Department of English
Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University
“The Boss,” Beggar My Neighbor
(March 7, 1929–)
Study Questions for Dan Jacobson's “The Boss”
Some things to think about as you read and reread.
Opposites: What contrasts does Jacobson present in “The Boss”? Is the opposition real or imaginary? Are the paradoxical constructions ever resolved?
The Boss: Who is the boss? How is “boss” defined in the story? by title? by the character’s own actions? by other characters’ actions toward him/her? Explore “boss” as a concept, as qualities, or as a person.
Change: “New hands and a new young man make a new order,” announces Mr. Kramer who, from the beginning of the story, seems to be heralding as well as insisting and crafting change in the story (18). Is he successful? What is he able to change, what not?
How has Lionel changed, or does he?
What about Lily Posen?
What about Mr. Kramer?
Battles: What fights must different characters engage in?
Race/Ethnicity: What role does race or ethnicity play in this story? What is the significance of being Jewish in the story? Why do you think “white employees” are specified (21)? Why is it significant that Lionel makes an issue out of Lily Posen being “the only Jewish employee”?
Generations: How differently do the different generations think or behave? Consider their decisions, approaches to tackling problems, living life, and doing work. Can we call such differences generational?
Education: What kind of learning takes place in the story? Lionel’s choice not to go to university seems to suggest his disregard for academic knowledge (20). Does he value other kinds of knowledge instead? How do characters teach and how do they learn?
Mr. Kramer – came to South Africa as an immigrant boy (19); "manager of a large butter factory" (19)
Lionel Kramer – Mr. Kramer's son; eighteen years old (19); "tall, tanned, with a lean face and large brown eyes" (20); a loser?
Lily Posen – Jewish (21); over forty years old, "plain and dull, and would never get married" (19); has worked at Mr. Kramer's butter factory for fifteen years (27); "she could do any work she was asked to" ()
South Africa – (19)
Butter factory –
The office block – (21)
Lily Posen's office –
Mr. Kramer's office –
Lionel is trying to be "the boss" and he learns how to be a good boss?
Sample Student Reading Responses to Dan Jacobson's “The Boss”
Key Terms to Date
stock or type characters
direct presentation of character
indirect presentation of character
show v. tell
consistency in character behavior
plausibility of character: is the character credible? convincing?
round character, multidimensional character
static character, unchanged
developing character, dynamic character, active character
direct methods of revealing character:
characterization through the use of names
characterization through physical appearance
characterization through editorial comments by the author, interrupts narrative to provide information
characterization through dialog: what is said, who says it, under what circumstances, who is listening, how the conversation flows, how the speaker speaks (ex. tone, stress, dialect, diction/word choice)
characterization through action
plot, main plot, minor plot
conflict, internal conflict, external conflict, clash of actions, clash of ideas, clash of desires, clash of wills, major, minor, emotional, physical
man v. self
man v. man
man v. society
man v. nature
man v. the supernatural
man v. machine/technology
mystery (mysterious, mysteriously, mysteriousness)
surprise (surprising, surprised)
indeterminate ending (ambiguous)
surprise ending (unexpected)
artistic unity (unified)
conclusion (conclude, conclusive)
resolution (resolve, resolving)
beginning, middle, end
deus ex machina
movement, shape of movement
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Last updated November 24, 2008