Humans are natural story tellers, and myths are our favorite types of stories. As you read chapters 1 and 2, the Epilogue, and the Afterward of Myerhoff’s Number Our Days, watch for the mythical elements in the stories. (You may wish to read chapters 3-7, and you are encouraged to do so, but for the purposes of the paper, you should draw most of your examples from Shmuel Goldman’s stories in chapter 2. The subsequent chapters recount a series of free form group discussions, and are “multi-vocal.” As a result, extracting one or two coherent stories from these chapters is more difficult.) Shmuel Goldman, the tailor whose stories make up the bulk of chapter 2, is a particularly talented myth-maker. Pick a few of the stories that he tells Myerhoff and discuss, in detail, the mythical elements of the stories. Be sure to discuss the following issues:
1) What actions, events, or individuals described in the story are “mythological” in the sense used here? What do they symbolize?
2) Myths teach us something. Picking one or two stories, think about why Goldman told these particular stories to Myerhoff. What did he want her to learn?
3) Some myths are considered “hero’s quests,” which take the form of :
[separation] ->[symbolic action] ->[return].
The “hero” leaves his/her comfortable, safe environment, participates in a symbolically meaningful event, and then returns home as a changed person, bringing with her/him some special knowledge, wisdom, or treasure that is not available to the community at large. Are these elements present in the stories that you chose? (If so, describe how. If not, speculate why not.)
4) (You do not need to write about this, although you may do so briefly, if you wish.) While you are reading and writing, consider your own experiences. What mythical “hero’s quests” have you participated in? Remember that the hero’s quest doesn’t have to be something “big” like giving birth or getting drafted. It can be something “ordinary” like leaving home for the first time or joining an organization or group, or even enrolling in school. What experiences have you had that involved separation, symbolic action, and return?
Your paper should be a minimum of 5 to 7 pages in length, but feel free to write more if you have a lot to say. As before, you are encouraged to submit rough drafts for review and comment.