McTeague’s Dentistry



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Steps in Analyzing the Excerpt from Frank Norris’ “McTeague’s Dentistry”


  1. BEFORE you read the questions below, read the piece attentively marking anything that appears to be important to you. Annotate (make notes) as you read. Record any thoughts or questions you have as you read.

  2. Answer each of the questions below fully using textual evidence from Hawthorne’s piece.

    1. What stood out to you in Norris’ piece upon first reading it? Cite textual evidence in the form of quotations.

    2. What is Norris’ purpose in writing this piece? Cite textual evidence in the form of quotations.

    3. How did the piece make you feel about McTeague? What is Norris’ tone/attitude toward McTeague? Cite textual evidence in the form of quotations.

    4. Why did you feel this way? Cite textual evidence in the form of quotations for each question.

      1. What details does Norris use to describe McTeague’s physical appearance? Does he use any specific words (diction) that seem to contrast with those expected of a dentist? What do these details suggest about McTeague’s character?

      2. What details does Norris use to describe McTeague’s intellect? How does his use of diction compare McTeague to a horse? What do these details suggest about McTeague’s character?

      3. How do the comparisons made through figurative language further the description of McTeague?

      4. What details does Norris use to describe the physical location of McTeague’s dental office? How does this image compare to what is expected of a dentist’s office? Why does he call his business a dental “parlor”? What do these details suggest about McTeague’s character?

      5. What details does Norris use to describe the interior appearance and smell of McTeague’s office? How does this image compare to what is expected of a dentist’s office? What do these details suggest about McTeague’s character?

      6. How does Norris describe McTeague’s dream or ambition? What do these details suggest about McTeague’s character?

      7. How is syntax important in characterizing McTeague? What effect do the multiple clauses and mass of details have? Why does he choose to offset “a modest affair” with hyphens?

    5. What new insight can you add to your understanding of Norris’ attitude toward McTeague? Cite textual evidence in the form of quotations.

    6. What are the central ideas (themes) in Norris’ piece? Write at least one theme statement and cite textual evidence in the form of quotations.

      1. McTeague’s Dentistry, a novel by Frank Norris, is about _____________________________ and reveals that ___________________________________________________________________________.


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