the dinner party - Mr. Brown's Learning Space

the dinner party - Mr. Brown's Learning Space

EAP 600 Winter 2017 Instructor: Mark Brown THE DINNER PARTY Mona Gardner People react differently to tense situations. Some remain calm and collected...

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EAP 600 Winter 2017 Instructor: Mark Brown

THE DINNER PARTY Mona Gardner People react differently to tense situations. Some remain calm and collected while others panic. Think about whom you would most like to have nearby in a crisis. The country is India. A colonial official1 and his wife are giving a large dinner party. They are seated with their guests – army officers and government attaches2 and their wives, and a visiting American naturalist3 – in their spacious dining room, which has a bare marble floor, open rafters and wide glass door opening onto a veranda. A spirited discussion springs up between a young girl who insists that women have outgrown the jumping-on-a-chair-at-the-sight-of-a-mouse era and a colonel who says that they haven't. “A woman's unfailing reaction in any crisis,” the colonel says, “is to scream. And while a man may feel like it, he has that ounce more of nerve control than a woman has. And that last ounce is what counts.” The American does not join in the argument but watches the other guests. As he looks, he sees a strange expression come over the face of the hostess. She is staring straight ahead, her muscles contracting slightly. With a slight gesture she summons the native boy standing behind her chair and whispers to him. The boy’s eye widen: he quickly leaves the room. Of the guests, none except the American notice this or sees the boy place a bowl of milk on the veranda just outside the open doors. The American comes to with a start. In India, milk in a bowl means only one thing – bait for a snake. He realizes there must be a cobra in the room. He looks up at the rafters – the likeliest place – but they are bare. Three corner of the room are empty, and in the fourth the servants are waiting to serve the next course. There is only one place left – under the table. His first impulse is to jump back and warn the others, but he knows the commotion would frighten the cobra into striking. He speaks quickly, the tone of his voice so arresting that it sobers everyone. “I want to know just what control everyone at this table has. I will count to three hundred – that’s five minutes – and not one of you is to move a muscle. Those who move will forfeit fifty rupees4. Ready!” The twenty people sit like stone images while he counts. He is saying, “...two hundred and eighty...,” when, out of the corner of his eye, he sees the cobra emerge and make for the bowl of milk. Screams ring out as he jumps to slam the veranda doors safely shut. “You were right, Colonel!” the host exclaims. “A man has just shown us an example of perfect control.” “Just a minute,” the American says, turning to his hostess. “Mrs. Wynnes, how did you know that cobra was in the room?” A faint smile lights up the woman’s face as she replies: “Because it was crawling across my foot.” 1. 2. 3. 4.

colonial official: At this time India was a British colony. attaches (at'a-shaz', a-ta' shaz): officials on the staff of a diplomatic mission. naturalist: a person who studies animals and plants. rupees (roo'-pez): The rupee is the basic monetary unit of India, like the dollar in the United States.

EAP 600 Winter 2017 Instructor: Mark Brown

First Response: In this crisis, who do you think showed more self-control – the American naturalist or Mrs. Wynnes? CHECKING UP (Multiple-Choice) 1. Which of the following statements would the colonel agree with? a. “Women never show courage.” b. “Men show greater self-control than women.” c. “Men do not experience fear.” 2. The naturalist knows that there is a snake in the room because a. he sees a strange expression on his hostess’ face b. the native boy's eyes widen in alarm c. a bowl of milk is placed on the veranda 3. The naturalist gets everyone to sit still by a. warning them about the snake b. challenging the guests to test their self-control c. offering to pay each guest money 4. We can assume that the cobra did not strike Mrs. Wynnes because a. she kept her body absolutely still b. cobras do not attack women c. it wasn't hungry TALKING IT OVER 1. The first sentence of the story tells us that the action takes place in India. Why is this information important to the story? 2. The American is identified as a naturalist. How does his training as a scientist show itself in his behavior? 3. The colonel believes that men always show greater self-control than women. What do the events of the story show about his belief? 4. A situation is said to be ironic when the outcome of events is the opposite of what is expected or believed to be true. Why is the twist at the end of this story ironic? PLOT Climax and Resolution Once the major conflict of a story is established, the plot generally moves toward a climax, the point of greatest intensity. The climax determines how the story will turn out. The final part of a story is its resolution, in which the conflict is resolved, or worked out. The resolution makes clear the outcome of events. 1. What is the climax of this story? 2. How is the conflict resolved? Do you think that the resolution is a fitting conclusion to the story?

EAP 600 Winter 2017 Instructor: Mark Brown

UNDERSTANDING THE WORDS IN THE STORY (Multiple-Choice) 1. A spacious dining room is a. large and comfortable b. well decorated c. huge and impressive 2. The rafters of a house are a. tiles decorating the walls b. beams supporting the roof c. ceiling fans 3. A veranda is a. an open porch b. a screen door c. a circular staircase 4. A spirited discussion is a. an angry quarrel b. a lively conversation c. a séance with a medium 5. An unfailing reaction is one that is a. unfavorable b. certain c. unfeeling

6. When the muscles of her face contract, the hostess a. smiles broadly b. opens her eyes in alarm c. draws her brows together 7. When the hostess summons the native boy, she a. orders him to approach b. criticizes him c. reports him to the police 8. A commotion is a. noisy b. quiet c. stealthy 9. If the guests who move forfeit fifty rupees, they will a. surrender the money as a penalty b. lend the money to the hostess c. give the money as a reward to the native boy 10. When the American sees the cobra emerge, the snake a. rises up to strike b. becomes visible c. weaves across the room

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mona Gardner (1900-1981), who was born in Seattle, Washington, chose the settings for many of her novels and short stories from the places she visited. Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand are among the countries in which she traveled. In fact, one of her novels is called Hong Kong. Gardner's stories were published in several magazines, including The New Yorker, Saturday Review of Literature, and Reader's Digest. Flesch Reading Ease 75.4 Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.2