The Master Puppeteer

by Katherine Paterson

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

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1. Study Japanese culture and life in the late eighteenth century. Look for maps of eighteenth-century Japan and Osaka. Describe the government, family life, customs, and other aspects of life in Japan at this time.

2. Research the Japanese puppet theater, known as bunraku Describe how puppets were made and handled, and what life in the theaters was like.

3. Research and report on samurai life and the samurai code.

4. Research the making of Katherine Paterson's novel. Paterson derived much of her information about the Japanese puppet theater from the book Bunraku: The Art of the Japanese Puppet Theatre, by Donald Keene. She even seems to have used some of the names in this book as sources for names of her characters. Read Keene's book and see if you can figure out exactly what Paterson took from it in creating The Master Puppeteer.

5. Study the condition of the homeless and the poor in a modern American city and compare it to the conditions of the homeless and poor as described in The Master Puppeteer.

6. Compare the world of The Master Puppeteer—with its emphasis on professionalism, self-sacrifice in the face of danger, the relationship between fathers and sons, controlling emotion, training novices—with one of the films of Howard Hawks, an American film director concerned with such issues. Good films for comparison include Only Angels Have Wings (1930), Red River (1948), and Rio Bravo (1959).

7. Compare Jiro and Kinshi in terms of their personalities, their relationships with their fathers, the changes they undergo over the course of the novel, and their likely futures.

8. Choose any chapter from The Master Puppeteer and either (a) divide it into three, four, or five major sections, giving your reasons for dividing it as you have; (b) select the five or so most vividly described or most important physical objects and justify your choices; (c) isolate the major conflicts between philosophies and ways of life, as well as between people and within individuals; or (d) list the major settings and discuss the ways they affect the characters within them.

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