Published: The New Yorker; newyorker.com; November 24, 1997
Level of Difficulty ****
“Almost Two hundred years later, Napoleon still finds himself in the heat of battle” Adam Gopnik
1. In what ways is Napoleon different from other famous leaders like Churchill and Mussolini?
2. What does “the number” in the phrase “One puts the number at forty-five thousand” in paragraph one refer to?
3. Which sentence in paragraph two best summarizes Schom’s attitude to Napoleon?
4. Schom asks the reader to see the events of 1812 through the lens of 1944. What enables him to do this?
5. At the beginning of paragraph four, the writer poses a question. He says we need to glance at why anyone, especially generations of intelligent Frenchmen from Stendhal to Victor Hugo thought he was a hero. What is the answer?
6. Napoleon’s drill instructor issued the following order: “Civilize this dangerous islander!”. Why exactly did he feel the need to say this?
7. What does “it” in the phrase “at a time when it was attached to the universalist…” in paragraph seven refer to?
8. What characteristic of Napoleon is the story of the balloon an example of?
9. It is stated that Napoleon wrote essays about Robert Walpole’s politics, analyzed Plato’s Republic, studied the ancient Persians and so on. What conclusion does the writer draw about Napoleon from these examples?
10. What does “it” in the phrase “and in time, it became pure clannishness.” In paragraph eight refer to?
11. What does “its” in the phrase “had taken as its motto St Just’s terrible statement…” in paragraph nine refer to?
12. Why was Napoleon sent to fight the British under Admiral Hood?
13. The constitutionalists offered Napoleon the command in a quixotic plan: to take Italy from France’s Austrian enemy states the text. What was the reason for this move and what was the result of this campaign?
14. In the second half of paragraph eleven, find a single word meaning “to waste”.
15. What does “Its” in the phrase “Its adversaries, Elting writes…” in paragraph thirteen refer to?
16. In what ways were Napoleon’ officers different from officers in other European armies and in what ways were they similar to contemporary gang members?
17. On reading paragraph fifteen, we draw the conclusion that Napoleon was ver good at motivating his men. State an example to support this opinion.
18. Read through paragraphs sixteen, seventeen and eighteen and try and complete the following sentence: Napoleon, Louis XIV, current day politicians and P.R men share the opinion that the best way to motivate men is ………………………………………………………………
19. To what do we owe the decoding of the Rosetta stone?
20. Soon after Napoleon became consul, there was a change in the way he went about making war. What was that change?
21. What does “none of it” in the sentence “But none of it worked” in paragraph twenty two refer to?
22. What is the establishment of modern day Germany attributed to?
23. Why exactly were so many famous liberals (Goya, Goethe, and Beethoven) disillusioned with Napoleon and the French army?
24. What does “it” in the phrase “from which it emerged” in paragraph twenty five refer to?
25. How did Napoleon probably die?
26. Read through paragraphs twenty seven and twenty eight and find two important consequences of the Napoleonic era.
27. Now read through paragraph thirty and state clearly what Napoleon’s most important legacy seems to be.
THE GOOD SOLDIER / KEY (newyorker.com)
This wonderful and informative text is most beneficial if the students have come to class having read up on Napoleon. However, it isn’t a must. It will take 60 minutes with a good upper intermediate or advanced class reading and underlining answers if you do it in one go and then discuss it and check answers. I prefer to break it up and go over it in chunks. It works better. History is, as a subject, an all time favorite but in order for the text to go well, you need to do some homework on Napoleon too. Enjoy; I have been for years. Due to copyright issues, you will have to access the text yourselves.
1. In the case of no other historical figure does opinion diverge so widely, accept so extensive a set of judgments, or differ so radically from country to country.
2. The number of books
3. Nothing Napoleon does is any good at all.
4. The nationalism of the man not born of the nation; the failed invasion of Russia; the eventual defeat; the millions dead.
5. The Napoleonic period also includes the rise of professions open to talent and the growth of the mass democratic army – in fact of the modern state and all the manipulations necessary to make it run.
6. Napoleon was violently anti French and he saw his mission in life as the liberation of Corsica from the French
7. The virus of romantic nationalism.
8. He had an outsider’s freedom to be a little dangerous.
9. The Enlightenment side of Napoleon is the most attractive side of his character.
10. Corsica as an abstract ideal
11. This proto-Khmer rouge group.
12. He asked to be sent somewhere on the frontier where he would not have to fight Frenchmen.
13. Napoleon who was one of the few trained artillery officers around…
15. The French Revolutionary army
16. They were the sons of merchants and millers and innkeepers and tanners and barrel coopers./ They had to make their authority manifest through bold unmistakable symbols.
17. He gave each fighting group a personalized slogan to attach to its colors. There are many others.
18. Baubles. Have the students explain too.
19. To the fact that Napoleon had brought with him from Paris to Egypt a clutch of intellectuals…
20. His war making took on a compulsive touch
21. None of what he did to force himself into absolutist Europe.
22. Napoleon’s attack on the little German states.
23. Because Napoleon’s armies committed massacres left and right.
24. The democratic army
25. Arsenic poisoning
26. It helped create, by imperial aggression, the conditions for romantic nationalism; Napoleon solved the crucial problem of national size.
27. Napoleon’s legacy has become one more demonstration of the power of words and abstract symbols to create a reality of their own