Saving the Crippled Boy


Beatty, Jan




The narrator of Beatty's thought-provoking poem recalls her adolescent attempt to do a good deed--to "save" a crippled boy by making out with him. However, her "charitable" action merely ends up trivializing the boy's dignity and humanity and causing guilt for the narrator, leaving the reader plenty of room to consider more appropriate methods of charity. The motives behind the narrator's actions in this poem also cause us to question our own selfish motives when we consider "helping" others.

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Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Ability and DisabilityConnection and RelationshipDiversity and DifferenceHealth and HealingLove and CompassionMotives and Values

Big Questions


Civically Engaged Reader

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Who is the narrator and what is her connection to the boy?
  2. Why does the narrator kiss Bob Saunders?
  3. From what does the narrator want “to save him, just to save him”?
  4. Why does the narrator try to save him - and why does she think he needs saving?
  5. Is she really trying to save him or is she doing something else? And if it's something else, what is the something else?
  6. What makes the narrator overcome her initial aversion to Bob?
  7. Why does the narrator grow “small and hard” when she tells Bob, “This is what you can't have”? What does this experience lead her to think about her “sick, ailing heart”?
  8. Why do you think the narrator recalls this tenth-grade experience so vividly, many years later? How do you think this experience might afterward have affected her capacity to help others?
  9. Is the language of "saving" appropriate? Do we all know now that it's not possible to save another or is that language still common?
  10. Was the narrator's attempt to “save” Bob a good deed?
  11. How do you know when your help is effective—is really for others and not yourself?
  12. Under what circumstances do we find ourselves like the narrator in the poem, growing “small and hard” when we do good deeds? How is it that doing good deeds can sometimes have this effect on us?
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