Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight Discussion Questions

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IB English III
6 September 2012
Summer Assignment
1. Fuller compares the smell of Africa to "black tea, cut tobacco, fresh fire, old sweat, young grass." She describes, "an explosion of day birds [. . .] a crashing of wings" and "the sound of heat. The grasshoppers and crickets sing and whine. Drying grass crackles. Dogs pant." How effective is the author in drawing the reader into her world with the senses of sound, smell, and taste? Can you find other examples of her ability to evoke a physical and emotional landscape that pulses with life? What else makes her writing style unique? Alexandra Fuller describes everything in great detail allowing the reader to feel as if the reader is with her while she goes through Africa. One example is, "Snake and Violet settle down for plastic mugs of sweet milky tea and thick slabs of buttery bread...Violet took a bite of her bread and a mouthful of tea and mixed the two together in her mouth. We called this cement mixing, and we were not allowed to do it"(43). This is a great example of how she draws the reader into her world with the sense of taste. Another example of the great detail in which Fuller uses is when the family arrives at the house in the Burma Valley. "It looked like Army Barracks, low to the ground and solid with closed-in windows and a blank stare. The yard, littered with flamboyant pods, was big and bald and red." Her vivid descriptions allow for the reader to thoroughly visualize her experiences and life. 2. Given their dangerous surroundings in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia and a long streak of what young Bobo describes as "bad, bad luck," why does the Fuller family remain in Africa? The Fullers stay in Africa because of want and necessity. All throughout the book Alexandra Fuller (also referred to as Bobo or Chookies) expresses her love of the continent through the ways she describes it. For example, on page 14 she describes Africa’s time as ‘kind’ time. She also considers Africa to be living: “It will absorb white man’s blood and the blood of African men, it will absorb blood from slaughtered cattle and the blood from a woman’s birthing with equal thirst. It doesn’t care.” What I took from the description was that she and her family have become part of Africa’s ‘body’. Another reason they want to stay is for the war. Mr. and Mrs. Fuller want Africa to be ruled by whites. Since they were defeated in the war, if they moved it would mean that they accepted losing Africa to Africans. In other ways they are trapped in Africa. Every time they move they have to start over and never seem to have money. They do not seem to have much money because they are always rationing their food and water and they don’t buy much for themselves. Thus they probably didn’t have enough money to move back to Europe and have a normal lifestyle. The final reason for them staying is Mrs. Fuller. Mrs. Fuller exhibits manic depression early on in the book. For example, on page 22, the rest of the Fullers have ‘chapters’ that Mrs. Fuller goes through. Later, on page 297 she gets an official certificate. Throughout the book, she falls sporadically into depression and would most likely not be able to travel all the way back to Europe in her condition. 3. Drawing on specific examples, such as Nicola Fuller's desire to "live in a country where white men still ruled" and the Fuller family's dramatic interactions with African squatters, soldiers, classmates, neighbors, and servants, how would you describe the racial tensions and cultural differences portrayed in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, particularly between black Africans and white Africans? Severe racial tensions and cultural differences are present between black and white Africans throughout the entire novel. White Africans, including the Fuller family (especially Nicola), felt as though they were above the black Africans. Nicola often expressed her hard feelings towards black Africans. For example, on page 20 Nicola says,...
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