P2.9.2^The Yellow Ribbon^220^229^,,^6847^7240%
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The Yellow Ribbon
by Pete Hamill
1

They were going to Fort Lauderdale, the girl remembered later. There were six of them, three boys and three girls, and they picked up the bus at the old terminal on 34th Street, carrying sandwiches and wine in paper bags, dreaming of golden beaches and the tides of the sea as the gray cold spring of New York vanished behind them. Vingo was on board from the beginning.

2

As the bus passed through Jersey and into Philly, they began to notice that Vingo never moved. He sat in front of the young people, his dusty face masking his age, dressed in a plain brown ill-fitting suit. His fingers were stained from cigarettes and he chewed the inside of his lip a lot, frozen into some personal cocoon of silence.

3

Somewhere outside of Washington, deep into the night, the bus pulled into a Howard Johnson's, and everybody got off except Vingo. He sat rooted in his seat, and the young people began to wonder about him, trying to imagine his life: Perhaps he was a sea captain, maybe he had run away from his wife, he could be an old soldier going home. When they went back to the bus, the girl sat beside him and introduced herself.

4

“We're going to Florida,” the girl said brightly. “You going that far?”

5

“I don't know,” Vingo said.

6

“I've never been there,” she said. “I hear it's beautiful.”

7

“It is,” he said quietly, as if remembering something he had tried to forget.

8

“You live there?”

9

“I did some time there in the Navy. Jacksonville.”

10

“Want some wine?” she said. He smiled and took the bottle of Chianti and took a swig. He thanked her and retreated again into silence. After a while, she went back to the others, as Vingo nodded into sleep.

11

In the morning they awoke outside another Howard Johnson's, and this time Vingo went in. The girl insisted that he join them. He seemed very shy and ordered black coffee and smoked nervously, as the young people chattered about sleeping on the beaches. When they went back on the bus, the girl sat with Vingo again, and after a while, slowly and painfully and with great hesitation, he began to tell his story. He had been in jail in New York for the last four years, and now he was going home.

12

“Four years!” the girl said. “What did you do?”

13

“It doesn't matter,” he said with quiet bluntness. “I did it and I went to jail. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. That's what they say and they're right.”

14

“Are you married?”

15

“I don't know.”

16

“You don't know?” she said.

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17

“Well, when I was in the can I wrote to my wife,” he said. “I told her, I said, Martha, I understand if you can't stay married to me. I told her that. I said I was gonna be away a long time, and that if she couldn't stand it, if the kids kept askin' questions, if it hurt her too much, well, she could just forget me. Get a new guy—she's a wonderful woman, really something—and forget about me. I told her she didn't have to write me or nothing. And she didn't. Not for three and a half years.”

18

“And you're going home now, not knowing?”

19

“Yeah,” he said shyly. “Well, last week, when I was sure the parole was coming through I wrote her. I told her that if she had a new guy, I understood. But if she didn't, if she would take me back she should let me know. We used to live in this town, Brunswick, just before Jacksonville, and there's a great big oak tree just as you come into town, a very famous tree, huge. I told her if she would take me back, she should put a yellow handkerchief on the tree, and I would get off and come home. If she didn't want me, forget it, no handkerchief, and I'd keep going on through.”

20

“Wow,” the girl said. “Wow.”

21

She told the others, and soon all of them were in it, caught up in the approach of Brunswick, looking at the pictures Vingo showed them of his wife and three children, the woman handsome in a plain way, the children still unformed in a cracked, much-handled snapshot. Now they were twenty miles from Brunswick and the young people took over window seats on the right side, waiting for the approach of the great oak tree. Vingo stopped looking, tightening his face into the ex-con's mask, as if fortifying himself against still another disappointment. Then it was ten miles, and then five and the bus acquired a dark hushed mood, full of silence, of absence, of lost years, of the woman's plain face, of the sudden letter on the breakfast table, of the wonder of children, of the iron bars of solitude.

22

Then suddenly all of the young people were up out of their seats, screaming and shouting and crying, doing small dances, shaking clenched fists in triumph and exaltation. All except Vingo.

23

Vingo sat there stunned, looking at the oak tree. It was covered with yellow handkerchiefs, twenty of them, thirty of them, maybe hundreds, a tree that stood like a banner of welcome blowing and billowing in the wind, turned into a gorgeous yellow blur by the passing bus. As the young people shouted, the old con slowly rose from his seat, holding himself tightly, and made his way to the front of the bus to go home.

Questions 2
About Unity
ABOUT UNITY: Analyzing Unity in a Professional Narrative Essay, THE YELLOW RIBBON, by Pete Hamill
(Your score will be reported to your instructor)
  1. The thesis of Hamill's essay is implied rather than stated directly. See if you can state the thesis in your own words.

  2. Page 222
  3. The main point in paragraph 2 is not stated; it is implied. Write a topic sentence for that paragraph.

  4. What is the topic sentence of paragraph 11? (Write the opening words.)

About Support
ABOUT SUPPORT: Analyzing Support in a Professional Narrative Essay, THE YELLOW RIBBON, by Pete Hamill
(Your score will be reported to your instructor)
  1. “His fingers were stained from cigarettes and he chewed the inside of his lip a lot, frozen in some personal cocoon of silence.” This line from paragraph 2 supports the idea that

    • a. Vingo had been drinking.

    • b. Vingo was nervous.

    • c. Vingo was a hostile person.

    • d. Vingo knew the young peope were watching him.

  2. Hamill writes in paragraph 11 that Vingo seemed very shy. Find at least two pieces of evidence in the essay to support the idea that Vingo was shy.

  3. Hamill implies that despite his crime, Vingo was an honorable man. Find evidence that supports that point.

About Coherence
ABOUT COHERENCE: Analyzing Coherence in a Professional Narrative Essay, THE YELLOW RIBBON, by Pete Hamill
(Your score will be reported to your instructor)
  1. Because this is the story of a trip, it is appropriate that Hamill uses place names to signal the passing of time. But he also uses other types of transitions like those appearing on pages 8790. List four place names and four other transitions used in this essay.

    Place Names Other Transitions
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  3. What sentence in paragraph 19 begins with a transition word that indicates contrast? (Write the opening words.)

About the Introduction and Conclusion
ABOUT THE INTRODUCTION AND CONCLUSION: Analyzing the Introduction and Conclusion in a Professional Narrative Essay, THE YELLOW RIBBON, by Pete Hamill
(Your score will be reported to your instructor)
  1. Reread the introduction. How do you think Hamill learned about this story?

  2. The author does not use one of the methods for writing conclusions discussed on pages 98100. How does he end this essay? What kind of welcome might we expect Vingo to receive when he walks into his home? Why didn't Hamill tell us about this?

Writing Assignment 1
Writing a Narrative Essay

Write an essay narrating an experience in which a certain emotion was predominant. The emotion might be disappointment, happiness, frustration, embarrassment, or any of the following:

Fear Shock Nervousness Loss
Courage Love Hate Respect
Jealousy Anger Surprise Confidence
Sadness Nostalgia Shyness Shame
Satisfaction Relief Humility Envy
Guilt Greed Pity Loneliness
Writing Assignment 1 > Writing a Narrative Essay about an Emotional Experience
(Your score will be reported to your instructor)

The experience should be limited in time. Note that each of the three essays presented in this chapter describes an experience that occurred within a relatively short period. One writer described her frustration in acting like a disabled person at a morning church service; another detailed the terror of a minute's mugging that had lifelong consequences; Pete Hamill described an overnight bus trip and its thrilling conclusion.

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Prewriting
  1. Think of an experience or event in your life in which you felt a certain emotion. Then spend at least ten minutes freewriting about that experience. Do not worry at this point about such matters as spelling or grammar or putting things in the right order; instead, just try to get down as many details as you can think of that seem related to the experience.

  2. This preliminary writing will help you decide whether your topic is promising enough to continue working on. If it is not, choose another emotion. If it is, do three things:

    First, write out the thesis in a single sentence, underlining the emotion you will focus on. Here are three sample sentences like the one you might write:

    “My first day in high school was one of the scariest of my life.”

    “Playing on the freshman soccer team gave me the confidence to try out for the versity.”

    “What I recently learned about the men and women serving in the military has increased my respect for them enormously.

    Second, think about the source of the emotion. What made your first day one of the “scariest,” or what was it about playing on the freshman team that gave you “confidence”? What details can you add to explain this emotion so as to “hook” your readers and keep them interested?

  3. Using your list as a guide, prepare a rough draft of your paper.

Revising

Once you have a first draft of your essay completed, consider the following checklist as you work on a second draft:

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FOUR BASES Checklist for Narration
About Unity

Do I state the thesis of my narrative in the introductory paragraph?

If not in the introductory paragraph, is the thesis cleary implied somewhere in the essay?

Are there any portions of the essay that do not support the thesis and should therefore be eliminated or rewritten?
About Support

Do I have enough details, including dialogue?

Have I included enough vivid, exact details that will help my readers experience the event as it actually happened?
About Coherence

Have I included time signals such as first, then, next, after, while, during, and finally to help connect details as the reader moves from the beginning to the middle to the end of the narrative?
About Sentence Skills

Have I used a consistent point of view throughout my essay?

Have I used specific rather than general words?

Have I avoided wordiness and used concise wording?

Are my sentences varied?

Have I checked for spelling and other sentence skills, as listed on the inside back cover of the book?
Writing Assignment 2

Think of an experience in your life that supports one of the statements below:

Writing Assignment 2 > Writing a Narrative Essay Using a Quotation as Your Thesis
(Your score will be reported to your instructor)

Think of an experience you have had that demonstrates the truth of one of the above statements or another noteworthy saying—perhaps one that has been a guidepost for your life. Then, using one of these statements as your thesis, write a narrative essay about that experience. As you develop your essay, refer to the suggestions in the following prewriting strategies and rewriting strategies.

Prewriting

The key to the success of your essay will be your choice of an incident from your life that illustrates the truth of the statement you have chosen. Here are some guidelines to consider as you choose such an incident:

  • The incident should include a conflict, or a source of tension. That conflict does not need to be dramatic, such as a fistfight between two characters. Equally effective is a quieter conflict, such as a conflict between a person's conscience and desires, or a decision that must be made, or a difficult situation that has no clear resolution.

  • Page 227
  • The incident should be limited in time. It would be difficult to do justice in such a brief essay to an experience that continued over several weeks or months.

  • The incident should evoke a definite emotional response in you so that it might draw a similar response from your reader.

  • The incident must fully support the statement you have chosen, not merely be linked by some of the same ideas. Do not, for example, take the statement “We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves” and then write about an incident in which someone just told a lie. The essay should demonstrate the cost of being untruthful to oneself.

Here is how one student tested whether her plan for her narrative essay was a good one:

  • What statement have I chosen as my thesis?

    The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.—Samuel Johnson

  • Does the incident I have chosen include some kind of tension?

    Yes. I am going to write about the day I tried to purchase an expensive new shirt but was told that I had maxed out my credit card. When I tried a second card and then a third, I was told that they too had reached their balance limits. What an embarrassment. That day I realized something about myself—I get the urge to buy things whenever I am lonely, depressed, or just bored. I also learned that in order to battle that urge, I would have to change my values, my outlook on life. I would have to learn that happiness does not result simply from having nice things.

  • Is the incident limited in time?

    Yes. I am going to write about events that happened in one day.

  • Does the incident evoke an emotional response in me?

    Yes. I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

  • Does the incident support the statement I have chosen?

    Yes. I was a “shopaholic,” but I did not realize that I was caught in the “chains” of this habit until I was embarrassed into making major changes in my outlook on life.

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Revising

After you have put your essay away for a day, read it to a friend or classmate who will give you honest feedback. You and your reader should consider these questions:

FOUR BASES Checklist for Narration
About Unity

Have I included the essay's thesis (my chosen statement) in my introductory paragraph, or is it clearly implied?

Does each paragraph, and each sentence within that paragraph, help either to keep the action moving or to reveal important things about the characters?

Are there portions of the essay that do not support my thesis and therefore should be eliminated or rewritten?
About Support

Do I have enough details, including dialogue?

Have I included enough vivid, exact details that will help my readers experience the event as it actually happened?
About Coherence

Do transitional words and phrases, and linking sentences between paragraphs, help make the sequence of events clear?

Should I break up the essay by using bits of interesting dialogue instead of narration?
About Sentence Skills

Have I used a consistent point of view throughout my essay?

Have I used specific rather than general words?

Have I avoided wordiness and used concise wording?

Are my sentences varied?

Have I checked for spelling and other sentence skills, as listed on the inside back cover of the book?
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Continue revising your work until you and your reader can answer “yes” to each question.

Writing Assignment 3
Writing for a Specific Purpose and Audience
Writing Assignment 3 > Writing for a Specific Purpose and Audience (Three Options, with Video on Introductions)
(Your score will be reported to your instructor)

In this narrative essay, you will write with a specific purpose and for a specific audience.

Option 1

Imagine that you are in a town fifty miles from home, that your car has broken down several miles from a gas station, and that you are carrying no money. You're afraid you are going to have a terrible time, but the friendly people who help you turn your experience into a positive one. It is such a good day, in fact, that you don't want to forget what happened.

Write a narrative of the day's events in your journal so that you can read it ten years from now and remember exactly what happened. Begin with the moment you realize your car has broken down and continue until you're safely back home. Include a thesis at either the beginning or the end of your narration.

Option 2

Imagine that a friend or sister or brother has to make a difficult decision of some kind. Perhaps he or she must decide how to deal with a troubled love affair, or a problem with living at home, or a conflict with a boss or coworker. Write a narrative from your own experience that will teach him or her something about the decision that must be made.

Option 3

Pete Hamill writes about an incident that helps affirm our faith in people's fidelity and courage. Write the story of an incident in your life or in the life of someone you know that has strengthened your belief in the goodness, fairness, honesty, faithfulness, charity, or other positive qualities in people.