Unit 5 Say Yes Teaching aims: get students to know subtle manifestation of racial prejudice

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Unit 5 Say Yes

Teaching aims: 1.get students to know subtle manifestation of racial prejudice

2.get students to have sensational understanding about acute social problems through explanation as well as question and answer

3.improve students’ oral English by way of discussion and debating

4.skillful handling of certain word formation and figure of speech

Teaching content: 1.explanation of long sentences

2.ask students to find important words and try to understand them with the help of a dictionary as well as according to the context of the text

3.make students retell the story with the words and expressions of this text

4.understanding of the theme of the text

5.Enrich the content of the text by various in-class activities(role play,debating), improve oral English of students.

Teaching method:  explanationquestion and answerdebatingrole playexercises 

Unit  5 Say Yes

Step1.Warming-up (20minutes)

Look at the statistics. Most of those marriages break up. Conduct research to find out statistics of how many interracial marriages versus same-race marriages break up. Can you come up with a hypothesis for your findings?

1980s: At the beginning of the 1980s, nine percent of all United States households are made up solely of a married couple. There are over forty-eight million married couples in the United States.

1990s: At the end of the 1990s, only three percent of all United States households are made up solely of a married couple. There are close to fifty-five million married couples in the United States.

1980s: In 1980, 67.2 percent of the white American population is married, and 51.4 percent of the African-American population is married.

1990s: While more than half of the American population continues to marry, the percentages for both whites and African Americans has decreased in the past ten years. In 1997, 62.1 percent of the white American population is married, and 42.4 percent of the African-American population is married.

1980s: In 1980, there are 651,000 interracial couples in the United States....

Step2.Background Information(25minutes)

1.Introduction of the author

Tobias Wolff was born in Alabama in 1945. His parents divorced when he was a boy. Wolff’s mother retained custody of him, while his brother Geoffrey who also became a writer lived with their father. As a child, Wolff traveled with his mother, Rosemary, to the Pacific Northwest, where she remarried. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, young Tobias soon was forced to endure life under his strict and cruel stepfather. During the time, his efforts to get away from his stepfather led to his self-transformation. That period of Wolff’s life is recounted in This Boy’s Life: A Memoir. Tobias Wolff is perhaps best known by the American reading public for his memoir This Boy’s Life, which was later made into an acclaimed movie, from 1964 through 1968, Wolff served as a lieutenant with the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) in Vietnam. He later recounted his wartime experiences in the memoir In the Pharaoh’s Army: Memoirs of the Lost War. In 1972 Wolff earned his B.A. and then his M.A. from Oxford University with First Class Honors in English three years later. That year, his first book, Ugly Rumours, was published in London. Also that year, he won a prestigious Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. He lives with his family in upstate New York and teaches writing at Syracuse University. His literary reputation was first established on the merit of his short stories. He is still primarily known for these short stories, in which he depicts many characters’ voices and a wide range of emotions. Since the early 1980s, Wolff has produced several collections of short stories. These fictions focus on the important relationships and the moral choices in everyday people’s lives: men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children. As scholar Marilyn C. Wesley writes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Wolff writes about the basic needs of Everyman, written with a respect that Everyman deserves.

Works of the author

1) He is the author of the short novel The Barracks Thief, which won the 1985 PEN/Faulkner Award;

2) two collections of short stories, Back in the World (collecting “Say Yes”) and In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, which received the Saint Lawrence Award for fiction in 1982; Mr. Wolff's work appears frequently in Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines and reviews.

2.Historical Context: The passage is written during the Republican years

The 1980s was a decade led by Republican policy. Ronald Reagan took office as president of the United States in 1980, and served two terms, after which his vice president, George Bush, was elected to the nation’s top office. Reagan held conservative political beliefs, both on the domestic front and when it came to foreign policy. Although his economic programs brought the national inflation rate down, they also seemed to favor the wealthy. During the Reagan era, many middle-class Americans saw their personal income shrinking, while the richest of Americans increased their wealth. By the 1980s, as the United States and the Soviet Union built up a stockpile of nuclear weapons, the cold war had been ongoing for almost forty years. led by the two superpowers. Reagan, an ardent opponent of communism, encouraged his administration to greatly increase military spending.

“Say Yes” is such a story about the relationship between husband and wife. Looking deeply, we find that it really is a discussion of subtle expressions of racist feelings that are found in many ordinary people.

3.Racism has been called the national curse of the United States ever since the first black slaves were brought into this continent. We all know the sufferings of the blacks as described in Uncle Tom’s Cabin; we also know about the Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow Laws. But since the Civil Right movement of the1960s, a lot of changes have taken place, and the racial relationship has improved. However racism is still very much alive. The only thing is that it now may take more subtle forms.

 Step3 Text Analysis(45*3minutes)

I.  Detailed Analysis of Language Points (45minutes)

1. consider: v. e.g. All things considered, the reform is a success.

1) considerate: a. showing kind regard for the feelings, thoughtful, careful not to hurt or cause inconvenience to others

e.g. It is considerate of you not to play the piano while I was having a sleep.

2) considerable: a. rather large or great , as in size , distance, or extent

 e.g. He bought a house at a considerable expense

3) considering: prep. in view of, having regard to

e.g.  She’s very active, considering her age.

u     break

2.break up: divide/ split, (a couple, relationship) come to

               an end

break down: collapse, failure in machinery useless,  

                   suffer physical or mental weakening

break in (to): enter a building by force  

break away: go away suddenly, give up (idea, belief)

break through: make a way through

break off: stop, pause

 3.  hypo- : prefix meaning “below, under”

1) in words denoting an organ or location below a given body  part  在-- 下面

 hypoderm 皮下组织

2) term denoting body condition in which substances or functions are at below-normal levels  低于

 hypotension 血压过低    hypothermia 体温过低

3) used in the names of chemical compounds that are in a lower state of oxidation(氧化) than a given compound 亚

4) counterpart to a word formed with “hyper”(在--上面,超越, 过于,极度)

 hypotension 血压过低 ---- hypertension 血压过高

After studying the text, we just pick out some idiomatic expressions from the text:

To do the dishes    to pitch in    to congratulate sb. on sth.   to get on a subject   to come along    all things considered        to be okay with sb.     to take one’s word    to break up      at a rate     as a matter of fact         to be angry with sb.      to take a deep breath      to feel cornered      to have no choice but to do sth.       to be at sth.       to put sth.        to have effect on sb.    to take one’s hand by the wrist        to make it up        to hold sth. up       to dab at sth.     to start up a conversation               to finish up         to feel ashamed        to blur sth. out

to do sth. out of concern for sb.         for Christ’s sake         to come up with sth.            to take a reasonable tone       to get sb. into a fight              to come to one’s aid       or so      

II.     General Analysis(90minutes)

1.Textual Structure schedule

On an ordinary night after supper → a common talk → different altitudes →conflicts

2.While reading the whole text, pay attention to some verbs or phrases employed to show the inner feeling of both husband and wife.

Pinch her brows together      her lips pressed tight together     bite her lips       keep his mouth shut      plunge her hands under the surface       with her eyes closed        take a deep breath          snap through the pages        his throat tightened     his heart pounded   

3.Text Glimpse

Now turn to page 118, read the following sentences to see whether the students have grasped the main ideas of the article or not.

1. This is not an ordinary family quarrel. The talk between the husband and wife touches upon __________.  (the serious issue of racism)

2. We can assume that the time background was probably_________ (in the 1960’s) in the United States, a time when there was a new national awareness of the need to fight for________.  (race and gender equality)

3. The man here was by no means a terrible racist or male Chauvinist. In fact, he was considered________ (a good husband) because he shared the housework and probably was also considered________ (liberal) on racial problems.

4. But the man was not free from the influence of racism as shown in his _______ (objection to marriage) between a black and a white. His basic argument was that they had different______ (cultures) and therefore could never______ (really know each other). It was very similar to the “different but equal” principle much under attack at the time as _____. (hypocritical)  Therefore he was still racist in a way although his____ (racism) was _____ ( more subtle).

5. The man’s wife on the other hand believed that marriage between blacks and whites ______ (was perfect natural) if they loved each other and she could not _____ (tolerate) her husband’s racist attitude. She was obviously a person of ____ (high moral principles) and took such issues as ____ (racial or gender equalities) very seriously. 

6. Throughout the conversation, the man appeared eager to _____ (dismiss the subject) and make peace whereas the woman kept trying to corner him. This would make us readers feel that the man was easygoing and the woman_______(difficult and quarrelsome). This is, however, a false______(impression).

7. The woman seemed to know how her husband would__________ (respond) when she asked him whether he would marry her if she were black. This indicated that she must have found out _______ (where her husband stood in this issue) before this conversation.  

8. When the woman was heard turning the pages of a magazine, the man knew that she was angry and ______ (was trying to hurt him) by appearing indifferent to him.

9. When the woman asked her husband to turn off the light, the man thought that soon _______ (she would come to lie down besides him). But nothing happened.

10. The man had said that blacks and whites could not know each other. But the irony was he did not know his own wife although they___________ (had the same cultural background). To him, she was still someone moving through the house, ___________ (a stranger). 

4. Theme of the text:

The idea of racism is a theme in the story, for the implication of the husband’s racism is what causes the couple to quarrel. The wife dislikes her husband’s beliefs that African Americans are different from whites. He maintains that it is not that he is prejudiced against African Americans, but that they come from a different culture from white people? And they even have their own language. His protestation that I like hearing them talk because it makes him feel happy reveals much about his personality: his belief that African Americans are inherently foreign to whites, his condescending attitude, and his sense of otherness from himself? He needs something completely unlike himself to bring him pleasure.

The husband’s negative response to Ann’s question of whether he would marry her were she African American indicates the pervasive and destructive nature of his racism.

5.Analysis of husband

ask the students to talk something about the character of the husband

The husband in the story is generally an unsympathetic character. He appears to have racist feelings and seems to be dishonest with himself. He claims to appreciate the stability his life with Ann provides him, but he still makes efforts to undermine it. He refuses to take responsibility for his actions. Throughout the evening, he is seen to be less than a genuine person; he does things for effect rather than out of a genuine, sincere desire. Within the confines of the story, his most significant trait is his rejection of his wife, which she takes quite seriously, much to his surprise. By the end of the story, the husband demonstrates yet another shift in mood: excitement as he realizes that, in certain ways, his wife is unknowable to him. The final scene has him awaiting his wife in their darkened bedroom, imagining that she is a stranger that he seems to embrace, as demonstrated by the excited pounding of his...

Step4 Writing Devices(5minutes)

Wolff has often been likened to other writers of his generation such as Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. In his short stories, Wolff practices a direct, even non-dramatic, style of writing. This is certainly the case in his story “Say Yes” which takes as its backdrop an average evening in the life of a married couple. When the conversation delves into an issue on which the couple do not agree, the relationship experiences a newfound rockiness. The husband’s reaction to this argument demonstrates the secret undercurrents that run through relationships.


1. How do you think the husband and wife will resolve their situation?

  Do you think they will resolve it? Write a scene that takes place the following day. 

2. Analyze the husband in terms of whether or not he is a racist character.  

3. Write a counterargument to the husband’s statement that African Americans don’t come from the same culture as whites.

Step6 Debate(45minutes)

Is an inter-racial marriage good and reasonable or not?

Ask the students to debate on this topic and ask them to choose either side according to their argument they are free to change their opinion

Reference Books:

宋兴蕴 《现代大学英语全程辅导》 辽宁师范大学出版社

杨立民 《现代大学英语教师用书》 外语教学与研究出版社

胡文仲 《英美文化辞典》 外语教学与研究出版社


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