Imagine that you have only twenty-four hours to vacate your home, possibly for the last time. You have no idea where you are going or why you are being forced to leave. You have been told you can only take what fits in your backpack. Decide what you will carry with you. Then write an essay explaining your choices and how evaluating them in the light of this hypothetical scenario affected your assessment.
Read Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical book Night, and compare his memories of Auschwitz with what Sophie says about the concentration camp. Styron includes in Sophie’s Choice an assertion by Wiesel that novels based on the Holocaust “cheapened” the subject because the topic had become “fashionable, guaranteed to gain attention and to achieve instant success.” Write an essay in which you agree or disagree with Wiesel’s position, contrasting his own book with Styron’s novel.
Research online either Rudolf Höss or Walter Dürrfeld and write a summary of the information you collect. Evaluate Styron’s handling of the character in the novel, determining if the fictional role fits the historical person.
Interview someone you know who has been an eyewitness to or lived through some historical event—for example, the Civil Rights movement or the antiwar movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War of the early 1990s, or the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Write a summary of the interview and then present the summary to the interviewee. Ask that person to evaluate your summary for its accuracy and to identify topics that have been distorted or omitted. Present to the class your findings regarding how accurate summaries from interviews are.
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