Reading assignment due: Beowulf (pg. 20-46) and completed study guide
Discussion of reading
Draw and label plot diagram in class
Wednesday January 27th
Conclude Beowulf discussion
Complete epic chart in class
Thursday January 28th
Reading assignment due: excerpt from Grendel in packet and answer questions in packet
Friday January 29th - Initial contact email for service partnership must be sent by 3:00 pm today.
Work on initial contact email in class
Vocab Video #1
Monday February 1st
Reading assignment due: “The Falling Man” in packet and answer questions in packet
Discussion of reading
Tuesday February 2nd
Reading assignment due: TWO super hero articles in packet and answer questions in packet for BOTH
Discussion of reading
Wednesday February 3rd
Extra credit for Heroes and Villains Unit due
In-class Timed Writing
Thursday February 4th
Heroes and Villains Unit Quiz
Friday February 5th
Work on first journal email together in class
Read the poems listed below and respond to the questions.
“To Lucasta, on Going to the Wars” by Richard Lovelace (pg. 400)
Do you think the speaker in the poem is acting heroically? Why or not?
Would you make the same choice that the speaker does?
“The Man He Killed” by Thomas Hardy (pg. 779)
Is there a hero and/or villain in this poem?
How are the “rules of war” different than normal behavior?
“An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” by William Butler Yeats (pg. 1064)
How does the speaker in the poem feel about his death? Why do you think he feels this way?
Do you think that the speaker should be viewed as a hero by others?
After reading all poems:
Considering all three poems, how does the topic of war relate to the theme of heroes and villains?
Do the terms hero and villain apply to the opposing armies in battle?
Choose another poem from your textbook that you feel relates to the unit theme of heroes and villains.
Complete the following information for the chosen poem:
Title: Author: Page in text:
What is the poem about?
What is the message or meaning of the poem?
How does this poem relate to the unit theme?
Analyze all four poems discussed and identify three different examples of literary devices within them. Use your orange sheet for help. List your examples below:
#1 Poem: Literary device:
Quote that shows device:
#2 Poem: Literary device:
Quote that shows device:
#3 Poem: Literary device:
Quote that shows device:
Beowulf Study Guide
Complete the study guide below as your read the assignment on pages 20-46 of the textbook.
The Wrath of Grendel
What is the Herot?
Who is Hrothgar?
What is Grendel?
What is Hrothgar’s problem? Be specific.
The Coming of Beowulf
Who is Beowulf? What group is he a part of?
What did he decide to do?
How did Beowulf find out about Grendel?
What two feats has Beowulf accomplished that make him confidant and respected as a warrior?
What weapons will Beowulf use to fight Grendel?
Why does he choose to fight this way?
The Battle with Grendel Location:
Where are Beowulf and his men hiding when Grendel arrives at Herot?
What happens to the first Geat that Grendel captures?
What happens to the second Geat that Grendel captures?
Why won’t the warriors’ weapons work to harm Grendel?
What final injury does Beowulf give to Grendel before he leaves?
The Monster’s Lair
Who or what visits Herot during the celebration of Grendel’s defeat?
What does this creature do?
Where is the monster's lair located?
What does Beowulf plan to do next?
The Battle with Grendel’s Mother Location:
What equipment fails Beowulf?
What equipment fails Grendel’s mother?
How does Beowulf kill Grendel’s mother? What does he use to do this?
What last thing does Beowulf do to Grendel?
What does Beowulf keep and present as a trophy to the Danes?
The Last Battle Location:
What title is Beowulf given when he returns home?
What threat is facing his kingdom?
What is his reason for wanting to use armor for this battle?
Why is he unable to win this battle? What goes wrong?
What is his army’s reaction?
Who is Wiglaf?
What does Wiglaf say about Beowulf and the other soldiers? Be specific.
Who finally kills the dragon?
Who becomes the next king of the Geats? How is this person chosen?
What happens to the treasure? Be specific.
How do they honor and mourn Beowulf? Be specific.
Does Beowulf fit our modern day image of a hero? Why or why not?
Beowulf Plot Diagram
Define the following terms:
List four types of conflict:
Use the space below to draw and label a plot diagram for the epic poem Beowulf.
Complete the chart below using specific examples from Beowulf and Paradise Lost.
Characteristics of a epic:
Specific examples from Beowulf:
Hero performs courageous and selfless deeds.
Hero possesses super-human powers.
Hero demonstrates the morals and beliefs of the society of his time.
Hero demonstrates timeless values such as loyalty and honor.
Hero's actions determine the fate of an entire population.
Plot contains a dangerous journey into unfamiliar lands.
Themes include universal ideas such as good vs. evil and life vs. death.
Reading and Questions – Grendel
Excerpt from Chapter Three of Grendel by John Gardner:
It wasn’t because he threw the battle-ax that I turned on Hrothgar. That was mere midnight foolishness. I dismissed it, thought of it afterward only as you remember a tree that fell on you or an adder you stepped on by accident, except of course that Hrothgar was more to be feared than a tree or snake. It wasn’t until later, when I was full-grown and Hrothgar was an old, old man, that I settled my soul on destroying him—slowly and cruelly. Except for his thanes’ occasional stories of seeing my footprints, he’d probably forgotten by then that I existed.
He’d been busy. I’d watched it all from the eaves of the forest, mostly from up off the ground, in the branches.
In the beginning there were various groups of them: ragged little bands that roamed the forest on foot or horseback, crafty-witted killers that worked in teams, hunting through the summer, shivering in caves or little huts in the winter, occasionally wandering out into the snow to plow through it slowly, clumsily, after more meat. Ice clung to their eyebrows and beards and eyelashes, and I’d hear them whining and groaning as they walked. When two hunters from different bands came together in the woods, they would fight until the snow was slushy with their blood, then crawl back, gasping and crying, to their separate camps to tell wild tales of what happened.
As the bands grew larger, they would seize and clear a hill and, with the trees they’d cut, would set up shacks, and on the crown of the hill a large, shaggy house with a steeply pitched roof and a wide stone hearth, where they’d all go at night for protections from other bands of men. The inside walls would be beautifully painted and hung with tapestries, and every cross-timber or falcon’s perch was carved and gewgawed with toads, snakes, dragon shapes, deer, cows, pigs, trees, trolls. At the first sign of spring, they would set out their shrines and scatter seeds on the sides of the hill, below the shacks, and would put up wooden fences to pen their pigs and cows. The women worked the ground and milked and few the animals while the men hunted, and when the men came in from the wolf-roads at dusk, the women would cook the game they’d caught, while the men went inside and drank mead. Then, they’d all eat, the men first, then the women and children, the men still drinking, getting louder and braver, talking about what they were going to do to the bands on the other hills. I would huddle, listening to their noise in the darkness, my eyebrows uplifted, my lips pursed, the hair on the back of my neck standing up like pigs’ bristles. All the bands did the same thing. In time I began to be more amused than revolted by what they threatened. It didn’t matter to me what they did to each other. It was slightly ominous because of its strangeness—no wolf was so vicious to other wolves—but I half-believed they weren’t serious.
They would listen to each other at the meadhall tables, their pinched, cunning rats’ faces picking like needles at the boaster’s words, the warfalcons gazing down, black from the rafters, and when one of them finished his raving threats, another would stand up and lift up his ram’s horn, or draw his sword, or sometimes both if he was very drunk, and he’d tell them what he planned to do. Now and then some trivial argument would break out, and one of them would kill another one, and all the others would detach themselves from the killer as neatly as blood clotting, and they’d consider the case and they’d either excuse him, for some reason, or else end him out to the forest to live by stealing from their outlying pens like a wounded fox. At times, I would try to befriend the exile, at other times I would try to ignore him, but they were treacherous. In the end, I had to eat them. As a rule, though, that wasn’t how all their drinking turned out. Normally the men would howl out their daring, and the evening would get merrier, louder and louder, the king praising this one, criticizing that one, no one getting hurt except maybe some female who was asking for it., and eventually they’d all fall asleep on each other like lizards, and I’d steal a cow.
But the threats were serious. Darting unseen from camp to camp, I observed a change from over their drunken boasts. It was late spring. Food was plentiful. Every sheep and goat had its wobbly twins, the forest was teeming and the first crops of the hillsides were coming into fruit. A man would roar, “I’ll steal their gold and burn their meadhall!” shaking his sword as if the tip were afire, and a man with eyes like two pins would say, “Do it now, Cowface! I think you’re not even the man your father was!” The people would laugh. I would back away into the darkness, furious at my stupid need to spy on them, and I would glide to the next camp of me, and I’d head the same.
Then once, around midnight, I came to a hall in ruins. The cows in their pens lay burbling blood through their nostrils, with javelin holes in their necks. None had been eaten. The watchdogs lay like dark wet stones, with their heats cut off, teeth bared. The fallen hall was a square of flames and acrid smoke, and the people inside (none of them had been eaten either) were burned black, small, like dwarfs turned dark and crisp. The sky opened like a hole where the gables loomed before, and the wooden benches, the trestle tables, the beds that had hung on the meadhall walls were scattered to the edge of the forest, shining charcoal. There was no sign of the gold they’d kept—not so much as a melted hilt.
Then the wars began, and the war songs, and the weapon making. If the songs were true, as I suppose at least one or two of them were, there had always been wars, and what I’d seen was merely a period of mutual exhaustion.
I’d be watching a meadhall from high in a tree, night-birds singing in the limbs below me, the moon’s face hidden in a tower of clouds, and nothing would be stirring except leaves moving in the light spring breeze, and down by the pigpens, two men walking with their battle-axes and their dogs. ...
Then suddenly the birds below me in the tree would fall silent, and beyond the meadhall clearing I’d hear the creak of harness-leather. The watchmen and their dogs would stand stock-still, as if lightning-struck; then the dogs would b ark, and the next instant the door would bang open and men would come tumbling, looking crazy, from the meadhall. The enemies’ horses would thunder up into the clearing, leaping the pig-fences, sending the cows and the pigs away mooing and squealing, and the two bands of men would charge. Twenty feet apart they would slide to a stop and stand screaming at each other with raised swords. The leaders on both sides held their javelins high in both hands and shook them, howling their lungs out. Terrible threats, from the few words I could catch. Things about their fathers and their fathers’ fathers, things about justice and honor and lawful revenge—their throats swollen, their eyes rolling a newborn colt’s sweat running down their shoulders. Then they would fight. Spears flying, swords whonking, arrows raining from the windows and doors of the meadhall and the edge of the woods. Horses reared and fell over screaming, ravens flew, crazy as bats in a fire, men staggered, gesturing wildly, making speeches, dying or sometimes pretending to be dying, sneaking off. Sometimes the attackers would be driven back, sometimes they’d win and burn the meadhall down, and sometimes they’d capture the king of the meadhall and make his people give weapons and gold rings and cows.
It was confusing and frightening, not in a way I could untangle. I was safe in my tree, and the men who fought were nothing to me, except of course that they talked in something akin to my language, which meant that we were, incredibly, related. I was sickened, if only at the waste of it: all they killed—cows, horses, men—they left to rot or burn. I sacked all I could and tried to store it, but my mother would growl and make faces because of the stink.
The fighting went on all that summer and began again the next and again the next. Sometimes when a meadhall burned, the survivors would to go another meadhall and, stretching out their hands, would crawl unarmed up the strangers’ hill and would beg to be taken in. They would give the strangers whatever weapons or pigs or cattle they’d saved from destruction, and the strangers would give then an outbuilding, the worst of their food, and some straw. The two groups would fight as allies after that, except that now and then they betrayed each other, one shooting the other from behind for some reason, or stealing the other group’s gold, some midnight, or sneaking into bed with the other group’s wives and daughters.
I watched it, season after season. Sometimes I watched from the high cliff wall, where I could look out and see all the meadhall lights on the various hills across the countryside, glowing like candles, reflected stars. With luck, I might see, on a soft summer night, as many as three halls burning down at once. That was rare, of course. It grew rarer as the pattern of their warring changed. Hrothgar, who’d begun hardly stronger than the others, began to outstrip the rest. He’d worked out a theory about what fighting was for, and now he no longer fought with his six closest neighbors. He’d shown them the strength of his organization, and now, instead of making war on them, he sent men to them every three months or so, with heavy wagons and back-slings, to gather their tribute to his greatness. They piled his wagons high with gold and leather and weapons, and they kneeled to his messengers and made long speeches and promised to defend him against any foolhardy outlaw that dared to attack him. Hrothgar’s messengers answered with friendly words and praise of the man they’d just plundered, as if the whole thing had been his idea, then whipped up the oxen, pulled up their loaded back-slings, and started home. ...
After reading the excerpt, answer the following questions.
How does Grendel describe the men he observes? How do they behave?
How does Hrothgar change over time as Grendel watches him? Be specific.
Do you think that Grendel respects the men he observes? Why or why not?
Did reading this passage change your view of the story of Beowulf? Do you think differently about any of the characters after reading it?
excerpts from “The Falling Man” Esquire September 2003
Do you remember this photograph? In the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the record of September 11, 2001. The story behind it, though, and the search for the man pictured in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.
In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did -- who jumped -- appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else -- something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.
The photographer is no stranger to history; he knows it is something that happens later. In the actual moment history is made, it is usually made in terror and confusion, and so it is up to people like him -- paid witnesses -- to have the presence of mind to attend to its manufacture. The photographer has that presence of mind and has had it since he was a young man. When he was twenty-one years old, he was standing right behind Bobby Kennedy when Bobby Kennedy was shot in the head. His jacket was spattered with Kennedy's blood, but he jumped on a table and shot pictures of Kennedy's open and ebbing eyes, and then of Ethel Kennedy crouching over her husband and begging photographers -- begging him -- not to take pictures.
Richard Drew has never done that. Although he has preserved the jacket patterned with Kennedy's blood, he has never not taken a picture, never averted his eye. He works for the Associated Press. He is a journalist. It is not up to him to reject the images that fill his frame, because one never knows when history is made until one makes it. It is not even up to him to distinguish if a body is alive or dead, because the camera makes no such distinctions, and he is in the business of shooting bodies, as all photographers are, unless they are Ansel Adams. Indeed, he was shooting bodies on the morning of September 11, 2001. On assignment for the AP, he was shooting a maternity fashion show in Bryant Park, notable, he says, "because it featured actual pregnant models." He was fifty-four years old. He wore glasses. He was sparse in the scalp, gray in the beard, hard in the head. In a lifetime of taking pictures, he has found a way to be both mild-mannered and brusque, patient and very, very quick. He was doing what he always does at fashion shows -- "staking out real estate" -- when a CNN cameraman with an earpiece said that a plane had crashed into the North Tower, and Drew's editor rang his cell phone. He packed his equipment into a bag and gambled on taking the subway downtown. Although it was still running, he was the only one on it. He got out at the Chambers Street station and saw that both towers had been turned into smokestacks. Staking out his real estate, he walked west, to where ambulances were gathering, because rescue workers "usually won't throw you out." Then he heard people gasping. People on the ground were gasping because people in the building were jumping. He started shooting pictures through a 200mm lens. He was standing between a cop and an emergency technician, and each time one of them cried, "There goes another," his camera found a falling body and followed it down for a nine- or twelve-shot sequence. He shot ten or fifteen of them before he heard the rumbling of the South Tower and witnessed, through the winnowing exclusivity of his lens, its collapse. He was engulfed in a mobile ruin, but he grabbed a mask from an ambulance and photographed the top of the North Tower "exploding like a mushroom" and raining debris. He discovered that there is such a thing as being too close, and, deciding that he had fulfilled his professional obligations, Richard Drew joined the throng of ashen humanity heading north, walking until he reached his office at Rockefeller Center.
There was no terror or confusion at the Associated Press. There was, instead, that feeling of history being manufactured; although the office was as crowded as he'd ever seen it, there was, instead, "the wonderful calm that comes into play when people are really doing their jobs." So Drew did his: He inserted the disc from his digital camera into his laptop and recognized, instantly, what only his camera had seen -- something iconic in the extended annihilation of a falling man. He didn't look at any of the other pictures in the sequence; he didn't have to. "You learn in photo editing to look for the frame," he says. "You have to recognize it. That picture just jumped off the screen because of its verticality and symmetry. It just had that look."
He sent the image to the AP's server. The next morning, it appeared on page seven of The New York Times. It appeared in hundreds of newspapers, all over the country, all over the world. The man inside the frame -- the Falling Man -- was not identified.
They began jumping not long after the first plane hit the North Tower, not long after the fire started. They kept jumping until the tower fell. They jumped through windows already broken and then, later, through windows they broke themselves. They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died. They jumped continually, from all four sides of the building, and from all floors above and around the building's fatal wound. They jumped from the offices of Marsh & McLennan, the insurance company; from the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading company; from Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors -- the top. For more than an hour and a half, they streamed from the building, one after another, consecutively rather than en masse, as if each individual required the sight of another individual jumping before mustering the courage to jump himself or herself. One photograph, taken at a distance, shows people jumping in perfect sequence, like parachutists, forming an arc composed of three plummeting people, evenly spaced. Indeed, there were reports that some tried parachuting, before the force generated by their fall ripped the drapes, the tablecloths, the desperately gathered fabric, from their hands. They were all, obviously, very much alive on their way down, and their way down lasted an approximate count of ten seconds. They were all, obviously, not just killed when they landed but destroyed, in body though not, one prays, in soul. One hit a fireman on the ground and killed him; the fireman's body was anointed by Father Mychal Judge, whose own death, shortly thereafter, was embraced as an example of martyrdom after the photograph -- the redemptive tableau -- of firefighters carrying his body from the rubble made its way around the world.
From the beginning, the spectacle of doomed people jumping from the upper floors of the World Trade Center resisted redemption. They were called "jumpers" or "the jumpers," as though they represented a new lemminglike class. The trial that hundreds endured in the building and then in the air became its own kind of trial for the thousands watching them from the ground. No one ever got used to it; no one who saw it wished to see it again, although, of course, many saw it again. Each jumper, no matter how many there were, brought fresh horror, elicited shock, tested the spirit, struck a lasting blow. Those tumbling through the air remained, by all accounts, eerily silent; those on the ground screamed. It was the sight of the jumpers that prompted Rudy Giuliani to say to his police commissioner, "We're in uncharted waters now." It was the sight of the jumpers that prompted a woman to wail, "God! Save their souls! They're jumping! Oh, please God! Save their souls!" And it was, at last, the sight of the jumpers that provided the corrective to those who insisted on saying that what they were witnessing was "like a movie," for this was an ending as unimaginable as it was unbearable: Americans responding to the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world with acts of heroism, with acts of sacrifice, with acts of generosity, with acts of martyrdom, and, by terrible necessity, with one prolonged act of -- if these words can be applied to mass murder -- mass suicide.
The resistance to the image -- to the images -- started early, started immediately, started on the ground. A mother whispering to her distraught child a consoling lie: "Maybe they're just birds, honey." Bill Feehan, second in command at the fire department, chasing a bystander who was panning the jumpers with his video camera, demanding that he turn it off, bellowing, "Don't you have any human decency?" before dying himself when the building came down. In the most photographed and videotaped day in the history of the world, the images of people jumping were the only images that became, by consensus, taboo -- the only images from which Americans were proud to avert their eyes. All over the world, people saw the human stream debouch from the top of the North Tower, but here in the United States, we saw these images only until the networks decided not to allow such a harrowing view, out of respect for the families of those so publicly dying. At CNN, the footage was shown live, before people working in the newsroom knew what was happening; then, after what Walter Isaacson, who was then chairman of the network's news bureau, calls "agonized discussions" with the "standards guy," it was shown only if people in it were blurred and unidentifiable; then it was not shown at all.
And so it went. In 9/11, the documentary extracted from videotape shot by French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet, the filmmakers included a sonic sampling of the booming, rattling explosions the jumpers made upon impact but edited out the most disturbing thing about the sounds: the sheer frequency with which they occurred. In Rudy, the docudrama starring James Woods in the role of Mayor Giuliani, archival footage of the jumpers was first included, then cut out. In Here Is New York, an extensive exhibition of 9/11 images culled from the work of photographers both amateur and professional, there was, in the section titled "Victims," but one picture of the jumpers, taken at a respectful distance; attached to it, on the Here Is New York Website, a visitor offers this commentary: "This image is what made me glad for censuring [sic] in the endless pursuant media coverage." More and more, the jumpers -- and their images -- were relegated to the Internet underbelly, where they became the provenance of the shock sites that also traffic in the autopsy photos of Nicole Brown Simpson and the videotape of Daniel Pearl's execution, and where it is impossible to look at them without attendant feelings of shame and guilt. In a nation of voyeurs, the desire to face the most disturbing aspects of our most disturbing day was somehow ascribed to voyeurism, as though the jumpers' experience, instead of being central to the horror, was tangential to it, a sideshow best forgotten.
It was no sideshow. The two most reputable estimates of the number of people who jumped to their deaths were prepared by The New York Times and USA Today. They differed dramatically. The Times, admittedly conservative, decided to count only what its reporters actually saw in the footage they collected, and it arrived at a figure of fifty. USA Today, whose editors used eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence in addition to what they found on video, came to the conclusion that at least two hundred people died by jumping -- a count that the newspaper said authorities did not dispute. Both are intolerable estimates of human loss, but if the number provided by USA Today is accurate, then between 7 and 8 percent of those who died in New York City on September 11, 2001, died by jumping out of the buildings; it means that if we consider only the North Tower, where the vast majority of jumpers came from, the ratio is more like one in six.
And yet if one calls the New York Medical Examiner's Office to learn its own estimate of how many people might have jumped, one does not get an answer but an admonition: "We don't like to say they jumped. They didn't jump. Nobody jumped. They were forced out, or blown out." And if one Googles the words "how many jumped on 9/11," one falls into some blogger's trap, slugged "Go Away, No Jumpers Here," where the bait is one's own need to know: "I've got at least three entries in my referrer logs that show someone is doing a search on Google for 'how many people jumped from WTC.' My September 11 post had made mention of that terrible occurance [sic], so now any pervert looking for that will get my site's URL. I'm disgusted. I tried, but cannot find any reason someone would want to know something like that.... Whatever. If that's why you're here -- you're busted. Now go away."
[Following the liberation of Nazi concentration camps] the pictures that came out of the death camps of Europe were treated as essential acts of witness, without particular regard to the sensitivities of those who appeared in them or the surviving families of the dead. They were shown, as Richard Drew's photographs of the freshly assassinated Robert Kennedy were shown. They were shown, as the photographs of Ethel Kennedy pleading with photographers not to take photographs were shown. They were shown as the photograph of the little Vietnamese girl running naked after a napalm attack was shown. They were shown as the photograph of Father Mychal Judge, graphically and unmistakably dead, was shown, and accepted as a kind of testament. They were shown as everything is shown, for, like the lens of a camera, history is a force that does not discriminate. What distinguishes the pictures of the jumpers from the pictures that have come before is that we -- we Americans -- are being asked to discriminate on their behalf. What distinguishes them, historically, is that we, as patriotic Americans, have agreed not to look at them. Dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of people died by leaping from a burning building, and we have somehow taken it upon ourselves to deem their deaths unworthy of witness -- because we have somehow deemed the act of witness, in this one regard, unworthy of us.
… But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky -- falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame -- the Falling Man -- became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew's photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.
That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.
Answer the questions below after reading the article above. Be prepared to discuss your answers with the class.
Summary of article:
What points that the author made did you find most interesting?
Do you think you would feel differently about this article if you knew someone who died in the twin towers? What if you had read the article right after 9/11?
Why do you think this article was chosen to be read in this unit?
How does this article address the topic of heroes and villains differently than the fiction pieces we have read?
“The Psychology Behind Superhero Origin Stories”
How does following the adventures of Spider-Man and Batman inspire us to cope with adversity?
“Why is every superhero movie an origin story?” complained Entertainment Weekly film critic Adam Markovitz after seeing a trailer for this summer’s Man of Steel—yet another version of the 75-year-old Superman saga. Perhaps we love origin stories, Markovitz suggested, because they “show the exact moment when a normal guy goes from being Just Like Us to being somehow better, faster, stronger.”
I’m inclined to disagree. As a clinical psychologist who has written books about the psychology of superheroes, I think origin stories show us not how to become super but how to be heroes, choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power. I’ve learned this through hundreds of conversations at comic book conventions, where fans have been remarkably candid about their lives and the inspiration they draw from superhero stories.
In one form or another the superhero origin story has been around for millennia: A hero battles “supernatural” forces and returns home “from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man,” as the mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote.
In my surveys of the genre, I’ve found that superheroes undergo three types of life-altering experiences that we can relate to.
The first is trauma, which lies at the heart of Batman’s origin story, in which Bruce Wayne dedicates himself to fighting crime after seeing his parents murdered. In real life, many people experience “stress-induced growth” after a trauma and resolve to help others, even becoming social activists.
The second life-altering force is destiny. Consider Buffy the Vampire Slayer, about a normal teenager who discovers she’s the “Chosen One”—endowed with supernatural powers to fight demons. Buffy is reluctant to accept her destiny, yet she throws herself into her new job. Many of us identify with Buffy’s challenge (minus the vampires) of assuming a great responsibility that compels her to grow up sooner than she wants to.
Lastly, there’s sheer chance, which transformed a young Spider-Man, who was using his power for selfish purposes until his beloved uncle was murdered by a street thug. Spider-Man’s heroism is an example of how random adverse events cause many of us to take stock of our lives and choose a different path.
At their best, superhero origin stories inspire us and provide models of coping with adversity, finding meaning in loss and trauma, discovering our strengths and using them for good purpose. (Wearing a cape or tights is optional.)
Comic book writers could have chosen not to endow their characters with origin stories. (In fact, Batman’s back story wasn’t published until the comic’s seventh installment.) But those writers were keen observers of human nature. And they were able to translate those observations into captivating stories reflecting aspects of psychology that were confirmed by researchers decades later. In doing so, they tap into our capacity for empathy, one of the greatest powers of all.
“Why Are We Obsessed With Superheroes?”
By David Wright, ABC News, June 6, 2013
For decades, we have found comfort, even hope, in superheroes. Now they are the kings (and queens) of the box office. What explains their enduring appeal? Over the years, superheroes have morphed to fit our social needs of the time. Whether Iron Man the biggest superhero star at the moment, or Superman, about to renew his brand with Man of Steel, or The Dark Knight struggling to keep it together in Gotham City, we need superheroes to tackle problems that are too tough for mere mortals to handle.
"We look at Batman as being the ultimate policeman and Superman as the ultimate fireman," said Dan DiDio, the co-publisher for DC Entertainment, the comic book company that owns both franchises. "Superman is there to help people and save people. He is not passing judgment. He is not trying to push an agenda. When there are people in need, he is going to be there to help, no matter who they are."
Superheroes are the Greek gods of secular modern life - otherworldly figures able to tackle the problems of this human world. Like the gods of Greek mythology, they can be flawed. In fact, some argue that we need them to be flawed. Part of their appeal is that we can relate to them, despite their being superhuman.
Hans Zimmer, who scored the music for The Dark Knight trilogy and the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, said that while working on the Wagnerian theme music for Batman, the variation of a single note could signal hope, fear or vulnerability." "I'm playing some sort of musical chess," Zimmer said, noting that as the final installment of the Christopher Nolan trilogy began when Batman was wounded.
The superheroes themselves have changed their metaphorical tunes ever so slightly over the years in response to the challenges we need them to tackle throughout history. Superman first arrived from the planet Krypton in the 1930s during the gathering storm before World War II. In the cartoons of those early days, he fought Nazis and avenged the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In some ways, Superman was a Jewish superhero. Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, the two men who created Superman, were Jews, according to former DC Comics editor and comics teacher Jim Higgins, who teaches the Creating Comics class at the Los Angeles-based Meltdown Comics shop. He called Superman "a metaphor for the Jewish immigrant experience." "He's a strange visitor from another place," Higgins said. "He's a stranger in a strange land. He has to adapt to being there. He has to learn all the ways to be an American, the same way they did. You come to America, it's the land of opportunity, so you can become anything, even Superman."
Later, Vietnam and Watergate made us more cynical. Straight-arrow do-gooders suddenly seemed dated. That may explain why the Batman of the 1960s wouldn't dare take this superhero stuff too seriously. The '60s TV show was pure camp, an ironic take on the genre. For die-hard fans in those years, admitting you like men in tights became about as cool as attending a "Star Trek" convention. "For a long time, comics has this air of disrespectability," Higgins said.
That changed on Sept. 11, 2001, with the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The world was once again divided into good and evil, but was still morally complicated, flawed and vulnerable. Suddenly, superheroes came back in a big way. Captain America, a Marvel Comics character that originally debuted in the 1940s shortly after Superman, made a reemergence in the 2000s and the 2011 film, Captain America: The First Avenger, took on the 9/11 attacks. "To see Captain America standing at Ground Zero, sort of being, not like Batman - 'Rah, we'll get 'em' - no," Higgins said. "It was like he was there helping get people out of the debris and all that stuff, and then it was sort of the mourning period with Captain America, and Captain America was sort of like, 'Let's hold it all together.'"
The 2008 economic collapse doubled down on the chaos and uncertainty so that by the time The Dark Knight Rises was released in 2012, the story told of a troubled billionaire in a bat costume battling a villain who might as well be from Occupy Wall Street. Who do you root for in that scenario?
Times have changed not only in terms of the challenges the new Superman faces in Man of Steel, set to premiere on June 14, but also his day job. "Clark Kent is actually a blogger at this moment in time," DC's DiDio said. "He left the Daily Planet and is really going to establish himself in a way that makes him feel like he's in touch with the world today. He's a digital journalist."
Batman has moved on, too. Adam West, who starred as the classic Batman of the '60s, is now the voice of Mayor West on TV's Family Guy. To most folks, however, he will always be the Caped Crusader. In fact, he said he spent years trying to escape being a superhero. "Because I was typecast extraordinarily," West said. "It was difficult, but after five years of doing dumb films, I decided that people love Batman, so why the hell shouldn't I love Batman? Why be an ingrate? So I became rather fascinated by it and how to keep that particular culture thing going." West has found that superheroes never grow old. They just change with the times.
Questions for “The Psychology Behind Superhero Origin Stories”:
Why does the author feel that readers/viewers connect better to super heroes after learning about their background?
Define “altruism” in your own words based on how it’s used in the second paragraph.
What three life-altering experiences does the author discuss in the article?
Choose one of the three types of life-altering that you have experienced and explain how you responded to the situation? Was it heroic?
Questions for “Why Are We Obsessed With Superheroes?”:
How are modern super heroes similar to ancient Greek gods?
According to the article, why have super heroes needed to change over the years?
Choose one of the super heroes discussed in the article and explain how he has changed over time and what lead to the change.
What event does the author believe lead to the recent popularity of super heores?
Questions for BOTH articles:
Do the authors of the two articles agree on the issue of super heroes and why they are popular? Give specific information to support your answer.
Do you agree with the authors on why super heroes are currently popular? Give specific information the support your answer.