Thursday, March 26, 2009

mentorship - reading through student eyes

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have been mentoring Jennifer Clark Evans two junior English classes in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They have each made at least five posts at checkpoints in the novel they are studying, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

*Warning: this post contains spoilers on the novel! Do not read if you want the end to be a surprise
**The links go to specific blog posts of some of Jennifer's students

I have never read this novel before, so I was afraid that I would not be able to help them with their blog posts. As I read them, I realized that I could get a pretty decent idea of the novel just by reading their posts. The novel follows an ambulance driver of World War I named Henry. He seems invincible and unemotional to the war until he injuries his knee and is pulled from the front for a few months where he meets a nurse named Catherine, who has just lost her fiance to the war. They begin a relationship, based not on love but on desperation, and eventually Catherine becomes pregnant. Henry has to leave to her get back to the war front. As he is there he continues thinking about Catherine as a distraction from the war. He realized that he has fallen in love with her after all, and escapes the war to be with her. They run to Switzerland, a country neutral in the war, to be together. Unfortunately, Catherine drank mercilessly during her pregnancy while Henry was away. The baby is strangled by the umbilical cord, and Catherine dies from hemorrages. Henry is left alone, wanted from his country, and back to his original emotional state of numbness.

I find it amazing that I know this story so well without ever reading it. I can quote lines of foreshadowing, write another paragraph just about Henry's character development, write about secondary characters and their place in the war, all from reading student blogs. I will write more about my comments and their progress another time. Great job students!

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