The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit
by JJ Lee (McClelland & Stewart, 2011
The final section of Lee’s first chapter is a precise memory of a time that he shared with his father. Ask students to analyze the elements that combine to make this a powerful and vivid scene, and to suggest why the author might have chosen this scene to lead readers into the rest of his story. Here are some examples.
• The author uses the present tense of verbs, even though he tells us immediately that this is a memory of the past: “It is 1978.” This helps to impress on readers the importance of the specific memory.
• The memory is told in short sentences and few words and with specific and vivid details of time and place: for example, the author’s age, the room in the family home where the action takes place, the temperature outside and inside, and even what is on the TV.
• The actions described show the relationship at that moment between father and son: the son’s fear that his father might die, and the father’s tight embrace until the child falls asleep.
• The final words of the scene echo the paragraph that came just before this last section of the chapter, where he spoke about his conflicting feelings for a father who could be either “the greatest dad in the world” or “a bad dream.”
See the teaching resource for more lesson ideas.
Cross-curricular Suggestions: Social Studies, Cultural Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities, Fashion
Students could read The Measure of a Man to help them appreciate some of the ways that both cultural artifacts and family histories influence our perceptions and interpretations of the world. Lee’s story could also be used to deepen understanding of the evolution of fashion and its relationship to society, culture, and the individual.