Average Waves in Unprotected Waters Topics for Further Study
by Anne Tyler

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Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

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The story ‘‘Average Waves in Unprotected Waters’’ appeared in the New Yorker in the late 1970s during an important time in the feminist movement. What was happening in the feminist movement during the late 1970s? Using examples from the story, explain how the story portrays or does not portray the feminist values and objectives of the time. Would you call Tyler a feminist writer? Why or why not?

In ‘‘Average Waves in Unprotected Waters,’’ Bet’s husband, Avery, has abandoned her and their son. What was life like for single mothers in the late 1970s? How does Bet’s life compare to your findings? Use examples from the story to explain your conclusions.

In the story, Bet questions whose genes caused her son’s disability. What do geneticists say about genes and developmental disabilities? Are disabilities genetic? Explain your findings.

In the story, how does Bet handle her son? What do her actions reveal about her attitude toward him? Does it appear that Bet loves her son? Explain and justify your answers using examples from the text.

‘‘Average Waves in Unprotected Waters’’ is told from Bet’s point of view, in which a reader gains full access to the thoughts and feelings of Bet Blevins. Explain how the story might change if it were told from Arnold’s perspective or Mrs. Puckett’s point of view. What elements in the story present a bias that a reader may not trust as absolute truth?