The Rag and Bone Shop
Twelve-year old Jason is accused of the brutal murder of a young girl. Is he innocent or guilty? The shocked town calls on an interrogator with a stellar reputation: he always gets a confession. The confrontation between Jason and his interrogator forms the chilling climax of this terrifying look at what can happen when the pursuit of justice becomes a personal crusade for victory at any cost.
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Robert Cormier (1925-2000) wrote many critically acclaimed books for young adults. His writing is dark and features topics such as mental illness and violence. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted description of Trent makes him seem _______________ because he _____________________________________.
The point of view of this novel is third-person omniscient. Cormier deftly moves back and forth between the viewpoints of the novel's main characters. We have already been introduced to Trent and now we will get to know Jason. (This annotation contains a video)
Who does Jason most like the company of?
This represents a sharp turn in the story! Look at the plot diagram below. Cormier has finished with the exposition (introducing us to the main characters of Jason and Trent and the setting of lazy summer days) and now begins the rising action of the story. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe the character of Alicia as seen through the eyes of Jason. What does his characterization of her say about him?
Jason is an empathetic boy, who cares about the victims of Bobo's bullying. We also see in him a sense of fairness and need for justice here. Jason is the protagonist in this story. Who do you think will emerge as an antagonist? (This annotation contains a video)
"Jason looked at Emma as if he had never seen her before."What emotion is Jason most likely feeling?
We can see in Jason a desire to be helpful to the detective, and this will continue on in the novel. What do you think this says about Jason as a person?
What does Jason NOT tell the detective?
Jason witnessed Alicia and Brad having an external conflict. Do you think Jason was right for not telling the detective? (This annotation contains a video)
Braxton says that Trent is "trained to extract confessions. He never fails." Does something about that not sit well with you? What if he interrogates an innocent person? (This annotation contains an image)
How does Trent make the interrogations sound like a game? What does this say about his character?
Although Monument, Massachusetts is not a real town, this novel is an example of the genre of realistic fiction. Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
We can infer, from the text, that Jason feels ___________ about the second visit from the police officer.
Jason's mother, being reluctant to let him go to the police station, is an example of foreshadowing. Watch for more examples of foreshadowing as you read. (This annotation contains a video)
"Still thin and intense, as if he were made of wire instead of bones and muscle" is an example of
Sarah is doubtful of the boy's guilt and seems worried that Trent will bully a confession out of him rather than look for the truth. What do you think?
What did Lottie, Trent's ex, mean when she told him, "You are what you do"? Why do you think this statement continues to haunt Trent?
You probably recognized the novel's title in these lines of W B Yeats' poem "The Circus Animals' Desertion." Watch the video of the poem being read below. (This annotation contains a video)
This is a complicated, but important, poem to understand. Basically, it is about a poet who has found himself unable to write, and all of his old themes no longer ring true. He must return to where everything began for him: the pure and stripped-down poetry in his heart. Follow the link to the summary below for more clarification. (This annotation contains a link)
Why does Cormier include this poem by Yeats in the text? How does its message reflect what is going on inside Trent?
Notice how everything about the room has been manufactured to make Jason feel uncomfortable. The high temperature, the extra furniture brought in to induce claustrophobia, even the fact that Trent's chair is higher than Jason's, has all been thought out. These details highlight the novel's central idea of manipulation. This scenario doesn't seem to bode well for Jason.
"The use of we designed to give the boy a sense of being in this together, as partners, as associates."The above sentence highlights the idea of
Notice how Trent seems to make Jason's choice of reading material seem sinister. Do you think this is part of his plan? (This annotation contains an image)
Trent pays close attention to Jason's
"Seeing the puzzlement on the boy's face..." A motif in this novel is puzzles or games. Motifs are details repeated for larger symbolic meaning. Trent views all of this as a game, but this is not a game for Jason. (This annotation contains a video)
Trent tells Jason that he has to trust him. Should Jason trust Trent? Why or why not?
Trent's manipulation of Jason is working. Jason does not notice he is thirsty until Trent offers to bring him a drink he has no intention of producing. What Trent is doing is planting seeds in Jason's mind. This is also known as the "power of suggestion."
Jason's desire to leave the interrogation could best be described as
Notice how Trent feels it is important to use the word "escape." Jason feels a sense of unease about it, but does not realize that he is being manipulated.
Compare and contrast Jason's true sympathetic nature to Trent's manufactured one.
Jason finally brings up Brad and Alicia's fight that he witnessed before her murder. Trent recognizes that what Jason is revealing is "the truth." Do you think this will change the course of the interrogation?
What does Trent's dismissal of Jason's information reveal about his character?
Can you feel the tension in this scene? (This annotation contains a video)
Here Cormier is using ______________ to add emphasis.
Watch the video from the Discovery Channel on interrogation techniques below. Use this knowledge to help you answer the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
What are the similarities and differences between the video and Trent's tactics in the novel? Do you think Trent is performing a fair interrogation?
We have reached the climax of the novel: Trent knows that Jason is innocent. What do you predict the outcome of this realization will be?
What does Trent do with the knowledge that Jason is innocent?
Here Trent uses Jason's preference for science fiction and horror books and movies as if it were evidence against him. Did you see this coming?
Trent is using _______________________ to get Jason to confess to the murder.
Trent is having an internal conflict here, the result of which will change the course of his and Jason's lives. Should he let the innocent boy go free, or should he bully the twelve-year old to confess to a crime he didn't commit in order to preserve his "perfect" interrogation record? Do you think Trent will make the right decision?
How does Sarah's indictment of Trent seem like it is coming from his own soul?
Notice here how Cormier compares Jason to Jesus on the cross. The boy is visibly damaged. Trent's actions have caused Jason to sacrifice a very important part of himself. (This annotation contains an image)
What have Trent's actions done?
The interrogation has affected Jason deeply. It has destroyed his sense of self and his sense of reality.
Cormier ends this novel with a cliffhanger. Do you think Jason will realize that he is not the murderer Trent made him believe he is before it is too late?