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ENGL 110 College of San Mateo Novel We the Animals Questions

ENGL 110 College of San Mateo Novel We the Animals Questions

Question Description


1) The young protagonist of We The Animals obviously experiences trauma during very formative years of his life. Think back on the book as a whole: What three events do you think could have the biggest, longest lasting psychological effects him? Why? How will he be impacted/shaped by these events?

(Think about it; your answer to this question could very much be appropriate for your essay)


Respond to this:

There are three events in this novel that can stand out as pivotal points for the protagonist. The first one being in the chapter, “The Lake,” when the protagonist learned how to swim, the second is in the chapter, “Wasn’t No One to Stop This,” when a neighborhood kid showed them a disturbing video, and the last event is in the chapter, “Niagra,” where the protagonist was left alone and his father found him dancing.

In the chapter, “The Lake,” the protagonist had a traumatic experience where his mother almost drowned him. The author wrote, “And Ma, who had nearly drowned me, who had screamed and cried and dug her nails down into me, who had been more frenzied and wild than I had ever known her to be…” describes the many terrifying things all happening at once. The protagonist himself felt like he was about to drown and his life was being threatened. His mother was the scariest that he has ever seen her and that alone can be damaging to a child. On top of all of that, in her frantic state, the protagonist’s mother would have been the cause of his death if he had drowned. All of those emotions and the intensity of the situation can cause the protagonist to have emotional trauma. Although he had a bad experience, the protagonist did learn how to swim and he explained, “I swam toward their bobbing mass, and there under the stars, I was wanted. They had never been so happy to see me, they had never looked at me with such intensity and hope, they had never before spoken my name so softly.” This particular instance can have an adverse effect on the protagonist, where he may think that a bad or life-threatening event may be the only way he can get that kind of loving attention from his parents. The protagonist may seek out other dangerous ways to receive that affection again.

In the chapter, “Wasn’t No One to Stop This,” the three brothers were subjected to an extremely disturbing video by a neighborhood kid. The neighborhood kid says, “You never seen a tape like this, I’ll bet you never…” and he shows the brothers the tape. The protagonist explains that he has seen mothers cover up their children’s ears or eyes to keep them from witnessing vulgar acts and he also explains that he’s seen his family naked at times. But he wasn’t prepared for anything like what they were shown. The unsettling acts on that video caused the protagonist to narrate, “Why don’t you look at me, my brothers, why won’t you take my eyes?” The fact that he worded the phrase in that manner shows the panic and urgency of wanting to stop watching. With this being his first encounter with a pornographic video, this event may shape his sexuality in the future.

In the chapter, “Niagra,” the youngest brother is left alone in a museum and he finds a film room. Without his brothers to influence him on how to play, the protagonist starts to dance. He loses himself in a flowy and hypnotic dance. It’s the true definition of the saying dance like nobody’s watching. The protagonist describes his dance, “…spinning on my toes and looking down at my body, the water slipping and rushing over me, I slithered my arms and wiggled my hips against the current.” His brothers are not there to make fun of him for dancing that way, so the protagonist is enjoying it. While this may not be a traumatic experience for him, the protagonist is finding himself through this action. He’s demonstrating his sensitive side which is rare. When his father finds the protagonist, he says, “Goddamn, I got me a pretty one.” Which can mean something deeper; instead of referring to his features, the father can be commenting on a feminine quality that the protagonist has.


1. Reread this from pg 80-81:

It was a grave. It was my grave. Paps had dug my grave. Those were my first thoughts, and when I was fully horizontal, half-submerged in puddle muck, stories about people being buried alive rushed into my head–avalanches, mudslides, suffocation–but I had a wish, and so I stayed to wish it. I could see a squarish patch of sky, framed by the walls of the hole, and that sky calmed me some, the clouds, the blue; it would not rain again today. I felt a great distance from the house, from Ma on the couch and my brothers and Paps. The clouds seemed to move faster than I had ever known them to, and if I concentrated, id I let go enough, an understanding would blur inside of me and I could trick my body into feeling that I was moving, and the hole was magic. I closed my eyes and stayed quiet and motionless but felt movement, sometimes sinking, sometimes floating away, or stretching or shrinking. I allowed myself to lose all bearings, and a long, long time passed before I wished my wish.

1-2 paragraphs: What is the significance of this passage? What does it symbolize? What is his wish, do you think? Justify your response.

2. “Niagara” is a very unsettling, uncomfortable chapter (many are). What moments make it that way?

3. The protagonist of this book uses very vivid and poetic language in this whole book. Find 2-3 moments of vivid, poetic description, and explain why it stands out to you. Furthermore, what does it say about the protagonist that he tell his story this way? How might his identity as youngest brother lead to this?

4. Reread the very last chapter. What’s going on? More specifically, what do you think the last line (“Upright, upright,” I say, I slur, I vow.) means? Explain


Again, I’m asking you to write the chapter. Be creative, be poetic, be descriptive, just like the writing of Torres. Oh, and maybe have fun!.

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