Introductory Lecture and Objectives

Tears of a Tiger eNotes Lesson Plan content

Sharon M. Draper had been a teacher for over twenty years in Cincinnati when she accepted a student’s challenge and entered Ebony Magazine’s 1991 short story writing contest. Her story, “One Small Torch,” was chosen as the winner from among 20,000 entries. That first success spurred Draper to write, combining her passion for teaching, her love of stories, and her conviction that the classics often did not strike a chord with her students. Her first novel, Tears of a Tiger, was published in 1994. From her experience as an African-American teacher in a diverse public school, Draper consciously chose to give voice to black males in her writing and accomplished it quite movingly in this novel about a seventeen-year-old black teen who kills his best friend in a drunk-driving accident; readers identified with the story of Andy Jackson and his friends. Draper’s novel was called “strong, vivid and true” by School Library Journal. In 1995, the American Library Association selected Tears of a Tiger as Best Book for Young Adults, and the novel received the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award.

As soon as students open Tears of a Tiger, they will notice something immediately that distinguishes it from most novels they read in class. The story has no narrator; the novel is a collection of dialogues, therapy sessions, diary entries, documents, homework assignments, and letters. It also is written in the manner some young black teenagers speak. One reviewer said Draper’s literary approach gives the book a “raw immediacy” that puts readers into the story, as if they were in the halls, the cafeteria, and the classrooms of overcrowded Hazelwood High. Once there, they eavesdrop on Andy Jackson and the people in his life: Keisha, his wise and loving girlfriend; B. J. the jokester; troubled and abused Gerald; and Tyrone, the handsome basketball player who is newly smitten with Rhonda, Keisha’s best friend.

The novel begins when Andy Jackson and Rob Washington, his best friend and a star basketball player, go out to “chill” after a game on November 7; Tyrone and B. J. are along for the ride. Andy is driving drunk when the car hits a retaining wall and bursts into flames; Rob does not survive the crash. Andy’s grief over Rob’s death, along with his guilt for causing it, send Andy into a spiral of despair and depression. Through Andy’s sessions with a young black psychologist, we learn about other factors contributing to Andy’s mental state—his difficulty communicating with his family and the racial bias some teachers and counselors exhibit at Hazelwood High. Readers are kept guessing, almost to the very end, as to whether Andy will heal from the tremendous pain and guilt caused by the accident or whether his emotions will destroy him.

Tears of a Tiger is not a moralistic tale of the consequences of drinking and driving; it is a full-bodied exploration of the lives of ordinary teens. All teens, regardless of their race or background, will empathize with the characters and identify with the issues Draper raises in the novel: the struggle for social acceptance, the demands of friendship, the difficulty of communicating with parents, and the heady experience of falling in love. The issue of teen suicide is explored, as well, through Andy’s mental turmoil and emotional anguish. As the characters struggle to cope in the aftermath of Rob’s death, courage is required in “learnin’ to live.” Ultimately, that is the job of all young peopl —whether they face tragic circumstances, as Draper’s characters do in the novel, or contend with the day-to-day realities of being a teen in a troubled world.

By the end of the unit the student will be able to:

1. Describe the phases of Andy’s gradual decline and the factors contributing to his suicide.

2. Compare and contrast the ways in which B. J., Tyrone, and Andy cope in the aftermath of the car accident.

3. Identify the ways in which the adults in Andy’s life both support him and fail him.

4. Contrast the ways in which Keisha, Rhonda, and Marcus approach their schoolwork with how Andy, Gerald, and Tyrone approach theirs.

5. Explain the importance of self-expression for teens and contrast how teens talk to each other as opposed to how they talk to adults.

6. Understand how the different points of view offered by the novel contribute to both the novel’s message and the reader’s understanding of the story.

7. Describe the atmosphere of Hazelwood High and discuss how the experience of Hazelwood is different for the black students, like Andy and his friends, than it is for the white students.

8. Discuss the role of race in Andy’s self-image and his behavior at school and in his parents’ self-image and their behavior at work and at home.

9. Identify the effects of a teen’s suicide on the lives of classmates, friends, and family.

10. Discuss the importance of forgiveness, compassion, and empathy when dealing with people who are different from you or who have been through different experiences.

Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan

This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.

Student Study Guide

  • The Study Guide is organized for a section-by-section study of the novel. Study Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
  • Study Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in each section and to acquaint them generally with the section’s content.
  • Before Study Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension.
  • Study Guide vocabulary lists include words from the novel that vary in difficulty.

1. The vocabulary lists for each section are sufficiently comprehensive so that shorter lists of vocabulary words can be constructed from them.

2. Working from the lesson plan’s vocabulary lists, the teacher also may construct vocabulary studies for individual students, choosing specific words from each section that are most appropriate for them.

Discussion Questions

The discussion questions vary in degree of difficulty.

1. Some questions require higher levels of critical thinking; others engage students with less challenging inquiry.

2. Individual discussion questions may be assigned to students working in pairs or in small study groups; their contributions may then be added to a whole-class discussion.

Multiple-Choice/Essay Test

Test questions also vary in degree of difficulty.

1. Some multiple-choice questions address the factual content of the novel; others require students to employ critical thinking skills, such as analyzing; comparing and contrasting; and drawing inferences.

2. The teacher may select specific multiple-choice questions and one or more essay questions to assess an individual student’s understanding of the novel.

3. The essay portion of the test appears on a separate page so that it may be omitted altogether in testing.

Teaching the Literary Elements

Before students read through the book, explain that themes are universal ideas developed in literature. Point out that these themes will be developed in the novel; discuss them with students as they read and/or after they finish reading.

  • Academic expectations
  • Communication and self-expression
  • Courage
  • Depression
  • Family relationships
  • Fear and loneliness
  • Forgiveness
  • Friendship
  • Guilt
  • Love and love relationships
  • Peace
  • Racism
  • Suicide

Talk with your students about how a motif is a recurring pattern or a repeated action, element, or idea in a book. As they read, have them look for the following motifs:

  • Writing/poetry/letters
  • Basketball
  • Tears
  • Coldness/freezing
  • Blankness/“nothing”
  • Preaching (from parents and teachers)
  • Mentors
  • Dreams/the future
  • Denial/hiding
  • Drowning
  • Masks

A symbol is a concrete object or place that has significance in a literary work because it communicates an idea. Have students discuss how the author develops the following symbols and what ideas the symbols could suggest. Have them look for other symbols on their own.

  • Tigers/tigers’ tears
  • Jungle
  • Tide pool
  • Snow
  • Peanut Butter
  • Five-dollar bills
  • Band-Aids
  • Yellow hair
  • Andy’s mother’s hairdo
  • Andy’s rock

Essay and Discussion Questions

1. Throughout the novel, there are references to the fact that Andy, Rob, B. J., and Tyrone have been “tight” since seventh grade. After the accident, how do B. J.’s and Tyrone’s friendships help Andy? Are there ways in which their friendships fail him, and if so, what are they?

2. While adults tell teens not to drink, the fact is that some teens do experiment with drinking and drugs in high school. What can teens do to ensure that nobody drinks and drives, endangering their own lives and the lives of others?

3. Coach Ripley talks to Andy on his first day back to school after the accident. What is the most important thing Coach does for Andy?

4. In this book we see characters’ diary entries, homework assignments, poems, and prayers. How does self-expression through writing help various characters, such as Keisha, Rhonda, B. J., and Gerald?

5. Was Andy’s death inevitable? Why or why not? Discuss the ways in which Andy’s death could have been prevented.

6. Andy’s teacher says, “Stereotypes of color, race, and gender are slowly disappearing. It’s up to you to make a world that is better.” Do you agree that these stereotypes are disappearing? Do you think you have the power to make the world better?”

7. Compare and contrast Andy’s and Rob’s parents. How could Andy’s parents have shown him more support after the accident?

8. Throughout the novel, various characters, including Andy, talk about whether they “have the nerve” to take certain actions, to bring up certain issues with parents, teachers, or friends. Discuss how different characters either possess or lack “the nerve” in Tears of a Tiger. Describe a time in your own life when you either lacked or had the courage to accomplish something difficult.

9. The author of Tears of a Tiger raises the point that teens may speak one language to each other and another to adults. Describe examples of this distinction as it occurs in the book.

10. After the accident, when Andy takes on Rob’s position as center and as captain of the basketball team, the Hazelwood Tigers are on a winning streak. How does Andy manage to excel in basketball when he is losing control in all other parts of his life? What role does athletics play for Andy and for teens in general?

11. Andy says to Dr. Carrothers,...

(The entire section is 1036 words.)

Crash, Fire, Pain Newspaper Article November 8


retaining wall: a wall that holds back earth or water

Study Questions

1. Summarize what happened on the night of November 7 as reported in the newspaper article.

On the night of November 7, four Hazelwood High students were in a car accident. The driver, Andy Jackson, had been drinking and wove across the highway before hitting a retaining wall. Student Robert Washington, in the passenger seat, was trapped inside the car when it burst into flames. The three other students sustained minor injuries and were treated at the Good Samaritan Hospital and later released.

2. Why was Robert Washington trapped in the burning car, while the other...

(The entire section is 221 words.)

Hit the Showers! Hit the Streets!


bottled sunshine: slang beer

raggedy: beat up, shaggy

raise: slang leave

Study Questions

1. In the locker-room dialogue between Rob and Andy, what can you tell about the friendship between them and about Andy’s place in the social pecking order?

For both Rob and Andy, bragging, joking, and one-upmanship are their way of relating to each other. Rob seems to be dominant in their friendship, making fun of Andy’s low score in the game and his “raggedy” car. Also, the other boys tease Rob by calling him a “big-head fool.”

2. What does it mean when Rob tells Andy that Keisha “got...

(The entire section is 325 words.)

Oh No! It Just Can't Be!


admitted: accepted (as a patient in a hospital)

in shock: to have the mind or emotions jarred so that one cannot think clearly

Study Questions

1. Four phone conversations reveal progressively more knowledge about what happened after the basketball game. Describe what is revealed in each.

Rhonda’s first call to Keisha reveals only that Hazelwood students have been in an accident. In Gerald and Keisha’s conversation, Keisha starts to worry that Andy is involved. In Rhonda and Keisha’s second phone call, it’s clear that the boys they know have been in a car accident and that Andy was driving. By the third conversation between Keisha and Rhonda,...

(The entire section is 245 words.)

Memories of Fire

Study Questions

1. According to Tyrone, why didn’t Gerald accompany the four boys, and what makes Tyrone’s answer ironic?

Tyrone started to tell Officer Casey that Gerald had to go home because his stepfather beats him. It’s ironic that the fear of being beaten saved Gerald from the car accident and a possibly worse fate.

2. How does Tyrone’s account point out why drinking and driving is so prevalent among teens—and why it causes car accidents?

In Tyrone’s account, he not only associates drinking with having a good time but also with distorting their reactions. For instance, Tyrone says, “we start drivin’ around , you know , just foolin’ around,...

(The entire section is 269 words.)

"Dear Lord"


infinite: limitless, impossible to measure

stunted: delayed or held back in growth or development

Study Questions

1. Why does B. J. feel guilty for Robbie’s death, even though he wasn’t driving the car?

Since he wasn’t drinking, he feels he should have been driving or at least should have tried to stop Andy or any of the others from driving drunk.

2. Why would Andy, Tyrone, and the others respect B. J. because he doesn’t drink?

They respect him because he stands his ground and resists the pull of his more popular friends and also because he uses humor as his rationale for not drinking: “I told them that...

(The entire section is 276 words.)

"My Most Frightening Moment"

Study Questions

1. How does Rhonda’s response to the accident and her classmate’s death typify her age and tell us about her relationship to Robbie?

In Rhonda’s response she, like most teens, can only see things that happen through the lens of her own experience and life. Her response is about her fright and not about Robbie’s death or the feelings of his family. Through her response, we also realize that Robbie is a friend-of-a-friend and not a close connection.

2. How does Rhonda’s account reveal the context of the car accident and the social conditions that contribute to it?

Rhonda’s account paints...

(The entire section is 230 words.)

The Hazelwood Herald


disorderly conduct: legal behavior that disturbs the peace

freedom of expression: the freedom to speak without censorship or limitation

statistic: an event or person regarded as part of a pattern in data analysis

vast: immense

Study Questions

1. What do readers learn about the impact of Robbie’s death from reading the Hazelwood Herald special edition?

First, the Hazelwood Herald places Robbie’s death within the context of the activities of the school; school activities go on even after such a horrific death. Second, the Hazelwood Herald also shows how Robbie’s death becomes a way to teach...

(The entire section is 286 words.)

"Hey Coach! Can We Talk?"


DWI: legal acronym for “driving while intoxicated,” which is a crime

ordeal: a painful, drawn-out experience

recuperated: recovered from an illness or traumatic experience

revoked: taken away

suspended sentence: legal when the punishment of a defendant found guilty in court is delayed by the judge

vehicular homicide: legal causing the death of another by the negligent operation of a vehicle

1. What suggests Coach Mark Ripley is a good person to whom Andy can reveal his feelings?

Coach Ripley listens to Andy and does not judge him. He signals his empathy by saying simply, “I hear you.” He also...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

Sad Songs, Juicy Gossip


be for real!: slang are you kidding me?

depressed: in a state of general unhappiness and despair

offends: displeases

shrink: slang psychiatrist or psychologist

Study Questions

1. What purpose do Rhonda’s letters and homework assignments serve in the novel?

Rhonda’s letters and homework assignments offer the perspective of someone who is on the periphery of the group most involved in the accident. They show what a teen might feel upon the death of a classmate—fear for herself—and that the accident has value as a piece of “juicy gossip.”

2. Who is Saundra? How does Rhonda...

(The entire section is 257 words.)

"If I Could Change the World"


five-spot: slang a five-dollar bill

nickel bag: slang five dollars worth of pot

rock of crack: slang a few grams of crack cocaine

Study Questions

1. How does Gerald deftly use symbols in his English homework?

Gerald uses ordinary things—peanut butter, Band-Aids, and five-dollar bills—as symbols for the emotional events and upsetting realities that he cannot express directly.

2. What does peanut butter symbolize to Gerald? Explain how “clogged-up” has a double meaning.

Peanut butter is a symbol of Gerald’s mother’s love for him. Before she...

(The entire section is 515 words.)

Hoops and Dunks


devastating: causing overwhelming shock or grief

frenzied: wildly excited or uncontrolled

full-court pressure: basketball an aggressive defense strategy

strain: a state of extreme tension or exhaustion

Study Questions

1. What is the significance of “The Big Basketball Game”?

It is the first home game the Hazelwood Tigers have played since Robbie Washington was killed in the car accident. It is also on December 7, exactly a month after the date of the accident.

2. The crowd at the game “roars” with applause and screams and cheers for Andy when he sinks the game-winning shot. However, he...

(The entire section is 340 words.)

"How Do I Feel?"


affirmative action: an employment policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination (such as blacks or women)

cotillions: formal balls in which in which upper-class young women (debutantes) make their first appearance in society

escort: a man who accompanies a woman to a social event

dispense: prescribe (medication)

heavy: slang serious

kissin’ up to: slang flattering in order to get favorable treatment

psychiatrist: a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness

psychologist: a specialist with a doctorate degree in psychology

rebellious: showing a desire to resist authority or...

(The entire section is 632 words.)

Girl Problems?


key: adjective most important

righteous: virtuous, but smug about it

Study Questions

1. What are the signs that Keisha and Andy’s relationship is becoming strained?

Keisha remarks that Andy doesn’t seem to notice her appearance. Andy expects Keisha to drop her prior commitments to spend time with him. When he gets angry that she won’t, Keisha accuses him of having “temper tantrums.”

2. In this scene, what kind of person is Keisha shown to be? How do her actions develop her character?

Keisha is a very responsible person. She cares about doing her homework and helping her mother at home. She...

(The entire section is 125 words.)

School Blues


engraved: carved on the surface of a hard object

Study Questions

1. What does the conversation between Gerald, Tyrone, and Andy say about their attitude toward schoolwork? How do they influence one other in this regard?

They don’t place importance on doing their schoolwork and getting good grades, and they reinforce each other’s attitude that it’s “cool” to flounder in school.

2. Why is Tyrone happy he sits next to Tiffany Brown?

Tiffany’s a bright girl, and Tyrone cheats by looking at her answers on tests.

3. What usually motivates Andy to do his schoolwork or to try to achieve?


(The entire section is 126 words.)

Ferocious Frustration

Study Questions

1. Why do Andy and his friends call Marcus the “curve buster,” and why do they hate him for that?

Marcus is the only black student who “always” gets good grades, so his performance is outside the grading curve. Andy and his friends hate Marcus because he seems to do so easily what their parents want them to do: to get good grades.

2. When Andy says he “can’t” get the good grades his parents expect, does he really mean he can’t? Explain your answer.

It’s clear that Andy “can” get good grades, because he has been called up on awards day and on another occasion he received an A in advanced math. Yet, he doesn’t feel...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

Female Frustration

Study Questions

1. How well do Keisha and her mom communicate with each other?

Keisha doesn’t confide in her mom about Andy and her mother doesn’t seem to notice—or want to bring up—Andy’s depression and the effect it is having on her daughter. They communicate only about superficial matters.

2. Why is this chapter called “Female Frustration”?

In this chapter Keisha confides the frustrations of being a female, of wanting to look good but falling short of the ideal of “those women with perfect makeup.” Keisha also expresses the female frustration of having a boyfriend who “just isn’t any fun” and who can’t drive her...

(The entire section is 111 words.)

"How Am I Supposed To Write Poetry?"

Study Questions

1. Why is Andy’s poem titled “A Poem of Hope” when it is so dark and despairing? What does Andy do that takes away hope?

The title seems to be ironic since Andy’s poem is filled with such despair, but interpreted in another way, the poem is about hope. Andy is desperate but hopes that someone will discover his despair and rescue him, just as someone shipwrecked is saved after putting a note into a bottle and throwing it into the sea. Andy distinguishes between himself and other people; unlike him, they are “cheerful” people who see a “peaceful sea.” Andy takes away the hope of being rescued by not turning the poem in to his teacher.


(The entire section is 382 words.)

Christmas Without Rob


Bells of St. Mary’s: slang a device to set off a loud security alarm (alludes to 1940s Christmas movie starring Bing Crosby)

commodities: products for sale

cynical: distrustful of human sincerity or good intentions

Study Questions

1. Why does Andy’s trip to the mall with Keisha make him think of Rob? What does Andy reveal that explains why he was so depressed when he went there with Keisha?

Andy and Rob used to tease the store clerks into suspecting them of shoplifting, and at Christmas he and Rob used to pay to sit on the mall Santa’s lap and get their picture taken—teasing the Santa all the while. As he explains to...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

"Good Morning, Hazelwood"

Study Questions

1. What is the most important piece of information in the morning announcements? What does it indicate about Andy’s outward appearance?

The Hazelwood Tigers basketball team has had six wins in a row, largely because of the efforts of Andy and Tyrone who led the team with twenty points each. Even though Andy is becoming more depressed, it appears he is doing well because he is excelling on the basketball court.

2. What might strike readers as ironic in the morning announcements?

The morning announcements begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. In a story that has highlighted racial bias and prejudice, the promise of “liberty and justice...

(The entire section is 223 words.)

Black On White


activists: people who actively campaign to bring about social change

apparent: clearly shown, obvious

bias: a prejudice for or against a particular thing, person, or group

cinder: a small piece of partly burned coal or wood

implants: establishes or fixes (such as establishing an idea in a person’s mind)

luscious: having a pleasingly rich, sweet taste

metaphor: a literary device that describes one thing in a meaningful way by saying or implying it is something else (an example is Keisha’s describing herself: “I’m a rose in the snow”)

stereotypes: oversimplified images or ideas about specific groups of people


(The entire section is 620 words.)

Accepting Fear-Escaping Pain

Study Questions

1. In this session with the psychologist, what topic does Andy discuss that he hadn’t talked about with anyone else before? How does he feel afterwards?

Andy and the psychologist talk about death—not Rob’s death but Andy’s. Andy discusses his wish to escape pain through death and his subsequent fear of his wish to die. Andy feels relieved, because the psychologist is the first person to talk to him about his thoughts and fears about death and to whom he can broach the topic of suicide.

2. What happened that indicates committing suicide is not just a subject of discussion for Andy but is instead something he is in danger of doing?


(The entire section is 406 words.)

Night and Dreams


Technicolor: very vivid color (the name is actually a trademark for the process first used to make color movies)

Study Questions

1. How would you characterize the relationship between Andy and his little brother Monty?

Andy and Monty are genuinely affectionate. While Andy teases Monty about his incessant questions, we can tell he’s proud of him. There is also evidence that Monty looks up to Andy and worries about him, as well. He sees Andy as a source of knowledge about the world, but he is also protective of Andy, offering his “Teenage Warrior Space Soldier” to protect Andy against bad dreams.

2. How does suicide come up,...

(The entire section is 375 words.)

A Letter Of Remembered Joy

Study Questions

1. How does the letter to Rob’s parents illustrate Andy’s maturity and a generosity of spirit?

Rather than beating himself up throughout the whole letter (which Andy acknowledges is pointless), Andy puts his own pain aside and gives the Washingtons the gift of several happy memories of their son. He is able to put himself in their place and think about what would give them comfort, as opposed to what would take away his pain.

2. What do Andy’s “memories of Rob” reveal about Andy’s life with his own parents?

All the memories take place in Rob’s house or in Rob’s family’s car. It is clear that Andy was more comfortable...

(The entire section is 217 words.)

"Out! Out! Brief Candle!"


corrupt: willing to act dishonestly for money or personal gain

degeneration: moral decline

depraved: immoral or wicked

deterioration: a progressive worsening

inevitable: certain to happen; unavoidable

morality: principles concerning the difference between right and wrong

noble: possessing high ideals or moral principles

Study Questions

1. Upset, Andy leaves class in the middle of the Macbeth lesson. What upsets him so much?

It would be natural for Andy, in his guilty state, to draw parallels between his situation and that of the Shakespeare play. Several comments during class discussion upset him....

(The entire section is 384 words.)

Baloney Sandwiches and Bad Breath


kicking: slang bad smelling

strictest of confidences: the expectation that what you say will not be told to anyone else, regardless of the circumstances

Study Questions

1. What does B. J.’s lunch suggest about his home life and his relationship with his mother?

B. J.’s lunch is made of baloney, an inexpensive meat, suggesting that he and his mother are poor. However, B. J.’s mother takes the time each morning to make his lunch, and B. J. recognizes and appreciates her effort. B. J.’s lunch implies that his home is poor but filled with love.

2. How would you describe Mrs. Thorne’s response to B. J. and...

(The entire section is 171 words.)

Learning To Live

Study Questions

1. What does Andy say to the psychologist that convinces him to agree that Andy doesn’t need more counseling?

Andy says that even though he still feels guilty, he’s learning to live with his feelings; he says that he’s sleeping better and doing better in school. Andy tells the psychologist that he has his act together.

2. What might suggest that Andy is bluffing about how he is “learning to live” and how he has his act “together”?

Like all chapters in the book, this one shows a date. The session takes place on February 5, and only the day before, February 4, Andy got very upset with his friends for mentioning Rob—so upset that they...

(The entire section is 253 words.)

The Importance of Friendship

Study Questions

1. In what way could “The Importance of Friendship” refer to the book as a whole and not just to this chapter?

Throughout the book, the importance of friendship is emphasized through the many close relationships among the characters. Andy, B. J., Rob, and Tyrone—all friends involved in the accident—were a “tight” group, and Rob’s friendship had been particularly important to Andy. Andy and Keisha’s friendship becomes even closer as she tries to comfort and sustain him after Rob’s death, and he becomes emotionally dependent on her. Keisha and Rhonda support each other in the aftermath of Rob’s death, and Rhonda also reaches out for help from her...

(The entire section is 284 words.)

Concern and Denial


acting out: exhibiting out-of-control or impulsive behavior (in context)

incidents: events

patriotism: love for or devotion to one’s country

stunts: pranks

Study Questions

1. Ms. Blackwell voices more than one concern to Andy’s father. What are her specific concerns about Andy?

She is concerned that Andy’s academic performance is slipping and that he, like many African-American boys, is wasting his potential. She is also concerned about Andy’s emotional state. She has noticed that he alternates between acting out and being withdrawn, that he doesn’t care about his personal appearance, and that he has become upset and...

(The entire section is 241 words.)

Lions, Tigers, and Dinosaurs

Study Questions

1. What does “yellow hair” symbolize in Monty’s drawings? Why does Andy discourage him from drawing people with yellow hair?

Yellow hair symbolizes white people, suggesting a worldview that gives them more prominence than black people.

2. What does the tiger in Monty’s animal drawing symbolize?

The tiger symbolizes Andy, not only as a high-scoring Hazelwood Tiger basketball player but as someone Monty admires; Monty considers his brother to be strong, like a tiger.

3. How does this chapter show Monty’s perception of Andy’s plight?

Monty has put tears on the tiger in his drawing, because he recognizes...

(The entire section is 245 words.)

Hidden Opinions


custody: legal guardianship

squeaking by: slang just doing the minimum

stable: medical not worsening

Study Questions

1. What examples of stereotypes and bias do these teachers reveal in their conversation?

Sheila thinks all young black men view basketball as their only route in life. She also thinks that black youths can withstand horrific experiences, such as beatings (as Gerald is beaten) or the car accident that Andy caused, because they are “tough.” She implies that whites are more sensitive and fragile than blacks: “A white kid would have cracked under the pressure that Andy...

(The entire section is 309 words.)

Needs and Worries

Study Questions

1. Why is this chapter called “Needs and Worries”? To whose “needs” and “worries” does the chapter refer? What are they?

Keisha confides in her diary about Andy’s needs and her worries about him. Andy presents a smiling, well-adjusted exterior to others, but he reveals to Keisha his depression and his desperate need for comfort. His emotional state makes her very worried about him.

2. What does Keisha reveal in her diary that she should share with adults who know Andy? Why should she not keep it a secret?

Keisha says that Andy has fooled his counselor at the outpatient psych center (Dr. Carrothers), family, and teachers because he’s...

(The entire section is 335 words.)

"Do You? Do You?"

1. How has Rhonda and Tyrone’s relationship progressed since it began in the fall, just after the accident?

Initially Rhonda had a crush on Tyrone, and Tyrone was drawn to Rhonda as a sounding board for his feelings after the car accident. Now they are shown to be on equal footing in a deeper relationship, and it has expanded to include Rhonda’s family. (Tyrone is nice to Rhonda’s little sister and helps her mother with the dishes). Their relationship has progressed to what Rhonda calls “the real kind of love.”

(The entire section is 92 words.)

"I Do"

1. How do Rhonda’s and Tyrone’s letters prove something Keisha mentioned in her essay about “The Importance of Friendship”?

Keisha said teens come to school because of their friendships with one another. It’s clear that for Rhonda and Tyrone, their budding relationship is more important to them than whatever is going on in chemistry or English class, when these letters were exchanged.

(The entire section is 64 words.)

Public Pleasure, Private Pain


bombard: to attack persistently

roost: slang the teacher’s office or place where teachers and administrators congregate (in context); a place where birds settle

Study Questions

1. Is Andy’s outrageous behavior at the talent show a sign of his healing or of his despair? Support your answer with examples of what has occurred so far in the novel. Also, how does the chapter title relate to his behavior?

Andy has been acting out more and more as his depression deepens. Ms. Blackwell expressed her concerns about this to Andy’s father. Andy has struggled to show a laughing face to his classmates and to appear happy and cheerful. Keisha...

(The entire section is 392 words.)

Private Pain


resilient: able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions

tide pool: a shallow rocky pool filled with sea water near the edge of the ocean

Study Questions

1. What does Andy’s mom’s “proper hairdo” symbolize?

It symbolizes the image she presents to the world of a respectable woman who fits into white society. Her hair is “messed up” only during those rare times when she is relaxed and not constrained by what people think about her.

2. Why does Andy get angry when his mother refers to putting “that unfortunate incident” behind him?

He wishes his mother would talk to him about the...

(The entire section is 398 words.)

"Girl, Let Me Tell You!"


dealing: slang in control, on top of one’s game

Study Questions

1. According to Rhonda’s letter to Saundra, what does Andy need most?

When Rhonda writes “that dude [Andy] needs help” and “she [Keisha] ain’t no shrink,” she means that Andy needs professional help from Dr. Carrothers or someone like him.

2. How does Rhonda’s letter show how hard it is for Andy to get help?

It shows that Andy has pushed away Keisha, the person who most understands his feelings and cares deeply about him. It also shows that even Rhonda, who sees how dire Andy’s situation is, is not stepping in to intervene and...

(The entire section is 144 words.)

Slipping Away


bout: a short period of intense activity or of illness

scouts: basketball people employed by college sport teams to gather information on promising athletes

Study Questions

1. Why did Andy miss the meeting with the basketball scouts? What does the reason imply?

Coach Ripley left a message about the meeting on Andy’s father’s answering machine, but Andy’s father did not relay it to Andy. His failing to give Andy the message shows that Andy’s father places little importance on Andy’s prowess on the basketball court and that he discounts basketball as playing any role in Andy’s future.

2. Justify Coach...

(The entire section is 190 words.)

A Father's Dreams


assimilate: blend in and adapt

conscious: aware

detriment: a cause of harm

maximum: the highest possible

personnel: a department of a company that deals with hiring and training employees (in context); human resources department

punitive: given or intended as a punishment

reprehensible: deserving blame

Study Questions

1. How does Andy’s father see him, and how is this reflected in the name he chooses to call his son?

Andy’s father seems to see him solely as a reflection of his own aspirations to succeed in the white world. Andy’s father calls him “Andrew,” refusing to use the shortened version of his...

(The entire section is 302 words.)

Nighttime Cries of Desperation

Study Questions

1. In what way are Andy’s phone calls a sign of hope?

Andy’s phone calls to Dr. Carrothers, Coach Ripley, and Keisha show that he feels deeply connected to these people and that he harbors the hope that they can keep him from committing suicide.

2. Do you agree or disagree that the events of this chapter highlight the role of chance in life? Explain your answer.

The role of chance is important because events might have turned out differently if circumstances had been different. If Dr. Carrothers hadn’t been called away to be with his mother, he might have been available to comfort Andy. If Andy had reached Coach Ripley instead of...

(The entire section is 337 words.)

"Have You Seen Andy?"

Study Questions

1. Keisha says of Andy, “He’s better off without me.” What deeper feelings might her statement suggest? Is Andy better off without her? Why or why not?

When Keisha says, “He’s better off without me,” what she is most likely feeling is that she is better off without him, although she might feel too guilty about abandoning Andy at a time of crisis to actually say that. Andy is clearly not “better off” without Keisha, who is the one person who stood by him through his months of emotional turmoil and depression.

2. How do Andy’s friends show they care about him?

When Andy is not in school, Rhonda cares enough to deliver...

(The entire section is 139 words.)

Tigers Have It Rough


instinct: an inborn, natural impulse

loincloths: single pieces of cloth worn wrapped around the hips; primitive clothing for men

tufts: a bunch or collection, usually threads, grass or hair

vague: uncertain, indefinite

Study Questions

1. As Andy holds his father’s hunting rifle, he goes into a reverie beginning with, “Tigers have it rough these days.” What do tigers symbolize in Andy’s thoughts here?

Tigers in this instance symbolize black men in white America. Even though African-Americans are no longer slaves, they are held back by blatant prejudice and by subtle social restraints, and they are constantly reminded that they...

(The entire section is 304 words.)

Facts Without Feelings

Study Questions

1. Summarize the facts in the police report.

On the morning of April 3, Andy Jackson left for school but was seen returning home by a neighbor an hour later. At 4:05 Rhonda Jeffers arrived at Andy’s house, about the same time as his mother and younger brother, Monty, who noticed blood on the living room ceiling. Mrs. Jackson found Andy in his bedroom. He had shot himself in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene.

2. Earlier in the novel, there is a Hazelwood Herald editorial saying that a Hazelwood student became a statistic, the result of an accident involving a drunk driver. How has Andy Jackson become a statistic?

Andy Jackson...

(The entire section is 124 words.)

Feelings On Display

Study Questions

1. Why are Andy’s friends at Hazelwood High School so angry at the grief counselor?

They have seen how the school counseling system failed Andy. They remember how the guidance counselor, Mrs. Thorne, brushed off Tyrone’s and B. J.’s concerns about Andy. They also can sense the grief counselor’s insincerity, that she is using a pre-written script; as B. J. says, “That sounds like somethin’ you got outta a book.”

2. What does the grief counselor say that sounds rehearsed or “outta a book,” and what should she have done instead of offering platitudes?

The rote part of her talk is this: “As we get older, we all learn that death is...

(The entire section is 268 words.)

Anger and Pain

Study Questions

1. Summarize the main point Tyrone expresses in his letter to Andy.

Tyrone’s letter emphasizes the sanctity and importance of life. Because Tyrone, Andy, and B. J. were spared in the horrific accident that killed Rob, Tyrone feels they owe it to themselves—and to the world—to stay alive. Tyrone also makes the distinction that Rob’s death was an accident, and understandable, but Andy’s death was intentional and, hence, stupid and senseless.

2. Summarize the main point of Gerald’s letter to Andy.

Gerald’s letter is filled with anger at what he perceives to be Andy’s cowardice; he says to Andy that the courage to actually...

(The entire section is 482 words.)

"Lord, Please Forgive Him."

Study Questions

1. In B. J.’s prayer, he offers an insight into Andy that gives readers a better understanding of why Andy, unlike the other boys, was not able to get over Rob’s death. What is it?

In B. J.’s prayer, he reveals that Andy feared death and was deeply affected by it. Andy became very depressed after the death of his puppy, and he became nervous and irritable after the death of his gym teacher.

2. What is tragic about Andy’s fear of death, as revealed by B. J.? What is the irony in it?

The tragic thing about Andy’s fear of death is that he was not able to reach out to his family or others close to him to express his fear and...

(The entire section is 267 words.)

The Tears of a Tiger

Study Questions

1. How has Andy’s death affected Monty’s parents?

After Andy’s death, his and Monty’s parents separated and now live in different houses. It is implied that Andy’s father and mother disagreed on their parts in what happened to Andy. Andy’s mother cries for him and for her loss, but Andy’s father deals with his grief as the novel suggests men are expected to behave, by being “brave and strong.”

2. While Andy destroyed Monty’s childhood irrevocably, what useful lesson did he leave with Monty? What does the lesson mean, and why is it important?

Monty says, “I’ll never forget that it’s okay to put...

(The entire section is 184 words.)

Multiple-Choice Test and Answer Key

1. Rob died in the car accident because

A. all the boys were too drunk to rescue him.

B. he was unconscious.

C. his legs were pinned by the windshield, so he could not get out.

D. he was too tall and heavy to move.

E. the other boys fled the scene as soon as they could move.

2. After the Hazelwood game of November 7, Rob teases Andy because

A. Andy doesn’t want to chill after the game.

B. Andy’s grades are bad.

C. Andy was paying too much attention to Keisha during the game.

D. Andy tries to order Keisha around.

E. Andy thinks...

(The entire section is 2331 words.)

Essay Exam Questions With Answers

1. After the accident, there are three people who provide crucial support to Andy. Who are they? Explain what each person offers to Andy, giving examples from the text. Why do you think they are ultimately unable to prevent his suicide?

Coach Ripley, Keisha Montgomery, and Dr. Carrothers are the three people on whom Andy relies after the accident. All of them ultimately cannot prevent his suicide, not only because of chance, but also because Andy did not reach out before he was overwhelmed by a fatal crisis.

Coach Ripley is the first person to whom Andy talks when he comes back to school after the accident. While many adults might take the opportunity to lecture Andy about drinking and driving, Coach makes it...

(The entire section is 3803 words.)