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- 7th Grade
- Lexile: 740
Source: Examination Day by Henry Slesar
|PART A: Which statement best expresses a theme of the short story?
|High intelligence can be viewed as a dangerous thing.
|PART B: Which detail from the text best supports the answer to Part A?
|“‘We regret to inform you that his intelligence quotient is above the Government regulation, according to Rule 84 Section 5 of the New Code.'” (Paragraph 56)
|What do the questions Dickie asks his father between paragraphs 4-17 reveal about Dickie’s character?
|They show how curious Dickie is about how the world works.
|How does knowledge of the exam affect Dickie’s mom and dad?
|Dickie’s mom becomes anxious and sad, while Dickie’s dad becomes easily irritated.
How does the author use irony to contribute to the story’s meaning? Use details from the story to support your answer.
Henry Slesar uses irony in “Examination Day” to enhance the story’s meaning, emphasizing the unexpected and tragic consequences of a society that regulates intelligence.
Irony is woven throughout the narrative to highlight the dissonance between the perceived normalcy of the government’s actions and the horrifying reality of those actions.
- Expectation vs. Reality: The story sets up an expectation that Dickie’s intelligence test is a normal rite of passage, akin to any standard school examination. His parents’ attempt to reassure him and the mundane nature of their morning routine suggest a normalcy that is starkly contrasted with the outcome of the exam. The irony lies in the fact that what is meant to be a test for the betterment of society results in the execution of a child for being too intelligent, a shocking outcome that is completely at odds with the initial expectation.
- Government’s Role: There’s an ironic contrast between the government’s role as a protector of its citizens and its actual function as a regulator of intelligence to the point of executing those who exceed a certain threshold. The government, ideally a body for the people’s welfare, becomes an oppressor, executing children for the “crime” of high intelligence.
- The Final Outcome: The ultimate irony of the story is revealed in the call Mr. Jordan receives, informing him of his son’s death due to his intelligence quotient being “above the Government regulation.” The idea that a government would measure a child’s potential to contribute positively to society, only to eliminate him for exceeding a predetermined standard, is deeply ironic. It underscores the tragic reality of a dystopian society where regulatory measures intended to protect the state’s interests result in the loss of its brightest minds.
- Parental Reassurance vs. Governmental Action: There is a poignant irony in the parents’ reassurances to Dickie that everything will be okay and their belief in the test as a harmless government procedure. Their inability to protect their son from the government’s draconian measures, despite their comforting words, highlights the dramatic irony where the audience is aware of the impending tragedy, while the characters believe they are participating in a routine part of their societal duties.
Through these examples, Slesar uses irony to critique the concept of government overreach and the potential for state control to become malevolently oppressive.
The story’s meaning is deepened by the tragic irony of a society that eliminates its most intelligent members, purportedly for the greater good, thus cautioning against the dangers of unchecked authority and the loss of individual freedoms.
In the story, Dickie is killed because his intelligence is considered too high by the government. Why do you think the government wouldn’t want people to be too smart? How might the government’s actions be motivated by fear?
In “Examination Day” by Henry Slesar, the government’s decision to limit intelligence through lethal means reflects a dystopian control mechanism driven by fear and the desire for absolute authority. Here are some reasons and motivations behind such a government’s actions:
- Fear of Dissent and Challenge to Authority: High intelligence often brings with it critical thinking skills and a propensity to question the status quo. A government in a dystopian society might fear that highly intelligent individuals could challenge its authority, policies, and control over the population. By limiting intelligence, the government aims to suppress potential dissent and keep the populace in a more manageable, compliant state.
- Maintenance of Social Order: In Slesar’s narrative, the government seemingly equates high intelligence with a threat to social order. This could be because intelligent individuals might innovate or think of systems and ideas that could disrupt the existing power dynamics. The government might fear that allowing too much intellectual freedom could lead to upheaval or change that threatens the established order.
- Control Over Information and Knowledge: A government that controls how smart its citizens can be indirectly controls access to information and knowledge. By capping intelligence, the government ensures that only its narrative and sanctioned knowledge are accepted, preventing any form of intellectual rebellion that could arise from broader, unrestricted access to information.
- Fear of Unpredictability: Highly intelligent individuals might produce unpredictable outcomes in various aspects of society, including technology, politics, and economics. A government in a tightly controlled dystopian world would likely prefer predictability and conformity over the unpredictability that comes with high levels of intelligence and innovation.
- Consolidation of Power: By determining the intellectual capabilities of its citizens, the government consolidates its power further, ensuring that no individual or group can intellectually surpass or challenge its authority. This creates a society where the government not only controls physical resources but intellectual resources as well.
Slesar’s story, through its tragic and ironic conclusion, suggests that the government’s actions are motivated by a deep-seated fear of losing control. This fear drives it to take extreme measures to ensure that no individual possesses the capability to challenge or threaten its dominance.
The story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of allowing fear to dictate policy, especially when it comes to controlling intellectual freedom and individual potential.
In “Examination Day,” Dickie’s parents don’t tell him about the exam until he is twelve, and even then they don’t tell him about the consequences. What does it mean to be a family? Do you believe that families have to sometimes hide the truth from each other? Why and in what circumstances? Why do you think Dickie’s parents hid the truth from him? Would telling the truth have made a difference? Explain your answer.
In “Examination Day” by Henry Slesar, the portrayal of Dickie’s family reflects a complex understanding of familial love, protection, and the burdens of knowledge within a dystopian society.
The story raises profound questions about the nature of family dynamics in the face of oppressive governmental policies and the extent to which parents might go to protect their children from harsh realities.
What It Means to Be a Family: Being a family often means providing love, support, and protection. In Dickie’s case, his parents’ decision to withhold information about the exam and its dire consequences can be seen as an attempt to preserve his innocence and happiness for as long as possible. They likely hoped to spare him from fear and anxiety, allowing him to enjoy his childhood without the looming dread of an event that was beyond their control.
Hiding the Truth: Yes, there are circumstances where families might choose to hide the truth from each other, often with the intention of protecting the emotional well-being of a family member.
This could include shielding children from the realities of a family illness, financial troubles, or, as in Dickie’s case, a life-threatening situation. The rationale is that ignorance can sometimes be bliss, sparing individuals from worry about things they cannot change or influence.
Why Dickie’s Parents Hid the Truth: Dickie’s parents likely hid the truth due to a combination of fear, hope, and love. They were probably scared of the potential outcome of the exam and hoped against hope that their son would not face the fatal consequence of scoring too high.
By not discussing the exam or its outcomes, they perhaps aimed to keep the family environment as normal and as loving as possible, for as long as possible. The act of hiding the truth was likely their way of coping with a powerless situation, trying to protect Dickie from the cruel reality imposed by their society.
Impact of Telling the Truth: Telling Dickie the truth might not have changed the outcome, but it could have altered the experience for him and his family. Knowledge of the exam’s true nature could have robbed Dickie of his innocence prematurely and filled his final days with fear rather than normalcy and love.
On the other hand, an understanding of the stakes might have provided a space for meaningful conversations and emotional preparation, offering a different kind of dignity to Dickie’s last moments.
However, given the society they lived in, where such exams were normalized, it’s possible that Dickie’s parents themselves struggled to fully comprehend the gravity or injustice of the situation, or felt that ignorance was the only comfort they could afford their son.
In conclusion, Dickie’s parents’ decision to hide the truth can be seen as a deeply human response to an inhumane situation. Their actions reflect the instinctual desire of parents to protect their child from harm, a testament to the complex interplay of love, protection, and fear within family dynamics, especially under dystopian oppression.
Whether revealing the truth would have made a significant difference is debatable, but the act of protection through omission highlights the tragic elements of the narrative, emphasizing the story’s critique of authoritarian control over the most personal aspects of human life.
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