable, and why (in literature, in art, in social media, in conversation)?

  • Give examples of tricksters in literature, fairy tale, folktale, and myth.

  • What forms of theft were tolerable to the ancient (and the classic) Greeks?

  • How was theft punished in the Greek world?  in the Roman empire?  To what extent, severity, for what degree of theft?

  • If Greek civilization prospered by imitating, copying, or improving foreign ideas--Phoenician alphabet, Babylonian math, Egyptian sculpture, and so on, how does that relate to Odysseus as an admired trickster?(Inspired by "borrowed" remark in The Geography of Genius-2016)

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Midas

  • Describe other characters that get rich so easily. Compare them.

  • Compare Midas and J. R. Ewing.

  • How does Midas compare with other Kings?

  • Who might we say is a modern Midas? Why?

  • King Midas and Scrooge go to the mall; what does each buy?

  • Discuss the factors that drive an individual to seek wealth. (contributed by anon.a)

  • Beside the accumulation of wealth, how else can an individual find happiness? (contributed by anon.a)

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Pygmalion

  • Did you ever try to make someone over?  Does this ever work? Explain.

  • Compare the Greek tale with the musical "My Fair Lady."

  • After Aphrodite transforms Pygmalion's sculpture into a genuine woman, how long will they stay together?  Discuss his options.  Discuss hers.

  • What do Pygmalion and Galatea argue about? Composition project: Pygmalion and Galatea argue over child-rearing, food, clothing; write a scene around the argument.

  • How will Galatea view other sculptures? What will be the effect on their relationship?

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Icarus

  • What is the symbolism of the wax wings? What do we learn from this tale?

  • What are the disadvantages of home schooling?

  • What would the NTSB have concluded after analyzing the air disaster?  What alternatives and contributing factors would be cited?

  • Suppose Icarus faked his own death: why would he? What would his new life be like?

  • How much failure should we accept in a new technology, such as the iPhone or the space program? Explain. How much in an old, settled technology, such as a motorcycle or toaster?

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Hercules

  • What does it mean to be a son of Zeus?

  • Compare Hercules to other heroes, other demi-gods.  Why is he different?

  • How are the exploits of Hercules, Beowulf, and Siegfried different? What similarities are there in their cultures?

  • What are the labors of Hercules?

  • How is Hercules different from William Tell and Gilgamesh?

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Santa Claus

  • Is it OK to believe in Santa after the age of 8?  When is it OK to believe in Santa?

  • Compare Santa to La Befana (Italian folktale).  What other characters bring gifts?  Compare Santa to the Easter Bunny.  Compare Santa to the three wise men.

  • How does Saint Nicholas become Santa Claus?

  • Why does Santa come in the winter? Why not July? April?

  • What does Santa eat? Explain your answer.

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The Pied Piper

  • Have you ever met someone with a strong magnetic personality? Discuss the impact on you and on others.

  • What characters or people get others to follow them?  When is that good? When is it bad?  How do we determine whether it's good or bad before it's too late?

  • What responsibilities go with getting people to follow you?

  • Why does the Pied Piper use a flute?  Why not a violin?  A trumpet?  What if he'd used bagpipes? An accordion?  Could he have used a drum?

  • What instruments were used in medieval times?  by the Greek gods?

  • What captures our attention the way music does? To the same extent?

  • Could he have danced through town to similar affect? Explain.

  • Discuss techniques that are used today to get our attention.

  • Compare the Pied Piper with Orwell's 'Big Brother'.

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The Wandering Jew

  • How did he contribute to anti-Semitism?

  • What other minorities / oppressed peoples are seen as cursed?

  • How does the wandering Jew differ from other wanderers: Odysseus, The Flying Dutchman?  The Little Tramp?  What other characters fall in the same class?

  • If this character had to write his own story, how would it be different from the legend?

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Hansel and Gretel

  • What children's tales involve starvation, murder, cannibalism, or abandonment? Why?

  • Was the tale of Hansel and Gretel meant for children?  What are we supposed to get out of it?

  • How would Hansel and Gretel act if they were young adults?

  • Compare Hansel and Gretel with modern news stories.

  • What is a cautionary tale?

  • Do you believe children have an innate ability to solve problems? Explain your answer. (contributed by anon.a)

  • Why does the witch live so deep in the woods?

  • Is ginger a tropical spice? What's a German witch doing with ginger? Why?

  • Write the story with the house made of garlic bread instead of gingerbread. Or Cajun fries. What does this change and why?

  • What survival ethics apply to our own world? Explain.

  • Are witches always fair game? Explain.

  • How will their experience affect them in later life? Will their children become murderers? Will they murder other adults? Will they have a craving for sweets, or an aversion? Explain.

  • What's the symbolism of being roasted by the witch? What does this mean to you?

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Cinderella

  • What does this particular tale teach us?  How does this fit into today's society?

  • Do you expect to marry someone with a castle? Would having the wedding IN a castle be enough?

  • How would feminists view this fairy tale?

  • Why do we need Princes and Princesses? Or do we? Discuss.

  • Was "Cinderella" meant for children? What are we supposed to get out of it?

  • What role does the fairy godmother play? Compare with Tinker Bell, the tooth fairy, others.

  • In the tale, faeries provide aid.  Select another folk character, and identify the gods of that character's locale before the current era.  Which would you ask for help -- and how --, and what aid they would provide?

  • Discuss the variations on this story. What types of helpers does she have in each, and how does that affect your view of the world?

  • Why does Cindy have two or more sisters, two or more mothers?  Who are they, really?

  • What's a better translation for Cendrillon? Why?

  • In what other stories are fairies the source of justice?

  • What does the fairy involvement say about Europe?

  • Why is the Cinderella story almost always female?

  • Does Cindy wish her parents dead?  What clues?

  • Is the fireplace a source of comfort or disgrace?

  • What animals couldn't be Cindy's helpers, and why?

  • What do the magic trees tell us about Cindy's world?

  • Rewrite the story from the stepmother's point of view; is Cinderella evil, selfish, psychotic, what?

  • Rewrite the story from the father's point of view.

  • What (sports) team has the best Cinderella story?

  • Create a text or tweet exchange between the Prince and Cindy's sisters.

  • Why is the helpful fairy (fairies) female?

  • Bake a red velvet slipper.  What icing is appropriate?

  • Sew a shoe/slipper from velvet/fur (artificial)/metal thread/cloth; what are the advantages (esp. in dancing)?

  • What end-violence is appropriate--and appropriate for children to hear told?  Why the difference between tales?

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Lilith

  • Why do such legends continue through changes in era or religion? What others?

  • Lilith goes to the grocery; what foods does she recognize? What does she buy?

  • Compare the mythic Lilith with the character on "Frasier"/"Cheers."

  • How do we see this character today?

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Saint Valentine

  • How is St. Valentine a modern character?

  • What is the difference between a martyr and a saint?  How does this apply to modern martyrs?

  • What was he accused of?  Is there any defense?

  • How did St. Valentine's Day become the romantic holiday?

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King Arthur

  • King Arthur (if he really lived) came from the 500s. Why do we picture King Arthur in the 1300s?  What is it about this era that resonates?

  • King Arthur sits down with his psychiatrist: what issue do they discuss?  (Grade 12 +)

  • How do King Arthur's and Don Quixote's attitudes towards magic differ?  Towards knighthood?  Towards women?

  • What cabinet post could Arthur fill? Discuss.

  • What modern knights are there?  Batman? Bumper Morgan (The Blue Knight)? How would they behave in Arthur's service?

  • What is Arthur's relationship with Merlin? Would Harry Potter have done as well?  Why doesn't Arthur have a Bishop?

  • What did he do that was so important?  Why don't we have records from his time?

  • What cowboy characters have close parallels in Arthurian legend? Explain.

  • How do Bond and Q parallel Arthur and Merlin?  What other action teams can you name? How are they different from Arthur's crew?

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Robin Hood

  • Do you approve of taking from the rich to give to the poor?  Does a good intention excuse theft of somebody's property? Discuss.

  • Is this character based on a real person? Explain.

  • Compare Robin Hood and Jean Valjean.

  • What makes Robin Hood so likeable? He's a thief -- why do we like him?

  • Why do we need national heroes? Compare Robin Hood, G. I. Joe, Zorro, and  William Tell.  Extra credit -- include Asterix and Schweik.

  • Why would Robin tell us where he lives? Did he actually live in town? Explain his strategy.

  • Discuss your feelings toward Robin Hood. Discuss the parts of your life that have influenced those feelings. (contributed by anon.a)

  • Robin Hood doesn't follow society's rules; how would society fare if people neglected those rules?

  • Describe other characters known for charity.

  • Why was Robin's story not written down for so many years? Discuss.

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William Tell

  • What are the elements of political intrigue in this story?

  • Compare William Tell with other reluctant heroes (Richard Blaine, Shane, Maverick,...).  How is William Tell different from Hercules and Gilgamesh?

  • Why do we need national heroes? Compare G. I. Joe, Robin Hood, Zorro, and William Tell.  Extra credit -- include Asterix and Schweik.

  • Contrast the ways Tell and Gessler handle problems, success, failure, how they decide on action, how or if they get others to help, and other differences in approach.

  • What modern characters / heroes could substitute for William Tell? Explain.

  • What characters could get out of Tell's apple challenge? Why and how?

  • Describe the effect on Tell's little boy. Will he re-enact this with his own son? What sort of life will the boy have with such an illustrious father? As a teenager? As an adult with a career and family of his own?

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Don Juan

  • What other lovers are similar to Don Juan? How are they similar?

  • Did you think this was a real person? Why or why not?

  • Picture Don Juan with his psychiatrist; what issues would they discuss?  What if the psychiatrist is female?

  • Write a character/ psychological profile of Don Juan.

  • How would we view him if he had AIDS?

  • What makes him an attractive character? Explain in detail.

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Dr. Frankenstein's Monster

  • What does Frankenstein's story say about human nature?

  • Write a character / psychological profile of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

  • What is the monster within us?

  • Where does Victor Frankenstein's monster get his morality? His sense of justice?

  • How is Dr. Frankenstein's monster different from a small child in character? In understanding?

  • Compare Dr. Frankenstein's monster to Edward Scissorhands.

  • Discuss the responsibilities that come with creation. What are Dr. Victor Frankenstein's failings?

  • What are the precautions you should take when creating a new form of life?

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Loch Ness Monster

  • What would it mean if Nessie is found?

  • What legendary creatures have roots in real or fossilized animals?

  • What other creatures have parallels in prehistory? Discuss.

  • If Nessie was real at some point, why did it vanish?

  • Why do we readily believe this story? Other such stories? Discuss.

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King Kong

  • How can this be seen as a racial issue movie?

  • How is King Kong more sympathetic than Godzilla?

  • What human qualities does King Kong have?

  • How does this movie fit in with Jurassic Park or The Lost World?

  • What is so compelling about Kong's story?

  • Rewrite the script substituting another character for Kong ... Barbie, Madame Butterfly, Sindbad....

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Godzilla

  • Why does Godzilla do what he does?

  • How is Godzilla different from other monsters?  From The Loch Ness Monster?

  • If Godzilla had to write his own story, how would it be different from the director's?

  • What other modern actions might release or create dangers? What kinds of creatures/dangers?

  • Why are we fascinated by large creatures?  What's your reaction?

  • Compare Godzilla to the creatures of Jurassic Park.  How would we deal with one such creature today?  If one was spotted in the 1930s, how would we have dealt with it?  In the 1730s?  In the 1300s?

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Prince Charming

  • How do other princes in literature 'measure up' to Prince Charming?

  • Why do we need princes and princesses? Or do we?

  • How effective is trying to change a spouse into your ideal?

  • What other role models are there for husbands?  Why have you chosen these role models?

  • How would feminists view this story?

  • What other tales is this similar to? How?

  • Write a psychological / character profile of Prince Charming.

  • What is a fairy tale? What are fairy tales meant to teach us?  How does this story relate to today's society?

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Jim Crow

  • What other characters have undergone changes from positive to negative?

  • Select an adventure story or chapter and rewrite the main character as an anti-hero; present the virtues as faults, and vice versa.

  • Are Jim Crow laws still an issue today? Are they still relevant? Why and why not?

  • Write/rewrite laws to suppress an adventure character -- Odysseus laws, Jack-and-the-Beanstalk laws, Ivanhoe laws, Nancy Drew laws, etc.

  • Write a letter from Jim Crow to Amos 'n' Andy.  What would he have to say about the radio show's other characters (Kingfish, for example)?

  • Write an exchange of letters between Jim Crow and Atticus Finch, as Jim seeks advice on traveling through Alabama.

  • What value is there in preserving the memories (or artifacts) of racism? How can this be done without offending? (Suggested resource: The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Big Rapids, Michigan, and online.)

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Mammy

  • What happens when the ruling class is raised by the underclass?

  • How many Mammy characters can you name? Discuss.

  • How did Mammy get accepted in an anti-black society?

  • What are the positives and negatives of the character?

  • How is this character seen today by whites and by blacks? Why?

  • Would a character named "Pappy" have had a similar effect on the civil rights movement? Discuss.

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Sindbad

  • What moral dilemmas are there in Sindbad's journeys?  How does he face them?

  • What sort of person risks his life for money? For adventure?

  • How far did he travel?  What real creatures parallel the beasts of Sindbad's world?

  • Are Sindbad's stories really Arabic or Persian? What clues suggest other origins?

  • Why is Sindbad more recently portrayed as a pirate?  How does this affect his reputation?

  • What is Sindbad's attitude towards women?  How does it differ in the various stories?

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Robinson Crusoe

  • How can a European Christian negotiate with a cannibal?  With a heathen?  Does acknowledging them lift their status?

  • What role does Friday play in Crusoe's life?

  • What does this story tell us about resourcefulness?

  • Discuss the "stranded on an island" genre.

  • Which people of the 1600s-1700s read Robinson Crusoe? Could have read it?

  • How did people react to Friday's questions about the devil? How would we react today?

  • Is Friday Robinson's slave or friend? What's Crusoe's attitude toward slavery? Does it change over the course of the adventure? Discuss.

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Buck

  • What are the changes in anthropomorphizing?  Is this character completely a dog?

  • How would his story have been written if he was a horse?  A circus bear?  A fox?

  • What human stories parallel Buck's?

  • What do dog stories tell us about human nature?

  • What other stories have been written about animals? From their perspective? Discuss.

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Tarzan

  • What does Tarzan's superiority say about humanity? About England?

  • How does Tarzan learn to read? Why is this important?

  • How would Africans view Tarzan's story?

  • When Tarzan isn't in the jungle, how is he affected?

  • What is Tarzan's role in the jungle? What modern parallels are there?

  • What would Tarzan have done on the African savannah as opposed to the jungle?

  • How would Tarzan's role have changed if he were an Algonquin? A Frenchman?

  • What aspects of the story would change if Tarzan was raised by orangutans?  by baboons?

  • Rewrite a Tarzan adventure or chapter with Tarzan raised by creatures other than chimps or gorillas--use appropriate creatures only, weighing 20 lbs. or more, no Tarzan of the Sharks, no Tarzan of the Parakeets.

  • Write a story "Tarzan of the Lemmings" about a tragic political incident or election.  Write a story "Tarzan of the ____"  about a successful political campaign. What would you do with "Tarzan of the Misogynists"?

  • To what extent do we believe talents are inborn? Give examples.

  • How do the influences of nature and nurture compare in other creature: dogs, cats, etc.  Give examples.

  • What creatures have language, other than humans?  How is their language different?

  • What are the advantages of learning a new language, such as Russian, Thai, Babylonian, elephant?

  • What were the historical justifications for colonialism?  To what extent were they realistic?

  • In what ways does a subjugated (colonial) culture influence their masters?  Give examples.

  • How do the ideals of kingship apply to Tarzan? Where do there ideas come from, in historical application/events?

  • If Tarzan is King of the Jungle, is it "good to be the king"?  In what way, and with what disadvantages?

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Luke Skywalker

  • What does it mean to confront your father?  What other characters do this, and how?

  • Contrast the ways Luke and Darth handle problems, success, failure, how they decide on action, how or if they get others to help, and other differences in approach.

  • Is the guidance Luke gets different from the advice given Odysseus? Aeneas?

  • Which legends can be boiled down to family disputes?  How are these different from Luke's conflict?

  • What's an appropriate time to turn off the computer?  the i-phone?  What is the value of being without technology?

  • Is "The dark side" opposed to goodness, or indifferent to it?  Explain.

  • In a communist value system, what actions would be seen as good? as evil?  Select a conservative religious system -- what would be its ideas of good and evil? How would the plot of Star Wars be different using those systems?

  • Discuss the advantages of concentrating power in a single person.  What are some of the problems?

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Sherlock Holmes

  • Compare Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade.

  • What forensic techniques does Holmes use? How well would he do on CSI?

  • Switch Holmes and Sam Spade: Holmes in The Maltese Falcon, Spade in Hound of the Baskervilles... how do they do?

  • Switch Holmes and Adrian Monk: How would Dr. Watson deal with Monk?  How would Sherlock deal with a female partner?

  • How do Holmes and Watson work together?  What overlap of skills, approaches do they have?

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Batman

  • If you apply for a job with Batman, what do you put on the application?

  • How is Batman's "Dark Knight" persona different from the knights of Arthurian stories?

  • Compare Batman and Superman; don't they have the same job?

  • What does Batman's reliance on technology say about him?

  • How does Batman's rage against criminals parallel police practice?  Are there limits?

  • Compare Batman and Odysseus.  How would their behavior at Troy differ?

  • What actions point you toward his nature?

  • What crimes must Batman commit to do his job? In what circumstances is it necessary? Give examples. (contributed by anon.a)

  • Batman and Bruce Wayne have two different demeanors; do all people? (contributed by anon.a)

  • How does Batman's secret identity help him cope with his world? (contributed by anon.a)

  • Both Batman and Hamlet lose parents to murderers. Describe the effect on their personalities.  Switch them; how does Batman do as Prince of Denmark?

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Hans Beckert

  • What makes this little fellow so horrible?

  • What makes this little murderer sympathetic?  Are we afraid for him when he's being pursued?

  • Discuss the balance between the drive to catch and confine a criminal with the excesses of vigilantism.

  • The violence is all off screen -- how do you feel about that?

  • What are the voices in Beckert's head? How are they different from conscience?

  • The children's song early in the movie tells about a little hatchet. What affect are such songs supposed to have? Why do the children sing about this? What Mother Goose rhymes are similar, and how?

  • How should we treat the criminally insane?  What crimes do you feel warrant intervention, confinement, execution?

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Dick Tracy

  • What made him an important figure in crime-fighting?

  • What are the disadvantages of being incorruptible?

  • How is Dick Tracy different from other tough-guy cops?

  • Compare the influence on technology of Dick Tracy and Buck Rogers.

  • Why are so many of Tracy's criminals portrayed as deformed? Which ones aren't, and why?

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Uncle Sam

  • Why did the U. S. government use Sam on the recruiting posters instead of real people?

  • How does our 'Uncle' relate to the fatherland of Germany?

  • What is the connection between Uncle Sam and patriotism?

  • What other countries have a person (real or imaginary) as symbol?

  • What businesses or products attach themselves to patriotism or to Uncle Sam?  How does this give them a boost?  What examples do you feel take Sam's endorsement too far?

  • Create an ad campaign using Uncle Sam as spokesman. Emphasize superiority over a non-American item as part of the pitch (pick country/product from a grab-bag). Design a flyer, magazine print ad, or 30-second video promotion. What are the advantages/disadvantages in today's global economy? What are some of the risks in such a campaign?

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Uncle Tom

  • What makes Tom a heroic figure?

  • What made Tom into a figure of betrayal?

  • Is Uncle Tom a first-generation slave? What historical sources could you use to pin down Tom's heritage?

  • Do corporate employees accept transfer in the same way that Tom did? Discuss the parallels.

  • If Tom's wife was to be sold for hard labor, how would she react to Simon Legree? Explain.

  • Compare Shelby's farm with an ideal Communist society.

  • What's special about Tom's religion? Would another belief have him act differently toward Simon Legree? Towards Shelby? Explain.

  • What motivates Tom at each stage of his servitude? Why does this change -- or does it?

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Hiawatha

  • Rewrite a few important stanzas as rap; does this change Hiawatha's personality? Rewrite the first two stanzas (or any other two of your choosing) in heptameter -- how does the mood of the poem change?

  • How does Hiawatha's journey glorify nature? Does that still apply? Why or why not?

  • How is the Native American portrayed in the poem? How is the white man portrayed?

  • How would Hiawatha's tragedies compare with a soap opera character's?

  • Rewrite a stanza in the style of The Cat in the Hat.

  • What other Native American characters have been popular? Discuss.

  • How is Hiawatha's story different from those of other natives?

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The American Cowboy

  • What are the values of the cowboy?  The vices?

  • How independent could the cowboy be without gunpowder?

  • Why do the cowboy legends take place in the arid southwest instead of the more cattle-friendly plains of Iowa?

  • Name ten cowboy characters. How do they differ? For one cowboy character: is there a close parallel in Arthurian legend?

  • How and why has the cowboy hat become an American symbol?

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Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

  • Tom applies for a job: what would his resume look like?  What jobs could he apply for and why?  Would he make a good manager of other people doing their jobs? Why?

  • How is Tom different from his friend Huck?  Initially?  At the end of Huckleberry Finn?

  • How are Tom and Huck different from other buddy pairs (Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kidd. Thelma and Louise, Oscar Madison/Felix Unger, Kirk/Spock)? Discuss.

  • What's the value of writing in authentic dialect?

  • How does Huck feel about his con-men companions?  Would he feel the same way about Elmer Gantry?

  • How does Huck feel about schooling and education? What aspects are valid today?

  • How does Huck use the n-word?  What does he mean? What other words were used?

  • Does the offensiveness of some terms (for example, the n-word) depend on who's doing the speaking? Or is such a term offensive even when uttered by one of the once-oppressed group? Is it acceptable, for example, for a black person to use the n-word -- in rap, for example -- while the same use by a white person would be unacceptable? What if a white person merely quotes the black person's usage? Does the use of such a term by a black person serve to keep the term in the current culture?

  • Discuss the first clue that points you toward Huck's nature.

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Paul Bunyan

  • Why is this French-Canadian identified with America?

  • What fascinates us about size?  What are the advantages -- and disadvantages?  Is bigger always better?

  • Does Paul Bunyan represent success? How?

  • Why does Paul have a pet ox?  What are the advantages/disadvantages of other pets?

  • Compare Paul's actions with the way Gulliver behaves in Lilliput.  What's their attitude towards authority?  Toward "normal size" people?

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Amos 'n' Andy

  • How much dialect can be used without being insulting? Explain.

  • Examine the effect of dialect: Convert a Shakespeare sonnet into rap.

  • How are Amos and Andy different from Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton (of "The Honeymooners" 1950s TV series)? How or how not?

  • Write a letter from Amos to Jim Crow.  How would Andy change the letter if he helped?  How would the other characters (Kingfish, for example) rewrite Amos' letter?

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G. I. Joe

  • Does war change Joe into something he isn't, or hasn't been?  What problems does he have to deal with? Elaborate.

  • Can the average Joe handle anything? Explain. What does this say about him? About our society?

  • How is Joe just an average guy, or is he something more?

  • What would G. I. Joe say about "current" events if he was a German soldier in 1936, occupying the Rhineland?

  • Why do we need national heroes? Compare G. I. Joe, Robin Hood, Zorro, and  William Tell.  Extra credit -- include Asterix and Schweik.

  • Is the desire to play war innate or learned? Explain.

  • How is war viewed today? How are past wars viewed today?

  • Why do boys play with war toys? Explain.

  • Compare the 1960s GI Joe with the Joe of today's 'Cobra' conflict. . . . How would each fit into the other's world? What career do you expect each would have in civilian life, and why?

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John Doe

  • What's the value of being a "nothing"?  Of being an "anyone"?

  • How is John Doe an "everyman" or a "nothing"?

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Don Quixote

  • Describe how Don Quixote would react to a modern machine -- a refrigerator, a locomotive, a television.  What would he imagine them to be?

  • In the book, Don Quixote is patently mad; in the theater, he is a hero. How?  Could he be as heroic without being mad?

  • Is Quixotic synonymous with hopeless? Explain.

  • How do Don Quixote's and King Arthur's attitudes towards knighthood differ?

  • What characters in this book would Don Quixote charge with witchcraft? Why have you suggested these characters?

  • Did you think this was a real person? Why or why not?

  • Where does this character reappear?

  • What phrases have come from this character?

  • What does it mean to "tilt at windmills"? How does each of us do that?

  • Compare Don Quixote and the pointy-haired boss in Scott Adams's comic series "Dilbert". Compare Sancho Panza and Dilbert.

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Ivanhoe

  • What is the role of religion in Ivanhoe's world?  The role of witchcraft?

  • In what ways are the Scots and Saxons similar?

  • What is Rebecca's attitude toward Ivanhoe?

  • What effect might the portrayal of Saxons as heroic have had on Britain?  Why would that have been important at the time (1819)?

  • What pairs of warring cultures might end up merging or blending (in a few hundred years), and why do you see this as possible?  What differences would remain?

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Ebenezer Scrooge

  • Scrooge and King Midas go to the mall; what does each buy?

  • What profession would he be in today? Why?

  • How are other characters driven by greed?  By the need for security?

  • Why do the spirits (ghosts) visit Ebenezer, and not the clergy?

  • What causes Scrooge to change?

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Captain Ahab

  • What does he tell us about leadership?

  • What would be his position on 21st century issues: Whaling? Global warming?  Pollution?  What party would he belong to? Why?

  • What would Ahab obsess about as a schoolboy, and why? Assume Ahab's personality is constant.

  • Does Ahab hate nature?  Where does this come from? State your reasons.

  • If Ahab had to write his own story, how would it be different from the author's?

  • What actions alert you to his personality problems?

  • Write a letter as Ahab, to Santa Claus, the day after Christmas, complaining about reindeer damage to the ship.  A letter about the presents delivered.  (Not about the whale)

  • How would you react to being hunted by an Internet stalker, an official?  Why?  How would you react if your own hunt was interrupted -- if you were tracking a bird, or trying to buy a soda?  If you were fishing, and a shark went after you?

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

  • Does goodness create or require its opposite? Explain.

  • What split personalities have we seen? Why have you chosen these? How are we a combination of Jekyll and Hyde?

  • Where does the urge to destroy come from?

  • Does Mr. Hyde foreshadow Freud's 'id'? In what ways?

  • How can the raising of a child subdue the Mr. Hyde? (contributed by anon.a)

  • Discuss the aspects of our culture that can prevent a Mr. Hyde from surfacing. (contributed by anon.a)

  • How do the separate sides of this character help him function in his world? How do they hurt? (contributed by anon.a)

  • Contrast Dr. Jekyll with other characters who have hidden sides. How does Superman's 'other side' serve him better, or does it?

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The Great Gatsby

  • Compare Gatsby with Charles Foster ("Citizen") Kane.

  • How much of his past does Gatsby hang on to?  What does that tell us about him?

  • Describe his society, and how does it compare to our time? Discuss.

  • Compare Gatsby's society to that of the narrator of the story (Nick).

  • How does Gatsby's past influence his decisions? (contributed by anon.a)

  • How does Gatsby's society influence his actions? (contributed by anon.a)

  • What do we gain from an insight into Gatsby? Explain.

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The Little Engine That Could

  • The little engine only did what was asked of her -- so why is she a hero?

  • What does the story say about perseverance?

  • What do we excuse in a hero that we wouldn't accept in other people? Why?

  • Is there a difference between what a girl looks for in a hero versus what a boy looks for?

  • Discuss what part of success is perseverance. What other factors does a person need to succeed? Explain. (contributed by anon.a)

  • Discuss historical examples of persistence that caused success. That caused failure.

  • Describe the consequences of acting on an "I think I can" impulse? Use an example from the neighborhood. From the news.

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The Ugly Duckling

  • Compare the transformation of the Ugly Duckling to that of Pinocchio.

  • What values do humans use in assigning status? Why?

  • How important is physical beauty? Discuss.

  • How can someone seem like a misfit in one group yet be accepted, even admired, in another?

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Alice (in Wonderland)

  • Why does Alice visit this magical world?  Would we like to visit; why, and how do we get there?  What does the rabbit hole tell us about the journey?

  • Why does Alice accept a caterpillar as an equal?  A cat?  A rabbit?

  • What disruptions/distortions in normal time or space occur in the story? What disruptions of perception occur as we change senses? Rewrite a section of Alice for the deep sea.

  • How do the rules of the adult world develop into nonsense?

  • What resources does Alice use to gauge who is safe to be with in a world without adult supervision?  How does Alice assert herself in her looking-glass worlds?

  • Was Lewis Carroll parodying current political figures? Which ones? Describe and discuss his parodies.

  • Was Carroll "under the influence" of a mind-altering drug? Explain your answer.

  • What would Alice and The Cat in the Hat say to each other?

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Peter Pan

  • What does it mean to be the eternal boy?

  • What caused Peter's rejection of the adult world?  How far can it take him?  How long can he spend in Neverland?

  • How does Peter embody a sense of wonder? What does it take to not outgrow that?

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The Cat in the Hat

  • Why is The Cat eager to please children?  What would Alice Liddell (Alice in Wonderland) say to him?

  • Take the Cat in the Hat poem and ... 

  • change one stanza in detail, or to reflect current events.  Do this for Dr. Seuss's original and the 101's poem.

  • take one stanza (or more) and adapt it for another character.

  • recast the poem (or some portion) in trimeter, or in pentameter.

  • rewrite it in Wordsworth's style (or another romantic).

  • rewrite it as a Homeric episode.

  • rewrite it in Longfellow's style for Hiawatha.

  • rewrite it in John Donne's style.

  • rewrite it in the languid prose of Atticus Finch.

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Oedipus

  • How is Oedipus different after he's blind? How is he the same?

  • Some family relationships are too close; name some, and tell why.  (How about Brunhilde and Siegfried? Zeus and Hera?)

  • Discuss the Oedipus complex.

  • What effect does he have on his daughters?  Is he worse as a father than Willy Loman? Than Frank Barone (of "Everybody Loves Raymond")? How?

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Romeo and Juliet

  • What advice would you give them if you were their parents?  Their friends?  What advice would you give their parents?

  • Are these characters based on real people? If so, how?

  • What does this play say about young love?

  • How do we mean today when we call someone a Romeo?

  • Why does Shakespeare make Juliet so young (about 14)? Discuss.

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Hamlet

  • Compare Hamlet and Batman.  Compare Hamlet and J. R. Ewing.

  • What is the nature of power in Hamlet? How does power destroy family relationships?

  • How would the audience at Hamlet's first performance have reacted to the advice of the ghost?

  • What would Hamlet talk about in therapy?

  • Compare Hamlet to other characters who lose fathers to murder. How would he function in Bruce Wayne's world (Batman)? In Luke Skywalker's (Star Wars)?

  • What are the advantages of vengeance? Does this work? Explain.

  • What other characters have sought revenge, and how has it gone for them?

  • How would the story change if the King's ghost is a hallucination?

  • What are your options when evidence is unavailable or unreliable?

  • Will Hamlet be killed anyway even if he keeps quiet? At what point? Explain the risks in each of Hamlet's options.

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Othello

  • Why is Othello still relevant?

  • Does his portrayal show or encourage racial prejudice?

  • How would Othello play out as the Mormon of Venice? As the Jew of Venice?

  • Why does Othello act before discussing his concern with Desdemona?

  • Discuss the tragedies, including Othello's, that would not have happened if the lead figure had asked questions before acting.

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Shylock

  • Why is Shylock still relevant?

  • Discuss how his portrayal shows or encourages racial prejudice.

  • What is his attitude toward people?  To government?

  • Since Shakespeare didn't know any Jews, whom could this character have been based on?

  • Why do you think Shylock is depicted as a stereotype of stinginess? (contributed by anon.a)

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Figaro

  • What does his situation say about the nobility?

  • How does being thought inconsequential gain you power?

  • How is he a comic figure, and does that help him? What is the role of the jester or buffoon?

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Faust

  • How does Faust get away with his crimes?

  • What drives the search for knowledge?  Why would anyone help him?

  • Discuss the dangers of power.  Compare Faust with Daedalus and Dr. Strangelove.

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Madame Butterfly

  • Discuss the risks in marrying someone from a vastly different culture.

  • Write a correspondence between Cio-Cio-San and Hester Prynne.  What would each have to say about men?  Write letters between Cio-Cio-San and Penelope (The Odyssey), Ophelia (Hamlet), Lady Chatterley, and Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind).

  • How would the story be told if Pinkerton was a woman and Cio-Cio-San was a man?

  • Why was the callous sailor (French sailor-author Pierre Loti) rewritten as an American?

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Siegfried

  • What other characters have been stabbed in the back, or otherwise betrayed? How does that affect our view of him, or his world?

  • Compare Siegfried with other demigods: Hercules, Gilgamesh . . .  how do they meet their ends?

  • What makes it dangerous for a character to glorify combat?  How is Siegfried different from Hercules?  From Beowulf?  From King Arthur?

  • What changes transform the story of Siegmund and Brunhild into that of Siegfried and Brünnhilde?

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Willy Loman

  • How is he the average hardworking American? What does this story say about the average worker?

  • How does he fail?  Why?

  • Compare Willy Loman and Archie Bunker.

  • Compare Willy Loman and Tom Joad.

  • What kind of  father is Willy?  Is he worse as a father than Oedipus? How or how not?

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The Little Tramp

  • How does he compare with other tramps?

  • What makes him a universal figure?

  • What makes the Tramp harmless?  How could he be seen as dangerous?

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Dracula

  • How did this vampire business get started?

  • Why did the vampire category get stuck on Dracula?

  • Why is he so popular today?  Why are vampires so fascinating?

  • Describe and discuss the burdens of eternal life.

  • What public figures can be seen as vampires? Why have you chosen them?

  • If Dracula had to write his own story, how would it be different from the author's?

  • How would Dracula feel about the commercialization of his name? About Halloween?

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Dorothy Gale

  • What magical worlds would we like to visit; why, and how do we get there?  What does the tornado tell us about the journey?

  • Compare Dorothy's journey with Gulliver's travels.

  • What is the significance of her fellow Oz-seekers' desires (a heart, brains, courage)? What is the nature of friendship as revealed in this story?

  • How does Dorothy's journey appear from other perspectives? Compare the musical Wicked and Oz.  Compare the movies "The Wizard of Oz" and the musical "The Wiz."

  • What other Oz stories did L. Frank Baum write?  What makes the first story special?

  • Describe the first action that points you toward Dorothy's nature.

  • Compare the Wizard of Oz and the Emperor in "The Emperor's New Clothes."

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Sam Spade

  • Why do we call Sam Spade a 'hard-boiled' detective? What defines this particular genre?

  • How does he compare to other detectives?

  • Why does Sam fit so well in the modern era? Explain.

  • What's Sam's attitude toward the people around him?

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Citizen Kane

  • Which real people was this character based on? What portion of each becomes part of Charlie's story?

  • Describe other characters who have trouble despite their wealth.  What real people?

  • Why is Charles so obsessed with his wife's career? How do women shape his life?

  • What illustrates his personality?  What is the first clue?

  • Why has the whispered "Rosebud" become so iconic?

  • What other characters do you see as similar, and how?

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Richard Blaine

  • What would Rick's policies be in Kabul? Baghdad? Caracas?

  • Why does everyone come to Rick's?

  • Discuss ex-patriots in literature.

  • Is he a heroic character, or tragic? Both? Why?

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Elmer Gantry

  • Why do we have so many evangelists now?

  • How does Elmer Gantry compare to current evangelists?

  • Write a character/ psychological profile of Elmer Gantry.

  • Is his story exaggerated?  Is it accurate (realistic, plausible)? Why or why not?

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Norman Bates

  • What do birds mean to Norman?  What do they symbolize?  List all the birds in the film; are any of them evil?

  • How  does Norman transform from an innocent, carefree fellow to a murderer?  Describe the first clues that point you toward his nature.

  • Is Mother Bates' voice the evil within Norman, or the real Mrs. Bates? Explain.

  • Are there other "Bates Motels" (or other locations) in literature that you would not want to find yourself?  Discuss what clues you'd look for, at what point you'd leave (or try to leave).

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Dr. Strangelove

  • What is the significance of his name?

  • How many of us love the danger of war? Toxins?  Destruction?

  • What characters from other stories endanger the world (the Firebird, any James Bond villain, etc.)?

  • What are the dangers of power?  Compare Strangelove with Daedalus and Faust.

  • What safeguards can we have against such people as Dr. Strangelove and General Ripper?

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Bond, James Bond

  • How does James Bond adjust to the changes in women's rights and gender equality? What does the concept of manliness or machismo mean to Bond?

  • Describe and explain the skills a spy needs.

  • What other characters have jobs similar to Bond's?

  • How do Bond and Q parallel Arthur and Merlin?  What other action teams can you name?

  • Compare James Bond and Barbie in the effect of their clothing.  How do their clothes change the way we look at them?  Is this true for politicians? Others?

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Atticus Finch

  • What is likable about him?  Describe the qualities Atticus shows.

  • If you're a father, do you try to be like him? Why or why not? Compare Atticus Finch with TV fathers Cliff Huxtable, Frank Costanza, Frank Barone; what famous fathers would you include?

  • Write an exchange of letters between Jim Crow and Atticus, as Jim seeks advice on traveling through Macomb, Alabama.

  • How does Atticus react to his client's death? Why does he accept the official account?

  • How would Atticus defend Sacco and Vanzetti?

  • What are the themes of revenge in To Kill a Mockingbird?  How does Atticus feel about justice and revenge?

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HAL 9000

  • How are our machines like us?

  • How can a machine evaluate human needs?  What decisions can it be trusted with?

  • How is the great computer different from The Oracle?  Where else do heroes get advice?

  • What do we risk when using computers, automated controls, machines? Explain.

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Hester Prynne

  • Discuss morality in Hester Prynne's time and compare with current.

  • Discuss the function of public humiliation, shame, and shunning in Hester's time and in the present.

  • How would our society have reacted to Hester Prynne?

  • How would her story be seen if Hester was a man whose wife had gone missing?

  • What if Hester was a lesbian -- how would she be treated today?

  • Discuss what elements of puritanical society are present today.

  • What would be the effect if the standards of Hester's society were applied today? On clothing? On food? On entertainment? War? Politics?

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Nora Helmer

  • What incensed Nora more -- her husband's ingratitude or his domineering? Explain.

  • How is Nora Helmer a feminist?

  • Why was progress to women's rights so notable in Norway?  How did characters in other nations fare in the same era?

  • What was it about Norway that influenced Ibsen's controversial play? Its success?

  • Is there a difference between men's honor and women's? Discuss.

  • What actions can one take on a spouse's behalf? What's going too far? Explain.

  • Bonus: Contrast Nora Helmer and Madame Bovary.

  • Nora Helmer and Madame Bovary go shopping; how do they react to each other's styles and habits? What does each buy in town? Explain what they're looking for.

  • What did it mean to be accepted in "society" in the 1800s?

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Lady Chatterley

  • What made the novel seem pornographic at the time it was written? Is it still seen that way? Why?

  • How does it compare to pornography today?

  • Discuss how Constance will end up. With whom, and why?

  • What effect will Lord Chatterley have on his wife's child? Discuss.

  • As done in 2017 by UK artist Libby Heaney, use lines from the novel to have a conversation with a real person: a classmate, or what a public figure might say in response, or another character (for example, Don Juan).  Enlist another person to take the second role.  Use extracts of seven or more words, or whole sentences.

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Nancy Drew

  • Why was Nancy accepted as a sleuth by the people around her, when grown women weren't?

  • How old does Nancy have to be to function as a detective?  How well would she do at age 10?  6?  What's her likely career at age 25? 50?

  • Should we blame Nancy for today's Superwoman syndrome?

  • How would we react to a male character with Nancy's skills and personality?

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Mary Richards

  • What did Mary's lack of a steady boyfriend imply?  How was this viewed for earlier characters? More recent characters?

  • How would another character have reacted to newsroom pressures and responsibilities? Ann-Marie ("That Girl")? Maude? Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Wonder Woman?

  • Condense an MTM show episode into a news summary.  Resource: video or DVD archive.

  • How is Mary Richards a feminist? How is she not a feminist?

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  • What opponents or adversaries are worth befriending? Why?

  • Describe the friends and support does a hero needs.

  • What female action heroines can you name?  What other female characters cross the border between presence and action?

  • Discuss the symbolism of Buffy killing demons and vampires.

  • Discuss the parallels between Buffy and Beowulf. How is Buffy superior? Or is she?

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Mickey Mouse

  • Why was this ordinary character so popular?

  • How did Mickey extend American influence? Discuss the 'Disney-fication' of American culture.

  • Compare Mickey to Vladek of Spiegelman's Maus, in drawing, in style, in emotions.

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Betty Boop

  • Compare her to current performers.

  • She's a feminist -- how does she show it?

  • Compare Betty Boop and Barbie.

  • Why isn't she pornographic?

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Buck Rogers

  • What modern devices are seen in the old comics?  How does Buck Rogers' world affect ours?

  • How has the role of a hero changed in the last century?

  • What sort of world does Buck Rogers live in? How is the political system different from ours?

  • Compare Buck Rogers' world with that of Kirk and Spock, Battlestar Galactica, Flash Gordon, or Luke Skywalker.

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Superman

  • Compare Superman and Batman -- don't they have the same job?

  • Superman has such trouble with Kryptonite; what does this say about his home world? About ours?

  • All heroes are vulnerable -- Achilles had his heel, Superman has Kryptonite. What does it mean to him?

  • What is the nature of a hero?

  • Compare Superman and Robin Hood.  Compare Superman, Hercules, and Paul Bunyan.

  • What are the differences between Clark Kent and Superman? What are the similarities?

  • What is his attitude toward government?  To authority?

  • What crimes must Superman commit to do his job? In what circumstances is it necessary? Give examples. (contributed by anon.a)

  • Superman and Clark Kent have two different demeanors; do all people? (contributed by anon.a)

  • How does Superman's secret identity help him cope with his world? (contributed by anon.a)

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Bambi

  • How appropriate is this story for children? What does losing a parent mean for a child?

  • What are the changes in anthropomorphizing?

  • How would we view the story if Bambi was an elk? a boar? a reptile?

  • Does our sympathy extend to all forest creatures in Bambi?

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The Marlboro Man

  • Compare the Marlboro Man and the Cowboy character.

  • What other products could he sell? Why?

  • How is the Marlboro Man the macho ideal?

  • Does the outward appearance of a macho man reflect his inner masculinity? Explain. (contributed by anon.a)

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Barbie

  • Compare Barbie and Miss Piggy.

  • What modern women come close to the Barbie character?

  • How does Barbie's outfit change the way we look at her?  Is this true for politicians? Others?  Compare Barbie and James Bond in the effect of their clothing. 

  • What is the consequence of wearing a smile all the time?  What other smiling characters are there?

  • Is beauty something we can choose to do? Explain your answer.

  • Barbie shattered one convention for dolls -- what others are there?  Are there old-people dolls?

  • What purposes do dolls serve?

  • Write a letter from Barbie to Rosie the Riveter on an employment issue (the glass ceiling, applying for a job, facing layoffs, etc.). What would Rosie's response be?

  • Compare Barbie and Betty Boop.

  • If you designed your own line of dolls, how would you choose their names?  Why?  How would the names complement your design?

  • What real people have about the same proportions as the 2016 four types of Barbie? How is each different from the plastic version?

  • What real people are good examples of body types?  What's specific about the types you've chosen that makes them definitive?  What features are you using as you make up each body type? What body proportions?

  • What male body types are available in dolls or action figures?  What body types are missing? 

  • What differentiates G.I Joe from Ken? 

  • What body types are least realistic for females?  For males?

  • What goes into assembling the ideal body shape for your favorite male and female? 

  • What is the realistic range for each feature or proportion; draw a portrait or figure to illustrate the limits.  

  • What body shapes or proportions are seen in apes:  Gorillas?  Bonobos?  Chimps?

  • What body shapes or proportions are seen in cartoon characters?  Of superheroes?  of villains?  of animal characters who stand or sit as people do?  Give examples for each shape type, and proportions for each animal character you pick-- and compare proportions of real humans and drawn humans. 

  • Draw a human with realistic animal proportions of spine, waist and limbs:  example--Vladimir Putin as a giraffe, a beagle, a harbor seal.  Angela Merkel as a dachshund, a Clydesdale horse, a rhinoceros.

  • Draw a human with the unrealistic proportions of a doll or cartoon character:  example--Sylvester Stallone as Dagwood Bumstead,  Jennifer Anniston as a Bratz doll. 

  • In what ways is beauty an advantage?  Why?

  • Explain what proportions that are an advantage but are not beautiful?

  • What physical features and proportions should a child's imaginary companion have?  Why?

 

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Joe Camel

  • Which advertising characters do you remember?  Why are they memorable?

  • Joe Camel and Smokey Bear each sell an idea -- how are they different?  What would they find in common?

  • What other drawn characters are spokescreatures for products or ideas?

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Smokey Bear

  • How did Smokey's ad campaign backfire?

  • What other creatures protect their environments?

  • How would Smokey and Yogi Bear view each other?

  • Smokey and Joe Camel each sell an idea -- how are they different?  What would they find in common?

  • What other characters are spokescreatures for products or ideas?  Conduct a round-table discussion on advertising with Smokey as moderator, and Mr. Clean, the Michelin Tire man, Little Debbie, and others of your choosing.

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Rosie the Riveter

  • Have Rosie apply for a job as a cab driver:  What does she say in the interview -- with Barbie as the hiring manager? With Archie Bunker as the hiring manager?  With Louie DePalma (TV's Taxi) as the manager?

  • Barbie writes a letter to Rosie the Riveter on an employment issue (the glass ceiling, applying for a job, facing layoffs, etc.).  What would Rosie's response be?

  • How did Rosie's example change attitudes towards work?  Towards clothing?

  • How can we consider Rosie the first feminist?

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Big Brother

  • What modern techniques would Big Brother use, and how?

  • Create an imaginary scapegoat, terrorist, or opposition leader.  What modern leaders could be seen as fictional?

  • Compare Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World.

  • Describe the kinds of problems we can trust the government to solve. How does that compare to the problems government claims to be able to solve?

  • How do we tell when we're being lied to? What techniques does Big Brother use?

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Perry Mason

  • How does Perry Mason distort our view of the legal system?  Has he affected the system?

  • How has Parry Mason inspired future lawyers?

  • Why are we fascinated by lawyers?

  • How does Perry Mason depend on his team? How does he depend on his adversaries (police lieutenant and prosecutor)?

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Archie Bunker

  • What other conservative characters have there been on television? Tell a little about each, their job, circumstances.

  • How do you have a fair debate between two characters?

  • What would Archie say about "current" events if he was a common soldier outside the gates of Troy? What would Archie say about "current" events if he was a German soldier in 1936, occupying the Rhineland?

  • What does patriotism mean to Archie?

  • Compare Archie Bunker and Willy Loman.

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Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock

  • How do these two work together?  What overlap of skills, approaches do they have?  Compare the Star Trek pair with Holmes and Watson.  What other buddy teams do they resemble, and in what ways?

  • What are the disadvantages of logic in an argument?

  • Discuss the parts of society that cannot be based on logic.

  • How are Kirk and Spock each best for their respective jobs?

  • As a half-breed Vulcan, how much can Spock be accepted in human or Vulcan cultures? At what point does the hybrid become unacceptable to both cultures, both species?

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J. R. Ewing

  • Why do we love him when he's so reprehensible?

  • Compare J. R. Ewing and Willy Loman.

  • Compare J. R. Ewing and Don Corleone.

  • Compare J. R. Ewing and Midas.

  • J. R. Ewing and Jay Gatsby meet at a poker game. How do they react to each other?   Which one ends up cheated?

  • Name other characters we love to hate; why do we watch them?

  • JR/(Larry Hagman) has just done a commercial for wind power. What advantages would JR have "going green"?  Why would he, and what would he turn to his advantage (legally or illegally)?

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Kermit the Frog

  • What does Kermit mean when he says it's not easy being green?

  • What other characters could do Kermit's job as host of The Muppet Show?  Write a letter, applying for the job, from The Loch Ness Monster.

  • Does species matter? Why or why not?

  • Why is Kermit's attitude to Barbie different from his attitude to Miss Piggy?

  • How did Kermit affect our multicultural society? Discuss other multicultural societies.

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General class questions and exercises

  • For any two fictional characters, write a letter from one to the other; try to express their personalities and styles. Join forces with a classmate, and write an exchange of such letters.

    Example: Apollo write Robin Hood about English archery and other things they might have in common.

  • Write an essay on the role of a fictional character in the way we view the world (not necessarily one of the 101). What would the influence have been a century ago? Five centuries ago?

  • Write a short description of a character as if introducing him to the class as a new student, or as a teacher's aide.

  • Divide human nature or into categories or emotions, and identify a character who typifies each.

  • Explain the level of adventure there is in TV reality programs? How much fiction can you spot? (Survivor...)?

  • How are ancient myths and tales relevant today?

  • Describe and discuss the purposes folktales serve.

  • Why do we need monsters? What is their use? Give examples of those which are most and least useful.

  • How are legends, myths, tales, etc, different from one another? How are they the same?

  • Are stereotypes useful? How?

  • Name some modern movie adventures, and discuss how they compare to the classics.

  • Compare Sindbad, Odysseus, and Robinson Crusoe.

  • Do criminals watch television to get ideas?  Should we do anything about that? Discuss why or why not? Review an episode in detail, specifying what features would succeed in committing the crime and which would lead to failure, capture, or conviction.

  • Pick a foreign character and discuss how he or she might influence an American audience.  Resources: library, foreign language readers, literature books.

  • What tales meant for adults are now viewed as children's stories? Why?

  • Which tales are appropriate for children? Why?

  • What characters dealing with children are actually meant more for adults? Pick an example and discuss the elements targeted to adults. Example: the Pixar film The Incredibles has one hero frustrated with his normal job.

  • Discuss how much fiction is in the average work of Fiction.  How much of the author's life?  Example: compare the tone and language of Notes from Underground with that of Dostoyevsky's letters. Compare the elements of Moby Dick, the whaling ship Essex, and Herman Melville's background.

  • Discuss the issues in one of Dr. Seuss's stories.   What does it say about tradition, religion, morality, nutrition, habits...?

  • What qualities are needed in children's literature?  Why are these qualities needed? How would you rewrite Sheridan's The Rivals as an animal story for children?

  • What changes transform Hamlet into The Lion King?

  • Discuss King Lear as an Aesop fable.

  • How did theater evolve from rituals? Explain.

     

  • How is classical Greek theater different from modern theater?

  • How has the status of actors changed over the years?

  • Do disaster movies reflect the times, or predict real problems? If so, why?

  • Pick out a character who is pro-feminist, and one who is anti-feminist.  Explain.

  • What female action heroines can you name? What male counterparts do they have and how are they different in character, plotlines, powers, etc.

  • Compare Hester Prynne, Rosie the Riveter, and Mary Richards.

  • Why do we so readily accept and enjoy drawn characters?

  • What's an  ideal character for selling 7-up? Coffee? Insurance?  Why? What do we look for in commercial characters?

  • What happens when a non-commercial fictional character becomes a figure of commerce?

  • Is propaganda always bad? Is there such a thing as good propaganda? Explain.

  • If you found yourself talking with a TV character, what would you say? What situation would you be in?  How would the character deal with you?  How would others in the cast react to you? Pick a character and discuss what happens. Pick a supporting character and explain the meeting and outcome.

  • Write yourself into an episode of Dallas (see J. R. Ewing) or All In the Family (see Archie Bunker), or some other program featuring a favorite fictional character.

  • What makes a novel a classic?

  • What can poetry do that prose can't? What factors qualify a work as poetry? Give examples.

  • How do we react to deformities?  Why?  Why don't we consider The Ugly Duckling or Pinocchio as monsters?

  • For any character: what detail or details could you add without changing the personality? What would deepen the character?

     

  • Select a common word used in character description; what are its synonyms in English; what are its equivalents in other languages?

  • Did you do something you're proud of, or that you regret, thanks to an encounter with a fictional person?

  • Pick a famous (real) event and a fictional character who might have been able to prevent it or alter the outcome substantially.  Describe how.  Include how they learn of the danger, and why they decide to intervene. You are not limited to the current era, but omit Superman and ancient gods (the gods weren't much help during the Trojan War anyway). Avoid recent events (9/11 World Trade Center, for example).  Include in your list of events to consider:

    • The Trail of Tears

    • Battle of Gettysburg

    • Betrayal of Benedict Arnold

    • Failure of the Roanoke Colony

    • Defeat of Antony at Actium

    • The trial of Anne Boleyn

  • Pick a fictional character from a work before or set before 1976, and explain how their behavior would not be acceptable today.

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Crossings, combinations, crossovers, etc.

  • What -- or whom -- do you get if you cross ... with ...? For example:

    • What do you get if you cross Perry Mason with Sam Spade?

    • What do you get if you combine Archie Bunker and J. R. Ewing? A loudmouth patriot who's wealthy and underhanded? Does this resemble anybody you've heard of?

    • What if you cross Romeo with Ebenezer Scrooge?

    Don't limit yourself to characters in our collection -- consider characters you think should have been in the book, or other fictional characters you know about.

  • Don't limit yourself to just two.

  • Go beyond the surface; for example, don't just combine Kirk and Spock or Apollo and Dionysus, but go outside the obvious (The Cat in the Hat and The Little Engine That Could; The Ugly Duckling and Kermit the Frog).

    In the "Who Met Whom" interlude, we recognize that several of the characters we consider actually met or encountered each other, and we mention the movie in which Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys combine forces. For this exercise, imagine any such crossover (avoiding the obvious -- Superman and Batman, for example -- as well as those mentioned in our interlude essay), and discuss the implications of this meeting.

  • Would Perry Mason have been able to get Tom Robinson off where Atticus Finch failed? Expand on that basic premise, and discuss a fictional situation where a different character would have dramatically affected the outcome.

  • How might Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade have made each other better detectives? Consider an exchange -- Holmes: "You see only the dark side; lighten up a bit, have some fun." Spade: "Lay off the drugs, Sherlock, they cloud your judgment."

  • Write an unrelated fictional character into an episode of Dallas (see J. R. Ewing) or All In the Family (see Archie Bunker), The Blacklist, Law and Order, Friends, or some other program. Examples:

    • Instead of Sammy Davis Jr. visiting Archie Bunker, it's Nancy Drew investigating the cab business.

    • J. R. Ewing hires Perry Mason to defend him in a murder case.

    • Indiana Jones, searching for the Golden Perch of Quetzalcoatl, encounters Godzilla (who is as afraid of snakes as he is).

    • Thelma and Louise (from the film of the same name) meet Betty Boop at a diner and give her a ride.

    • Lady Chatterly and Helen of Troy commiserate about man problems.

    • Captain Ahab has dinner with Sindbad (. . . on the Pequod, docked at Hilo Harbor, Hawaii).

    • Batman, Icarus, and Daedalus meet and discuss (government, inventions, hideouts,  tactics, teenage behavior, discipline ...).

  • In November, 2017, BBC news posted a story of a program by artist Libby Heaney that used lines from Lady Chatterley's Lover to have limited conversations with real men on a digital platform.  Try a non-digital variantion:

    Pick characters from various book-length works, have each student extract at least twenty lines from their assigned or randomly chosen character.   Pair up students and have them use these extracted lines to have a conversation.  For example, Hamlet talks with Hester Prynne, Mellors talks with Lisbeth Salander, Queequeg talks with Sancho Panza, Lady Chatterley talks with Don Juan, J. R. Ewing chats with Robinson Crusoe.  Repeat to explore how many quotes are needed, or how the quoted sections must be limited to partial sentences.

     

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Zeus (he isn't in the book, but we didn't feel safe ignoring him)

  • Compare Zeus to Marduk, Ahura Mazda, Anu, and Wotan.

  • What were Zeus' attitudes towards family? Why did he beget some gods, attack others?  Did he create Athena?  What did this mean to the Greeks?   

  • What is the significance of his being the god of thunder?

  • What is Zeus's human-like personality?

  • How old is Zeus?

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Feedback, and some of your own questions

We'd really like to know how you've use our book in your classes. Tell us about additional questions that have emerged if you would like to see those questions added to our collection (above). We'd also like to know how well the book was received during class discussions. You can send any such feedback to teacherfeedback@101influential.com. Please include your school, and whether or not we can quote you or give you credit for any questions we add.

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Alphabetical Index of the characters

Ahab, Captain Hans Beckert (Fritz Lang's M) Perry Mason
Alice (in wonderland) Hansel and Gretel Peter Pan
Amos 'n' Andy Helen of Troy Prince Charming
Apollo Hercules Prometheus
Archie Bunker Hester Prynne Pygmalion
Atticus Finch Hiawatha Richard Blaine (Casablanca)
Bambi Huckleberry Finn Robin Hood
Barbie Icarus Robinson Crusoe
Batman Ivanhoe Romeo and Juliet
Betty Boop J. R. Ewing Rosie the Riveter
Big Brother James Bond Saint Valentine
Bond, James Jay Gatsby Sam Spade
Buck (Call of the Wild) Jim Crow Santa Claus
Buck Rogers Joe Camel Sherlock Holmes
Buffy the Vampire Slayer John Doe Shylock
Captain Ahab Kermit the Frog Siegfried
Captain James T. Kirk King Arthur Sindbad the Sailor
Cinderella King Kong Smokey Bear
Citizen Kane Kirk, James T. Spock, Mr.
Cupid Lady Chatterley Superman
Dick Tracy Lilith Tarzan
Dionysus Loch Ness Monster The American Cowboy
Don Juan Luke Skywalker The Cat in the Hat
Don Quixote Madame Butterfly The Little Engine that Could
Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) Mammy The Little Tramp
Dr. Frankenstein's Monster Mary Richards The Marlboro Man
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Mickey Mouse The Pied Piper
Dr. Strangelove Midas The Ugly Duckling
Dracula Mr. Hyde The Wandering Jew
Ebenezer Scrooge Nancy Drew Tom Sawyer
Elmer Gantry Nora Helmer (Ibsen's A Doll's House) Uncle Sam
Faust Norman Bates Uncle Tom
Figaro Odysseus Venus
G. I. Joe Oedipus William Tell
Godzilla Othello Willy Loman
HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) Pandora
Hamlet Paul Bunyan

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Character Index by Topic -- a more extensive sense of what characters could be thought of in particular categories

Greek and Roman Myths

Apollo Icarus Prometheus
Cupid Midas Pygmalion
Dionysus Odysseus Saint Valentine
Helen of Troy Oedipus Venus
Hercules Pandora Zeus (website bonus)

 

Folktales

Cinderella Lilith Santa Claus
Dracula Loch Ness Monster Sindbad the Sailor
Hansel and Gretel Paul Bunyan Uncle Sam
Jim Crow The Pied Piper The Wandering Jew

 

Legends

The American Cowboy Lilith Robin Hood
King Arthur Loch Ness Monster Saint Valentine
Don Juan Midas Siegfried
Dracula Odysseus Sindbad the Sailor
Hamlet Oedipus The Wandering Jew
Helen of Troy Pandora William Tell
Hercules Paul Bunyan
Hiawatha The Pied Piper

 

Monsters

Dr. Frankenstein's Monster King Kong Loch Ness Monster
Godzilla Lilith

 

Stereotypes

Captain Ahab Elmer Gantry Prince Charming
The American Cowboy Jim Crow Romeo
Apollo J. R. Ewing Ebenezer Scrooge
Archie Bunker Juliet Shylock
Barbie Mammy The Little Tramp
Cinderella Midas The Ugly Duckling
Dionysus Nancy Drew Uncle Tom
Don Juan Oedipus The Wandering Jew
Don Quixote Peter Pan
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde The Pied Piper

 

Adventure

Alice (in wonderland) G. I. Joe Robinson Crusoe
King Arthur Hercules Sherlock Holmes
Batman Huckleberry Finn Sindbad the Sailor
Bond, James Bond Ivanhoe Mr. Spock
Buck (Call of the Wild) Captain James T. Kirk Superman
Buck Rogers Luke Skywalker Tarzan
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Odysseus Tom Sawyer
Don Quixote Robin Hood

 

Crime

Batman Nancy Drew Sam Spade
Dick Tracy Norman Bates Sherlock Holmes
Hamlet Oedipus Sindbad the Sailor
Hans Beckert (Fritz Lang's M) Perry Mason Superman
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Robin Hood

 

Americana

The American Cowboy G. I. Joe Mammy
Amos 'n' Andy Hiawatha Mary Richards
Archie Bunker Huckleberry Finn Paul Bunyan
Barbie J. R. Ewing Rosie the Riveter
Betty Boop Jim Crow Santa Claus
Dick Tracy John Doe Tom Sawyer
Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) The Little Tramp Uncle Sam
Elmer Gantry The Marlboro Man Uncle Tom

 

Literature (almost every character is in literature at some point, especially if you admit that plays are a subset of literature, so if you don't see the character you have in mind, browse through the alphabetical list)

Captain Ahab Elmer Gantry Hiawatha
Alice (in wonderland) Dr. Frankenstein's Monster Ivanhoe
Atticus Finch Don Juan Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Big Brother Don Quixote Robinson Crusoe
Bond, James Bond Dracula Ebenezer Scrooge
Buck (Call of the Wild) Faust Sherlock Holmes
Lady Chatterley Jay Gatsby Uncle Tom
Don Juan Hamlet
Don Quixote Hester Prynne

 

Children's Literature  

Alice (in wonderland) Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) Nancy Drew
Bambi Hansel and Gretel Peter Pan
Barbie Kermit the Frog The Pied Piper
The Cat in the Hat The Little Engine that Could Prince Charming
Cinderella Mickey Mouse The Ugly Duckling

 

Theater

King Arthur Madame Butterfly Ebenezer Scrooge
Don Quixote Nora Helmer (Ibsen's A Doll's House) Shylock
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Oedipus Siegfried
Dracula Othello Uncle Tom
Faust Peter Pan William Tell
Figaro Pygmalion Willy Loman
Hamlet Romeo and Juliet

 

Movies

Captain Ahab Dracula Mickey Mouse
Alice (in wonderland) Elmer Gantry Norman Bates
The American Cowboy Dr. Frankenstein's Monster The Pied Piper
King Arthur Godzilla Richard Blaine (Casablanca)
Atticus Finch HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) Robin Hood
Batman Hamlet Robinson Crusoe
Bond, James Bond Hans Beckert (Fritz Lang's M) Ebenezer Scrooge
Buck (Call of the Wild) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Sam Spade
Buck Rogers John Doe Sherlock Holmes
Buffy the Vampire Slayer King Kong Sindbad the Sailor
Citizen Kane Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock Dr. Strangelove
Dick Tracy The Little Tramp Superman
Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) Luke Skywalker Tarzan

 

Women's Liberation

Alice (in wonderland) Hester Prynne Nora Helmer (Ibsen's A Doll's House)
Betty Boop Mammy Rosie the Riveter
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Mary Richards
Lady Chatterley Nancy Drew

 

Comics and Animation

King Arthur Betty Boop G. I. Joe
Bambi Buck Rogers Mickey Mouse
Barbie Cinderella Peter Pan
Batman Dick Tracy Superman

 

Commerce

Barbie Joe Camel The Marlboro Man

 

Propaganda

Big Brother Rosie the Riveter Smokey Bear

 

Television

Amos 'n' Andy Hercules Mickey Mouse
Archie Bunker J. R. Ewing Robin Hood
Batman Kermit the Frog Superman
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Nancy Drew Tarzan
Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock Perry Mason
The American Cowboy Mary Richards

 

The 101 page at HarperCollins is here.

Desk copies can be ordered from Harper Academic here.

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The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived site

Last updated November 19, 2017