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BACO BSEN-3 Engl 14

True! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and
am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had
sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above
all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the
heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then,
am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I
can tell you the whole story.
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but
once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was
none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never
wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had
no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye
of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it
fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees --very
gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man,
and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know
nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen
how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what
foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never
kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed
him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his
door and opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made
an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all
closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my
head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust
it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not
disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my
whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he
lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as
this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the
lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges
creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon
the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every
night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so
it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who
vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day
broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously
to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how
he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very
profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at
twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.
Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in
opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly
than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my
own powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my
feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door,
little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or
thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me;
for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may
think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch
with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened,
through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the
opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily. I
had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my
thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up
in bed, crying out --"Who's there?" I kept quite still and said
nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the
meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in
the bed listening; --just as I have done, night after night,
hearkening to the death watches in the wall.
Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of
mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it
was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul
when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a
night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up
from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the
terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the
old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I
knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight
noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever
since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them
causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is
nothing but the wind in the chimney --it is only a mouse
crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a
single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with
these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain;
because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black
shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the
mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him
to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the presence
of my head within the room.
When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing
him lie down, I resolved to open a little --a very, very little
crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how
stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a simple dim ray, like the
thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon
the vulture eye. It was open --wide, wide open --and I grew
furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness --all
a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very
marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old
man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct,
precisely upon the damned spot. And have I not told you that
what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the
sense? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick
sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew
that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It
increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the
soldier into courage.
But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held
the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the
ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart
increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder
every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It
grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me
well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the
dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old
house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable
terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still.
But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must
burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be
heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a
loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He
shrieked once --once only. In an instant I dragged him to the
floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to
find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat
on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it
would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The
old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse.
Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart
and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was
stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.
If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I
describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the
body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.
First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the
arms and the legs. I then took up three planks from the flooring
of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then
replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye
--not even his --could have detected anything wrong. There was
nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind --no blood-spot
whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --
ha! ha! When I had made an end of these labors, it was four
o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour,
there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it
with a light heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered
three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as
officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour
during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused;
information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the
officers) had been deputed to search the premises. I smiled, --for
what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I
said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was
absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I
bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to his
chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In
the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room,
and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself,
in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat
upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the
The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I
was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily,
they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself
getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I
fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted.
The ringing became more distinct: --It continued and became
more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it
continued and gained definiteness --until, at length, I found that
the noise was not within my ears. No doubt I now grew very
pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice.
Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low,
dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when
enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers
heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the
noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a
high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily
increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and
fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations
of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what
could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon
which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the
noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --
louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and
smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no!
They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making
a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But
anything was better than this agony! Anything was more
tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical
smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --
again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!
"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --
tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous

2. The Road Not Taken

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.



1. a work of artifice
BY: Marge Piercy
The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

2. Period
By: Dominique christina
 So to my daughter / Should any fool mishandle that wild
geography of your body, / how it rides a red running
current like any good wolf or witch / well then just
bleed, boo. / Get that blood a biblical name / something
of stone and mortar. / Name it after Eve's first rebellion
in that garden / name it after the last little girl to have
her genitals mutilated in Kinshasa / that was this
morning. / Give it as many syllables as there are
unreported rape cases."
3.Phenomenal Woman (1978)

By: Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.



glanced level, and remained upon the waves that swept
toward them. These waves were gray, except for the tops,
which were white, and all the men knew the colors of the sea.
The line between sky and water narrowed and widened, and
fell and rose. A man likes to take a bath in a bigger area than
this boat could provide. These waves were frightfully rapid
and tall; and each boiling, white top was a problem in the small
boat. The cook sat in the bottom, and looked with both eyes at
the six inches of boat which separated him from the ocean. He
had bared his fat arms as he worked to empty the water from
the boat. Often he said, “God! That was a bad one.” As he
remarked it, he always looked toward the east over the rough
sea. p S t e p h e n C r a n e The oiler, guiding with one of the
two oars in the boat, sometimes raised himself suddenly to
keep away from the water that poured in. It was a thin little oar,
and it often seemed ready to break. The correspondent,
pulling at the other oar, watched the waves and wondered why
he was there. The hurt captain, lying in the front, was feeling
defeat and despair. It was despair that comes, for a time at
least, to even the bravest and most enduring when the
business fails, the army loses, the ship goes down. The mind
of the master of a vessel is rooted deep in her wood, whether
he commands for a day or many. And this captain had in his
thoughts the firm impression of a scene in the grays of dawn,
with seven faces turned down in the sea. And later the remains
of the ship, washed by waves, going low and lower and down.
Thereafter there was something strange in his voice. Although
steady, it was deep with grief, and of a quality beyond speech
or tears. “Keep her a little more south, Billie,” said he. “A little
more south, sir,” said the oiler in the back. A seat in this boat
was not unlike a seat upon a jumpy horse, and a horse is not
much smaller. The boat was much like an animal. As each
wave came, and she rose for it, she seemed like a horse
leaping over a high fence. The manner of her ride over these
walls of water is a thing of mystery. Each wave required a new
leap, and a leap from the air. Then jumping and slipping and
racing and dropping down, she steadied for the next threat. A
particular danger of the sea is the fact that after successfully
getting through one wave, you discover that there is another
behind it. The next wave is just as nervously anxious and
purposeful to overturn boats. In a ten-foot boat one can get a
good idea of the great force of the sea. As each gray wall of
water approached, it shut all else from the view of the men in
the boat. It was not difficult to imagine that this particular wave
was the final outburst of the ocean, the last effort of the
determined water. The sun climbed steadily up the sky. The
men knew it was broad day because the color of the sea
changed from gray to green and the 2 T h e O p e n B o a t
white tops were like falling snow. From their low boat they
could not see the sun rise. Only the color of the waves that
rolled toward them told them that day was breaking. The oiler
and the correspondent rowed the tiny boat. And they rowed.
They sat together in the same seat, and each rowed an oar.
Then the oiler took both oars; then the correspondent took
both oars; then the oiler; then the correspondent. They rowed
and they rowed. The captain, hesitating in the front, after the
boat had climbed a great wave, said that he had seen the light
at Mosquito Inlet. After a while, the cook remarked that he had
seen it. The correspondent was at the oars then and he, too,
wished to look at the lighthouse. But his back was toward the
far shore. The waves were important, and for some time he
could not seize an opportunity to turn his head. But at last
there came a wave more gentle than the others. When at the
top of it, he hurriedly searched the western water with his
eyes. “See it?” asked the captain. “No,” said the
correspondent slowly, “I didn’t see anything.” “Look again,”
said the captain. He pointed. “It’s exactly in that direction.” At
the top of another wave the correspondent did as he was told.
This time his eyes found a small, still thing on the edge of the
moving ocean. It was exactly like the point of a pin. It took an
anxious eye to find a lighthouse so tiny. “Think we’ll reach it,
Captain?” “If this wind stays steady and the boat doesn’t sink,
we can’t do much else,” said the captain hopefully. Then he
added, “Empty her, cook.” “All right, Captain,” said the
cheerful cook. It would be difficult to describe the secure bond
between men that was here established on the seas. No one
said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it was on the boat,
and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an oiler,
a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends—friends
in a more strangely iron-bound strength than 3 S t e p h e n C
r a n e may be ordinary. The hurt captain, lying against the
water jar in the front, spoke always in a low voice and calmly.
But he could never command a more ready-to-obey ship’s
company than the other three in the boat. It was more than a
mere recognition of what was best for their safety. There was
surely in it a quality that was personal and heartfelt. And after
this devotion to the commander of the boat, there was this
oneness. The correspondent, who had been taught to be a
hard judge of men, knew even at the time that it was the best
experience of his life. But no one said it was so. No one
mentioned it. “I wish we had a sail,” remarked the captain. “We
might try my coat on the end of an oar. It would give you two
boys a chance to rest.” So the cook and the correspondent
held the oar and spread wide the coat. Sometimes the oiler
had to turn sharply to keep the sea from breaking into the boat.
But, otherwise, sailing was a success. The lighthouse had
been growing slowly larger. It now almost had color and
appeared like a little gray shadow on the sky. The men holding
high the oar could not be prevented from turning their heads
quite often to glance at this little gray shadow. At last, from
the top of each wave, the men in the rolling boat could see
land. As the lighthouse was a shadow on the sky, this land
seemed only a long the correspondent did not now have to
labor to hold high the oar. But the waves continued pushing
and turning and washing the boat. Slowly the land rose from
the sea. From a black line it became a line of black and white—
trees and sand. Finally the captain said he could see a house
on the shore. “They’ll see us before long and come out after
us,” said the cook. The distant lighthouse rose high. “The
keeper ought to be able to see us now,” said the captain.
“None of those other boats could have reached shore black
shadow on the sea. It certainly was thinner than paper. The
wind slowly died away. The cook and to give word of our ship,”
said the oiler, in a low voice, “or the lifeboat would be out 4 T
h e O p e n B o a t hunting for us.” Slowly and beautifully the
land came out of the sea. The wind came again. Finally a new
sound struck the ears of the men in the boat. It was the low
thunder of waves beating the shore. “We’ll never be able to
reach the lighthouse now,” said the captain. “Swing her a little
more north, Billie.” “A little more north, sir,” said the oiler. So
the little boat turned her nose once more down the wind. All
except the oarsman watched the shore grow. Doubt and fear
were leaving the minds of the men. The management of the
boat still took most of their attention, but it could not prevent
a quiet cheerfulness. In an hour, perhaps, they would be on
shore. The nearness of success shone in their eyes.
Everybody took a drink of water. “Cook,” remarked the
captain, “there doesn’t seem to be any sign of life about the
house.” “No,” replied the cook. “Strange they don’t see us.”
Tide, wind and waves were swinging the boat north. “Strange
they don’t see us,” said the men. The sea’s roar was here
dulled, but its tone was nevertheless thundering and huge. As
the boat swam over the great waves, the men sat listening to
this roar. “We’ll overturn,” said everybody. It is fair to say here
that there was not a lifesaving station within twenty miles in
either direction. But the men did not know this fact, and so
they made bitter remarks concerning the eyesight of the
nation’s lifesavers. Four unhappy men sat in the boat and
murmured, “Strange they don’t see us.” The earlier
lightheartedness had completely disappeared. To their
sharpened minds it was easy to imagine all kinds of idleness
and blindness, and indeed, lack of courage. There was the
shore of the land, and it was bitter and bitter to them that from
it came no sign. The captain said at last, “I suppose we’ll have
to make a try for ourselves. If we stay out here too long, none
of us will have strength to swim after the boat goes under.” 5
S t e p h e n C r a n e And so the oiler, who was at the oars,
turned the boat straight for the shore. There was a sudden
tightening of muscles. There was some thinking. “If we don’t
all get to shore,” said the captain, “—if we don’t all get to
shore, I suppose you fellows know where to send news of my
finish?” Then they briefly exchanged some addresses and
instructions. As for the thoughts of the men, there was a great
deal of anger in them. They might be summed up this way: “If
I am going to lose my life to the sea—if I am going to lose my
life to the sea—why was I allowed to come this far to see sand
and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose
dragged away as I was about to taste the holy food of life? “It
is crazy. If this old fool woman, Fate, cannot do better than
this, she should be forced from the management of men’s
fortunes. She is an old chicken who knows not her purposes.
If she has decided to kill me, why did she not do it in the
beginning and save me all this trouble? The whole affair is
mad—but no; she cannot mean to kill me. She dare not. She
cannot. Not after all this work.” And then each man might have
had the urge to shout at the clouds. “Just kill me now, and
then hear what I call you!” The waves that came at this time
were more fierce. They seemed always to break and roll over
the little boat in a mass of boiling white and gray. The shore
was still far away. The oiler was a wise seaman. “Boys,” he
cried out, “she won’t live three minutes more, and we’re too
far out to swim. Shall I take her to sea again, Captain?” “Yes,
go ahead!” said the captain. The oiler, by a series of quick
movements, great skill, and fast and steady work with the
oars, turned the boat in the middle of the tide and took her to
sea again. There was a long silence as the boat rose and
dropped over the rough sea to deeper water. Then somebody
slowly spoke: “Well, they must have seen us from shore by
now.” “What do you think of those lifesaving people?”
“Strange they haven’t seen us.” “Maybe they think we are out
here for sport! Maybe they think 6 T h e O p e n B o a t we’re
fishing. Maybe they think we are fools.” It was a long
afternoon. A changed tide tried to force them south, but wind
and wave said north. Far ahead, where coastline, sea and sky
met, there were little dots which seemed to indicate a city on
the shore. “St. Augustine?” The captain shook his head. “Too
near Mosquito Inlet.” And the oiler rowed, and the
correspondent rowed. It was a tiring business. “Did you ever
like to row, Billie?” asked the correspondent. “No,” said the
oiler, “I hate it!” When one exchanged the rowing seat for a
place in the bottom of the boat, he suffered a bodily
experience that caused him to be careless of everything
except an obligation to move one finger. There was cold sea
water washing back and forth in the boat, and he lay in it. His
head was pillowed on wood within an inch of the waves along
the side. Sometimes the sea came in and bathed him once
more. But this did not trouble him. It is almost certain that if
the boat had sunk he would have fallen comfortably out upon
the ocean as if it were a great soft bed. “Look! There’s a man
on the shore!” “Where?” “There! See him? See him?” “Yes,
sure! He’s walking along.” “Now he’s stopped. Look! He’s
facing us!” “He’s waving at us!” “So he is! By thunder!” “Now
we’re all right! Now we’re all right! There’ll be a boat out here
for us in half an hour.” “He’s going on. He’s running. He’s
going up to that house there.” The distant beach seemed
lower than the sea, and required a searching glance to see the
little black figure! The captain saw a floating stick, and they
rowed to it. A white cloth was by some strange chance in the
boat. Tying this on the stick, the captain waved it. The man at
the oars did not dare turn his head, so he was obliged to ask
questions. “What’s he doing now?” 7 S t e p h e n C r a n e
“He’s standing still again. He’s looking, I think. There he goes
again—toward the house. Now he’s stopping again.” “Is he
waving at us?” “No, not now; he was, though.” “Look! There
comes another man!” “He’s running.” “Look at him go!”
“Look! There’s a fellow waving a little black flag. I’ve never
seen anyone wave so hard! There come those other two
fellows. Now they are talking together. Look at the fellow with
the flag. I’ve never seen anyone wave so hard!” “That isn’t a
flag, is it? That’s his coat. Certainly, that’s his coat.” “So it is;
it’s his coat! He’s taken it off and is waving around his head.
But would you look at him swing it!” “What does that fool with
the coat mean? What’s he signaling anyhow?” “It looks as if
he were trying to tell us to go north. There must be a lifesaving
station up there.” “No, he thinks we’re fishing. Just giving us
a merry hand. See? There, Billie.” “I wish I could understand
those signals. What do you suppose he means?” “He doesn’t
mean anything; he’s just playing.” “Well, if he’d just signal us
to try again; or to go to sea and wait; or go north, or go south,
or go to hell, there would be some reason in it. But look at him!
He stands there and keeps his coat turning around like a
wheel. The fool!” “There come some more people.” “Now
there’s quite a mob. Look! Isn’t that a boat?” “Where? Oh, I
see where you mean. No, that’s no boat.” “That fellow is still
waving his coat.” “He must think we like to see him do that.
Why doesn’t he stop it? It doesn’t mean anything.” “I don’t
know. I think he is trying to make us go north. There 8 must be
a lifesaving station there somewhere.” “He isn’t tired yet. Look
at him wave!” “I wonder how long he can do that. He’s been
swinging his coat around ever since he caught sight of us.
He’s crazy. Why aren’t they getting men to bring a boat out? A
fishing boat could come out here all right. Why won’t he do
something?” “Oh, it’s all right now.” “They’ll have a boat out
here for us soon, now that they have seen us.” A faint yellow
color came into the sky over the low land. The shadows on the
sea slowly deepened. The wind brought coldness with it, and
the men felt it. “My God!” said one, allowing his voice to
express his feeling. “If we have to wait around out here! If
we’ve got to stay out here all night!” “Oh, we’ll never have to
stay here all night! Don’t worry! They’ve seen us now, and
they’ll come out after us soon.” The shore grew dark. The man
waving the coat and the group of people gradually became
part of this darkness. “I’d like to catch the one who waved the
coat. I feel like hitting him hard, just for luck.” “Why? What did
he do?” “Oh, nothing, but he seemed so—cheerful!” And so
the oiler rowed, and then the correspondent rowed, and then
the oiler rowed. Gray-faced and bent forward steadily, turn by
turn, they lifted the heavy oars. The form of the lighthouse was
gone from their view, but finally a pale star appeared, just
lifting from the sea. “If 1 am going to lose my life to the sea—
if I am going to lose my life to the sea—why was I allowed to
come this far and see sand and trees? Was I brought here
merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to taste
the holy food of life?” The patient captain, leaning against the
water jar, was sometimes obliged to speak to the oarsman.
“Keep her head up! Keep her head up!” “Keep her head up,
sir.” The voices were tired and low. 9 T h e O p e n B o a t S t
e p h e n C r a n e This was surely a quiet evening. All except
the oarsman lay heavily motionless in the boat’s bottom. A
night on the sea in an open boat is a long night. As darkness
fell, the shine of the light, lifting from the sea in the south,
changed to full gold. In the north, a new light appeared—a
small blue glow on the edge of the waters. These two lights
were the furniture of the world. Otherwise there was nothing
but waves. The plan of the oiler and the correspondent was for
one to row until he was no longer able. Then he would wake
the other from his dead sleep in the bottom of the boat. The
oiler worked the oars until his head dropped forward and the
overpowering sleep blinded him; and he rowed some more.
Then he touched a man in the bottom of the boat, and called
his name, “Will you row for a little while?” he asked softly.
“Sure, Billie,” said the correspondent, slowly dragging himself
to a sitting position. They exchanged places carefully. And the
oiler, slipping down in the sea water at the cook’s side,
seemed to go to sleep instantly. Though the huge size of the
waves had lessened, they still rolled the boat high. The man at
the oars tried to keep her pointing into the waves so she would
not turn over. The black waves were silent and hard to see in
the darkness. Often one was almost upon the boat before the
oarsman knew it. In a low voice the correspondent spoke to
the captain. He was not sure that the captain was awake,
although this iron man seemed to be always awake. “Captain,
shall I keep her going toward that light north, sir!” The same
steady voice answered him. “Yes. Keep the light a little to the
left.” The correspondent, as he rowed, looked down at the two
men sleeping underfoot. The cook’s arm was around the
oiler’s shoulders, and with their scarce clothing and tired
faces, they were the babies of the sea—a strange picture of
two old babies. After a time it seemed that even the captain
slept, and the cor10 T h e O p e n B o a t respondent thought
that he was the only man afloat on all the ocean. The wind had
a voice as it came over the waves, and it was sadder than
death. “If I am going to lose my life to the sea—if 1 am going
to lose my life to the sea—why was I allowed to come this far
and see sand and trees?” During the long night, a man might
decide that it was really the purpose of the seven mad gods to
kill him in spite of the awful cruelty of it. But it was certainly
not justice to kill a man who had worked so hard, so hard. The
man felt it would be a crime. Other people had died at sea
since the beginning of ships, but still— Later the
correspondent spoke into the bottom of the boat. “Billie!”
There was a slow and gradual movement. “Billie, would you
row for a while?” “Sure,” said the oiler. As soon as the
correspondent touched the cold, comfortable sea water in the
bottom of the boat and had pressed close to the cook’s side,
he was deep in sleep in spite of the cold. This sleep was so
good to him that it was but a moment before he heard a voice
call his name in a tone that showed great weakness. “Will you
row now?” “Sure, Billie.” The light in the north had strangely
disappeared, but the wideawake captain told the
correspondent how to go. Later in the night, they took the boat
farther out to sea. The captain told the cook to take one oar at
the rear and keep the boat facing the seas. This plan enabled
the oiler and correspondent to rest together. “We’ll give those
boys a chance to gather some strength,” said the captain.
They curled down and slept once more the dead sleep. When
the correspondent again opened his eyes, the sea and the sky
were each of the gray color of dawn. Later, pink and gold light
shone upon the waters. The morning appeared finally, in its
splendid form—a sky of pure blue, and the sunlight flamed on
the tips of the waves. On the distant sands were many little
black houses, and a tall, 11 S t e p h e n C r a n e white windmill
rose above them. No man nor dog appeared on the beach. It
might have been a deserted village. The voyagers searched
the shore with their eyes. They considered their position. The
captain said, “If no help is coming, we might better try to reach
land right away. If we stay out here much longer we will be too
weak to do anything for ourselves at all.” The others silently
agreed to this reasoning. The boat was going toward the
beach. The correspondent wondered if anyone ever climbed
the tall wind tower, and if, then, he ever looked at the sea. This
tower was a giant, standing with its back to the danger of small
creatures. It represented to the correspondent the calm of
Nature against the struggles of the individual—Nature in the
wind, and Nature in the sight of men. Nature did not seem cruel
to him then, nor kind, nor dangerous, nor wise. But she was
not interested, completely not interested. It is, perhaps,
probable that a man in this situation, impressed with the lack
of concern of the world, should see the many faults in his own
life. They may rest badly in his mind, and he may wish for
another chance. The difference between right and wrong
seems all too clear to him then. And he understands that if he
were given another opportunity, he would improve his
conduct and his words. “Now, boys,” said the captain, “she is
going to go under. All we can do is take her in as far as
possible, and then when she sinks, jump out and go toward
the beach. Keep cool now, and don’t jump until she goes
under.” The oiler took the oars. “Captain,” he said, “I think I’d
better keep her head to the seas and back her in.” “All right,
Billie,” said the captain. “Back her in.” The oiler turned the
boat then and, seated in the rear, the cook and the
correspondent had to look over their shoulders to see the
lonely and distant shore. The huge waves lifted the boat high.
“We won’t get in very close,” said the captain. Each time a man
could turn his attention from the sea, he glanced toward the
shore, and in the expression of the eyes there was a
remarkable quality. The correspondent, observing the others,
knew 12 T h e O p e n B o a t that they were not afraid, but the
full meaning of their glances was hidden. As for himself, he
was too tired to fully understand the fact. He tried to force his
mind into thinking of it, but the mind was slave now to the
muscles. And the muscles said they did not care. He merely
thought that if he should die it would be a shame. There were
no hurried words, no apparent fears. The men simply looked
at the shore. “Now remember to get well away from the boat
when you jump,” said the captain. A wave suddenly fell with a
thundering roar, and the water came rushing down upon the
boat. “Steady, now,” said the captain. The men were silent.
They turned their eyes from the shore and waited. Then the
next wave broke upon them. Rolling floods of white water
caught the boat and whipped it around. Water came in from all
sides. The little boat, dying under this weight of water, sank
deeper into the sea. “Empty her out, cook! Empty her out!”
said the captain. “All right, Captain,” said the cook. “Now,
boys, the next one will finish us,” said the oiler. “Remember
to jump free of the boat.” The third wave moved forward—
huge, angry, merciless. It seemed to drink the tiny boat and,
at the same time, threw the men into the sea. The January
water was icy. The correspondent thought immediately that it
was colder than he had expected to find it off the coast of
Florida. This appeared to his dulled mind as a matter
important enough to be noted at the time. The coldness of the
water was sad; it was very sad. This fact was somehow mixed
with opinion of his own situation, so that it seemed almost a
proper reason for tears. The water was cold. When he came to
the surface, he knew of little but the noisy water. Afterward he
saw his companions in the sea. The oiler was ahead in the
race. He was swimming strongly and rapidly. Off to the
correspondent’s left, cook’s great back appeared out of the
water. Behind him the captain was hanging with his one
unhurt hand to the overturned boat. 13 S t e p h e n C r a n e
There is a certain motionless quality to a shore, and the
correspondent wondered that it could exist so near the awful
sea. It seemed very desirable. But the correspondent knew
that it was a long journey, and he swam slowly. But finally he
arrived at a place in the sea where travel was difficult. He did
not stop swimming to consider what kind of current had
caught him, but there his progress ceased. The shore was
before him, and he looked at it and understood with his eyes
each detail of it. As the cook passed, much farther to the left,
the captain was calling to him, “Turn over on your back, cook!
Turn over on your back and use the oar.” “All right, sir.” The
cook turned on his back and, using the oar, went ahead as if
he were a boat himself. The boat also passed, with the captain
holding on with one hand. They passed nearer to shore—the
oiler, the cook, the captain— and following them went the
water jar, sailing merrily over the sea. The correspondent
remained in the grasp of this strange new enemy—a current.
The shore, with its white sand and green trees, was spread like
a picture before him. He thought: “I’m going to die. Can it be
possible? Can it be possible? Can it be possible?” Perhaps an
individual must consider his own death to be the final act of
Nature. But later a wave pushed him out of this small, deadly
current, and he found suddenly that he could again make
progress toward the shore. Later still he knew that the captain
had his face turned toward him and was calling his name.
“Come to the boat! Come to the boat!” In his struggle to reach
the captain and the boat, he realized that when one gets tired
beyond limit, death must be comfortable—an end of fighting
accompanied by a large sense of relief. After a while he saw a
man running along the shore. He was removing his clothes
with most remarkable speed. Coat, trousers, shirt, everything
came off him like magic. “Come to the boat!” called the
captain. “All right, Captain.” As the correspondent swam, he
saw the cap 14 T h e O p e n B o a t tain stand on the floor of
the ocean and leave the boat. Then the correspondent
performed his one bit of magic of the voyage. A large wave
caught him and threw him with ease and speed completely
over the boat and far beyond it. He was amazed by his own
performance and by that of the marvelous sea. The
correspondent arrived in water that reached only to his chest,
but his condition did not enable him to stand for more than a
moment. Each wave pushed him down again. Then he saw the
running man come leaping into the water. He dragged ashore
the cook; and then went toward the captain; but the captain
motioned him away and sent him to the correspondent. The
man gave a strong pull, a long drag, and a big push. The
correspondent said, “Thanks, old man.” But suddenly the man
cried, “What’s that?” He pointed a quick finger. The
correspondent said, “Go.” In the low water, face down, lay the
oiler. His forehead touched sand that was sometimes,
between each wave, above the sea. The correspondent did not
know all that happened afterward. When he reached safe
ground he fell, striking the sand with each part of his body. It
was as if he had dropped from a roof. It seemed that instantly
the beach was crowded with men bringing blankets and
clothes, and with women carrying coffee. The welcome of the
land to the sea was warm and generous. But a quiet and wet
shape was carried up the beach. And the land’s welcome for it
could only be the different and silent one of the grave. When
night came, the white waves rolled back and forth in the
moonlight, and the wind brought the sound of the great sea’s
voice to the men on the shore. And they felt that they could
then understand.

2. The Necklace BY Guy de Maupassant

She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as
though fate had blundered over her, into a family of
artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no
means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded
by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be
married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education. Her
tastes were simple because she had never been able to
afford any other, but she was as unhappy as though she
had married beneath her; for women have no caste or
class, their beauty, grace, and charm serving them for
birth or family, their natural delicacy, their instinctive
elegance, their nimbleness of wit, are their only mark of
rank, and put the slum girl on a level with the highest lady
in the land. She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for
every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness
of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly
curtains. All these things, of which other women of her
class would not even have been aware, tormented and
insulted her. The sight of the little Breton girl who came to
do the work in her little house aroused heart-broken
regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind. She imagined
silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by
torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in
knee-breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by
the heavy warmth of the stove. She imagined vast saloons
hung with antique silks, exquisite pieces of furniture
supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming,
perfumed rooms, created just for little parties of intimate
friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose
homage roused every other woman's envious longings.
When she sat down for dinner at the round table covered
with a three-days-old cloth, opposite her husband, who
took the cover off the soup-tureen, exclaiming delightedly:
"Aha! Scotch broth! What could be better?" she imagined
delicate meals, gleaming silver, tapestries peopling the
walls with folk of a past age and strange birds in faery
forests; she imagined delicate food served in marvellous
dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an
inscrutable smile as one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout
or wings of asparagus chicken. She had no clothes, no
jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved;
she felt that she was made for them. She had longed so
eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and
sought after. She had a rich friend, an old school friend
whom she refused to visit, because she suffered so keenly
when she returned home. She would weep whole days,
with grief, regret, despair, and misery. * One evening her
husband came home with an exultant air, holding a large
envelope in his hand. "Here's something for you," he said.
Swiftly she tore the paper and drew out a printed card on
which were these words: "The Minister of Education and
Madame Ramponneau request the pleasure of the
company of Monsieur and Madame Loisel at the Ministry
on the evening of Monday, January the 18th." Instead of
being delighted, as her husband hoped, she flung the
invitation petulantly across the table, murmuring: "What do
you want me to do with this?" "Why, darling, I thought
you'd be pleased. You never go out, and this is a great
occasion. I had tremendous trouble to get it. Every one
wants one; it's very select, and very few go to the clerks.
You'll see all the really big people there." She looked at
him out of furious eyes, and said impatiently: "And what do
you suppose I am to wear at such an affair?" He had not
thought about it; he stammered: "Why, the dress you go to
the theatre in. It looks very nice, to me . . ." He stopped,
stupefied and utterly at a loss when he saw that his wife
was beginning to cry. Two large tears ran slowly down
from the corners of her eyes towards the corners of her
mouth. "What's the matter with you? What's the matter
with you?" he faltered. But with a violent effort she
overcame her grief and replied in a calm voice, wiping her
wet cheeks: "Nothing. Only I haven't a dress and so I can't
go to this party. Give your invitation to some friend of
yours whose wife will be turned out better than I shall." He
was heart-broken. "Look here, Mathilde," he persisted.
"What would be the cost of a suitable dress, which you
could use on other occasions as well, something very
simple?" She thought for several seconds, reckoning up
prices and also wondering for how large a sum she could
ask without bringing upon herself an immediate refusal
and an exclamation of horror from the careful-minded
clerk. At last she replied with some hesitation: "I don't
know exactly, but I think I could do it on four hundred
francs." He grew slightly pale, for this was exactly the
amount he had been saving for a gun, intending to get a
little shooting next summer on the plain of Nanterre with
some friends who went lark-shooting there on Sundays.
Nevertheless he said: "Very well. I'll give you four hundred
francs. But try and get a really nice dress with the money."
The day of the party drew near, and Madame Loisel
seemed sad, uneasy and anxious. Her dress was ready,
however. One evening her husband said to her: "What's
the matter with you? You've been very odd for the last
three days." "I'm utterly miserable at not having any
jewels, not a single stone, to wear," she replied. "I shall
look absolutely no one. I would almost rather not go to the
party." "Wear flowers," he said. "They're very smart at this
time of the year. For ten francs you could get two or three
gorgeous roses." She was not convinced. "No . . . there's
nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the middle of a lot
of rich women." "How stupid you are!" exclaimed her
husband. "Go and see Madame Forestier and ask her to
lend you some jewels. You know her quite well enough for
that." She uttered a cry of delight. "That's true. I never
thought of it." Next day she went to see her friend and told
her her trouble. Madame Forestier went to her dressing-
table, took up a large box, brought it to Madame Loisel,
opened it, and said: "Choose, my dear." First she saw
some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a Venetian
cross in gold and gems, of exquisite workmanship. She
tried the effect of the jewels before the mirror, hesitating,
unable to make up her mind to leave them, to give them
up. She kept on asking: "Haven't you anything else?"
"Yes. Look for yourself. I don't know what you would like
best." Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin case, a
superb diamond necklace; her heart began to beat
covetously. Her hands trembled as she lifted it. She
fastened it round her neck, upon her high dress, and
remained in ecstasy at sight of herself. Then, with
hesitation, she asked in anguish: "Could you lend me this,
just this alone?" "Yes, of course." She flung herself on her
friend's breast, embraced her frenziedly, and went away
with her treasure. The day of the party arrived. Madame
Loisel was a success. She was the prettiest woman
present, elegant, graceful, smiling, and quite above herself
with happiness. All the men stared at her, inquired her
name, and asked to be introduced to her. All the Under-
Secretaries of State were eager to waltz with her. The
Minister noticed her. She danced madly, ecstatically,
drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the
triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a
cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and
admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the
completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart.
She left about four o'clock in the morning. Since midnight
her husband had been dozing in a deserted little room, in
company with three other men whose wives were having a
good time. He threw over her shoulders the garments he
had brought for them to go home in, modest everyday
clothes, whose poverty clashed with the beauty of the
balldress. She was conscious of this and was anxious to
hurry away, so that she should not be noticed by the other
women putting on their costly furs. Loisel restrained her.
"Wait a little. You'll catch cold in the open. I'm going to
fetch a cab." But she did not listen to him and rapidly
descended the staircase. When they were out in the street
they could not find a cab; they began to look for one,
shouting at the drivers whom they saw passing in the
distance. They walked down towards the Seine, desperate
and shivering. At last they found on the quay one of those
old night prowling carriages which are only to be seen in
Paris after dark, as though they were ashamed of their
shabbiness in the daylight. It brought them to their door in
the Rue des Martyrs, and sadly they walked up to their
own apartment. It was the end, for her. As for him, he was
thinking that he must be at the office at ten. She took off
the garments in which she had wrapped her shoulders, so
as to see herself in all her glory before the mirror. But
suddenly she uttered a cry. The necklace was no longer
round her neck! "What's the matter with you?" asked her
husband, already half undressed. She turned towards him
in the utmost distress. "I . . . I . . . I've no longer got
Madame Forestier's necklace. . . ." He started with
astonishment. "What! . . . Impossible!" They searched in
the folds of her dress, in the folds of the coat, in the
pockets, everywhere. They could not find it. "Are you sure
that you still had it on when you came away from the ball?"
he asked. "Yes, I touched it in the hall at the Ministry." "But
if you had lost it in the street, we should have heard it fall."
"Yes. Probably we should. Did you take the number of the
cab?" "No. You didn't notice it, did you?" "No." They stared
at one another, dumbfounded. At last Loisel put on his
clothes again. "I'll go over all the ground we walked," he
said, "and see if I can't find it." And he went out. She
remained in her evening clothes, lacking strength to get
into bed, huddled on a chair, without volition or power of
thought. Her husband returned about seven. He had found
nothing. He went to the police station, to the newspapers,
to offer a reward, to the cab companies, everywhere that a
ray of hope impelled him. She waited all day long, in the
same state of bewilderment at this fearful catastrophe.
Loisel came home at night, his face lined and pale; he had
discovered nothing. "You must write to your friend," he
said, "and tell her that you've broken the clasp of her
necklace and are getting it mended. That will give us time
to look about us." She wrote at his dictation. * By the end
of a week they had lost all hope. Loisel, who had aged five
years, declared: "We must see about replacing the
diamonds." Next day they took the box which had held the
necklace and went to the jewellers whose name was
inside. He consulted his books. "It was not I who sold this
necklace, Madame; I must have merely supplied the
clasp." Then they went from jeweller to jeweller, searching
for another necklace like the first, consulting their
memories, both ill with remorse and anguish of mind. In a
shop at the Palais-Royal they found a string of diamonds
which seemed to them exactly like the one they were
looking for. It was worth forty thousand francs. They were
allowed to have it for thirty-six thousand. They begged the
jeweller not to sell it for three days. And they arranged
matters on the understanding that it would be taken back
for thirty-four thousand francs, if the first one were found
before the end of February. Loisel possessed eighteen
thousand francs left to him by his father. He intended to
borrow the rest. He did borrow it, getting a thousand from
one man, five hundred from another, five louis here, three
louis there. He gave notes of hand, entered into ruinous
agreements, did business with usurers and the whole tribe
of moneylenders. He mortgaged the whole remaining
years of his existence, risked his signature without even
knowing if he could honour it, and, appalled at the
agonising face of the future, at the black misery about to
fall upon him, at the prospect of every possible physical
privation and moral torture, he went to get the new
necklace and put down upon the jeweller's counter thirty-
six thousand francs. When Madame Loisel took back the
necklace to Madame Forestier, the latter said to her in a
chilly voice: "You ought to have brought it back sooner; I
might have needed it." She did not, as her friend had
feared, open the case. If she had noticed the substitution,
what would she have thought? What would she have
said? Would she not have taken her for a thief? * Madame
Loisel came to know the ghastly life of abject poverty.
From the very first she played her part heroically. This
fearful debt must be paid off. She would pay it. The
servant was dismissed. They changed their flat; they took
a garret under the roof. She came to know the heavy work
of the house, the hateful duties of the kitchen. She washed
the plates, wearing out her pink nails on the coarse pottery
and the bottoms of pans. She washed the dirty linen, the
shirts and dishcloths, and hung them out to dry on a string;
every morning she took the dustbin down into the street
and carried up the water, stopping on each landing to get
her breath. And, clad like a poor woman, she went to the
fruiterer, to the grocer, to the butcher, a basket on her
arm, haggling, insulted, fighting for every wretched
halfpenny of her money. Every month notes had to be paid
off, others renewed, time gained. Her husband worked in
the evenings at putting straight a merchant's accounts,
and often at night he did copying at twopence-halfpenny a
page. And this life lasted ten years. At the end of ten years
everything was paid off, everything, the usurer's charges
and the accumulation of superimposed interest. Madame
Loisel looked old now. She had become like all the other
strong, hard, coarse women of poor households. Her hair
was badly done, her skirts were awry, her hands were red.
She spoke in a shrill voice, and the water slopped all over
the floor when she scrubbed it. But sometimes, when her
husband was at the office, she sat down by the window
and thought of that evening long ago, of the ball at which
she had been so beautiful and so much admired. What
would have happened if she had never lost those jewels.
Who knows? Who knows? How strange life is, how fickle!
How little is needed to ruin or to save! One Sunday, as
she had gone for a walk along the Champs-Elysees to
freshen herself after the labours of the week, she caught
sight suddenly of a woman who was taking a child out for
a walk. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful,
still attractive. Madame Loisel was conscious of some
emotion. Should she speak to her? Yes, certainly. And
now that she had paid, she would tell her all. Why not?
She went up to her. "Good morning, Jeanne." The other
did not recognise her, and was surprised at being thus
familiarly addressed by a poor woman. "But . . . Madame .
. ." she stammered. "I don't know . . . you must be making
a mistake." "No . . . I am Mathilde Loisel." Her friend
uttered a cry. "Oh! . . . my poor Mathilde, how you have
changed! . . ." "Yes, I've had some hard times since I saw
you last; and many sorrows . . . and all on your account."
"On my account! . . . How was that?" "You remember the
diamond necklace you lent me for the ball at the Ministry?"
"Yes. Well?" "Well, I lost it." "How could you? Why, you
brought it back." "I brought you another one just like it.
And for the last ten years we have been paying for it. You
realise it wasn't easy for us; we had no money. . . . Well,
it's paid for at last, and I'm glad indeed." Madame
Forestier had halted. "You say you bought a diamond
necklace to replace mine?" "Yes. You hadn't noticed it?
They were very much alike." And she smiled in proud and
innocent happiness. Madame Forestier, deeply moved,
took her two hands. "Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was
imitation. . It was worth at the very most five hundred francs! . . . "


1.“Captain Underpants” by Dave Pilkey

If you like stories that are simple but also clever, then this is the
book you are looking for. The plot is about two boys, George and
Harold, who like to draw comics and are famous pranksters in
their school.

One day their principal catches them setting up a series of stunts

and threatens them. For a while he makes them do his chores,
but soon the boys find a way out. They hypnotize their principal
and make him into a superhero they drew—Captain Underpants.

The story reveals a lot about the dominating relationship between

adults and children. The central source of humor comes from the
main characters’ brilliant strategy to reverse this relationship and
have fun with it.
The book is filled with funny cartoons and jokes that are
sometimes disgusting but always entertaining.


Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her parents

were unmarried and separated soon after conception. Oprah had
a difficult childhood. She lived in great poverty and often had to
dress in potato sacks for which she was mocked at school. She
was also sexually abused at an early age.
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
– Oprah Winfrey
From the age of 14, she went to live with her father. Oprah says
he was strict, but she was in the mood to be disobedient during
her teenage years. After working her way through college, she
became interested in journalism and media and got her first job
as a news anchor for a local TV station.

Her emotional style did not go down well for a news programme, so she
was transferred to an ailing daytime chat programme. After Oprah had
taken over, the daily chat show took off, and this later led to her own
programme – The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The Oprah Winfrey show has proved to be one of the most successful
and highly watched TV show of all time. It has broken many social and
cultural barriers such as gay and lesbian issues. Oprah has also
remained a powerful role model for women and black American women
in particular. She is credited with promoting an intimate confessional
form of media communication, which has been imitated across the

In recent years, the Oprah Winfrey show has focused on issues of self-
improvement, spirituality and self-help. Diet has also been a big issue
with Oprah once successfully losing a lot of weight. Her subsequent
diet book sold millions of copies.
Oprah Winfrey has promoted many spiritual books, which have
focused on the aspect of taking responsibility for your life – not
changing your circumstances, but changing the way you look at your

“What I learned at a very early age was that I was responsible for my
life. And as I became more spiritually conscious, I learned that we all
are responsible for ourselves, that you create your own reality by the
way you think and therefore act. You cannot blame apartheid, your
parents, your circumstances, because you are not your circumstances.
You are your possibilities. If you know that, you can do anything.”

Oprah Wealth

Her range of media enterprises have made Oprah one of the richest
self-made women. The Forbes’ international rich list has listed Winfrey
as the world’s only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 and as the first
black woman billionaire in world history.In 2014 Winfrey has a net
worth of more than 2.9 billion dollars.

Book Club

The Oprah Winfrey book club has become the most influential book
clubs in the world. A recommendation from Oprah Winfrey frequently
sends books to the top of the best-seller lists. Many commentators
agree that Oprah Winfrey exerts enormous influence. Some estimated
her support for Barack Obama helped him gain one million votes in the
2008 election.

As Vanity Fair said of Oprah Winfrey:

“Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any
university pr e apartheid, your parents, your circumstances, because
you are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities. If you know
that, you can do anything.”
esident, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope”
Acting career

Oprah Winfrey was also nominated for an Oscar in the film – A Color
Purple. Produced by Steven Spielberg, the epic Color Purple told of
segregation in America’s deep south. Oprah was widely admired for
her role as Sofia.

1. To Misread or to Rebel: A Woman’s Reading of “The Secret Life
of Walter Mitty”

At its simplest, reading is “an activity that is guided by the text; this must be
processed by the reader who is then, in turn, affected by what he has
processed” (Iser 63). The text is the compass and map, the reader is the
explorer. However, the explorer cannot disregard those unexpected
boulders in the path which he or she encounters along the journey that are
not written on the map. Likewise, the woman reader does not come to the
text without outside influences. She comes with her experiences as a
woman—a professional woman, a divorcée, a single mother. Her reading,
then, is influenced by her experiences. So when she reads a piece of
literature like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, which
paints a highly negative picture of Mitty’s wife, the woman reader is forced
to either misread the story and accept Mrs. Mitty as a domineering,
mothering wife, or rebel against that picture and become angry at the
society which sees her that way.

Due to pre-existing sociosexual standards, women see characters, family

structures, even societal structures from the bottom as an oppressed group
rather than from a powerful position on the top, as men do. As Louise
Rosenblatt states: a reader’s “tendency toward identification [with
characters or events] will certainly be guided by our preoccupations at the
time we read. Our problems and needs may lead us to focus on those
characters and situations through which we may achieve the satisfactions,
the balanced vision, or perhaps merely the unequivocal motives unattained
in our own lives” (38). A woman reader who feels chained by her role as a
housewife is more likely to identify with an individual who is oppressed or
feels trapped than the reader’s executive husband is. Likewise, a woman
who is unable to have children might respond to a story of a child’s death
more emotionally than a woman who does not want children. However, if
the perspective of a woman does not match that of the male author whose
work she is reading, a woman reader who has been shaped by a male-
dominated society is forced to misread the text, reacting to the “words on
the page in one way rather than another because she operates according
to the same set of rules that the author used to generate them” (Tompkins
xvii). By accepting the author’s perspective and reading the text as he
intended, the woman reader is forced to disregard her own, female
perspective. This, in turn, leads to a concept called “asymmetrical
contingency,” described by Iser as that which occurs “when Partner A gives
up trying to implement his own behavioral plan and without resistance
follows that of Partner B. He adapts himself to and is absorbed by the
behavioral strategy of B” (164). Using this argument, it becomes clear that
a woman reader (Partner A) when faced with a text written by a man
(Partner B) will most likely succumb to the perspective of the writer and she
is thus forced to misread the text. Or, she could rebel against the text and
raise an angry, feminist voice in protest.
James Thurber, in the eyes of most literary critics, is one of the foremost
American humorists of the 20th century, and his short story “The Secret
Life of Walter Mitty” is believed to have “ushered in a major [literary] period
… where the individual can maintain his self … an appropriate way of
assaulting rigid forms” (Elias 432). The rigid form in Thurber’s story is Mrs.
Mitty, the main character’s wife. She is portrayed by Walter Mitty as a
horrible, mothering nag. As a way of escaping her constant griping, he
imagines fantastic daydreams which carry him away from Mrs. Mitty’s
voice. Yet she repeatedly interrupts his reveries and Mitty responds to her
as though she is “grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled
at him in the crowd” (286). Not only is his wife annoying to him, but she is
also distant and removed from what he cares about, like a stranger. When
she does speak to him, it seems reflective of the way a mother would
speak to a child. For example, Mrs. Mitty asks, “‘Why don’t you wear your
gloves? Have you lost your gloves?’ Walter Mitty reached in a pocket and
brought out the gloves. He put them on, but after she had turned and gone
into the building and he had driven on to a red light, he took them off again”
(286). Mrs. Mitty’s care for her husband’s health is seen as nagging to
Walter Mitty, and the audience is amused that he responds like a child and
does the opposite of what Mrs. Mitty asked of him. Finally, the clearest way
in which Mrs. Mitty is portrayed as a burdensome wife is at the end of the
piece when Walter, waiting for his wife to exit the store, imagines that he is
facing “the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter
Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last” (289). Not only is Mrs. Mitty
portrayed as a mothering, bothersome hen, but she is ultimately described
as that which will be the death of Walter Mitty.
Mrs. Mitty is a direct literary descendant of the first woman to be
stereotyped as a nagging wife, Dame Van Winkle, the creation of the
American writer, Washington Irving. Likewise, Walter Mitty is a reflection of
his dreaming predecessor, Rip Van Winkle, who falls into a deep sleep for
a hundred years and awakes to the relief of finding out that his nagging
wife has died. Judith Fetterley explains in her book, The Resisting Reader,
how such a portrayal of women forces a woman who reads “Rip Van
Winkle” and other such stories “to find herself excluded from the
experience of the story” so that she “cannot read the story without being
assaulted by the negative images of women it presents” (10). The result, it
seems, is for a woman reader of a story like “Rip Van Winkle” or “The
Secret Life of Walter Mitty” to either be excluded from the text, or accept
the negative images of women the story puts forth. As Fetterley points out,
“The consequence for the female reader is a divided self. She is asked to
identify with Rip and against herself, to scorn the amiable sex and act just
like it, to laugh at Dame Van Winkle and accept that she represents
‘woman,’ to be at once both repressor and repressed, and ultimately to
realize that she is neither” (11). Thus, a woman is forced to misread the
text and accept “woman as villain.” as Fetterley names it, or rebel against
both the story and its message.

So how does a woman reader respond to this portrayal of Mrs. Mitty? If she
were to follow Iser’s claim, she would defer to the male point of view
presented by the author. She would sympathize with Mitty, as Thurber
wants us to do, and see domineering women in her own life that resemble
Mrs. Mitty. She may see her mother and remember all the times that she
nagged her about zipping up her coat against the bitter winter wind. Or the
female reader might identify Mrs. Mitty with her controlling mother-in-law
and chuckle at Mitty’s attempts to escape her control, just as her husband
tries to escape the criticism and control of his own mother. Iser’s ideal
female reader would undoubtedly look at her own position as mother and
wife and would vow to never become such a domineering person. This
reader would probably also agree with a critic who says that “Mitty has a
wife who embodies the authority of a society in which the husband cannot
function” (Lindner 440). She could see the faults in a relationship that is too
controlled by a woman and recognize that a man needs to feel important
and dominant in his relationship with his wife. It could be said that the
female reader would agree completely with Thurber’s portrayal of the
domineering wife. The female reader could simply misread the text.

Or, the female reader could rebel against the text. She could see Mrs. Mitty
as a woman who is trying to do her best to keep her husband well and
cared for. She could see Walter as a man with a fleeting grip on reality who
daydreams that he is a fighter pilot, a brilliant surgeon, a gun expert, or a
military hero, when he actually is a poor driver with a slow reaction time to
a green traffic light. The female reader could read critics of Thurber who
say that by allowing his wife to dominate him, Mitty becomes a “non-hero in
a civilization in which women are winning the battle of the sexes” (Hasley
533) and become angry that a woman’s fight for equality is seen merely as
a battle between the sexes. She could read Walter’s daydreams as his
attempt to dominate his wife, since all of his fantasies center on him in
traditional roles of power. This, for most women, would cause anger at
Mitty (and indirectly Thurber) for creating and promoting a society which
believes that women need to stay subservient to men. From a male point of
view, it becomes a battle of the sexes. In a woman’s eyes, her reading is
simply a struggle for equality within the text and in the world outside that
the text reflects.

It is certain that women misread “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” I did. I
found myself initially wishing that Mrs. Mitty would just let Walter daydream
in peace. But after reading the story again and paying attention to the
portrayal of Mrs. Mitty, I realized that it is imperative that women rebel
against the texts that would oppress them. By misreading a text, the
woman reader understands it in a way that is conventional and acceptable
to the literary world. But in so doing, she is also distancing herself from the
text, not fully embracing it or its meaning in her life. By rebelling against the
text, the female reader not only has to understand the point of view of the
author and the male audience, but she also has to formulate her own
opinions and create a sort of dialogue between the text and herself.
Rebelling against the text and the stereotypes encourages an active
dialogue between the woman and the text which, in turn, guarantees an
active and (most likely) angry reader response. I became a resisting

2. Reader Response to “The Story of an Hour”

This story was very interesting to read, and the story included a
major theme throughout. It caught my attention because there
were several shocking actions that took place. For example, in the
beginning, I did not expect Mrs. Mallard to be happy that her
husband was killed. However, as the story went on, I started to
understand why she may be somewhat happy about her
husband’s death. In that time, women did not have many rights,
and Mrs. Mallard’s rights were limited even more because she
was married. Therefore, she was able to have freedom when her
husband was killed, and it brought her great joy. However, if the
story had been set in a more recent time, Mrs. Mallard may have
been more upset by her husband’s death because women have
more rights now than they did then. Another action that took place
that shocked me was Mr. Mallard showing up at their house
because he was thought to be dead. In the end, when Mrs.
Mallard dies, the major theme in the story is completed. The
theme in the story is freedom. Mrs. Mallard gets the freedom
taken away from her almost as soon as she realizes she has
freedom because, in the end, her husband is not dead, and he
shows back up at their house. Freedom did not kill Mrs. Mallard,
the thought of being free then getting the freedom taken back
from her kills her. Overall, this story was very attention grabbing
and held the theme of freedom.