Lesson #4: “Just Tell Me Who It Was” (Includes Essay Options)
Part One. Reading Questions
1. How is Will’s physicality part of the story’s plot? Will Pym is a man who cannot win women on looks or charm. All he has is money. He has become Captain-Save-A-Babe, an archetype of a man who attaches himself to pretty women, “rescuing” them to control them. But the control works both ways in a sick symbiosis. A most obscene, grotesque example is the novelChemical Pink.
2. What evidence is there that Will dotes on Maria and exaggerates Maria’s beauty? Why does he do this? To convince himself that he has a catch? See page 371.
3. How does Will’s job symbolize his suffocating ways?
4. What evidence is there that Will treats Maria like an object more than a human being? 371, 372; his “paternal scrutiny”; she has learned to be helpless under the shadow of her paternal husband. See page 373. She sulks and cries when she can’t do something competently. He wants her to look ravishing in private but not in public. See page 374. “You can’t wear that, Mummy.”
5. What effects do Will’s possessive, paternal, and suffocating ways have on Maria? She is physically repulsed by him and must anesthetize herself with alcohol to be near him.
6. How is Will a curse to Maria? On page 377, we read that “his anxious love, his nagging passion” are toxins she cannot tolerate. She is in perpetual agony.
7. What is the insanity of jealousy? See page 382. And 384. “Just tell me who it was and I’ll forget about it.” When a man invests energy into the thought that his wife or girlfriend is cheating on him, he reaches a point where he WANTS the affair to be real to vindicate himself, to justify that his jealous thoughts were rooted in reality.
8. What demon must Will exorcise on page 385?
9. When Will’s marriage “resumes” on page 385, what do we learn about its hellish condition and their acclimation their marital hell?
10. How does the final sentence speak to a “bargain” will has made? A deal with the devil. A deal that results in death, not life.
Part Two. Journal Entry
Write about a couple you know whose relationship mirrors that of Will and Maria. Or write about a jealous person you know whose jealousy results in insanity.
For a sample essay that you can use a resource for your Works Cited page,CLICK HERE.
Part Four. Review of Essay Options That Require You Read ONLY ONE STORY
Single-Story Option #1:
Write about you or someone you know who confused noble ambition with grandiosity and compare this person to Neddy Merrill from "The Swimmer."
Single-Story Essay Option 2:
Compare a man-child to the immature characteristics of Francis Weed from "The Country Husband."
In your first paragraph define the man-child. Then your thesis is Person X and Francis Weed embody the man-child evidenced by ________________, ______________, _____________, ______________, and __________________.
Single-Story Essay Option #3:
Compare a couple you know whose dysfunctional marriage parallels that of Will and Maria from "Just Tell Me Who It Was." Consider jealousy, control, buying off a partner with things to assuage that partner's unhappiness, and the disparity of income and power that existed before the marriage.
Single-Story Essay Option #4:
Describe a "Black Widow Relationship" in which the woman is a sort of drug who creates a velvet trap, luring her victim into a false sense of security that results in warped time, intoxication, grandiosity, and The Point of No Return (death." Compare this process to what happens to Jack Lorey at the hands of Joan Harris in "Torch Song."
Single-Story Essay Option #5:
Write a profile of someone you know who reminds you of Lawrence from "Goodbye, My Brother." This person is a buzzkill and has the power to ruin a good mood just by merely walking into a room. In your essay show 4 parallels between this person and Lawrence. These parallels will likely be the causes behind the person's seething bitterness, hatred for others, and distrust of letting go and being happy.
Single-Story Essay Option #6:
Write about yourself or someone you know who gets addicted to reality shows, celebrity scandals, and gossip in general so that this person's essential drive in life is to be a voyeur. Explain the psychological causes of this addiction and compare these causes to Irene's voyeuristic addiction in "The Enormous Radio."