The novel Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant, is set in West Virginia, in an old run-down trailer, that Summer, the main character and the narrator, describes as Paradise. She loves everything about her new home with her aunt and uncle, Ob and May.
Her classmate Cletus, whom she doesn’t think much of at first, dreams of visiting the West Virginia state capitol building, which he sees as a sort pf paradise with its golden dome and all of the important people inside.
In the beginning of the chapter in which Summer, Ob, and Cletus take their road trip, Cletus talks about how he can’t wait to visit, which they plan to do on their return trip. Cletus’s talk about how great the capitol is makes Summer think about how there are two different points of view about West Virginia – one of a wonderful place to live, and the other a stereotype of a place of closed-down coal mines and people on welfare.
This could be a great lead-in to a class discussion about point of view, and of course can also be related to the story element of setting. Start with questions about West Virginia – the setting of the story, and then lead into broader questions about points of view, or viewpoints, about various places.
- What was Summer’s opinion of West Virginia?
- What did Cletus think of it?
- What opposite viewpoint was described by the narrator?
- Can you think of other places that is often seen from two different viewpoints? What are the two viewpoints? Who holds each viewpoint?
- Discuss the place where your school is located – the state, or the county, or even the neighborhood. How would you objectively describe this setting? What are some different POV’s about this place?
- What about our home country? How would you objectively describe this setting? What are two different POVs about our country? Who holds each POV?
To follow up with individual assignments, students could choose one of the following: their country, state, city, or neighborhood, and then write a POV essay about two views of the place. To include visuals of the setting, an alternative would be for students to create a slide presentation or a poster.
This activity would be a great performance task to use as a follow-up to a reading of Missing May.