The Wayward Bus

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In his first novel to follow the publication of his enormous success, The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s vision comes wonderfully to life in this imaginative and unsentimental chronicle of a bus traveling California’s back roads, transporting the lost and the lonely, the good and the greedy, the stupid and the scheming, the beautiful and the vicious away from their shattered dreams and, possibly, toward the promise of the future. This edition features an introduction by Gary Scharnhorst.
Curriculet Details
57 Questions
56 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 11th and 12th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining diction, symbolism, and point of view. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about dramatic structure and characterization. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes that require students to utilize textual evidence and make inferences, while also exploring the theme of unfulfilled desires. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Take a moment to examine the point of view. From what perspective is this novel being told? 
Take a moment to review what the author has told you about the setting, which includes not only the place but also the time in which the novel takes place. List three specific details that provide the reader with information about the setting. 
What does the narrator imply with the description that Norma "had felt the weight of Alice Chicoy's tongue many times about the flies"?  
Clark Gable has been referenced several times now. He was an actor most famously known for playing the lead role in the film Gone with the Wind in 1939.  (This annotation contains a link)
Make an inference. Based on the description of Norma and her life so far, what is the best explanation for why Norma only wears the "gold-filled wedding ring" and "Brazilian-type diamond ring" when she sleeps? 


Review this paragraph. Notice how Steinbeck goes into great detail to describe Juan's appearance, paying particular attention to Juan's hands. What is the author's purpose in providing the reader with these details? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
The details describing Pimples suggest that he  
The author has not included much dialogue until this point. In the coming pages, pay attention to the dialogue between Pimples and Juan. What does the dialogue tell you about their relationship? Do they get along or are they adversaries?  
The "Model A" is a reference to one of the second biggest cars produced by Henry Ford.  (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted excerpt includes an example of __________. 
Review the conversation between Juan and Pimples. Why might Pimples be "shaking all over in a kind of chill"? Provide an example from the text that shows he is not shivering due to feeling cold. Make an inference and explain why he might really be shaking. 


Notice how the sun has "cleared the mountains to the east" and is now "blazed on the poppies." The men had been working on the bus since before dawn, and yet Juan is just now standing up from the ground. The author includes these details to help develop his characters. In this case, such details reinforce Juan's hard working nature.  
Notice how the dialogue between Pimples and Alice differs from the previous moments of dialogue between Pimples and Juan. How is attitude between Alice and Pimples different from what you may have observed between Pimples and Juan? Cite three specific words or phrases to support your answer.  
Notice how the third person narrator tells the reader what Alice is thinking and feeling. The narrator has done this with several other characters as well. This tells the reader that the narrator is speaking from a third person omniscient point of view.  
The highlighted excerpt contains which of the following literary devices?  
Mr. Pritchard realizes "There were no other Mr. Prichards here." What details does the author provide that help the reader to recognize that Mr. Pritchard is different from the others, such as Juan, Alice, and Pimples? Cite two examples to support your explanation. 
Mr. Pritchard is characterized as being rather chauvinistic as he believes a "husband and a baby" will help Mildred find her "true values."  
The narrator has repeatedly described Pimples' taste for sweets. Pay attention to see if this continues throughout the novel. Such details often serve as symbols if continued throughout a text. 


The details in this passage suggest that Norma  
What is the literal interpretation of this simile?  
Notice the author's use of a dash here. It indicates a pause or hesitation. This syntactical choice is a hint here that Norma is not exactly confident in what she's saying (in other words, she's lying). Why do you think she's choosing to lie about being Clark Gable's cousin? 
What "evidence" is Alice searching for? 
Alice is terrified that Juan will hit her; however, based on the details in the text, Juan is described as quite gentle towards Alice. Notice this disparity between Alice's perceptions and reality as the text progresses. Is the author trying to point out that Alice has a warped sense of reality? 


In chapter 4, the author goes into detail while describing Norma's attempts to improve her appearance (brushing her hair, standing on her toes to exercise her legs, etc). Here, the author again goes into detail describing a woman's appearance. In what ways do these details reveal a similarity between Norma and Bernice? In what way are these women different? 
Bernice feels her married life is "fairly pleasant." Based on the description of her marriage, would you agree?  
Mrs. Pritchard's decision to bring her fur coat on their vacation to Mexico most likely seems based upon ________. 
The fact that Pimples is so gratified that someone has called him by his actual nickname, instead of calling him "Pimples," provides the reader with a hint that perhaps this character is not typically respected or listened to by others.  
Juan openly admires Mildred's legs. In contrast, Pimples awkwardly tried to steal glances at Mildred's legs (and was subsequently caught). This distinction functions as a physical character foil, and serves to highlight Juan's confidence and Pimple's insecurity and awkwardness.  
The old man's statement that he's "got a feeling" that something bad might happen may later prove be an example of which literary device?  
Earlier in the novel, we learned of Norma's secret desire for Clark Gable. Here, we learn of Juan's desire to just "head for the hills." Based on these two examples, what theme may be emerging? 
Even though the author uses quotation marks here, these lines are actually Mildred's internal thoughts. Notice how the author wants us to be keenly aware of Mildred's attraction to Juan. Here, we learn that Mildred knows this attraction is wrong, yet she can't seem to help but continue to pursue him.  
The fact that the reader is aware of Juan and Mildred's open flirtation yet Mildred's parents are completely oblivious and unaware is an example of which literary device? 
Ernest, like many of the characters so far, expresses an unfulfilled desire. Here, the narrator reveals his desire to become a successful salesman (or at least a profitable one). This recurring issue, the concept of dreams or unfulfilled desire, may be a recurring theme throughout the text.  


Which of the following literary devices is utilized in this excerpt? 
Alice is putting on an act here, admitting she knows how to "handle girls." This detail is a hint to the reader that Norma may be manipulative and perhaps cannot be trusted. 


Again, the reader can observe yet another moment wherein a character desires something that is beyond their reach (or unattainable). Continue to search for this theme as you progress through the text. 
Consider the connotation associated with the word "pig." How is the author characterizing Louie's opinion of women based on this specific word choice? 
Make an inference based on the details in this excerpt. Why might Edgar not want Louie to see his nail until it was "much longer"? 
Again, the narrator points out that Edgar will now use the word "pig," just like Louie. The narrator also again references Edgar's desire to have a long nail just like Louie's. These details serve to help characterize Edgar as a follower, as well as someone who admires Louie. 
Early in the novel, the narrator describes posters of beautiful girls hanging on the walls of Alice and Juan's lunch counter. Here, this girl is also almost described in a "poster-like" manner, where the men are trying to stare at her without being noticed. With these details, perhaps Steinbeck is making a statement about the objectification of women. Continue to look for this theme as the novel progresses. 
What is the girl referring to when she references her "gift" or her "failing"? 
Louie just noticed the girl has "forceps marks" near her jaw, and now he sees she has a crooked tooth. It appears as though Louie is trying to find flaws in this incredibly beautiful woman. Reflect on why he may be doing this. What might these details reveal about his personality? 
When Louie admits he "wanted this girl more than he ever wanted anyone," which of the book's themes is he addressing? 
Quiz #1 


After reading the previous annotation regarding Curly's wife from Of Mice and Men, respond to the following prompt:In a brief paragraph, compare Curley's wife to this woman from The Wayward Bus. In what ways are they presented in a similar manner? What is Steinbeck's message or purpose with these choices? 
Notice how Steinbeck has not yet given this beautiful woman a name; here, she's just referred to as "the blonde." Similarly, in Steinbeck's famous novel Of Mice and Men, he employs a similar technique, referring to one of the beautiful female characters as "Curley's wife," never revealing her real name. Read the following article that discusses this concept: (This annotation contains a link)
The fact that Alice is secretly trying to read Norma's private letter is a detail that serves to further characterize Alice. With this detail, the reader is able to recognize that Alice is deeply suspicious of others (particularly of other women). 
Notice the author has finally given "the blonde" a name; however, this is not her real name.  
Which of the following details suggest that Mr. Pritchard is "acting queerly"? 
The narrator, once again, is providing the reader with details to help characterize Alice; her paranoia and distrust is emerging as a common element of her characterization. 
Juan reveals many reasons for why he chooses to stay with Alice. Although some reasons are superficial, other reasons are much deeper, such as his awareness that Alice truly loves him. These varying details serve to establish Juan as a _______ character.  


Using at least three details from the highlighted passage, explain how the road in the text is similar or different to the modern image of a road (provided in the previous annotation). Use your textual evidence to support your claims. 
Steinbeck beautifully describes the country road in great detail. Compare Steinbeck's imagery to the picture of a country road provided for you here:  (This annotation contains an image)
The details of Mrs. Pritchard's inner thoughts, regarding what she'll tell others about their trip when they return home, informs the reader that she is concerned with what other people think of her.  
Who or what is the narrator figuratively referring to when he says the "magnet drew him from the rear of the bus"? 
The fact that Mr. Pritchard doesn't know Ernest Horton's name tells the reader that Mr. Pritchard likely considers Horton as less powerful. 
The description of how Mr. Horton "registered" his idea implies that he  
The fact that Mr. Pritchard is finally forgetting Camille tells the reader that he finds money more interesting than other pursuits. 
Examine the diction and connotations in this excerpt. How would you characterize the mood in this paragraph as the chapter comes to a close? 


Steinbeck's diction is heavy with negative connotations in this excerpt. Notice the words "bodies," "tumbling," "unstable," "precocious," "dead," and "deadly." Such diction may be hinting to the reader that something dangerous or harmful lies ahead.  
Examine the highlighted passage, and observe the many negative connotations in Steinbeck's diction. Such connotations may serve to foreshadow something unfortunate in the future. 
The overall tone of chapter 10 is  


Notice how Alice is role playing here. She's pretending to be a demanding customer who deserves respect, while also playing the role of the waitress or bartender who must tend to her. Why do you think she's pretending to be an important, demanding customer? 
Alice seems to equate the memory of her mother to  
The highlighted excerpt contains which of the following literary devices? 
When the reader learns that "All her unhappiness, all her resentments, centered on the fly," the narrator is directly pointing out a symbol. In this case, the fly symbolizes everything Alice detests about her life. 
The third person omniscient narrator explores Alice's thoughts and emotions in chapter 11, specifically telling the reader what's going on in her mind. What would the reader have failed to understand if this chapter was written from another character's perspective, as an outsider simply describing Alice's behavior?  


At this point in the novel, begin to think about where the rising action is leading. Here, the narrator continues to remind the reader that the bridge may be in jeopardy, which is a complication that serves to lead us to a culminating point (the climax). Review the main elements of plot, including rising action and climax, by viewing this brief video:  (This annotation contains a video)
What recurring theme is evident in Norma's thoughts in this excerpt? 
Notice the word choice "resentfully." The narrator is telling the reader that Mrs. Pritchard is not always perceived to be as sweet and friendly as she may believe. 
Steinbeck spends a great deal of time both directly and indirectly characterizing the individuals in his text. Watch the following video on characterization. Do you think Mildred is being directly or indirectly characterized in this passage?  (This annotation contains a video)
Make an inference. Why do you think Mildred intentionally tried to make Mr. Van Brunt uncomfortable? 
Notice how Camille, the most beautiful woman in the novel, is helping both Norma and Mildred with their appearance. The actress Jayne Mansfield, pictured below, played the part of Camille in the 1957 movie version of the book. Does the actress "look the part" based on what the author has described? (This annotation contains an image)
How has the mood shifted in this highlighted passage? 


Based on the details in this excerpt, the author is using _________ to reveal elements of Mr. Van Brunt's personality. 
Notice Mildred is still interested in Juan; however, Juan's attention has refocused itself on Camille. How do you think this will motivate Mildred's actions towards Juan as the plot progresses? 
Based on all of his actions so far, Mr. Van Brunt can best be described as __________. 
It is interested that Mr. Pritchard hates his wife "very deeply." Based on his actions, it seems as though he actually loves his wife. Notice this disconnect between his thoughts and his actions. How do you think he really feels about his wife? 
What else might Bernice's impending "headache" figuratively represent?  


Notice the diction in this highlighted excerpt, in particular words such as "death," "untenanted," "windowless," and "unpainted." How does such diction contribute to the mood? 
Notice how Bernice, once again, is already pondering how she'll tell the story of her travels to her friends. It appears as though she is quite distracted by thoughts of impressing other people. 
The fact that Pimples' desire for Camille quickly transfers to a desire for Norma tells the reader that 
The detail that Mr. Pritchard "colored a little" when Ernest gives him his address tells the reader that Mr. Pritchard   
The detail that Norma has "made up" some friends in the past allows the reader to infer that she is a lonely individual. 
Examine Juan's thoughts in the highlighted passage. Using at least two details from the text, explain how Juan's desire to "be free" highlights the recurring theme of "unfulfilled desire." 
The imagery of the word "REPENT," as well as the description of the "dark eyes peering out of the yellow cliff" may represent Juan's feelings of guilt for wanting to run away and abandon Alice.  
Examine the details in this excerpt. What can you infer Juan is actually trying to do?  
A new theme of discontent is emerging here. In what other areas of the text, or from which other characters, can this theme of discontentment be identified? 
Quiz 2  
What is the tone in the final paragraph of this chapter? 


What type of conflict is being exposed in this passage? 
A "hyperbole" is an exaggerated statement. Do you think Bernice's claim that she will kill herself is genuine or hyperbolic?  
Based on this paragraph, the reader can infer that Bernice is  
Notice how Camille acts friendly (outwardly) towards Norma, yet simultaneously feels quite frustrated by her (internally) . See if you can observe this type of disconnect, between what a character internally thinks versus how a character outwardly behaves, as you progress through the text.  


The desire to "escape" or "run away" from everything is a recurring theme in the novel. Identify two other characters who have also expressed this desire. Using inferences from the text so far, explain why you think Steinbeck chose this as one of his central themes. 
The details of "murders," and the "dangerous" feeling Mildred experiences serve to foreshadow to the reader that something troublesome may lie ahead. 
Notice how Juan internally calls himself a "liar." Do you think he is a trustworthy character so far?  
Mildred dreams of escaping her life, much like Juan and other characters in the text. When she asks if Juan will help her to "escape" her life by taking her to Mexico, Juan refuses. What purpose does this dialogue serve? 


The narrator mentions a second character observing this word "repent." Click on the word to view and read the definition using the dictionary feature. Choose one character from the novel. Using evidence from the text, examine how the concept of "repent" relates to the character of your choice.  
Notice the kindness between Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard. Based on what you know of their internal thoughts, revealed in previous chapters, do you think this kindness is genuine or superficial? 
Although minor, notice how, once again, the narrator reveals another character's unfulfilled desire.  
The description of Mr. Pritchard taking the pistol and leaving the bus suggests that he  
The fact that Camille smiles at Mr. Pritchard, despite the fact that she doesn't want to talk to him, suggests that she is  
Based on what you have learned about the Pritchards' marriage, are Camille's observations about Bernice accurate? 
Examine Bernice's actions in this final paragraph. Why do you think she intentionally bloodies and dirties herself? Make a predication about what she may plan to do in subsequent chapters. 


Mildred's desire to hold Juan's hand, as well as her words and actions highlighted in this passage, reveal her desire to have a deeper connection with Juan. This desire, however, is not being fulfilled.  


The reader is finally provided with insight into why Mr. Van Brunt is such an angry, difficult man. Do you think learning about the reasons for his misery make him a more sympathetic character? 
What is the primary purpose of chapter 19?  


Notice how the theme of unfulfilled desires is revealed in this dialogue. Norma expresses a sudden desire to become a dental nurse, yet Pimples "destroys" the dream mid conversation. 
What is Pimples' "new discovery"? 


Examine the diction in this passage, paying close attention to the connotations of the author's word choice. How would you characterize the relationship between Mildred and Juan? Use at least two examples to support your explanation. 
Pimples is upset that "Juan had forgotten," but he doesn't tell us what exactly Juan forgot. Based on the evidence that Juan shouted "Pimples!" on the previous page (instead of calling him "Kit," as he prefers), the reader can infer that Pimples is angry that Juan called him by his offensive nickname. 


Notice how Mildred continues to stare at Juan, revealing how she wants to "hold on to today." The reader can infer that Mildred feels much more strongly for Juan than he feels for her.  
Quiz 3 
At the end of the novel, the characters finally reach their intended destination, however, do you think the characters are satisfied? Consider the theme of unfulfilled desires by choosing one character from the text. Ultimately, by the end of the novel, were his or her desires ever fulfilled? Use three examples from the text to support your claim.