Up the Down Staircase
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||340 p. (hardback edition) & 368 p. (paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-06-097361-7 (paperback edition)|
|LC Class||PS3561.A83 U6 1991|
Up the Down Staircase is a novel written by Bel Kaufman, published in 1965, which spent 64 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 1967 it was released as a movie starring Patrick Bedford, Sandy Dennis and Eileen Heckart.
The plot revolves around Sylvia Barrett, an idealistic English language teacher at an inner-city high school who hopes to nurture her students' interest in classic literature (especially Chaucer and writing). She quickly becomes discouraged during her first year of teaching, frustrated by bureaucracy (the name of the novel refers to an infraction for which one of her students is punished), the indifference of her students, and the incompetence of many of her colleagues. She decides to leave the public school (government funded) system to work in a smaller private setting. She changes her mind, though, when she realizes that she has indeed touched the lives of her students.
The novel is epistolary in the following manner: aside from opening and closing chapters consisting entirely of dialogue, the story is told through documents, such as memos from the office, fragments of notes dropped in the trash-can, essays handed in to be graded, lesson plans, suggestions dropped in the class suggestion-box, and letters written by Barrett to a friend from college who chose to get married rather than pursuing a career. The letters serve as a recap and summary of key events in the book, and offer a portrait of women's roles and responsibilities in American society in the mid-1960s. The book's title comes from a memo to teachers, instructing them to make sure that students "do not walk up the down staircase.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
The novel has been adapted to film and the stage. Tad Mosel wrote the screenplay for the 1967 film version starring Sandy Dennis as the teacher. The play is frequently performed in high-school drama classes. The film version was parodied in Mad magazine as "In the Out Exit". Notable productions include: Quince Orchard High School (Gaithersburg, MD) in November 2007 for their critically acclaimed performance by the National Theatre Critics Association and Omaha State University's 2005 production featuring Bernard Olesemio as Jose Martinez.
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