The Forest at Night questions

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This is a zany story full of stylistic acrobats and delicious, muscular turns of phrase. Since a part of your first major writing assignment this quarter (Style Memo portion of Vignettes) is all about analyzing and imitating writing style, it’s important that we practice how to understand the hallmarks of a writer’s style, across multiple texts or sections (as we will with Cannery Row, next). We’re using Russell for this practice.

  1. Russell probably uses some words you’ve never heard before in this story. So on your first read, make a list of those words and look them up as you go. Include your list here.
  2. How often does Russell use figurative language (similes, metaphors, descriptive imagery of any kind) in her writing? Describe her writing style in your own words, and from your own point of view, using 3-5 specific adjectives to show what you mean. How would you describe her writing style? Be original.
  3. Examine the following passage:

“The forest at night is full of friendly menace. It blurs and ashes all around us, a dark dream of itself. Rain runs down the skinned black hands of the trees, down the white mushrooms that push their tiny faces from the logs. Frogs jump from the branches like spry blemishes. We flinch beneath the leaf-swung shadows, the winged attack of lunatic moths. The forest gives me all sorts of reasons to reach out and hold Emma’s hand” (Russell).

In this batch of study questions, you’re going to take some first steps toward writing an extended close reading of a passage. To do that, answer the following questions in paragraph form:

  • What specific words and descriptions stand out to you most in this passage? Try to find at least one word and/or description from each sentence. Use quotes!
  • Why do each of these examples stand out to you? What do they have in common? Start to draw connections between them, and be specific. Remember, this is subjective. There is no right answer.
  • Based on the evidence you’ve gathered, what message is Russell sending about the “the forest at night?” Messages might be about the atmosphere, theme, or metaphorical meaning of the “forest at night.” There is no right interpretation of the passage and no wrong message!
  • HOW did you make this interpretation? Meaning: Which evidence did you use to come to this conclusion, and why?
  • BONUS. Feeling brave? Answer this question: How is Russell’s description of the forest related to Elijah’s feelings for Emma? Why? Go for it!

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