Short Answer Questions

Analyzing the Text
Cumulative Activity

"The Chrysanthemums"

  1. Explain how Elisa's flowers represent her creative desires. How does that help you to understand her response at the end of the story?
  2. What kind of husband is Henry? How do you know?
  3. Why does Elisa nearly reach out and touch the traveling handyman? Why do you suppose she stops herself?
  4. How much of Elisa's life is the result of her husband's preconceived notions about her?
  5. Why do you think Elisa wants to go to the fights?
  6. Does Elisa's isolation on the ranch contribute to her lack of development and self-knowledge? Would a foray into "town" help her become the person she wants to be? Or will the "boxing world" be too violent and bloody for her?

"The White Quail"

  1. How does the garden represent order to Mary? Why is she so adamant about keeping disorder out of her garden? How does the garden create a sense of permanence in her life?
  2. Why does Mary identify her own inner nature with the white quail?
  3. What evidence can you find in the text that implies Mary is mentally unstable?
  4. What kind of husband is Harry? Why is he so lonely?
  5. Why does Harry kill the white quail?
  6. Mary is self-delusional about her relationship with the garden and the white quail. It is, however, common for people to identify with their work and with nature to some degree. To what degree is this identification healthy? When does it become self-defeating?


  1. Why does Pepé think the hatband and green silk scarf make him a man?
  2. How does Pepé's immaturity lead him to kill the man in Monterey?
  3. How is Pepé compared to the animals he sees on the mountains? What do the comparisons reveal about Pepé?
  4. Who are the dark watchers? What role do they play in the story?
  5. Why do you think Pepé finally decides to stand up and face his pursuers?

"The Snake"

  1. Describe Dr. Phillips attitude towards scientific experimentation. How does his attitude toward the snake differ from that of the woman's?
  2. Why is Dr. Phillips so revolted by the woman's demeanor while she watches the snake eat?
  3. Why do you think the woman wants to own the snake?
  4. Why do you suppose the woman instructs Dr. Phillips not to take her snake's venom?


  1. What does the narrator find so memorable and impressive about the young woman?
  2. Why do you suppose the men invite the stranger to breakfast? What does the invitation reveal about the men?
  3. Describe the men's reaction to their meal. What might their reaction reveal about their attitudes and experiences?
  4. Describe the narrator's attitudes toward his memories. Why does he take such pleasure in the act of remembering?

"The Raid"

  1. Why is Root fearful that he will run?
  2. Why does Dick decide that he and Root will stay and face the raiding party?
  3. Why does Dick want to leave the "literature" out for the raiders?
  4. What is Root referring to when he quotes, "'The men of little spirit must have an example of […] steadfastness. The people at large must have an example of injustice" (72)? What is the example of injustice to which he refers in the story?
  5. What does Dick mean when he tells Root, "[…] if someone busts you, it isn't him that's doing it, it's the System. And it isn't you he's busting. He's taking a crack at the Principle" (72)? What is the system and what is the principle?
  6. Why do you think Root compares his beating to Christ's crucifixion?
  7. Why does Dick believe religion is counterproductive?
  8. Do you think Root plans on attending more meetings in the future? Why or why not?

"The Harness"

  1. Why does Peter go away once a year on business trips?
  2. How do the features of Emma and Peter's home represent their relationship?
  3. Describe Peter's reaction to his wife's death. How is it out of character for him? Why do you suppose he acts that way?
  4. Why do you suppose Ed stays and listens to Peter's confession, though he is highly embarrassed and ashamed by it?
  5. Why does Peter decide to plant 40 acres of sweet peas after Emma's death?
  6. What does Peter enjoy most about his crop of sweet peas?
  7. Do you think Peter's trips to town are responsible for his wife's illness? Is he to blame for her death? Why or why not?
  8. Why does Peter feel the need to go to San Francisco even after Emma has died?
  9. Why can't Peter escape the influence of his wife, even after she has died?

"The Vigilante"

  1. Compare how Mike feels after the lynching to how he thinks he should feel. Why does he feel as he does? Why is he perplexed by his feelings?
  2. Mike repeats twice that the victim was dead before they actually hanged him. Why is that an important detail to him?
  3. Why do you suppose no one shows up for a beer after the lynching?
  4. Why does Welch want a piece of the cloth Mike has torn from the victim's pants?
  5. What is Mike's response to Welch's implied defense of the victim? Why is it important that Mike defend his own behavior?
  6. Why do you suppose Steinbeck associates the lynching with an illicit sexual affair? What is your response to that association?

"Johnny Bear"

  1. Why is the Buffalo Bar such a terrible place?
  2. Why is the narrator so intrigued by the Hawkins sisters?
  3. Explain why the Hawkins sisters' reputation is so important to Alex and the community at large.
  4. Alex blames Johnny Bear for his behavior. Is he at fault? Why or why not?
  5. What kind of person is the narrator? Does he sympathize with Johnny Bear and/or the Hawkins sisters? How do you know?
  6. What do you suppose would happen if the village discovered Miss Amy was pregnant by a Chinese workman?

"The Murder"

  1. Jim seems dissatisfied with his docile and doting wife. What does he desire in his relationship instead?
  2. Why do you suppose Jelka has an affair?
  3. Describe Jim's response to his wife's affair. Why does he decide to beat her?
  4. Do you agree that Jelka seems to be glad she was beaten and is looking forward to being beaten again in the future? Why or why not?
  5. Describe society's response to Jim's murdering of Jelka's cousin and the beating of his wife? Is the violence condoned in your opinion? Why or why not?

"Saint Katy the Virgin"

  1. Why is Roark considered "a bad man"? Parodies often reverse our usual understanding of characters and/or themes. Are readers really supposed to see Roark as bad? Why or why not?
  2. Why do you suppose the narrator emphasizes that Katy's evil disposition is the result of being reared by Roark?
  3. Compare and contrast the brothers' attitudes towards Katy's exorcism and conversion. What doctrines do their point of views represent?
  4. Why is Katy made a saint? What are her special powers?
  5. How does Katy regain her status of "virginity?"How does Katy's sainthood and proclaimed virginity mock traditional religious beliefs?

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