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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersLiving the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican Life
Overview of Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Resource Menu: Predicaments of Early Republican Life
Text 1. Benjamin Franklin
Text 2. Venture Smith
Text 3. Washington Irving
Text 4. Royall Tyler
» Reading Guide
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Text 5. Benjamin Rush
Text 6. Noah Webster

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
4.  Royall Tyler, The Contrast: A Comedy in Five Acts. Written by a Citizen of the United States, 1787
   Royall Tyler

Sex, seduction, peer pressure, money, clothes, being cool, being nerdy. Sounds like high school, doesn't it? Here's a play about all of the above and more. An easy and enjoyable read. The characters are large and uncomplicated. Your students might have fun acting out some of the scenes. Tyler wrote The Contrast for much the same reason Franklin wrote his Autobiography, to instruct his countrymen how to behave and what to value. Following the style of British eighteenth-century drama, The Contrast is a web of intrigues spun out of lust and greed. Will Dimple marry the virtuous Maria or the rich Letitia? Will he seduce the impressionable Charlotte? Will the sophisticated New Yorkers defeat the stolid Manly? In the end The Contrast is about the role books, education, experience, and the broader values of society play in the creation of the men and women who will populate the American republic, and that sounds like high school, too. 36 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  Why are women the focal point of this play?
  ·  What do the character Dimple and Benjamin Franklin have in common?
  ·  What does the play suggest about the passing of the generation who made the Revolution?
  ·  What does The Contrast tell us about the new republic's attitude toward money and the emerging urban capitalistic order?
  ·  What does luxury represent in the play?
  ·  How does Tyler's attitude toward luxury compare with Franklin's?
  ·  Why does Charlotte not like to go to church?
  ·  In terms of the play, what is the right kind of education for an American?
  ·  What does the character Jonathan represent? What keeps him in line?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What was the nature of the society that formed in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution?
  •  What did the citizens of the early republic hope for?
  •  What did they fear?
  •  How did they seek to balance freedom and order?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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