Elaboration / explanation of how this evidence supports ideas or argument
…there lived an Emperor who was so fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on them…just as they say of a king, “He is in the council chamber,” so they always said of him, “The Emperor is in his dressing room.”
This is an important quote for it sets the foundation for how the Emperor was so easily duped by the swindlers.
“Heaven help us!” he thought, and opened his eyes wide. “Why, I cannot see anything at all,” but he was careful not to say so…“No, no I must not tell anyone I couldn’t see the cloth.”
The honest old minister was the first to see the material. His reaction is important because it shows how afraid he is of being unworthy of office or being hopelessly stupid. His fears distort reality.
Like the old minister, he [another honest official] looked and looked but could see nothing, as there was nothing to be seen.
The next official has the same fears.
“Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?” said the two swindlers, showing and explaining the magnificent pattern, which, however, was not there at all.
The swindlers make an ironic observation when they ask, “Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?” They are almost openly mocking the Emperor and his officials by stating the truth.
“What is this?” thought the Emperor. “I do not see anything at all. This is terrible! Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be Emperor?”
It’s interesting that the Emperor is allowing an invisible piece of material to dictate his ability to rule. When he questions his own stupidity you have to think, well, yes you are stupid.
This is ironic because the Emperor proves himself a fool by not backing down and pretending that he is still wearing something. It focuses on how people can be followers and leaders at the same time, as well as being stubborn.
Once students have completed the evidence chart, they should look back at the writing prompt in order to remind themselves what kind of response they are writing (i.e. expository, analytical, argumentative) and think about the evidence they found. (Depending on the grade level, teachers may want to review students’ evidence charts in some way to ensure accuracy.) From here, students should develop a specific thesis statement. This could be done independently, with a partner, small group, or the entire class. Consider directing students to the following sites to learn more about thesis statements: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/545/01/ OR http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/ thesis_statement.shtml.
Students compose a rough draft. With regard to grade level and student ability, teachers should decide how much scaffolding they will provide during this process (i.e. modeling, showing example pieces, sharing work as students go).
Students complete final draft.
In the short story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson, an emperor “so fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on them” is deceived by two swindlers who prey on this weakness. These swindlers tell the Emperor that they can weave a beautiful cloth which cannot be seen by anyone who is not suited for their job or who is hopelessly stupid. At first the Emperor sees this as an opportunity to find out who in his employ is unfit for their position, but the plan backfires when the Emperor is unable to see the cloth. He is now more concerned with his own ineptitude. To focus the reader’s attention to the theme of how perception doesn’t always reflect reality, the author repeats the phrase, “For there was nothing there at all” throughout the story; this highlights the irony that most of the characters construct their personal perception based on their own fears, and not on what is clearly seen as reality.
The author wastes no time telling the reader about the Emperor’s greatest flaw, that “he was so fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on them” (p. 138). It is this character flaw that initially allows the swindlers to set up their bluff. They can then take advantage of the Emperor’s power over his subjects to continue the deception.
The first character to “see” the invisible material is the honest old minister. He’s shocked when he sees nothing at all and fears he is not fit for his position. This thinking distorts his perception of reality, “No, no I must not tell anyone that I couldn’t see the cloth” (p.138). It is at this point that the ironic phrase, “there was nothing to be seen” (p.138) first appears. It is obvious to the reader that there is no material, and yet the author repeats this phrase again and again to show it is not obvious to the characters because their perception is guided by their own personal fears.
Eventually it is the Emperor’s turn to “see” the invisible material for himself. As expected, the Emperor is shocked and concerned that he is unfit for his position. “‘What is this?’ thought the Emperor. ‘I do not see anything at all!’” (p.139). But instead of stating the obvious, he pretends to see that which is not there. Everyone in the room continues to claim to see the invisible clothes, fearing to disagree with the Emperor.
It isn’t until the end of the story that reality is finally embraced by an innocent child: “But he has nothing on at all!” (p.140); immediately the whole town hears the truth and agrees with the child. Even though the Emperor knows the child and the townspeople are seeing the truth, his pride keeps him from admitting it and the Emperor continues in the procession wearing clothes which are “not there at all” (p.140).
Anderson’s use of repetition points out the irony of the situation. All of the characters are given the chance to view the invisible material. They must then choose to accept the reality of what they see or the perception of what they fear. However, with the exception of the child, the characters cannot see the truth due to their self-doubts of being unfit for office or hopelessly stupid. They all choose to see the invisible cloth, which ironically does make them unfit for office and hopelessly stupid. By repeating the phrase “not there at all,” Anderson points out that humans choose how they wish to perceive the world, and it is sometimes based on their own fears and weaknesses.
Readers often find different themes in the same story. From the following generalizations, choose the one that you think best states the main theme of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Come up with a better statement of the theme if you can.
We should not trust people who use flattery.
People often do not speak the truth to the powerful because they’re afraid of looking foolish.
An honest person can be trusted to always tell the truth.
Children always tell the truth.
Explain why you chose the theme you did. Be sure to give examples from the story to support your theme.
Answer: Most students will select b, since it is shown most clearly by the two honest advisors and the adults watching the parade. After having students share their answers, go back to the “Big Idea” - Perception doesn’t always reflect reality. Discuss what this means and how it can be applied to life in general beyond the story.
Note to Teacher
SchoolTube has video clips for looms and weaving that may help students understand the weaving process.