Object as motif. In the novel, there are several motifs (RL.9-10.4) accomplished through the presence of physical objects. These in turn unify the three plot lines of the story and make for a powerful set of nested plots that all intersect (RL.9-10.5). For example, Jin Wang is first seen holding his transformer toy, a "robot in disguise." The entire novel is about "being in disguise" to some extent, as Danny is the Americanized/assimilated version of Jin Wang who has bleached his hair and gotten a ridiculous hair perm in order to impress a girl (RL.9-10.3).
Too, we will explore the idea of object as motif (RL.9-10.4) because personal objects often carry a lot of emotional valence to them, and students will be able to create strongly connotative figurative language whey they write their own narratives (W.9-10.3) in an upcoming unit.
In this section, students have been asked to bring in a "cherished object" to class. I volunteer by bringing in a figurine made of soap stone that a friend gave me years ago. It's special to me and has a certain kind of texture to it. It's from Africa, and I've had it for a long time. More important, it has sentimental value because it was given to me by a very special person.
I plan to ask:
What is your cherished object?
How it it unique?
When did you get it, and how replaceable is it? (i.e. a phone is important but not cherished because it is easily replaced).
I will have each student report out in turn and see if I can get the other students in class to ask a question or two (SL.9-10.1).
What is fascinating about the story is that the little boy, Jin Wang, carries around with him a transformer toy for the first part of the story: tranforma. He is always playing with this object. What we later find out is that the characters in the story often change/transform in bad ways because they just want to fit in (RL.9-10.4). Conversely, they sometimes make positive transformation by accepting self and growing deeper into who they are. For example, the Monkey King later accepts his lowly status as a Monkey and is able to help others; Jin accepts that he can be a Chinese-American and at least to some degree different than his peers (RL.9-10.3).
For now, I will focus on the object itself.
1.) What object is the boy holding?
2.) What does it mean to transform?
3.) In the stories that we have read thus far, have the characters transformed for the good or bad?
4.) What do you think of the herbalist's ominous words, "As long as you are willing to give up your soul"?
I will ask the students to talk with a partner to discuss how their cherished objects are similar to the transformer toy as Jin's cherished object (RL.9-10.3).
1.) What does the transformer toy tell you about Jin?
2.) What might it foreshadow?
3.) What does your object say about you? Can it symbolize something about your personality?