Read the poem “Bedtime Story” by George Macbeth (1963). Once you’re done reading, answer the questions about the poem at the bottom of this page, supporting your responses with examples from the poem itself (a sentence or two for each question will be fine). You will need to use your inferential skills to understand this poem: again, this means drawing a conclusion about what you don’t know based upon an examination of what you do know. The “answers” are all here in the poem itself, but they are not always explicit, meaning you will have to look at what details, descriptions, ideas are presented here and then infer what’s happening/being explored based upon that. (By the way: I will be able to tell if you plagiarize from the Internet on this assignment. Trust me!)
by George MacBeth (1963)
Long, long ago when the world was a wild place
Planted with bushes and peopled by apes, our
Mission Brigade was at work in the jungle.
Hard by the Congo
Once, when a foraging detail was active
Scouting for green-fly, it came on a grey man, the
Last living man, in the branch of a baobab
Stalking a monkey
Earlier men had disposed of, for pleasure
Creatures whose names we scarcely remember
Zebra, Rhinoceros, elephants, wart-hog,
Lion, rats, deer, But
After the wars had extinguished the cities
Only the wild ones were left half-naked
Near the Equator: and here was the last one,
Starved for a monkey.
By then the Mission Brigade had encountered
Hundreds of such men: and their procedure.
History tells us, was only to feed them:
Find them and feed them:
Those were the orders. And this was the last one
Nobody knew that he was, But he was, Mud
Caked on his flat grey flanks. He was crouched, half-
Armed with a shaved spear
Glinting between broad leaves, When their jaws cut
Swathes through the bark and he saw fine teeth shine,
Round eyes roll round and forked arms waver
Huge as the rough trunks
Over his head, he was frightened. Our workers
Marched through the Congo before he was born, but
This was the first time perhaps that he’s seen one.
Starting in hot still silence, he crouched there: then jumped.
With a long swing
Down from his branch, he had angled his spear too
Quickly, before they could hold him, and hurled it
Hard at the soldier leading the detail.
How could he know the Queen’s
Orders were only to help him?
The soldier winced when the tipped spear pricked him.
Unsheathing his sting was a reflex.
Later the Queen was informed. There were no more
Men. An impetuous soldier had killed off,
Purely by chance, the penultimate primate.
When she was certain
Squadrons of workers were fanned through the Congo
Detailed to bring back the man’s picked bones to be
Sealed in the archives in amber. I’m quite sure
Nobody found them
After the most industrious search, though.
Where had the bones gone? Over the earth, dear.
Ground by the teeth of the termites, blown by the
Wind, like the dodo
When does this poem take place? How do you know?
What is happening in this poem? Provide a brief (1-2 sentence) summary.
What do the members of the “Mission Brigade” look like? How do you know?
What is the significance of the poem’s title? The last line?
Based on your critical analysis of the poem, what do you consider to be its central theme?
1872-73, stump speech, Monroe County, New York, USA
(Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) delivered this speech in 1873, a year after she was arrested for casting a vote in the Presidential election. She was tried and fined $100–an amount she refused to pay and an amount that was never collected. Ms. Anthony did not live to see U.S. women get the right to vote in 1920, but she always insisted the cause could not fail. As you can see from this 1873 speech, Ms. Anthony was very skillful in deductive argument and legal reasoning. Ms. Anthony received a formal education in a time when few women were allowed this privilege. This was because her Quaker father believed in equal education for both boys and girls. Her parents’ example as Quaker activists led her also into a lifetime of social service as an abolitionist, educational reformer, labor and women’s rights activist, temperance worker, and suffragist.)
ASSIGNMENT: Read Susan B. Anthony’s speech (below) then answer the following questions:
1. Why does Anthony’s argument center on the definition of the word “person”?
2. How is she using deductive reasoning here? Write out the syllogism that she presents in her last paragraph.
Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.
The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:
“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.
For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.
To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.
Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.
The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.
Anthony died in 1906, fighting to the end. Women’s right to vote. was ratified by the 19th Amendment in August of 1920.
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