“I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” Digging Deeper Group Work
Discuss with your group what you think is Ellison’s purpose. Then, focus on your question. Be sure to find the evidence in the text and discuss how each example develops Ellison’s purpose. Remember, you must go beyond finding the quotes. You need to a) show the evidence, b) explain the evidence and c) show how it supports/develops Ellison’s purpose. Find the specifics.
1. Characterization of AM. Make a character map and find specific language that reveals who this character is. Include what he says, does, how the others see him, his desires, his obstacles, his mindset. What is Ellison’s purpose with this character?
2. Characterization of Ted. Make a character map and find specific language that reveals who this character is. Include what he says, does, how the others see him, his desires, his obstacles, his mindset. What is Ellison’s purpose with this character?
3. Setting. What is this place? Why is this place? Explore this world and Ellison’s purpose. Make a map of the place, label it and explain why Ellison made this place.
4. Food. Discuss the role and importance of what people eat (or don’t eat). Why are these details provided? Return to AM in your discussion.
5. Virtue vs. Sin. The seven virtues are meant to help people avoid the seven sins. How might you argue that the seven sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride) and the seven virtues (chastity, temperance/self restraint, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility) are present in the text?
6. Imagery of Hell: AM tells Ted, “To hell with you… but then you’re there, aren’t you” (10). He does not ask him; it is a statement. Find evidence that supports this statement. Consider what “hell” means to you and how that expectation is met within the story.
7. Imagery of Hell: Dante’s Inferno. It is not stated outright, but you might be able to read this story with a lens on Dante’s Inferno. Dante’s Inferno (the nine circles of hell: each circle addresses a different type of sinner. Anteroom: Those who did nothing; Limbo: blameless, un-baptized; Incontinence: indifferent to moral restraints; Carnal Sinners; Gluttony; Wrathful and Sullen; Tormentors, heretics; Violent Against Others; Fraudulent; Traitors)…
8. Religious Allusions. Ted thinks of AM as “Him. It. God as Daddy the Deranged”? Explain why he describes him as such. Find allusions to religious imagery concerning God/Jesus, Moses/Burning Bush / Exodus and analyze how it helps develop Ellison’s idea/s. In other words, why has he alluded to these religious ideas?
9. Sentience. Descartes statement, “Cogito ergo sum,” or, “I think therefore I am” is an important statement on validating and contemplating one’s existence. How is this important to the story? Start with the obvious and look to the least obvious. What kind of sentience do the characters have? Find evidence that supports how this applies to AM and Ted.
10. Virtual. There is evidence that AM is a master manipulator. Find the evidence that helps support the idea that the five survivors are virtually integrated with AM. How does he use his power?
11. Desires. What role does desire play in this story? Consider not only AM’s but also the humans before the apocalypse and now.
12. Knowing. We can never really know what others are thinking. Explore this very uncomfortable idea and how it appears in the story.
13. Motif/s. What course motifs are peeking at you from this story? How does Ellison re-work or change the motifs as we have come to identify them? For example, is this an ouroboros narrative or anti-ouroboros. Find evidence that supports the motifs you identify. [ouroboros, Adam & Eve/Genesis, cozy catastrophe, Last Man, devolution, perils of technology, earth abides, etc.]
14. Sex. There are several references to sex, pleasure, and even AM’s “masturbation.” Why? What is the purpose of including this?
15. Horror. Images of Horror. Find the horrific imagery and discuss why Ellison presents it. Really focus on his language choice and how/why it works to make us extremely uncomfortable.
16. Monsters. Trap and label the monsters Ellison weaves into his narrative. What is its purpose? Think beyond shock value… Consider what the images have in common. Why has Ellison used these?
17. Wildcard. How does this story support the idea that “Everything Matters”?
18. Found Poem / Word Art. This is for a solo or pair group. Ellison is the master of imagery. Create a found poem / word art using his phrases. Your poetry should provide a real sense of the story’s who, what, where, when, and WHY. Provide an analysis to accompany your creation.
19. Hate. This is a hate-driven story. The hate seems to center around Ted. Why? Show and explain how/why.
20. What if? What if AM were not anger driven? What if his sentience was love based? What if the five were the last survivors with a machine of creation rather than destruction? What might happen? Why does Ellison make his machine so filled with hate? What message does this give? What does it say about humanity?
21. People’s Choice. Pick a point not covered above and explore it.