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Notes for
Sherwood Anderson's "The Egg"
Text of the story

[See also the Printable Books.]

     This page takes a different approach from most of the pages that have been made to date. Instead of simply selected passages for analysis, most exercises focus on constructions of a specific type -- prepositional phrases, compound main clauses, sentences with simple, single subordinate clauses, etc. I have put Anderson's "The Egg" in grade eight because I selected it primarily for early exercises on subordinate clauses. I then noted that, in "The Egg" at least, Anderson regularly bends the textbook rule about joining main clauses with a comma plus "and." He generally skips the comma.

Sentences as Writing Models

     If, as one of your objectives, you want to help students apply their developing analytical ability to their writing, you can make additional assignments from any or all of the following exercises simply by having students write a sentence modeled on the structure of one of the sentences in the exercise. (You can let the students choose which sentence, or you can choose the sentence for them.)  This probably works best if the analytical exercise is assigned and reviewed in class. The next assignment would then be to write a sentence based on one of the "models." These assignments could easily and quickly be reviewed in class by, for example,  having three or four students write their versions on the board while the teacher is taking attendance. 

A Short Exercise on Embedded Prepositional Phrases
Exercise AK G8 L2.2.3 Embed PP
These are just two sentences with a fair number of prepositional phrases that can serve as a quick review exercise.

Sentences with Compound Verbs

Ex # 1 AK SC G9 L1.4 Compound FV
Ex # 2 AK G11 L1.4 Compound FV
     If your students need practice in identifying subjects and finite verbs, you can, of course, use these as typical identification exercises. If your students are beyond that, you might want to use these either as sentence-combining exercises, or as de-combining exercises. The noted educational psychologist Jean Piaget, for example, has claimed that mental mastery involves the ability to reverse mental processes. Thus the ability to combine sentences in specific ways, as students are asked to do in these exercises, ultimately involves the ability to decombine them in the same way. Simply give the students the exercise pages, but ask them to decombine the sentences such that every compound finite verb is split into separate sentences. [See also the specific instructional material.]

Passive Voice

Level 5.7 - Passive Voice AK - L5.7

Four Short Exercises on Compound Main Clauses

Exercise # 1 AK - L3.1.1 CMC
Exercise # 2 AK G8 "
Exercise # 3 AK " "
Exercise # 4 AK - "
     These five-sentence exercises contain no subordinate clauses, and thus may help students master the connections between main clauses. Anderson, however, often omits the comma before "and" when joining these main clauses. The sentences in the first exercise are the simplest; the later exercises contain more verbals and/or other complicating constructions.

Noun Clauses as Direct Objects

Ex # 1 AK - L3.1.2 Sub Cl NDO
Ex # 2 AK G8 "
Ex # 3 AK - "
Ex # 4 AK - "

Four Short Exercises on Adverbial Subordinate  Clauses

Ex # 1 AK - L3.1.2 Sub Cl Adv
Ex # 2 AK G8 "
Ex # 3 AK G8 "
Ex # 4 (& Passive Verbs) (S 3) AK - "

Seven Short Exercises on Adjectival Subordinate  Clauses

Ex # 1 (S 4) AK - L3.1.2 Sub Cl Adj
Ex # 2 (S 4) AK - "
Ex # 3 (S 4) AK - "
Ex # 4 (S 4) AK - "
Ex # 5 (S 4) AK G8 "
Ex # 6 (S 4) AK - "
Ex # 7 (S 3) AK - "

Mixed Subordinate Clauses

Ex # 1 AK G9 L3.1.2 SC Mix
Ex # 2 AK - "
Ex # 3 AK - "

Embedded Subordinate Clauses (L2 +)

Ex # 1 (S 3) AK - L3.1.3 SC Embed
Ex # 2 (S 4) AK G8 "
Ex # 3 (S 3) AK - "
Ex # 4 (S 3) AK - "
Ex # 5 (S 3) AK - "

Subordinate Clauses as Delayed Subjects and Sentences\

Ex # 1 (S 4) AK G8 L5.6 Del Subj

Subordinate Clauses as Interjections

Ex # 1 (S 4) AK G8 L3.2.3 SC-Inj/DO
Ex # 2 (S 4) AK - "
Ex # 3 BullPen -

An Exercise on Gerundives

Ex # 1 (S 4) AK G8 L4.1 Verbals

A Study in Ellipsis (and Appositives?)    L3.2.1 Ellipsis

A Note on Fragments

Suggestions for Writing Assignments

1. The first-person narrator in this story is evident from the opening "My father was, I am sure, intended ...." What kind of judgments can you make about the personality and beliefs of this narrator? Support your response with specific references to the text.

2. The "tone" of a story results from the emotional attitudes that are embedded in the text. Among others, the tone can be happy, sad, thoughtful, or angry. What is the primary tone of this story? Support your response with specific references to the text. 

[One way to approach this question is to have the students list nouns, verbs, and especially  adjectives and adverbs in the story that have emotional connotations. Their lists should lead them to their view of the theme. You might want to have the students organize this paper by devoting one body paragraph to each of these four parts of speech. The sequence of these body paragraphs should probably go from the least important part of speech (in the development of tone) to the most important. (Unless students have some other reason for making the determination, the most important would be the one that has the most examples, and, as a result, takes the most words to explain.)]
3. The extent to which people are in control of their own lives is a frequent topic of literature. To what extent does the story suggest that the narrator's parents controlled their own lives? In the fourth paragraph, for example, the narrator states that his parents "launched into chicken raising." What are the connotations of "launched," and how do they relate to this question? What else in the story supports your view?

4. Characterize the narrator's parents. In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different? Which of the two appears to have had the most influence on the narrator? Support your response with specific references to the text.

5. Among other things, this is a story about ambition -- the desire to move upward in society. The narrator specifically describes his mother's ambition, and then, later, his father's. To develop this idea, the narrator uses a fair amount of "up," "down" and "sideways" symbolism. Find as much of this symbolism in the story as you can, and then explain how it develops this theme.

[Note that the desire to stand an egg on its end is, symbolically, an attempt to put it in a launch-like position.]
6. What, in your opinion, is the primary theme (point) of this story?  Support your response with specific references to the text.

Analyzing My Own Writing

     Don't forget that one of the most important, perhaps the most important, of the KISS exercises is to have students analyze a sample of their own writing. Have them make a double-spaced final copy (in pen) of something they have written. Then have them analyze it (in pencil) for the constructions that they have learned thus far. Finally, have them work in small groups to check each other's analysis. This group work has the effect of letting students informally compare their writing style with that of their peers. Finally, as part of this group work, you might want to have them make suggestions to each other about the overall quality of the writing its organization, details, focus, etc.
     By eighth grade, students who have been studying clauses since seventh should have a fairly good command of clause structure, so this analysis should focus on clause structure. In terms of errors, this analysis should not only help students who have problems (fragments, comma-splices, etc.) recognize these problems, but it should also enable them to fix them. In terms of style, you may want to have the students do a statistical analysis so that they can see fairly precisely how their use of subordinate clauses, levels of embedding, etc. match the writing of their classmates.