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"Monkey Town" by Ronald Kidd (2006)

Book: Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd, 2006, Simon & Schuster Books for young readers.

Based on the book, please help me with these questions:

1. Does the novel do a good job presenting the larger social context of the Scope's Trial?

2. Does Kidd paint a compelling picture of Dayton and the impact of the Scope's Trial? Why or Why not?

3. According to the novel, what was Scope's motivation for agreeing to the trial? What impact did the trial have on Scope's Life?

4. How does Kidd use the character of Frances to show the impact of the Scope's Trial on the town of Dayton? Is the relationship between Frances and her father symbolic of change and resistance to change?

5. Is the complexity of human nature portrayed in the book? If so, is it realistic?

6. Good historical fiction lets the reader read about history in an accurate, yet entertaining way. The use of fictional and non-fictional characters, portrayed accurately, allows the reader to relate to the time period? Why or why not? Does the book bring history alive for the reader?

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History, U.S. History to 1877
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Monkey Trial
Book: Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd, 2006, Simon & Schuster Books for young readers.

Hi,
Interesting book and questions! You might want to re-read the novel so that it is fresh in your mind.
Let's take a closer look.

1. Does the novel do a good job presenting the larger social context of the Scope's Trial?

The novel seems to do good job presenting the larger social context of the Scope's Trial. Did you find yourself thinking about what it might have been like living in the town of Dayton, Tennessee in 1925?
The early 1920s found social patterns in chaos. Traditionalists, the older Victorians, worried that everything valuable was ending. Younger modernists no longer asked whether society would approve of their behavior, only whether their behavior met the approval of their intellect. Intellectual experimentation flourished. Americans danced to the sound of the Jazz Age, showed their contempt for alcoholic prohibition, debated abstract art and Freudian theories. In a response to the new social patterns set in motion by modernism, a wave of revivalism developed, becoming especially strong in the American South. Who would dominate American culture--the modernists or the traditionalists? Journalists were looking for a showdown, and they found one in a Dayton, Tennessee courtroom in the summer of 1925. (5)
If you did, the novel has probably done a good job presenting the larger social context of the Scope's Trial. It seems that, although the historical facts are not dominant in the novel, Kidd accomplishes presenting the larger context of the Scope's trial through the characters (some real and some fiction), especially through the narrator Frances, who is questioning the truth, which represents the ideology of Dayton at the time of Scope's trial. He uses Scope's trial to present the larger social context. Sparked by conversations with those who lived through the trial, Kidd uses historical facts, dialogue and imagination to bring to life the tiny town of Dayton, Tennessee, during the 1925 trial that brought to the national stage the controversy of teaching evolution in schools."(3) The meaning of the trial emerged through its interpretation as a conflict of social and intellectual values of Dayton during the Scope's trial. Or, do you think Kidd could have done more?
See more of the historical events of the trial (State v. John Scopes) at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/evolut.htm
Also click http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/scopes.htm for other details.
Impressions of the Scopes Trial
by Marcet Haldeman-Julius
(excerpts from Clarence Darrow's Two Great Trials, a pamphlet published in 1927) (see http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/haldeman-julius.html0.

2. Does Kidd paint a compelling picture of Dayton and the impact of the Scope's Trial? Why or Why not?

He seems to have painted a compelling picture of Dayton. However, it seems that he left the impact of Scope's trial up to the reader to decide. Kidd presented the ideas alive through the characters, and left the reader thinking. That seems to be my take, which is backed by other reviewers of the novel (see extra reading section below this response). Is that how you experienced the novel?

3. According to the novel, what was Scope's motivation for agreeing to the trial? What impact did the trial have on Scope's Life?
The first revelation in Monkey Summer is that initially creationism and evolution weren't honestly part of the reason for the trial--getting publicity for Dayton was what it was all about. Scopes was simply doing the town a favor; he was a small part of a large and well-crafted plan to make big city newspapermen notice the struggling Tennessee town. When William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow became involved it seemed like the organizers could not have played their cards any better. H.L. Mencken came to Dayton--heck, everybody came to Dayton--and this was what everyone wanted, what Frances' father, who was directly involved in crafting the publicity plan, had wanted. But then, as they often do, events got out of control for everyone. As her father explains:
...the frightening thing about a roller coaster is that someone else is in control. You go whipping around--up and down, around corners, and there's nothing you can do to change it. You just have to hang on until the ride is over. He shook his head, then looked down at me. "Frances, I have a funny feeling I have just stepped onto a roller coaster."
There was no one in control of the media monster that quickly grew in Dayton, least of all John Scopes, the poster boy for the trial. (2)
A quote from an on-line source clearly shows that the debate in not over, at least from the point of view of Scope:
Court--Mr. Scopes, the jury has found you guilty under this indictment, charging you with having taught in the schools of Rhea county, in violation of what is commonly known as the anti- evolution statute, which makes it unlawful for any teacher to teach in any of the public schools of the state, supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the state, any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man, and teach instead thereof that man has descended from a lower order of animals. The jury have found you guilty. The statute make this an offense punishable by fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500. The court now fixes your fine at $100, and imposes that fine upon you.
Court--Oh-Have you anything to say, Mr. Scopes, as to why the court should not impose punishment upon you?
Defendant J. T. Scopes-- Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom-that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust. (4)
You might want to check out the author's note in the novel, which shares with readers Kidd's first encounter with Dayton, additional background on the real lives of the characters, and where John Scopes himself ended up after the trial.

4. How does Kidd use the character of Frances to show the impact of the Scope's Trial on the town of Dayton? Is the relationship between Frances and her father symbolic of change and resistance to change?
Kidd used the character of Frances to show the impact of the Scope's Trial on the town of Dayton in several ways. She was the narrator of Monkey Town. Her father owns the drugstore and Frances is critically involved in the plan to liberate Dayton. She finds herself questioning everything about her life during Scope's trial, from what her father stands for to the truth about the Bible and the strengths of her childhood friendships. She's a deep thinker and not one to back away from a fight. Many readers get attached to Frances, which was used by Kidd to show the impact of Scope's trial through the relationship between Frances and her father. The more Frances tried to get to the bottom of the events swirling around her, the more attached readers get to her story. Clearly, the relationship between Frances and her father can be interpreted as being symbolic of change and resistance to change in the town of Dayton.

Kidd lets Frances wonder and wander and work her way through all the obvious doubts, on so many issues, that the Scopes trial brought to the surface of her little country town. The fact that there really was a Frances Robinson and that so many of the other elements introduced in the story are true (as explained in Kidd's excellent Author's Note), just makes this story that much more relevant, but no less enjoyable for young readers. In the end, everyone (of any age) who reads Monkey Town will find something of real value in this story. At its heart, the book is about growing up and asking questions, issues all of us can identify with and will certainly enjoy reading. (2) However, this period of doubt and questioning is symbolic of the larger political questions evolving in the town of Dayton at that historical period (see http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/evolut.htm).
Can you think of examples of interactions between Francis and her father?

5. Is the complexity of human ...

Solution Summary

This soliton responds to the questions related to the book "Monkey Town" by Ronald Kidd (2006).

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