Closely Reading Stories
To closely read stories, you should read once to get an overall sense of what is happening. Then return to read a second time and focus on character, setting, conflict, and theme.
Read a short story.
Pay close attention to the main character and what he wants.
The Most Sensible Car
By Carolyn Asher
Coup was the most sensible car at the dealership: blue, mid-sized, economical, with a ten-year warranty. . . . He didn’t need to go from 0 to 60 in five seconds like the muscle cars. He didn’t need to carry a family of seven on a three-week jaunt like the vans.
What coup did need was an owner who appreciated practicality.
That woman certainly wouldn’t do—that woman with her spray tan and her five-inch heels.
“Here she comes!” Wheels whispered to Coup. “My new owner!”
The woman reached for Coup’s door handle, but it was locked. Wheels meanwhile flipped his door open.
An hour later, she was driving away in him. A saleswoman pulled Van up where Wheels had been.
Just then, a couple with five kids swarmed into the dealership. Sticky fingers smeared chocolate on Coup’s side. He was glad his door was locked. Van’s was not. In moments, the family was packed inside, rocking the vehicle on her shocks.
“Some people!” Coup remarked.
Van made no comment. An hour later, she was carrying her new family away. A salesman drove Two-Door up to take her place.
“Good luck,” Coup said. “Nobody likes our kind. I’ve been here for months, and nobody ever picks me. It’s just as well. I wouldn’t want most of the people who come here, anyway.”
Two-Door shrugged. “I’d be happy with just about anybody. I want to go places, see the world, do things. I want to be useful! Anything’s better than hanging out here, doing nothing.”
Just then, a balding middle-aged man arrived. He had glasses and a pocket protector. He quietly asked where he could find something “affordable” and “reliable.” He was perfect! The salesperson walked him over between Coup and Two-Door. The man reached out to open Coup.
The door was still locked.
The man opened Two-Door, sat down, turned the key, and smiled.
An hour later, Two-Door drove away with his new owner.
“Nobody wants a truly sensible car these days,” Coup said sadly.
Analyze the reading.
- Who is the main character of the story?
Coup, the most sensible car in the dealership
- Where and when does the story take place? (setting)
At a car dealership during business hours
- What does the main character want?
An owner who appreciates practicality
- What struggle does the main character face? (conflict)
He doesn’t like most potential owners, and nobody picks him.
- How does Wheels feel about the tanned woman? How do you know?
He hopes she will pick him. He speaks with exclamation points. He opens his door to let her sit down.
- How does Two-Door feel about owners? How do you know?
He wants any owner. He wants to be useful, to go places, to do things. He is tired of waiting around. He says so.
- Coup does not end up with a new owner. Why?
Coup is too picky. He keeps his door locked. He doesn’t let anyone inside. He thinks they don’t want him, but he doesn’t want them.
- What lesson about life does this story seem to show? (theme)
You will not fit in if you don’t let people in. You have to be open and take risks to find a place. Coup may be sensible in color, size, and design, but he’s not very sensible about finding an owner.
The conflict in this story is partly internal—Coup wants to find an owner but is too picky to let people in. Help students see that some characters are their own worst enemies.