“The Butler” – Classroom Activities

These exercises were sent in by Jocelyn Allen, an Australian teaching English in Germany. They have been specially designed for non native English speakers. Thanks Jocelyn!

1. Knowledge

Rewrite the following 5 non-standard English expressions from the story into standard English.

  • ‘Why don’t nobody never loosen up and let themselves go?’ line 12
  • ‘Terrific ain’t it’ line 55
  • ‘Don’t none of them appreciate a great wine’ line 59
  • ‘What the heck d’you mean, they can’t taste it?’ line 64
  • The vinegar don’t spoil my palate one bit’ line 73

List the things you need to do in order to taste wine properly.

2. Comprehension

How did Mr and Mrs Cleaver begin to ‘climb the social ladder’?

Why did Tibbs find it difficult to get the best wine in the world?

Why did the Cleavers’ guests not appreciate the best wine?

Why did Tibbs leave the empty wine bottles on the sideboard for people to see?

What did Tibbs say to leave the guests speechless?

3. Analysis

Summarise the short story ‘The Butler’.

The author has chosen two different styles of language for Tibbs and Mr Cleaver. Explain what we learn about the characters and their life experiences from the way they speak.

4. Synthesis

Imagine that a friend of yours has been invited to one of Mr Cleaver’s parties and has written to you to ask about Mr Cleaver. Write a reply in which you describe:

  • his character
  • his appearance

Imagine that the butler has applied for another job. Write a letter of recommendation for him. Make sure that you say both positive and negative things about him.

5. Evaluation

Was the butler right or wrong to do what he did? Why did he do it?

Do you think the writer creates sympathy for the butler or for Mr Cleaver? Justify your answer with examples from the text.