British Imperialism: Gordimer’ s “Six Feet of the Country”
This lesson is part of my 12th grade unit on British Imperialism. If you are interested in purchasing the entire unit as one bundle, it is available here.
I use this lesson as part of my larger Imperialism Unit which is aimed at studying the literature of the era to uncover the perceptions and emotions of individuals caught on both sides of Imperialism. The concept of Imperialism involves the major work of nations (war, exploitation, servitude, enslavement), yet the literature exposes the conflicts, emotions, and true human nature of those people who lived within the social and political systems. I want my students to understand that there are people, relationships, conditions, choices, and motivations in every era of history; it is easy to judge historical events and figures from our contemporary standpoint, but it is important to remember that everybody has a back-story. These stories reveal that the relationships within the Imperialistic social structure were not always what they seemed.
This lesson includes:
A PDF of Gordimer’ s text “Six Feet of the Country” which is available in many 12 grade literature books. Students were required to annotate the text as they read, so I include a copy of the PDF with the first page annotated to use as a model for students.
Guiding discussion questions requiring close reading and critical thinking. The questions encourage students to look for clues about the divided world of South Africa and consider the differing individual perspectives of the characters.
Identification level short answer quiz on the text to ensure that students have done the reading.
Depending on your pacing, and if you assign portions of this work as homework, there are @ 1.5 classes of viewing, reading, interacting, discussion, and writing.
My class began reading this in class so I could clarify any difficult sections and they finished it as homework. Students were directed to read, annotate the story, and be prepared to answer the discussion questions in class. The next class period, they took the quiz and we discussed the story in a Socratic format based on the questions. Students were directed to use their annotations as jumping off points for discussion.
We spent a good deal of time discussing Lerice’ s connection to the land and the workers and the narrator’s connection to the city; the conflict in the marriage works as an underlying conflict that mirrors the greater racial conflict. We also talked about what each culture valued in regards to sickness, death, and burial; people who have few possessions and have been devalued in their daily life put a large store in proper burial because they want assurance that their life made a difference. Students particularly picked up on the idea that racial tensions stole the individuality of the workers.
Key Words: British Literature, Imperialism, 12th Grade, short story, Gordimer, conflict, perspective, critical thinking, close reading, writing