A Fistful of Fig Newtons Short Essay - Answer Key

Jean Shepherd
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1. What is the premise of A FISTFUL OF FIG NEWTONS?

A FISTFUL OF FIG NEWTONS follows Ralph Parker during an extended traffic jam in the Lincoln Tunnel going from New York to New Jersey. As Ralph sits in the tunnel, stuck in traffic, he reminisces over scenes of his life and speculates about the future and the state of culture. The reader travels with Ralph through memories of his childhood, the army, and life in college on the GI Bill.

2. In what circumstances does the narrator find himself as the novel opens and how does he perceive his circumstances?

In the opening, the presently unnamed narrator is stuck in rush-hour traffic four blocks from the Lincoln Tunnel from New York to New Jersey. His radio goes out, leaving him with nothing to occupy his mind. Finding a break in traffic, he makes it into the tunnel. The narrator ruminates that the tunnel can make men man, recalling a well-educated man who was deathly afraid in the tunnel and sold his home in Princeton to live in a dirty New York apartment. He thinks of the tunnel as purgatory.

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