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  • This page contains:
  • Scenes for Reading Aloud
  • Discussion Questions
  • Research Projects
  • Creative Projects
  • Topic of Personal Inquiry
  • Topics of Literary, Artistic, and Social Examination
  • Text of "The New Colossus"

Because emphasis is often placed on having students relate a piece of literature to themselves, to the world as they perceive it, and to other pieces of literature, topics and activities that fulfill these functions are marked as follows:
T-S -- Text to Self
T-W -- Text to the World
T-T -- Text to Text

Scenes for Reading Aloud

Discussion Questions

1. How do Clara's yearnings and goals change during the course of the novel. What personal growth is revealed?

2. Throughout the novel there are social contrasts--rich and poor, suffering and insouciance. Speculate on how these serve to make Clara a more well-rounded person, as well as how they serve to make the novel transcend the period depicted.

3. Why is the poem, "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, so intensely moving to Edwin? How does he apply it to himself? Trace Clara's first reaction to it and her later references to it in order to show how it comes to be important to Clara as well. (T-T) (See insert at end of this guide.)

4. The official name of the Statue of Liberty is "Liberty Enlightening the World." How did the excursion with Edwin into New York Harbor start Clara on the road to enlightenment? (See insert at end of this guide.)

5. How is the Brooklyn Bridge a symbol of the time? Consider its style, the construction process, the nationalities of men and the one woman who worked on it, and Whitman's poem, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." (T-T) Why were Edwin, and then Clara so moved by it?

6. At the first Tiffany Ball with Edwin in Chapter Nine, Clara says, "We straddled a double world." Trace how that plays out in Clara's experience, paying attention to what she learned from Edwin.

7. Of all of the adjectives Clara and Alice heap on Tiffany in Chapter Twenty-seven, which ones do you believe are justified and which are exaggerations? In spite of their accusations, Clara says in the same scene that she adores him. How can that be? Did she truly love him? What kind of love was it?

8. Borrowing a line by Walt Whitman, George declares himself to be, "a cosmos, of Manhattan the son." In what way is he? (T-T)

9. . Mr. Tiffany makes a surprising final concession in Chapter Forty-seven. What was it based on? In light of it, should Clara have stayed working at Tiffany Studios? How was her decision right or wrong for her?

10. How was Clara's love different for each of the five men in her life? Given that love can sometimes be an indefinable thing, in each case, what prompted her love and how did it change, if at all?

Research Projects

1. At the turn of the nineteenth century, how was the population of Manhattan divided into neighborhoods along social, cultural, and economic lines. Use a map of Manhattan and draw lines indicating neighborhoods, and write a paragraph about each covering architecture, significant buildings, retail outlets, ethnicities, cultural or material contributions. Use as one of your sources, How the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis. (T-W)

2. Hank McBride, the collector and disseminator of New York facts, might well have reported that an immigrant metalworker living in the Lower East Side made the first ball that descended from the Times Tower in 1907. Research its history from its inception to today. What does its development show? What other contributions were made by immigrants ten years before and ten years after the turn of the nineteenth century? (T-W)

3. Wilhelmina reveals that she is living with some girls who work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. A major event happened in this sweatshop that changed the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. Research what that event was and what the repercussions of it were. (T-W)

4. Describe the types of piecework done in people's apartments and tenements, and how much were they paid. Relate their income to cost of living for a family of five. Use as one of your sources, How the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis. (T-W)

5. In the mayor's speech on New Year's Eve of 1899, ushering in the new century, he mentioned the Erie Canal, (Chapter Twenty-five). Analyze its need, its creation, and its effect on New York City and the nation. How did that speech affect Clara? (T-W)

6. Research Walt Whitman's life and the role he played in New York. Hank defends his importance to Mrs. Hackley but does not give reasons. Infer what his reasons might have been. (T-W)

7. Research Oscar Wilde's life and the role he played in the arts (literary and visual) and society of New York and London. Explain why was he significant? (T-W)

Creative Projects

1. You are a stained-glass lamp designer like Clara. Design a lamp (shade and base) using a flower or animal that is not mentioned as one of Clara's designs. Prepare a fan-shaped watercolor of one third of the shade, to be repeated around the shape.

2. You are a stained-glass window designer like Agnes who designed a memorial window for her father. Design a memorial window for a famous statesman, world leader, or person in the arts using a theme that depicts her or his contribution to the nation. (T-W) Or design one for your parent or grandparent. (T-S) Draw in the lead lines following the shapes, taking care not to create pieces of glass impossible to cut. Paint it.

3. You are a stained-glass artisan like Miss Stoney. Using a famous painting which depicts some figures, draw in the lead lines so that they follow the lines in the original, avoiding creating lines that cut across features and avoiding creating pieces of glass that would be too hard to cut. Determine at least five types of glass to be used and indicate their positions and purposes. See Tiffany glass on Wikipedia. Make at least three areas that require plating, and describe the colors and textures in order to get the effect that you indicate. (See Chapter Ten.) (T-W)

4. You are an interior decorator like George. Select a famous, relatively well-off person from a period at least 75 years ago and decorate a room (parlor, dining room, or bedroom) in this person's house in a way that would reflect his or her tastes and time period. Supply designs for furniture, wall and floor coverings, decorative items, and window treatment. Give dimensions and materials. Draw decorative items, fabric prints, and the layout of the room in two views, looking down on it and at it from the side using principles of perspective. (T-W)

5. You are an industrial designer like William York. Make a list of items he might have designed that are no longer in use. Choose one and design it on a drawing with dimensions, materials, colors. Then make a model of it in balsa wood using those dimensions.

6. You are a social worker like Edwin in the Lower East Side. Prioritize the needs of the immigrant population there and design an organization to meet those needs. What skills would the employees need to have, and what would be the funding sources for the organization. Write a speech or a letter intended to raise funds.

7. You are a social writer. Clara refers to an etiquette book, The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen, given to her by her mother, a "do's and don'ts compendium. Write it, with twenty social rules for men, twenty for women, and twenty that apply to both genders. Do not let the style of your writing betray that you live in the 21st century. (T-W)

8. You are a songwriter of Tin Pan Alley. Reflect on the songs in the novel: Yankee Doodle; Clementine; Sidewalks of New York; America the Beautiful; In the Good Ole' Summertime. Research the Tin Pan Alley style, rhythm, and instrumentation. Compose another popular Tin Pan Alley song that could fit into a scene, keeping in mind the time period. Identify the scene, tell who sings it, and how someone else reacts to it.

9. You are a reporter or editorial writer of the New York Post. Keeping in mind your choice (news report or editorial), write on one of the following:

a. End of the nineteenth century (1800's); beginning of the twentieth century (1900's). Compose and include more slogans than the one in the novel. (T-W)

b. The event at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and a follow-up editorial one month later. (T-W)

c. The opening of the subway. Consider technology and resulting changes in New York City and people's lives. (T-W)

10. You are a contributing writer of Susan B. Anthony's periodical, Revolution. Take up a women's issue of the time and write an impassioned editorial which exposes, assesses, and convinces readers of the correctness of your stance. Conclude with a call to action. (T-S)

Topic of Personal Inquiry

By interviewing parents and grandparents, determine when your ancestors came to the United States, what their port of entry was, where they settled, whether there were any changes in their names, and what their occupations were in their native country and their adopted country. Research the immigration of your cultural or national group and speculate further than your known family history. Consult and cite at least two books used as references. (T-S)

Topics of Literary, Artistic, and Social Examination

1. In the twelfth draft of the novel, I included this line in Chapter Forty-seven just after Clara sees the sandpiper: "Maybe my real lifework was loving." In the thirteenth draft, I took it out. Did I do right or should I have left it in? Defend the correctness of Clara's self-assessment by giving examples. In the context of your examples, define love in three ways.

2. Write a portrait of New York City between 1892 and 1908, the years encompassing the novel. Create either a broad picture, or a deep picture focusing on one aspect more narrowly. (T-W)

3. A classical definition of tragedy includes these elements: The tragic hero/heroine is a respected person with high social status. He or she has many fine qualities, but his/her character is marred by a tragic flaw which brings about his or her ultimate downfall. Often that downfall occurs at the apogee of the person's life. As a result of coming so close to the desired achievement or outcome yet failing, the reader (or audience, if the work is a play) experiences a cathartic feeling mixing upliftment and disappointment. Describe how each of these elements plays out in the lives of two characters. Compare and contrast them as tragic figures.

4. Part of literary study involves the tracing of literary influences. Examine all of Vreeland's references to Whitman's Leaves of Grass, which includes "Song of Myself," in the contexts of the poems and the novel, and relate them to the character or characters who call them forth.. Analyze why you think Dudley, Hank, and George were so attracted to this poet. Determine which expressions of Whitman's philosophy take root and grow in their thinking. Locate and quote passages where the voice of Dudley is influenced by Whitman. Discover in Leaves of Grass some passage not appearing in the novel that would have appealed to these men and would have fit the narrative. Quote it and assess why they would have liked it. (T-T)

5. Examine all of Vreeland's references to Emily Dickinson. Show how they relate to Clara and how she uses them for her own purposes. Explain why you think Clara was so attracted to this poet. Determine what expressions of Dickinson's philosophy take root and grow in her thinking. Locate and quote a passage or complete poem of Dickinson not appearing in the novel, and illustrate how it would develop Clara's character or illumine her thinking. (T-T)

6. Speculate what might have happened if Edwin came back to New York to find Clara. Predict her response. Defend your prediction by selecting lines of Clara's dialogue or interior monologue.

"The New Colossus" is a sonnet written in 1883 by American poet Emma Lazarus, child of Portuguese immigrants. It was given as a donation to an auction conducted by the Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty to raise funds to build the pedestal. Emma Lazarus died in 1887, sixteen years before the full text of the poem was mounted on a bronze plaque inside the Statue (1903) and twenty-five years before the final lines of the poem were engraved on a bronze plaque on the pedestal itself in 1912.

                 The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The poem is in the public domain because it is a work of the U.S. Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

For a speculative image of the Colossus of Rhodes, see:

For another Colossus image with text,
Click on Link: " ... "

Do you find it ironic that although she declares to ancient lands to keep their storied pomp, yet she employs the traditional Italian sonnet form of eight lines for the presentation of issue and six lines for commentary? For a more American form, we would have to turn to the broad strokes and extended lines of Whitman, or the condensed irregularities of Dickinson.

Since Bloom's Taxonomy ranking thinking skills often informs curriculum, those directives in the taxonomy used in this guide are underlined. Skills from the following categories are involved in the discussion and writing cues and activities above. All levels are represented in these activities, and thirty-three of Bloom's forty-five directives are used: