College Plans Go Up in Smoke 

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College Plans Go Up in Smoke

Dear Ann Landers,

Our 16-year-old daughter started to smoke last Christmas. It killed me to see that lovely girl with a cigarette in her mouth. I told her how I felt, Martha continued to smoke, saying "It's my life," etc. I told her if she didn't stop smoking, I wouldn't send her to college. She agreed to quit.

Last night I smelled cigarette smoke on Martha's breath. She confessed she had broken her word. Now I must make good my threat. Martha is unusually bright and wants to teach handicapped children. I am working full-time to put her older sister through school and would do the same for Martha. My husband's salary is good, but with inflation eating us up we could never educate the girls unless I pitched in.

My theory is that if smoking is more important than college, I am a fool to work to put Martha through. Your opinion is wanted.

Freeport Woe

Factual questions

1. Who is the writer of this letter—Martha's mother or father? How do you know?

2. What was Martha doing that was so upsetting?

3. Why did Martha agree to stop smoking?

4. Why must the parent now make good the threat?

5. The writer says, "Your opinion is wanted." Opinion about what?

Language use

The writer says "It killed me to see that lovely girl with a cigarette in her mouth." This exaggeration is understandable and permissible in informal writing and speaking ("My feet are killing me!"), but formal writing should be more precise. How else could she express her distress?


to quit

to break one's word

to confess

to make good a threat


to put someone through college


to pitch in




1. To bribe is to influence someone to do something by giving favors or gifts. Do you believe it is fair of parents to bribe their children ("Be a good boy and I'll let you stay up an hour longer," or "Clean up your room and I'll give you a dollar")? Is the mother's offer of college in the same category?

2. The agreement between Martha and her mother can be expressed as affirmative statements: The mother will finance the daughter's college education; in return, the daughter will agree to stop smoking. How does this bargain reflect the values of the mother? Of Martha? Do you think the bargain is equal on both sides?

3. Do you agree with the mother's theory?



Write a letter to Woe, as if you were Ann Landers, in which you state your opinion.

From the desk ofAnn Landers



to paint yourself into a corner

to violate


the punishment fits the crime

to oppose, to be opposed


to damage

to withdraw




1. What was Martha's "crime"? What sort of punishment would have "fit" this crime?

2. Do you remember being disciplined as a child? What methods did your parents use? Which of these will you use when you're a parent?

3. Are you opposed to young people smoking? What would you do if a younger brother or sister were doing something you thought was dangerous or bad for them?



In-Laws Demand Helping Hand

Dear Ann Landers,

Most of the letters that appear in your column come from city people. Please print a problem that might be boring to your urban readers, but farm folks need help too. My husband and I have been married fifteen years. We have five children and we get along fine. The only thorn in my side is my in-laws. They have the farm next to ours and we end up doing all their hard work.

Every morning for fifteen years my father-in-law has telephoned my husband before breakfast, or worse, has come over here in person and told my husband what to do, as if he were a small child. If we are at the breakfast table, my father-in-law pulls up a chair and tells him to hurry up.

When my in-laws go on vacations, we are expected to do the chores. They cannot do our chores when we go on vacation because they can barely handle their own. So, when we leave town, we have to hire help. I feel they should do the same.

My husband has two brothers but they were a lot smarter than he was. They went to college and got away from their parents. It burns me up to listen to them and their wives tell us how comforting it is to know that the folks have somebody near to help them, now that they are getting on in years.

We can't move so please don't suggest it, Ann. Just tell me if there is any way to get a grown man to cut himself loose from his parents so he and his family can lead their own lives.

Dakota Plight



a thorn in my side

to end up

to get burned up

to get on in years

a plight


Factual Questions

1. Where does the writer of this letter live?

2. Are the writer and her husband happily married?

3. What is the thorn in her side?

4. What happens when her in-laws go on vacation?

5. What happens when her family goes on vacation?

6. Why does she resent her husband's brothers?

7. What question does the woman ask?

8. In what state does she live?



1. Why do you suppose the two farms are next to each other?

2. Do you think the two brothers are younger than the writer's husband? Would this explain why he must give more help to his parents than his brothers do?

3. Does the statement "they were a lot smarter … they went to college …" mean that her husband was less intelligent that his brothers and therefore was not admitted to a college?

4. How do you think the husband feels about the situation?

5. Do you think the husband would agree with the question which his wife asks at the end of her letter? Is there any indication in the letter that he is unhappy with the present arrangement?



Write a letter to Dakota Plight, as if you were Ann Landers, and give your opinion about the situation.




to be tried up

to compromise



From the desk ofAnn Landers




1. Can you think of any other suggestions?

2. How come Ann Landers realizes that it's impossible for the husband to break himself away from his parents but his wife doesn't?


An Uninvited Guest

Dear Ann Landers,

What should a person do if he is dining in the home of a friend and he comes upon a foreign substance in the food like, shall we say, a hairpin in the soufflé? This happened to me recently and I said nothing, but it could have been a serious thing. Yesterday I had a similar experience, only it was a worm in a fresh peach which had been sliced and served over ice cream. I was speaking to the hostess when I noticed it. I kept my wits about me, continued to talk, and ate around the worm.

If such a thing happens again, what should be done? Do you feel the hostess would want to know?

Lost My Appetite

Factual questions

1. What recently happened to this letter writer?

2. What was the similar experience yesterday?

3. What did the writer do about it?

4. What is the question that the writer asks?


1. Is the writer a man or a woman? What evidence do you have for your answer?

2. Have you ever had this kind of experience? If so, describe the circumstances and what you did.

3. If you were the host or hostess, would you expect or want your guests to tell you if anything is wrong with the food that you serve?

4. Would you act differently if this happened in a restaurant? Why?

5. What would you do in a similar situation if you didn't like the food your hostess had prepared?


Write a letter, as if you were Ann Landers, that answers the question asked by Lost My Appetite.

Language in life

Suppose you decide that the answer to the question in the last sentence is: Yes, the hostess would want to know. You might say, "Excuse me, there seems to be a worm in my peach." Suggest other polite ways to tell your hostess this embarrassing information.

Suppose this happens in a very expensive restaurant and you are extremely upset. Demand that the management pay for your meal, which has been ruined.


to come upon

a foreign substance

shall we say

a soufflé

a worm

to slice

a hostess

kept my wits about me



From the desk ofAnn Landers


1. Do you agree or disagree with Ann Landers' advice?

2. Do you think that the answer to the question, "Do you feel the hostess would want to know?", depends on how well the hostess and guest know each other?

3. If the guest eats around the worm, he or she presumably would leave the worm on the plate. In this case, the hostess is likely to see the worm later. Then how do you suppose she will feel?



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