What makes a GREAT novel?
Great stories articulate and explore the mysteries of our daily lives in the larger context of the human struggle. The writer’s voice, style, and use of language inform the plot, characters, and themes. By creating opportunities to learn, imagine, and reflect, a great novel is a work of art that affects many generations of readers, changes lives, challenges assumptions, and breaks new ground.
Let’s make a list of the characteristics of a great book on the board. What elevates a novel to greatness? Which other books do we know that include some of the same characteristics. Do any of these books remind us of Bless Me, Ultima?
A great writer can be the voice of a generation. What kind of voice does Anaya create through Antonio? What does this voice tell us about the concerns and dreams of children and adolescents? What does this voice tell us about the concerns and dreams of immigrants and first-generation Americans?
In groups of four choose the most important theme of the novel. A spokesperson from each group will explain the group’s decision with three supporting reasons.
Select one or two things that have changed between the beginning and end of the novel. For example, you could choose a character, a conflict, or our understanding of a particular theme. Write a paragraph that discusses how and why this has changed over time, and then discuss what you think the significance of this change might be for Antonio and for the reader.