Instructors’ Teaching Experience
This short narrative teaches well and students tend to enjoy delving into its symbols. It deals with a variety of Native themes from failed language and assimilation to war and alcoholism. It is fairly straightforward but offers multiple opportunities for discussion of themes and symbols. It can be a fairly depressing conversation, so time it well with more uplifting pieces, otherwise they get a little obstinate. While it lends itself to close readings, I recommend creating assignments that deal with research or historical context if you want this to be central.
- a. How does language function in this short story?
- b. How is it an asset, and alternatively a weapon?
- c. What do you think about the value of language and its varying (ab)uses?
2. Follow up: What moment dealing with language did you find particularly poignant, important, or troublesome?
3. With a partner, discuss the following quote: "She hated Chato, not because he let the policeman and doctors put the screaming children in the government car, but because he had taught her to sign her name. Because it was like the old ones always told her about learning their language or any of their ways: it endangered you" (47).
4. With a partner, discuss the significance of Jimmie's blanket.
- a. Consider where it is from and what it represents.
- b. Why is it so awful that this is the only thing that remains of him?
5. Why doesn't Jimmie's father want his body? What is the role of burial in this story?
Consider this quote: "He said the Army would try to get the body back and then it would be shipped to them; but it wasn't likely because the helicopter had burned after it crashed…Chato didn't explain why; he just told the military man they could keep the body if they found it. The white man looked bewildered; he nodded his head and left" (44-45).
6. Discuss the bar scene and her portrayal.
Consider this quote: "In the past years they would have told her to get out. But her hair was white now and her face was wrinkled. They looked at her like she was a spider crawling slowly across the room. They were afraid; she could feel the fear. She looked at their faces steadily" (48).
7. Compare to another text (perhaps another Native American one or one that deals with the aftermath of war or the erasure of language). "Storyteller" pairs well with Gloria Anzaldúa's "How to Tame a Wild Tongue."
PDF of the story, from the collection Storyteller.