Students discover the novel Waiting, examining such topics as the Cultural Revolution and Confucian values as well as tensions between old and new, rural and urban, and communism and capitalism.

Unit Summary

This unit serves as a follow-up to the Things Fall Apart unit earlier this year. The themes of identity and the tensions between old and new that were traced in the prior novel will also be developed by Ha Jin in his novel Waiting. In addition to extending their investigation of these themes, students will also explore ideas of love, loyalty, and fate as they read both the novel and the short story “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov. While Ha Jin’s story is a universally human tale that asks its readers to consider the meaning of true love and happiness, it is also a story whose plot and characters are greatly affected by the time and place in which it is set. In order to understand the degree to which the setting impacts the novel, students will read paired passages on such topics as the Cultural Revolution, foot-binding, and Confucian values. The protagonist of the story, Lin Kong, struggles with his loyalties to two women, while China simultaneously struggles with tensions between old and new, rural and urban, communism and capitalism. It is through investigating all of these tensions that students can gain an understanding of Lin as a tragic character in the center of a complex situation in China.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: Waiting by Ha Jin (Vintage, 2000)  

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale


This assessment accompanies Unit 6 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  1. Read and annotate the novel with the key thematic questions in mind.
  2. Consider the key thematic questions in light of the novel. How would you answer them? Also consider possible plot and character-driven questions that students should investigate/debate to deepen their understanding and their answers.
  3. Take the exam, including writing an essay in answer to the prompt.
  4. Read and annotate the paired texts.
  5. Consider possible connections between the paired texts and the novel.
  6. Read the following reviews of the novel:

Essential Questions


  • Fate vs. Free Will: What determines our fate? Is it our character? Our circumstances? Our decisions? Or something out of our own control?
  • Happiness: Are human beings either happy or not happy depending on their life circumstances? Or can we choose to be either happy or unhappy despite our circumstances?
  • Loyalty/Duty: Being loyal and fulfilling our duty to others is the most important virtue in life. Agree or disagree?
  • Love: What is true love? Are there other emotions that can be mistaken for love? If so, what makes them different than love?
  • Waiting: What effect does living in a state of limbo, waiting, have on human beings?

Writing Focus Areas


Students will focus on writing an essay in which they analyze Ha Jin’s treatment of one of the essential questions of the unit. Students will focus on developing thesis statements that offer not their own opinion, but rather an assessment of the author’s opinion. Students will then develop their analysis by using abundant evidence from the test to support their claims.

Spiraling Literary Analysis Writing Focus Area

  • Thesis
  • Evidence
  • Analysis



Literary Terms

diction, theme, motif, characterization, genre (historical fiction), allusion, symbol, foil, conflict, setting, allegory, structure, narration, dramatic irony

Roots and Affixes

comm- (communism, commune), in- (inaudible, vs. insinuate), ami- (amiable)


short story: irresolute (2), immorality (2), diffidence (4), idle (9), indignation (12), vexation (14), obsequiousness (15)
novel: reticent (6), disentangle (9), animosity (9), inaudible (11), furtive (24), reproach (24), resolute (24), despondency (25 and 80), dissuade (26), pungent (27), lassitude (29), clandestine (34), denounced (36), derisive (37), billet (38 and 43), eminent (47), melodious (50), diffidence (53), extricate (59), voluptuous (67), virility (73), taciturn (76), insinuate (77), languor (80), insipid (82), carmine (84), commune/communal (86), askew (89), unseemly (94), extricate (95), foiled (96), impracticability (99), fractious (106), profusely (109), chauvinism (113), innumerable (117), corpulent (120), exploiting (125), reciprocity, earnest (136), incongruous (143), amiable (143), avuncular (152), megalomania (153), sinewy (162), candid (166), pallid (185), unkempt (190), repressed (191), reticence (192), irresolute (193), inconsolable (197), predestined (198), nominally (216), plaintively (223), lucrative (230), anticlimactic (for discussion), carbuncular (242), capricious (254), auspicious (255), tedious (257), languid (266), vitality (277), pliable (277), passivity (295), alleviate (296), superfluous (303), resonant (308)

Idioms and Cultural References

short story: Yalta (1), groyne (5), lorgnette (5)
novel: communism (novel), bound feet (6), commune (7), filial duty (8), “production brigade” (9), Red Guard (33), Chairman Mao (49), Cultural Revolution (55), Central Committee (69), Confucianism (116), “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman (144), Mao suit (146), crone (157), yin (190), yang (194), “nervous disorder” (281), Spring Festival (283, 299)

Content Knowledge and Connections


Students will need some basic knowledge about Communism, Mao, China, and the Cultural Revolution in order to best understand the conflict and themes of this novel.

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map


  • “The Lady with the Pet Dog” — Sections 1 and 2

Analyze how Chekhov develops the themes of love and fate in his short story.


  • “The Lady with the Pet Dog” — Section 3

Analyze how the author further develops the themes of fate and free will.


  • Waiting pp. 3 – 9 — “Peculiar History of Footbinding”

Identify and infer information about the characters, themes, and conflict of the novel.


  • Waiting pp. 9 – 17 — Prologue

Evaluate the merits of Lin’s request for a divorce.

Analyze the author’s development of the characters and conflict.


  • Waiting pp. 21 – 30 — Part One: Chapter 1

Analyze the author’s characterization of Manna Wu.

Identify the ways in which government impacts individuals’ lives and choices in China in 1963.


  • Waiting pp. 31 – 36 — Part One: Chapter 2

  • “The Cultural Revolution in China”

Analyze the impact of the setting on the plot of the novel.

Continue to identify the author’s characterization of Manna and Lin.


  • Waiting pp. 37 – 43 — Part One: Chapter 3

  • “The Long March”

Analyze how the march impacts the plot, character, and theme development of the novel.


  • Waiting pp. 45 – 54 — Part One: Chapters 4 and 5

Identify techniques used by the author to develop conflict and theme.


  • Waiting pp. 55 – 61 — Part One: Chapter 6

Describe the Cultural Revolution and how the choice of setting impacts the plot.

Analyze how the opinion of other members of their community impact Manna and Lin and their developing relationship.


  • Waiting pp. 62 – 70 — Part One: Chapter 7

Analyze the role that societal expectations and fear play in the development of Manna and Lin’s relationship.


  • Waiting pp. 71 – 80 — Part One: Chapters 8 and 9

Analyze the author’s characterization of Lin in chapters 8 and 9.


  • Waiting pp. 81 – 85 — Part One: Chapter 10

Analyze and describe how the author continues to develop Lin’s internal conflict.


  • Waiting pp. 86 – 96 — Part One: Chapter 11

Analyze the author’s development of Lin’s character and the central conflict of the novel.


  • Waiting pp. 97 – 102 — Part One: Chapter 12

Analyze how the author develops the theme of waiting in this chapter.


  • Waiting pp. 105 – 119 — Part Two: Chapters 1 and 2

Analyze the impact of the setting on the plot of the novel.

Describe how the nature motifs add to the theme and plot development.


  • Waiting pp. 120 – 133 — Part Two: Chapter 3

  • “Confucian Teaching: Reciprocity and the Five Human Relationships”

  • “The Analects of Confucius”

Analyze how the author develops the idea of conflict between old and new (urban and rural) in China.


  • Waiting pp. 134 – 150 — Part Two: Chapters 4 and 5

  • “Decision of the Central Committee...”

Analyze Manna and Lin’s relationship at this point in the novel.


  • Waiting pp. 151 – 159 — Part Two: Chapter 6

  • “Song of Myself”

Analyze and explain how the allusions to Leaves of Grass help develop character and theme.


  • Waiting pp. 160 – 175 — Part Two: Chapters 7 and 8

Analyze the author’s characterization of Geng Yang and explain the impact of the author’s choice to present Geng as a foil to Lin.

Analyze the author’s development of the theme of fate in this chapter.


  • Waiting pp. 176 – 189 — Part Two: Chapters 9 and 10

Analyze how the violence of chapter 9 develops the plot and themes of the novel.


  • Waiting pp. 190 – 199 — Part Two: Chapters 11 and 12

Analyze the development of Lin and Manna’s relationship.

Analyze the author’s development of thematic topics.


  • Waiting pp. 203 – 220 — Part Three: Chapters 1 and 2

Identify and analyze the author’s tone and the impact of this tone on the events of these chapters.


  • Waiting pp. 221 – 235 — Part Three: Chapter 3

Define true love.


  • Waiting pp. 236 – 249 — Part Three: Chapters 4 and 5

Describe the author’s tone and explain how the author uses tone and juxtaposition to reveal theme.


  • Waiting pp. 250 – 265 — Part Three: Chapters 6 and 7

Describe how the author develops Lin’s character in chapters 6 and 7. 

Analyze how the characterization of Lin develops the themes of love and waiting.


  • Waiting pp. 266 – 282 — Part Three: Chapters 8 and 9

Evaluate the impact of lack of true love and of waiting on Lin and Manna’s relationship.


  • Waiting pp. 283 – 298 — Part Three: Chapters 10 and 11

Analyze the author’s use of Geng Yang to develop his message.

Describe how Lin’s internal dialogue further characterizes him.


  • Waiting pp. 299 – 308 — Part Three: Chapter 12

Analyze the author’s messages about love and about China.

Evaluate Lin as a character.



Discuss and debate the essential questions using evidence from the novel.



Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.11-12.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.11-12.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.11-12.3 — Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

  • L.11-12.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 11—12 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.11-12.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

  • RI.11-12.2 — Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.11-12.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

  • RL.11-12.2 — Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.11-12.3 — Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

  • RL.11-12.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)

  • RL.11-12.5 — Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

  • RL.11-12.6 — Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.11-12.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11—12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • SL.11-12.3 — Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.

Writing Standards
  • W.11-12.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.