MEMORANDUM: Explore the role of the suit in Can Themba’s “The Suit”
To develop close reading skills by examining the role of the suit in the story
(See book: p. 85)
Type: Group or pair discussion; individual written work
Grade level: 11, 12
Time: 25–30 minutes
File section: Short stories
Instruction: Read all three extracts carefully before discussing and writing responses to the questions that follow.
Philemon lifted it gingerly under his arm and looked at the stark horror in Matilda’s eyes. She was not sitting up in bed. Her mouth twitched, but her throat raised no words.
“Ha”, he said, “I see we have a visitor,” indicating the blue suit. “We really must show some of our hospitality. But first, I must phone my boss that I can’t come to work today …”
“Now seat our friend at the table … no, no, not like that. Put him in front of the chair, and place him on the seat so that he becomes indeed the third person.”
Philemon went on relentlessly: “Dish up for him. Generously. I imagine he hasn’t had a morsel all day, the poor devil.”
She went ash-grey; but there was nothing for it but to fetch her albatross. She came back and squeezed a chair into some corner, and placed the suit on it. Then she slowly placed a plate of food before it. For a while the guests were dumbfounded. Then curiosity flooded in. They talked at the same time. “What’s the idea, Philemon?”… “Why must she serve a suit?” … “What’s happening?” Some just giggled in a silly way. Philemon carelessly swung his head towards Matilda. “You better ask my wife. She knows the fellow best.”
The suggested answers below are extensive and learners’ answers are unlikely to be so broad. For written answers, teachers can decide how much detail they expect and adjust the memorandum accordingly. In discussion, depending on the class’s grade and ability, teachers can add to learners’ answers by sharing more wide ranging information to enrich learners’ understanding.
How does Philemon bring the suit alive? Look at the use of personification and other techniques.
If you look at the selected extracts from the story, you will see that Philemon brings the suit to life by referring to it as a “visitor” (extract 1), “our friend”, “the third person” and “poor devil” (extract 2), and “the fellow” (extract 3). Philemon forces Tilly to...