Sarny: A Life Remembered
So many readers have written and asked: What happened to Sarny, the young slave girl who learned to read inNightjohn?Extraordinary things happened to her, from the moment she fled the plantation in the last days of the Civil War, suddenly a free woman in search of her sold-away children, until she found them and began a new life. Sarny's story gives a panoramic view of America in a time of trial, tragedy, and hoped-for change, until her last days in the 1930s.
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Sarny is the sequel to Gary Paulsen’s Nightjohn, the story of an escaped slave who returns and risks his own life to teach other slaves to read. The prologue is set in 1930, when Sarny is 94 years old. As you read the story of her life after her experience with Nightjohn, notice how her determination to find her children and the ability to read affects her life.
Which statement is the best summary of the prologue?
The following paragraph is an excerpt from the autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Note the differences in how Douglass and Sarny learned to read. How is the text of the autobiography different from the text of the historical fiction novel? The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I converted into teachers. With their kindly aid, obtained at different times and in different places, I finally succeeded in learning to read. When I was sent of errands, I always took my book with me, and by going one part of my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson before my return. I used also to carry bread with me, enough of which was always in the house, and to which I was always welcome; for I was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge.
Character traits are all the elements of a person’s behavior and attitudes that make up their personality. Everyone, even a character in a book, has both good and bad character traits. Learn more about character traits in the video below. What character traits would you use to describe Sarny in this chapter? (This annotation contains a video)
What is the meaning of the figurative language in this sentence?
What can you infer is the reason slaves pray with their heads in a pot?
This story takes place during the time of slavery and the Civil War. As you read notice the historical events that are highlighted in the story and how they affect Sarny's life. Learn more about the genre of historical fiction in this video. (This annotation contains a video)
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. In this book, some words are unique to culture of the time and will not be defined in the dictionary. You will have to rely on the words and sentences around the unfamiliar word to figure out the meaning. What do you think hants means in this sentence?
Why doesn't Waller tell Sarny where her children are located?
The author uses the dialect of the south to bring authenticity to the characters and give the readers a strong sense of the time and place of the story. Dialect is the language used by the people of a specific area, or social class. It is indicated by the spelling, sounds, grammar and pronunciation used by a particular group of people that distinguishes them from other people around them. Notice in this sentence Sarny uses the pronoun she after the noun Lucy. As you read pay attention to the words and phrases that are unique to the southern slaves of the time.
Use the Define function to look up the word shift. The definitions given do not make sense in this sentence. Using the context clues around the word shift, choose the correct meaning as used in this sentence.
Good readers use details in the story in order to fully understand the meaning. This is called making an inference. Watch the video below to learn more about making inferences. What can you infer about the war since the soldiers in blue are everywhere? (This annotation contains a video)
Why do you think there are no white or black men in the town?
Sarny describes the pens where slaves were kept before they were sold. The image below is of an advertisement for a slave auction like the one where her children were sold. (This annotation contains an image)
Sarny's actions reveal all these character traits EXCEPT
You can infer that the white man is scared because the slaves were now free and he has no power over them to keep them from seeking revenge on him.
With no knowledge of towns and states, how does Sarny plan to find her way to New Orleans?
Write two sentences to explain how Lucy's statement "Freedom sure costs a heap" indicates a change in her opinion of the lives of men.
Point of view is the type of narration which shows us the opinion, or feelings of the individuals involved in a situation. In literature, the author uses a specific point of view to let the readers “hear” and “see” what takes place in a story. First person point of view involves the use of either of the two pronouns “I” and “we” and lets the reader know only the thoughts of the character telling the story. Third person point of view uses pronouns like “he”, “she”, “it”, “they” or a character’s name. Third person narration allows the author to understand all the characters by revealing all their thoughts and opinions. From which point of view is this story told?
The word drag has several meanings and not all of them are correct for this sentence. Learn more about words with multiple meanings in this video. (This annotation contains a video)
What are the weapons Sarny refers to here?
Quiz Chapters 1-5
Authors use foreshadowing to give an advance hint of what is to come later in the story. It may appear in the form of dialogue between characters, an event in the story which hints at a later event, or even the title may give clues about what is to come. Foreshadowing creates suspense to keep the reader wanting to know more about what will happen. Sarny's feeling of something bad and the description of death and desertion hints that the experience at the house will not be joyful.
What is Sarny's motivation for taking the boy with them?
What does Sarny mean by "coming on to be rich"?
Good readers often pause and reflect during reading to reflect on the accuracy of previous predictions and clear up any confusion about the story. Here, Sarny reflects on her experience with Nightjohn and his importance to her current quest for her children.
Every story uses conflict to move the plot along. External conflict can appear in several forms: man versus man, man versus nature, man versus supernatural, or man versus society. Internal conflict is a character’s struggle to make a decision or deal with a strong emotion. In this scene, the characters are struggling with nature as they continue on their journey.
What does Sarny mean by "Same as war for me"?
The word hissing is an example of which type of figurative language?
Sarny experiences battle differently than the soldiers. She can't bear to leave the dying soldiers as their regiment passes them by. This shows that even though Sarny is desperate to find her children, she values human life enough to stop and comfort others as much as she can.
Why does remembering the four soldiers' names bring Sarny to tears decades later?
Good readers use evidence from the text to prove a point. View the following video to learn about text based evidence. What evidence can you spot in this paragraph to prove the occupant of the carriage is wealthy? (This annotation contains a video)
The highlighted sentence is an example of which literary device?
A good reader can retell the main points in a story in a summary. How would you summarize Sarny's story so far? View the following video to learn more about summarizing. (This annotation contains a video)
Which statement is textual evidence that Miss Laura is black?
Theme is a main idea of a book that is repeatedly addressed as the plot progresses. In this book, the theme of freedom is developing the plot of the book. Many of characters’ thoughts and actions are inspired their desire for and attainment of freedom. In this scene, Lucy has gained her freedom and is determined not to lose it by letting someone order her around. Pay attention to how this theme is developed throughout the rest of the book.
What does Laura mean when she says, "We each live in our own time"?
Quiz Chapters 6-10
Good readers focus on important ideas, ask questions as they read, and predict what will happen next. The ending of the war is a significant event is history and marks a change in the laws of slavery. Predict whether Sarny's troubles will end with the end of the war.
The fact that Sarny will wait two more days to confront Mr. Chivington shows that she is
Good readers make a picture in their mind of what is happening in the text. The author uses images to paint a picture of Miss Laura’s house for the reader. Can you see it in your mind? Why does Sarny act astonished by it?
Why does Miss Laura tell Sarny not to speak of the quarters again?
Sarny is amazed that anyone could live in such luxury, especially a black woman in the South. Of all the new features of the house, which one do you think Sarny loves the best? If she had to choose between this and access to pens and paper, which do you think she would choose?
Which type of figurative language is used in this sentence to describe the relaxed feeling Sarny gets from the bathtub?Was in it, smelled it, felt it and couldn’t believe it anyway. Like being inside a warm flower.
Good readers use details in the story in order to fully understand the meaning. From the following statements about Bartlett, you can tell he is patient and kind as he teaches Sarny about cooking: "Never said a bad word or made fun of me; Just keep on keeping on and it will be fine; Would just smile and say, “No, Sarny, try that knob over there.”
Which definition of the word singular is appropriate for the context of the highlighted sentence?
Good readers make connections to the text. Bartlett teaches Sarny how to negotiate for the best prices at the market. This is like dealing with venders at a flea market or swap meet. Have you ever tried to negotiate a price for something a friend of yours was selling?
What is the meaning of with word jaw as it is used in this sentence?
The author uses foreshadowing to hint that Sarny will soon see her children. This adds to the anticipation you feel because of the connection you have made with Sarny on her journey.
Authors work hard to choose just the right word to give the reader a clear understanding of exactly what they mean. In this sentence, the author uses the simile “like grease on a griddle” to make a clear image of Sarny running back and forth to answer the door just as hot grease hops around a griddle.
What does Sarny mean when she says, “I was crying, but felt cold inside”?
The climax of the plot is the point of highest tension, where the reader is on the edge of his seat. This scene where Sarny actually sees her children and gets them back is the climax of this book. Sarny’s major conflict is solved. The events that follow are part of the falling action.
Mr. Chivington’s character is best described as
All these statements from the text show Sarny is wise with her money EXCEPT
The author mentions the English writer William Shakespeare in this paragraph. This is NOT an example of an allusion because only the writer and his works are mentioned. If it were an allusion, there would be some comparison of how the events in this story relate to Shakespeare’s work.
Once the climax has been reached, the events to solve any remaining conflicts occur rather quickly. The events after the climax are part of the falling action. You will find out what happens to Lucy, Sarny and Miss Laura to being the story to its resolution.
What does Sarny mean by “Too short to live, sixty. You don’t really learn much on life until then and it’s a shame not to get to use it”?
Which literary device is the author using in this sentence?
Sarny and Miss Laura are talking about the Klu Klux Klan, a group that believes white people are superior over all other races. In the South, the KKK tortured black people, hung them, and burned crosses to instill fear, intimidate, and harm them. Miss Laura is concerned this group may try to hurt Sarny if they find out she is teaching black people to read. The picture below is of a KKK march held in 1987. (This annotation contains an image)
The event of Sarny teaching black people to read is part of the falling action.
Use text evidence to predict how Sarny will respond now that she knows the white men are against her school.
How does this statement develop the theme of freedom?
Good readers use clues from the text to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words. These clues may appear in the sentences before or after the unknown word. View this video to learn more about context clues. What clues from the text help you decipher the meaning of the word no-count? (This annotation contains a video)
Sarny has suffered a tremendous loss with the violent death of Stanley. Predict how his death will affect Sarny. Will she continue teaching? Will she move north?
Sarny says, “The police don’t help us,” yet Miss Laura uses her connections within the police department and the court system to have Haggerty found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to prison. What does this tell you about the justice system? Do you think justice was done?
What does Sarny mean by “everything was in a blue fog”?
Miss Laura knows exactly what she wants to happen at her wake and funeral. The wake is a service when mourners view the body and say their final goodbyes to the person who has died. In keeping with her character, Miss Laura chooses the “deep purple dress that makes my hair look so nice” and “not too much makeup.” Having plans made already helps Sarny to make sure the service is exactly like Miss Laura wants it.
Miss Laura reveals that Sarny is named in her will, a legal document that outlines what someone wants to do with their possession when they die. This indicates the close relationship the women have developed over the course of the book. Do you think Sarny is concerned about the money? What do you think she will do with it?
What causes Miss Laura to die?
Which word is an antonym for shrewd?
In a plot, the resolution is the end of the story. The main character may have changed over the course of the story, any conflicts are completely solved, and the story ends. Sarny moves to St. Louis and Tyler and Delie grow up. What other events wrap up Sarny’s story?
Quiz Chapters 11-17