Sample response essay for Nightingale by Tobias Wolff

  1. In this story, Dr. Booth gets lost more than once. Find all of the places in the story where Dr. Booth gets lost, and underline or circle them. List the page number and paragraph number for each one.

Dr. Booth first gets lost on the way home from the academy. This was after taking a series of wrong turns on the way home before finally coming to a flat field (Page 1432, paragraph 6). He then decides to go back to Fort Steele Academy but cannot trace his way back amidst the large number of unfamiliar turns (Page 1434, paragraph 1). At this point, he comes out of the car and climbs hill overlooking some empty fields (Page 1434, paragraph 2). He cannot recognize any land mark and starts down the hill.

  1. Hay is mentioned more than once in this story. Find all of the places in the story where hay is mentioned, and underline or circle them. List the page number and paragraph number for each one.

Hay is first mentioned when Dr. Booth leaves Fort Steele Academy and drives out of the institution’s gates. The author mentions a tractor mowing through an adjacent hay field, with the resultant smell filing his car (Page 1432, paragraph 5). The next mention of hay is on the first paragraph in page 1434. In this instance, a tractor is described as cutting though the last strands of hay on a distant field.
3. At the end of the story Dr. Booth walks down the hill with the button* in his pocket. What do you think happens next? Why?

Dr. Booth is determined to fetch his son from the academy. However, the button he finds on the hill convinces him that something of special significance had happened on the hill. Dr. Booth is determined to find what implications the event had for him. He is likely to have ran up to the tractor in the distance with an aim of inquiring about the button in his pocket. With the sun setting and time running out to find his way back to the academy, he is also likely to have asked for directions to Fort Steel Academy.

4. What is one truth or message about life that you find in Nightingale? Explain your answer by telling about the parts of the story that helped you to discover the truth or message about life in Nightingale.

Dr. Booth’s seems disillusioned by his son’s immaturity. Dr. Booth clearly loves his son but thinks that childish behavior is a weakness. His disillusion in Owen’s remoteness is also clear in the way he contemplates talking to him in the car but chooses not to, convinced that it would be pointless. Dr. Booth is averse to showing any signs of weakness in his son’s presence. This is one reason he feels disturbed by his inability to make out the way to Fort Steele Academy. The relationship between Owen and his father is typical of many real world families. Many fathers have grand memories of their own childhood. Many envision themselves as having grown up fast in comparison to their sons whom they see as too feeble and childlike. These parents are constantly probing their sons to abandon their childhood. In many cases, these demands have strained the relationship between fathers and their sons, resulting in a life-time of mutual detachment. In Dr. Booth’s case, Owen is familiar with his father’s expectations. He attempts to resist admission to Fort Steele Academy but by his own admission, knows that his father’s word is final. Dr. Booth’s decision to subject his son to Spartan conditions is borne of his intention to make man out of a child. In a moment of reflection, Dr. Booth discovers that he was expecting too much from his son. This is true of many parents. They unknowingly burden their children with exceedingly high expectations.

 It is also clear that Dr. Booth feels that the Academy is an unpleasant, but necessary choice for his son. He makes his decision out of love but is unaware that his actions are anything but loving. This mistake is attributable to the act that he imposes his opinion on his family. Dr. Booth is clearly a dictatorial patriarch. His wife’s opinion scarcely matters to him as shown by her unsuccessful attempts to resist the decision of Fort Steele. Dr. Booth refuses to rescind his decision in spite of the constant pleas for reconsideration from Owen. Owen’s desperate begging did little to convince his father, who had already made the decision to send him to a school that he hardly knew about. It was only after Dr. Booth discovered the recklessness of his idea that he decided to fetch his son. Many real world fathers have a tendency to impose themselves as absolute authorities. These parents are never ready to consider opposition to their decisions. Dr. Booth’s overbearing parenting style’ as is the case in the real world, led his son to become remote. It also resulted in parenting mistakes which would have been avoided by listening to the family.

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