How can the quote, "No one knows he is fortunate until he becomes unfortunate," by David Malter, be used to introduce the novel? 

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marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of us have relatives who lived during the Great Depression and World War II.   THEY know how to appreciate!  The reason they do is because they went without, some of them almost starving to death!  Going without taught them a certain toughness and how to be frugal and careful with their means.  And, because they did have it so tough in their day, it's hard for them to watch today's generation waste things, treat things so lightly, and take everything for granted!  

It seems that it's human nature to not realize how good we had something until it's taken away from us.  We need to somehow learn to appreciate what we've got today-- treasure it, take care of it, don't waste it--or we might lose it and then wish we had it back again!

There have been people who've been pampered and spoiled-- living in the lap of luxury--who've been involved in plane crashes or some other calamity.  They were placed in a live-or-die circumstance, and all that they had thought important in their lives paled in comparison to the harsh fact that they just needed to find a way to survive!  Those that were rescued (most of them) were changed people, and they went through the rest of their lives with a greater appreciation for the simpler things, like food and water, which they had so taken for granted.   The harrowing experience they had had taught them to be grateful, and careful, and more tolerant to those in less fortunate circumstances than they.  Some of them actually went into careers where they devoted the rest of their lives to helping out the poor and the needy.

Basically what I'm saying is that we don't have to have a calamitous event happen to us to make us appreciate and take care of what we have!

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the quote, and it certainly fits well with not only Holocaust literature but also with Great Depression/World War 2 works.  One aspect that I would certainly discuss with my students is what it means to be unfortunate.  Last year, I had a student who talked on almost a daily basis about how difficult things were since her dad lost his job, yet she came into class three out of five days a week with fast food breakfast that she had bought on her way to school driving her car.  If that is what our students view as "unfortunate," they  might need some clarification!

You could also play around with the quote a little bit and ask your students if people who are and have always been unfortunate realize that they are.  I was just discussing this idea with an elderly lady.  She grew up in the South during the Great Depression, and she told me that at that time nothing bothered her because she and her family were so poor and had always been so.  It wasn't until years later when she heard people talk about the Depression that she discovered how severely circumstances had changed for so many Americans during that time period--for her the Depression had virtually no effect because she had always been unfortunate. So, is a slightly altered version of the quote also true?  No one knows he is unfortunate until he is fortunate?

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great ideas!  I love the idea of reading the quote from different perspectives and tones.  I'm thinking of writing the quote on the board and having different groups brainstorm it from a point of sadness, joy, gratitude, luck, and pain.  That will maybe open their eyes to the subtle nuances of language before we even get started!

Thank you all for posting!  I intend to have students interview grandparents, etc. about this time in our country and the world as well as have a rabbi come in to speak to the class about Judaism and the meanings of special items like the Fringes, prayer shawls, etc.

I was a little worried that my students wouldn't appreciate this book or find it as fascinating as I did upon reading it, but your posts have helped me be more optimistic.  My classes are almost always more boys than girls and usually reluctant readers. 


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like the quote and think that being able to explore the quote with their background understanding of the Holocaust might be good.  I also think that being able to relate it to the Holocaust would have philosophical implications.  Perhaps, having the students discuss it in light of other characters in Holocaust literature might be good.  Larger question would be whether the tone of this quote is positive or negative.  I have had to read it several times in different tones to fully understand how it can be enhanced as being stated with a tone of luck attached, a tone of melancholy, or a tone of intense pain and regret.  It might be interesting to see how the quote's meaning changes based on the tone of how it is spoken.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm reading The Grapes of Wrath again for the first time in 30 years, and it certainly raises a lot of discussion questions about fortunate vs. unfortunate, far too many to go into here. One idea that comes through clearly, though, from the beginning of the novel is one that Steinbeck develops without preaching. The Joad family, despite their enforced homelessness and poverty, maintain their dignity, compassion, and courage and find strength in each other--family. Circumstances do not determine, or destroy, their characters. They appreciate what very little they have and look to the future, whatever it might be.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I especially love this idea in light of the kind of teenagers I have always taught.  Wealth and socio-economics aside, I think I would categorize today's teenager in one word: spoiled.  Even the ones who have undeniably difficult living situations, and by many accounts should be considered "poor" have access to so many priveleges they take for granted.  Not only that - but the spoiled attitudes that permeate our high schools right now.

Any lessons that can help students to understand their quality of life - and to look beyond themselves and their shoes and their clothes... I love it.


sboeman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's a great quote to begin this novel.  I think many of us have found a "blessing in disguise" in our lives (I met my future wife while working at a dismal job selling golf shoes!).  Perhaps beginning with a discussion on this could a good kickoff, or even asking the class if anyone has ever felt increasing pressure to succeed or win at a game or contest if their opponents were viewed as the "enemy" or a rival, as in the novel between the two teams with differing opinions of the Jewish faith.

My eleventh graders love reading this book, by the way.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Similar to other quotes, and works well in this genre of literature, I think.  I remember my English Lit teacher from high school who came in and introduced a local poet's work with the quote:  "No doesn't mean anything unless you've at least once said yes".  I think the format of these and similar questions works well for stimulating class discussions.

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The Chosen

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