Lesson Plans for Aqua Girl
Yxta Maya Murray’s Aqua Girl blends mythology with the everyday in this beguiling work of magic realism. This short story tells the tale of Poseidon’s unnamed daughter, a half-mortal who weds and drowns a succession of mortal men on the beaches of Santa Monica, California. In a tale of yearning and loss, choice and inevitability, themes of family ties and personal destiny resonate.
This story and the accompanying lesson plans fulfill English State Content Standards dealing with literary response and analysis and writing applications. It is appropriate for students in high school, and because it features a cold and deadly but paternal Poseidon, it can be paired with The Odyssey.
SUGGESTIONS FOR LESSON PLANS
I. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Poseidon has played a major role in mythology and literature for over 2,000 years. Why do you think writers find him such an attractive and evocative figure?
2. Aqua Girl lets her first four husbands drown. What does this say about her character? Do you think her actions are intentional? Why or why not?
3. Both Aqua Girl and her father Poseidon are the murderers of mortals. Given this, did you ever find yourself feeling sorry for either character? Pin point a place in the story where each character seems the most vulnerable and also the most terrible. As a whole, how do you feel about each character?
4. Describe the relationship between Aqua Girl and her father. How does their relationship affect the story’s plot?
5. The main setting for this story is the sea, which is shown to be both deadly and nurturing. Murray uses beautiful language to enhance her description. Go back through the story and pick out several words or phrases that you feel help best create this portrayal of the ocean.
6. Analyze the resolution of this story. What role does destiny play in this story’s outcome? Is free will a variable?
7. If you had to assign a theme to this story what would it be? Why? Use evidence from the text to support your point of view.
II. ESSAY PROMPT
Of all the Greek deities, Poseidon is one of the most popular among modern day writers. Write an essay that compares and contrasts the portrayal of Poseidon in Aqua Girl with the portrayal of Poseidon in Homer’s The Odyssey. Be sure to examine the complexity of both his murderous wrath and his attachment to his children, as well as what role these aspects of Poseidon’s personality play in affecting each story’s plot line.
(Or on a lighter note, compare and contrast the portrayal of Poseidon in Aqua Girl with his portrayal in Percy Jackson – The Lightning Thief.)
III. CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS
1. Magic realism mixes magical happenings with everyday reality and makes them seem almost normal. Write a short story featuring the child of a mortal and a Greek deity, and place that half-mortal character in modern day L.A. Be sure to describe the character traits of your protagonist and include what sort of magic he or she is capable of and/or what magical events spring up around him or her. Also, be sure to show what kind of relationship your character maintains with his or her parents. What triumphs would a half-mortal experience in modern day L.A.? What internal or external conflicts would he or she experience? Find a resolution to your character’s main conflict.
2. Write a short story about any topic or character as long as your story’s setting is the sea or beach in Southern California. Follow Murray’s example and use as much descriptive language – including a variety of color words – as you can to create vivid imagery and bring your characters and their setting to life. If you need more direction, include a theme of destiny, family ties, or love.
3. The unnamed main character in Aqua Girl can be called a femme fatale, which is a mysterious woman who lures men into danger or even to their deaths. The femme fatale is a popular archetype in literature. Aqua Girl also fits the archetypal role of an anti-hero – a main character who is not especially good or nice. Write a short story in which your
main character is a femme fatale or an anti-hero. Pay attention to how creating a less than likable character affects the focus of your writing. Does it add complexity to your plot, the tone of your story, your character’s development?
CALIFORNIA STATE CONTENT STANDARDS
3.0 Literary Response and Analysis
Narrative Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text
3.1 Analyze characteristics of sub-genres used in novels and short stories.
3.3 Analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in a literary text (e.g., internal and external conflicts, motivations, relationships, influences) and explain the way those interactions affect the plot.
3.6 Analyze the way in which authors through the centuries have used archetypes drawn from myth and tradition.
3.7 Recognize and understand the significance of various literary devices.
3.8 Interpret and evaluate the impact of ambiguities, subtleties, contradictions, ironies, and incongruities in a text.
2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
2.2 Write responses to literature:
a. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the significant ideas in works
b. Analyze the use of imagery, language, universal themes, and unique aspects of
d. Demonstrate an understanding of the author’s use of stylistic devices and an
appreciation of the effects created.
e. Identify and assess the impact of perceived ambiguities, nuances, and
complexities within the text.
LINK DIRECTLY TO THE CALIFORNIA CONTENT STANDARDS HERE: