This is the second part of a series of posts based around stories from “The Oxford Book of English Short Stories” edited by A.S Byatt. This particular class is based on “Solid Objects” by Virginia Woolf, pages 205-209.
As before set the story as reading homework for the week before.
If you don’t have a copy of the book someone has helpfully uploaded it in pdf here:
This analytical essay by Sam Mitchell about the works of Virginia Woolf may prove useful. It’s a little heavy as it’s an honours thesis but has some useful insights into the story.
Start by asking the students for vocabulary problems. Woolf’s style can be confusing so some sections could require a little explanation. Some vocabulary that might cause problems is listed below:
lunging – to lunge, to move towards in a swift movement
tweed – woven material used to make clothes
to fling – to throw without care
to be to hand – to be within reach
to slash – to cut or mark something
to skim – to touch the surface of something lightly
slate – material used to make rooves
to hitch up a sleeve – to roll up or move higher to protect
moat – water around a castle
mantelpiece – surface above a fireplace where objects are kept
on the brink – on the edge
trifling – unimportant
to be cast down – to be depressed
matted – tangled into a lump
Lots of the vocabulary in the story can be used in various contexts, be sure to explore these fully. For example: fling – to have a fling (short sexual relationship)
Once you have cleared up any vocab issues hand out the following discussion questions:
1. Can you describe the characters?
2. What happens in the story?
3. What was your initial reaction to the story?
4. Did you feel sorry for John? Or bemused?
5. What strikes you about the introduction?
6. How can you explain John’s behaviour?
7. What do the objects represent?
8. Do you have any lucky charms? Did you have any when you were a child?
9. Do you collect anything?
10. Did you collect things when you were a child?
Either put the students into small groups to discuss the questionsand then feedback or have an open class discussion.
Here are some ideas and themes that could help fuel discussion:
Story written in 1918 towards the end of World War one. The idea of objects lasting longer than men, so many people died in the war and all that came back were objects: letters, belongings, clothes etc.
The idea of the permanance of objects and the transcience of people. The desire for permanance, ever lasting life.
The simplicity of the objects as pure pieces of different materials and also the mystery surrounding what they used to be.