Section 1 - Martin Dressler

America Rising 

Dressler & the American Dream

     Entwined in the American Experience is the notion of the American Dream, the idea that, by hard work and determination, a person can achieve anything -- all their dreams can come true.  

      During this FOUR - FIVE WEEK unit, we will look at the literary form of the GOTHIC/CITYSCAPE NOVEL and examine poetry, music, and movies that capture the essence of this Dream at the beginning of the 20th Century, and use this Dream as the starting point for a discussion about how we see the world, who are heroes have become, and the emotional connection we have to some of our dreams as Americans.  

Moving to Mastery of

           * Historical Criticism

           * Integrating Archetypes, Plotting, and Characterization

           * UW Outcome 2 (Persuasive Argumentation)

           * UW Outcome 3 (Synthesizing Complex Texts)

While Reading: (done periodically)

  • Scene = made up of dialogue or direct interaction w/character their environment  Stops the action.
  • Summary = insight, movement imposed by the narrator that pauses action.  With a colored pen, “frame” the scenes with a hash-mark at the beginning and a hash-mark at the end. Be mindful of their length.
  • Assumptions = Read the first three chapters of the novel and write down five assumptions you have about Martin Dressler.  In the middle and the end of the book, return to your list to confirm/amend with examples from your reading.
  • Modulation = language used to set the pace of a novel: scene, summary, dialogue? Mark Martin’s the first encounter with five major characters and explain how language shapes those encounters – what inferences can you draw from language used?  
  • Motifs (recurring images and/or ideas) pick three and mark any references to each: dreams, opportunity, color, longing, progress, sky/up, black/down, modernism, old vs. new
  • Text-Subtext: 5 Generalizations: Every character has a purpose, not every character knows what they want, most characters keep their goals hidden, most interaction is miscommunication, characters convey motives using language.  Test these Generalizations as you track three characters in the novel – summarize these generalizations in your notes.

Novel as a Whole:

  • Style = diction – “word choice” – 
  • Syntax – “word order”.  
  • As you read, pay attention to the author’s style – what kind of words, what kind of descriptions, what kind of figurative language? Thinking of the novels you have read this year, would you describe Millhauser’s style as minimalist, maximalist, or lyricist?  What impact does this style have on the novel as a whole?

Millhauser uses a 3rd Person Omniscient Narrator.  If the narrator were a judge, what do you think his verdict would be on Martin’s arc as a character?

Martin has a relationship with four major characters.  The narrator uses their mannerisms and physical traits to represent something.  Explain what they represent, and why?

© Jeff Thomas,