Working with a novel: Black and White
The novel Black and White is published in a school edition by Cappelen Damm. Follow the link below to find more information and to order the novel.
In our edition you will find:
- background articles
- comprehension and discussion questions
- writing and research tasks
Here are examples of tasks you will find, taken from the section "Writing topics":
While they are in deep trouble with the law, Eddie and Marcus are asked to write an essay on how they would like other people to remember them.
Eddie writes: “I’d like people to remember me as somebody they could depend on. No matter what happens, I’m always right there. I’m not the kind of person who walks away when things get tough. I don’t care if it’s crunch time on the basketball court or the last play of a football game, I’m willing to put myself on the line …”
Marcus writes: “In the end, I’d like people to say that I tried to be honest with them. I want them to remember the real Marcus Brown. Not the ballplayer or anybody else. That way they’ll have a clear picture in their head about me, and not have to guess.”
Compare what they write about themselves with your impressions of the two boys. Is the picture that they give of themselves in their essays correct? Why or why not?
“I watched Marcus walk away to his next class. He carried the jacket away from his body, like it wasn’t a part of him anymore. I looked at him like he was already somebody different. Somebody I didn’t have a handle on anymore. And I started to worry if this Marcus would ever give me up to the cops and say I was there.”
Eddie and Marcus used to be great friends. Explain what was so special about their friendship.
How has Eddie’s relationship to Marcus changed? Why is Eddie so worried?
At the end of the novel Eddie and Marcus end up in very different circumstances. Who do you think will manage better in the long run? Give reasons to support your opinions.
“Up until last month, the Russos were probably patting themselves on the back for showing a black kid without a father how a family was supposed to be. But my mother was standing up taller now than they ever did, even if you stood them up one on top of the other.”
Compare how Eddie’s parents and Marcus’s mother deal with the charges brought against their sons. Who do you think provides the best support for their son? Give reasons to support your opinions.
“My mother didn’t even care that Rose was white. But she told me that people were going to keep hammering us for crossing that line. She said that’s when we’d find out how thick our skins really are.”
What are the difficulties facing Marcus and Rose’s relationship? Do you think their relationship will last until Marcus is released from prison? Why or why not?
Explain how the title Black and White gives meaning and focus to the way we read the novel. As the story develops, Eddie and Marcus are made to question their friendship. At the end of the novel, are they still Black and White, or is Black or White a more correct description of their relationship? Give reasons to support your opinions.
Marcus says that he wishes he could apologize to Sidney Parker, the man Eddie shot (“I wanted him to know how sorry I was”). Imagine that Marcus is now in prison and that he writes a letter to Mr. Parker. How will he explain what happened and how he feels about it now? Write the letter from Marcus.
When asked why the novel ends without Marcus and Eddie telling each other how they really feel and without letting us know how their lives will turn out, Paul Volponi has said that he “truly felt the story was finished at that point, and it was time to walk away from them both”. Imagine that he decides to write a bonus chapter set five years ahead in time. Write the new chapter describing what has happened to the two boys since we met them last. Decide whether you want to use Marcus or Eddie as the narrator of the new chapter.
You have just finished reading Black and White. Your local newspaper has asked you to write a book report about it. They want you
- to say a little bit about the author
- to give a very short summary of the plot
- to say something about the themes of the novel
- to state your own opinion of the novel and come up with either a recommendation or a warning to the readers of the newspaper
They also ask for an illustration to go with the article. Feel free to draw a sketch, find a picture or suggest a painting that you feel illustrates your book review.
(by Siri Hunstadbråten)