Ant and Grasshopper

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You are about to read two versions of the fable "Ant and Grasshopper" by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop. The fable teaches a simple lesson, or moral, about the importance of work. Then you will read "The Richer, the Poorer," a modern story based on Aesop's fable. The characters in "The Richer, the Poorer" have much in common with the ant and the grasshopper of the original fable, but the modern characters have a more complex view of the role of work in a happy life.


Connect toYour Life

Hard Work and No Play Why is work such an important part of life? How do you feel about your work? Do you put your best effort into it? Do you sometimes try to avoid it? What do you get in return for the work you do? Think about your attitudes toward work.

How important is work for a happy life?

Which is more important, work or play?

In a small group, discuss your views on the role of work in life.


Fables are brief tales written in prose or verse that are told to illustrate a moral, or lesson. Traditional fables often have animal characters, and the moral appears in a statement at the end. Modern fables are often more subtle and complex. In the pages that

follow you will compare and contrast a traditional and a modern fable. To help you note similarities and differences, keep these questions in mind as you read.

When was the fable written?

Who are the characters? What do they represent?

What happens in the fable?

What is the moral?

Use a diagram like the one at the right to take notes as you read.

Assessment Option: Comparison-and-Contrast Essay

After you have finished reading both versions of "Ant and Grasshopper" and "The Richer, the Poorer," you will have the option of writing a comparison­-and-contrast essay. Your notes will help you plan and write the essay.



Ant and Grasshopper

Aesop's fable retold in prose by JAMES REEVES

Aesop's fable retold in verse by ENNIS REES

Build Background


Both ants and grasshoppers are insects, but their habits are different. Ants live in organized communities called colonies, and are divided into queens, males, and workers. Most ants are workers, whose main job is to gather food. Ants eat both vegetable matter and other insects.

Grasshoppers, on the other hand, don't live in communities. Most grasshoppers eat vegetable matter, but some eat animal remains and other insects. Grasshoppers spend most of their time searching for food and eating.

Focus Your Reading


A fable is a brief story that teaches a lesson. The lesson can be expressed in a short, clear statement, or moral. The characters in fables are often animals who represent ideas such as "patience" or "cleverness!' As you read the two retellings of Aesop's "Ant and Grasshopper," notice that one is told in verse and the other in prose.


When you set a purpose for reading, you choose specific reasons for reading a work. Here you will read to compare and contrast two versions of the same fable. As you read, notice the difference between reading for fun and reading in order to prepare for writing an essay.

READER'S NOTEBOOK As you read, try to answer the Points of Comparison questions from page 311.


ANT and Grasshopper

Aesop's fable retold in prose by JAMES REEVES

All summer the ant had been working hard, gathering a store of corn for the winter. Grain by grain she had taken it from the fields and stowed it away in a hole in the bank, under a hawthorn bush.

One bright, frosty day in winter Grasshopper saw her. She was dragging out a grain of corn to dry it in the sun. The wind was keen, and poor Grasshopper was cold.

"Good morning, Ant," said he. "What a terrible winter it is! I'm half dead with hunger. Please give me just one of your corn grains to eat. I can find nothing, although I've hopped all over the farmyard. There isn't a seed to be found. Spare me a grain, I beg."

"Why haven't you saved anything up?" asked Ant. "I worked hard all through the summer, storing food for the winter. Very glad I am too, for as you say, it's bitterly cold."

"I wasn't idle last summer, either," said Grasshopper.

"And what did you do, pray?"

"Why, I spent the time singing," answered Grasshopper. "Every day from dawn till sunset I jumped about or sat in the sun, chirruping to my heart's content."

"Oh you did, did you?" replied Ant. "Well, since you've sung all summer to keep yourself cheerful, you may dance all winter to keep yourself warm. Not a grain will I give you!"

And she scuttled off into her hole in the bank, while Grasshopper was left cold and hungry.


---see picture

The Grasshopper and the Ant, Charles Henry Bennett (1828-1867). Pen and ink drawing. The Granger Collection, New York.



Aesop's fable retold in verse by ENNIS REES

A mean grasshopper,

Green as a lime,

Noticed an ant

In the summertime

Climbing a plant,

Gathering food

To eat in the winter.

And since she was rude,

The grasshopper said:
"To work in the summer

You must be dumber

Than almost anyone.

Don't you have any fun?

Even though you're an ant,

Surely you can't

Be quite so absurd!"
To this the ant

Didn't answer a word,

But she took the chance

To give her a glance

As sharp as a splinter,

Then worked right on

Getting ready for winter,

When there's little to light on

And little to eat

And even less heat

Than that. And soon
Winter came. And the grasshopper,

Green as a lime,

Felt stiff and lame

In the wintertime.

"I'm old and I'm twice

As cold as lime ice,"

She said with a jerk.

And she started to lurk

Round the ant's house—to eat!

Which shows that hard work

Isn't easy to beat.

620-560 B.C.

In good times prepare for when the bad times come."

A Mysterious Life Little is known about Aesop, the world's most famous creator of fables. Some historians think he may have been a slave who worked on Samos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, near Turkey.

Fast Talker One account of Aesop's life is as eventful as one of his fables. According to this story, Aesop's second master granted him his freedom in appreciation of his wit. After telling stories throughout Greece and Egypt, Aesop was appointed ambassador by King Croesus. On diplomatic missions, Aesop told fables to advise, instruct, or win an argument. Most of the time, his skill with words enabled him to wriggle out of trouble. His luck, however, ran out in

Delphi, where he was sent to distribute money to the citizens. Aesop found them so greedy that he returned the money to Croesus. As Aesop prepared to leave Delphi, someone hid a golden bowl in his baggage. He was arrested for theft, condemned by the court, and executed by being pushed off a cliff.


Connect to the Literature

1. What Do You Think?

How did you feel about the ant's treatment of the grasshopper? Did you have the same

reaction to both versions of the fable? Explain.

Comprehension Check

How had the ant prepared for winter?

What did the grasshopper want from the ant?

How did the ant respond?

Think Critically


Review the notes you made in your READER'S NOTEBOOK while reading. With a partner, identify details both versions of "Ant and Grasshopper" share. Then discuss how looking for information changed the way you read the fables.

3. Connect to Life Think about how much time most Americans spend working. In a small group, discuss whether the ant or the grasshopper is the better symbol for Americans' attitudes toward work.

Literary Analysis

FABLE AND MORAL A fable is a short tale told to teach a lesson. The characters in fables are usually animals that represent ideas. The lesson of the fable, called the moral, is sometimes directly stated at the end of the fable, as in James Reeves's retelling of "Ant and Grasshopper." Other times, as with Ennis Rees's version in verse, the reader must infer the moral from the characters' behavior. In either case, the same moral applies to both.


Paired Activity With a partner, study both versions of the fable and answer the Points of Comparison questions from page 311. Together, complete the diagram you began earlier.



The Richer, the Poorer


Build Background


Have you wondered why some people are adventurous while others are more cautious? Experts who study human behavior disagree about the factors that make people who they are. Some believe that it is nature—the genes inherited from a person's parents—that has the most important influence on personality. Others believe that nurture—the influence of other people and the environment on a person's life—has the most impact.

Focus Your Reading


Modern fables differ in some ways from traditional fables. The characters are not usually animals, and they are more complicated; they don't just represent an idea. The moral in a modern fable is seldom stated. The reader is left to infer it from what the characters do and say, and what is said about them. As you read, notice how the character Lottie changes.


When reading stories in order to compare and contrast them, your purpose is to find similarities and differences between them. As you read "The Richer, the Poorer," pay careful attention to the characters and the plot. Notice the lessons each character learns. Think about the title. Then think how these story elements relate to those in "Ant and Grasshopper."

READER'S NOTEBOOK As you read, refer again to the Points of Comparison questions from page 311. Record your findings in your Reader's Notebook for later use in completing your Points of Comparison diagram.

WORDS TO KNOW Vocabulary Preview







The Richer, the Poorer


Over the years Lottie had urged Bess to prepare for her old age. Over the years Bess had lived each day as if there were no other. Now they were both past sixty, the time for summing up. Lottie had a bank account that had never grown lean. Bess had the clothes on her back and the rest of her worldly possessions in a battered suitcase.

Lottie had hated being a child, hearing her parents' skimping and scraping. Bess had never seemed to notice. All she ever wanted was to go outside and play. She learned to skate on borrowed skates. She rode a borrowed bicycle. Lottie couldn't wait to grow up and buy herself the best of everything.

As soon as anyone would hire her, Lottie put herself to work. She minded babies; she ran errands for the old.

---see picture

Victorian Parlor II (1945), Horace Pippin. Oil on canvas, 25 1/4" x 30". The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1958. (58.26)


She never touched a penny of her money, though her child's mouth watered for ice cream and candy. But she could not bear to share with Bess, who never had anything to share with her. When the dimes began to add up to dollars, she lost her taste for sweets.

By the time she was twelve, she was clerking after school in a small variety store. Saturdays she worked as long as she was wanted. She decided to keep her money for clothes. When she entered high school, she would wear a wardrobe that neither she nor anyone else would be able to match.

But her freshman year found her unable to indulge so frivolous a whim, particularly when her admiring instructors advised her to think seriously of college. No one in her family had ever gone to college, and certainly Bess would never get there.

She would show them all what she could do, if she put her mind to it. She began to bank her money, and her hank became her most private and precious possession.

In her third year in high school, she found a job in a small hut expanding restaurant, where she cashiered from the busy hour until clos­ing. In her last year in high school, the business increased so rapidly that Lottie was faced with the choice of staying in school or working full time. She made her choice easily. A job in hand was worth two in the future.

Bess had a beau1 in the school band, who had no other ambition except to play a horn. Lottie expected to be settled with a home and family while Bess was still waiting for Harry to earn enough to buy a marriage license.

That Bess married Harry straight out of high school was not surprising. That Lottie never married at all was not really surprising either. Two or three times she was halfway persuaded, but to give up a job that paid well for a homemaking job that paid nothing was a risk she was incapable of taking.

Bess's married life was nothing for Lottie to envy. She and Harry lived like gypsies, Harry playing in second-rate bands all over the country, even getting himself and Bess stranded in Europe. They were often in rags and never in riches.

Bess grieved because she had no child, not having sense enough to know she was better off without one. Lottie was certainly better off without nieces and nephews to feel sorry for. Very likely Bess would have dumped them on her doorstep.

That Lottie had a doorstep they might have been left on was only because her boss, having bought a second house, offered Lottie his first house at a price so low and terms so reasonable that it would have been like losing money to refuse.

She shut off the rooms she didn't use, letting them go to rack and ruin.2 Since she ate her meals out, she had no food at home and did not encourage callers, who always expected a cup of tea.

Her way of life was mean and miserly, hut she did not know it. She thought she lived frugally in her middle years so that she could live in comfort and ease when she most needed peace of mind.

The years, after forty, began to race. Suddenly Lottie was sixty and retired from her job by her boss's son, who had no sentimental feeling about keeping her on until she was ready to quit.

She made several attempts to find other

1. beau: boyfriend.

2. go to rack and ruin: become rundown; deteriorate.


whim (hwim) n. a fanciful notion or impulse

frugally (froo'ge-le) adv. in a thrifty way; economically

sentimental (sĕn'tə-mĕn'tl) adj. showing or characterized by tender emotions


employment, but her dowdy3 appearance made her look old and inefficient. For the first time in her life Lottie would gladly have worked for nothing, to have some place to go, something to do with her day.

Harry died abroad, in a third-rate hotel, with Bess weeping as hard as if he had left her a fortune. He had left her nothing but his horn. There wasn't even money for her passage home.

Lottie, trapped by the blood tie, knew she would not only have to send for her sister but take her in when she returned. It didn't seem fair that Bess should reap the harvest of Lottie's lifetime of self-denial.

It took Lottie a week to get a bedroom ready, a week of hard work and hard cash. There was everything to do, everything to replace or paint. When she was through, the room looked so fresh and new that Lottie felt she deserved it more than Bess.

She would let Bess have her room, but the mattress was so lumpy, the carpet so worn, the
curtains so threadbare that Lottie's conscience pricked her. She supposed she would have to redo that room, too, and went about doing it with an eagerness that she mistook for haste.When she was through upstairs, she was shocked to see how dismal4 downstairs looked by comparison. She tried to ignore it, but with nowhere to go to escape it, the contrast grew more intolerable.

She worked her way from kitchen to parlor, persuading herself she was only putting the rooms to right to give herself something to do. At night she slept like a child after a long and happy day of playing house. She was having more fun than she had ever had in her life. She was living each hour for itself.

There was only a day now before Bess would arrive. Passing her gleaming mirrors, at first with vague awareness, then with painful clarity, Lottie saw herself as others saw her and could not stand the sight. She went on a spending spree from specialty shops to beauty salon, emerging transformed into a woman who believed in miracles.

She was in the kitchen basting a turkey when Bess rang the bell. Her heart raced, and she wondered if the heat from the oven was responsible. She went to the door, and Bess stood before her. Stiffly she suffered Bess's

3. dowdy: dull and unfashionable.

4. dismal: dreary; gloomy.

Carmen and Hilda (1941 I, Alice Neel. Watercolor on paper, 29" x 22". Schoteburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art & Artifacts Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Copyright The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy Robert Miller Gallery

self-denial (sĕlf'dĭ-nī'əl) n. a giving up of one's own desires or interests


embrace, her heart racing harder, her eyes suddenly smarting from the onrush of cold air.

"Oh, Lottie, it's good to see you," Bess said, but saying nothing about Lottie's splendid appearance. Upstairs, Bess, putting down her shabby suitcase, said, "I'll sleep like a rock tonight," without a word of praise for her lovely room. At the lavish table, top-heavy with turkey, Bess said, "I'll take light and dark both," with no marveling at the size of the bird or that there was turkey for two elderly women, one of them too poor to buy her own bread.

With the glow of good food in her stomach, Bess began to spin stories. They were rich with places and people, most of them lowly, all of them magnificent. Her face reflected her telling, the joys and sorrows of her remembering, and above all, the love she lived by that enhanced the poorest place, the humblest person.

Then it was that Lottie knew why Bess had made no mention of her finery, or the shining room, or the twelve-pound turkey. She had not even seen them. Tomorrow she would see the room as it really looked and Lottie as she really looked and the warmed-over turkey in its second-day glory. Tonight she saw only what she had come seeking, a place in her sister's home and heart.

She said, "That's enough about me. How have the years used you?"

"It was me who didn't use them," said Lottie wistfully. "I saved for them. I forgot the best of them would go without my ever spending a day or a dollar enjoying them. That's my life story in those few words, a life never lived. Now it's too near the end to try."

Bess said, "To know how much there is to know is the beginning of learning to live. Don't count the years that are left us. At our time of life it's the days that count. You've too much catching up to do to waste a minute of a waking hour feeling sorry for yourself"

Lottie grinned, a real wide-open grin, "Well, to tell the truth I felt sorry for you. Maybe, if 1 had any sense, I'd feel sorry for myself, after all. I know I'm too old to kick up my heels, but I'm going to let you show me how. If I land on my head, I guess it won't matter. I feel giddy5 already, and I like it."

5. giddy: lightheaded; frivolous.
Dorothy West


"I knew I wanted to be a writer."

Early Years Dorothy West was known to her fellow writers of the Harlem Renaissance—a literary movement of African-American artists during the 1920s—as the "kid," a name that fit because she started writing at age 7 and published her first article at 14. In the collections of stories and essays she called The Richer, the Poorer, West writes about the middle-class African-American family in which she grew up. "I knew I wanted to be a writer," West said. "Living with [my family] was like living inside a story." Later, friends such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston became another family for her.

Unique Personal View West encouraged African-American writers. However, she also believed that "color is not important" that people should be understood as individuals influenced as much by class and values as by race. In this she disagreed with many activists of the 1960s. Today, West's work is well received. Her 1995 novel The Wedding became a bestseller and successful TV miniseries.


enhance (ĕn-hăns.) v. to increase the attractiveness of



Connect to the Literature

1. What Do You Think? Did you think the ancient fable or the modern fable was more effective in getting across its moral? Explain.

Comprehension Check

What was Lottie's main concern through most of her life?

How did Bess spend her life?

How did Lottie feel when she learned Bess was coming to stay with her?

Think Critically


Review the notes you made in your READER'S NOTEBOOK. How do they help you compare and contrast the two works?

3. What lessons do Lottie and Bess learn? How do they differ from those learned by Ant and Grasshopper?

4. Which sister has lived the more fulfilling life? Why? What do you think Lottie would do differently if she could live her life over again?

5. Connect to Life Think of a family member. In what ways are you similar to that person? How are you different? How can family members use their differences to help one another grow?

Literary Analysis

MODERN FABLE Unlike tradi­tional fables, modern fables often contain complex characters. Instead of being character types, who represent single ideas, Lottie and Bess represent several ideas.

Most modern fables have a theme, which includes a moral, and is a broader statement about life.

REVIEW: THEME In a work of literature, the theme is the message or moral about life or human nature that the writer presents to the reader. Sometimes the title of the work can give you an important clue to the theme. What does the title, "The Richer, the Poorer," suggest about the theme?


Paired Activity Now that you've read both traditional and modern versions of this fable, talk with a partner about the similarities and differences you found. Respond to the Points of Comparison questions from page 311. Use your discussion to help you complete your diagram. Once you've completed it, identify the theme of each, and compare the two.

---see table




Recurring Themes Consider again the moral of "Ant and Grasshopper" and "The Ant and the Grasshopper!' What do you think are the themes of these fables? Next, consider "The Richer, the Poorer" Are any themes from "Ant and Grasshopper" or "The Ant and the Grasshopper" repeated here? Write down a possible theme for each, and choose one that might apply to all three. Include evidence from each story to support your theme choice.

Speaking & Listening

Speech Decide which fable's moral you most agree with. Write a speech you could give to younger students about the relative value of work and play. Use examples from the fables to support your position.

Planning Options People in real life prepare for bad times in many ways. Talk with adults, such as parents, teachers, or business owners. Find out what measures they take against "a stormy day". What plans have they made in case of lean or difficult times?

Decide which are more common and which are less common.

Research & Technology

Insect Profiles Using nature books and magazines, direct observation, and other resources, compare and contrast the way ants and grasshoppers behave. Do ants seem more focused on work? Do grasshoppers look like they don't work as hard? Use a Venn Diagram to chart your findings.


Standardized Test Practice

PART 1 Reading the Prompt

When you are asked to create a written response to a prompt like the one below, first read the entire prompt carefully. Then read it again, looking for key words that suggest the purpose of the essay.

Write a Comparison-and-Contrast Essay
Write a five- or six-paragraph essay

comparing and contrasting the traditional 1

fable "Ant and Grasshopper" and the modern

fable "The Richer, the Poorer."

Show similarities and differences between the 2

characters and morals of the two fables.

Support your ideas using quotations and examples from the fables. 3


1 I have to compare and contrast a traditional and a modern fable.

2 I have to show similari­ties and differences between the characters and the morals of the two versions.

3 I need to use quotations and examples from the fables.

PART 2 Planning a Comparison-and-Contrast Essay

Review the Points of Comparison diagram (p. 311) you began and completed.

Create an outline with the headings "Introduction," "Body," and "Conclusion."

Using your diagram, find examples of similarities and differences to use in the body of your essay.

For more help in planning a comparison-and-contrast essay, see Writing Workshop, p. 636.

PART 3 Drafting Your Essay

Introduction Clearly state your essay's main purpose—to explain the similarities and differences you found when comparing a traditional and a modern fable. Briefly define the characteristics of a fable.

Body Decide the best way to organize your comparison-and­-contrast essay. One way is to compare and contrast each important aspect of the ancient and modern fables one at a time. Use your Points of Comparison diagram for details and examples.

Conclusion End your essay with a strong statement about the most important difference between the traditional and modern fables. If you're having trouble identifying this difference, look again at your Points of Comparison chart.

Revising Make sure you always clearly indicate which fable you are discussing. Also, add signal words like also and in contrast to show the relationship you see between the fables.


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