Doctor Jack-o’-Lantern


Yates, Richard


Short Story


Richard Yates (1926–1992) was born in Yonkers, New York. Yates served in the United States Army in World War II. Upon returning from the war, he worked as a publicist and a reporter before publishing his first novel, Revolutionary Road (1961), which established his reputation as a writer. Yates’s stories often address the frustrated dreams and unfulfilled aspirations of regular people who are plagued by self-doubt and self-delusion. “Doctor Jack-o’-Lantern” originally appeared in his collection Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (1962).

Full Text*

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From Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (Little, Brown and Company, 1962




Connection and RelationshipDiversity and DifferenceExclusion and BelongingIdentity and CommunityImpact and OutcomesLove and CompassionMotives and ValuesRoles and BoundariesTeaching and Learning

Big Questions

What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?How do we connect with those who are different from us?Who gets left out and why?What do people gain or lose from joining a group or a community?Should we love the people we serve?Do one’s motives for serving or giving matter? How?How far should we go in trying to identify with those we serve?What are the greatest obstacles to teaching and learning?What are the qualities of a good teacher?What does good teaching look like?


Taking Action


Sample Discussion Questions

  1. How does the limited background about the new boy fill Miss Price with a sense of mission?
  2. Why does Sabella start to become “the worst possible kind of teacher’s pet”?
  3. Why does Miss Price encourage Sabella to “consider me your friend”?
  4. What leads Miss Price to have the thought, “Perhaps the whole thing called for the attention of a specialist”?
  5. Why does Sabella draw the picture at the school? Why do you think the story ends here?
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