4: Quotation from Amos Oz, “Los Angeles Times,” 1998.

4: Quotation from Amos Oz, “Los Angeles Times,” 1998.

Amos Oz was a fiction-writer and an advocate for peace and justice. This quotation reveals at least one way in which he saw overlap between those two roles. 

Suggested Activity: Invite the students to read the quotation in pairs, and ask each pair to come up with a summary of its content. Ask one pair to read their summary. Then use other pairs’ summaries to help refine and clarify what it is that Oz is saying.

Once you have an agreed upon summary of Oz’s ideas, ask students: do you agree that words are important in terms of creating justice? Do you think that a fictional story can create justice? Injustice? Do you agree that using precise, rather than general, language is important for creating justice? Students should explain their answers.

Then have students return to their pairs, and have each pair describe an object in the classroom. First, one student should present the object using general language while the other listens. Then, have the students switch roles. The second student should now describe the object to the first student using precise language. What was different between these two approaches? How would this exercise feel different if we were describing a person? 

Finally, ask students to return to “Nomad and Viper.” Is the language in this story precise in the way Oz argued decades later it should be? Find examples of both precise and general language in the story. Are there instances in the story where you think the language is “doing justice”? Injustice?

Source: “Employing Language in the Service of Peace,” interview by Lisa Meyer, Los Angeles Times, January 28, 1998, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1998-jan-28-ls-12760-story.html.