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    SUBJECTS — U.S./1913 - 1941 & Florida; Literature/U.S.;
    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Running Away; Families in Crisis;
            Father/Daughter; Taking Care of Yourself; Suicide;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Responsibility; Respect; Caring.
    Age: 14+; MPAA Rating -- PG; Drama; 1983; 127 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     Taken from the memoirs of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, "Cross Creek" is a beautiful tale of a woman determined to live independently in rural Florida and become a writer. During the first third of the 20th century, this was an unusual and difficult lifestyle.

    Benefits of the Movie: This film has many benefits. Rawlings is a strong woman, determined to become a writer at a time when this was not the usual path for a young woman. The movie describes rural Florida in the first third of the 20th century. "Cross Creek" will be helpful in health classes to illustrate issues of family relationships, demonstrating that families are units and that each member is affected by what another family member does. It provides a graphic example of the consequences of risky behavior such as running away and getting drunk. The film demonstrates the tragedy and futility of suicide and shows the law of unintended consequences in action. "Cross Creek" also introduces the concept of "suicide by cop."

    In English and literature classes, the film can serve as a basis for class discussion and essay writing. An intriguing use of the film is to show how Ms. Rawlings' actual experiences were transmuted into her classic novel The Yearling. Because the contrasts between the film and the novel are so interesting, "Cross Creek" will have best effect if shown to children who have already read the novel. We do not advise substituting the film The Yearling for the novel. While the film is excellent, the novel is a classic and should be read by all children. They can watch the movie after they read the novel.

    Possible Problems:    SERIOUS. Ellie, the girl who raised the deer, curses her father for killing her pet and runs away. She eventually returns unharmed. But Ellie's father, who doted on her, becomes despondent. Feeling that things could never be the same, the father either commits suicide by provoking the local sheriff into killing him or gets himself into a situation in which the sheriff accidentally shoots him. (See discussion: Did Marsh Turner Really Commit Suicide? in the Helpful Background Section.) There is some mild profanity.

    Parenting Points:     Should your child be assigned to read "The Yearling" in school, this film will make the book far more interesting as it is the true story upon which the book is based. For children who view the film without the obligation to read the book, you may want to bring the book home and use the child's interest in the film to draw him or her into reading the novel. After the film is over, you may want to talk about the differences between the book and the movie. You may also want to discuss the problem of Suicide by Cop which creates many victims: the individual who chose to die, their family members, and the cop who was essentially forced into assisting in the suicide.

    For all children, ask and walk your kids through the answer to the Quick Discussion Question.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

Click here for the Quick Discussion Question.

    Helpful Background:

    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896 - 1953) was born in Washington, D.C. and later lived in Wisconsin. In 1928, after a trip to Florida, she and her husband purchased an orange grove in Cross Creek, Florida. She divorced her husband in 1933 and in 1941 married Norton Sanford Baskin, a restaurant and hotel owner. They never lived together full time and she did not take his name.

    Rawlings set the scene of her writing in rural Florida. She won the Pulitzer prize in 1938 for The Yearling. Other well-known works by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings are: Jacobs Ladder (1931), South Moon Under (1933) and Cross Creek (1943). The latter is a semi autobiographical novel.

    Did Marsh Turner Commit "Suicide by Cop" or Was his Death The Result of a Tragic Misunderstanding?

    Police assisted suicide occurs when a person intentionally provokes a law enforcement officer into killing him or her. It is now a recognized problem. Killing people in the line of duty is stressful for most police officers. When the person killed manipulates the police officer into becoming an agent of suicide, there is additional stress on the officer. See Suicide by Cop: Victims on Both Sides of the Badge; Police Use of Deadly Force: Victim Precipitated Homicide; Suicide by Cop: There's almost always police stress as a result .

    It is not clear how Marsh Turner (Ellie's father) died. Many say he committed suicide by provoking the sheriff to shoot him. Others disagree. Here are some of the points pro and con:

    Marsh Turner Purposefully Provoked the Sheriff into Shooting Him:

    • The only reason to toss the bottle through the window at the bar was to get the sheriff to follow him.
    • Marsh was very sad when he was talking to his wife after Ellie ran away.
    • Even when Marsh's wife reassured him that Ellie would come back, his only response was that "It don't matter. Things will never be the same." Given how much he loved his daughter, how could it not matter? This is the type of statement, without any hope, that someone would make if he was going to do something final.
    • When the sheriff found him in the woods and asked for the gun, Marsh said, "You want my gun? Take it." This was a challenge. When Marsh went to hand the gun to the sheriff, it looked as if he was going to shoot the sheriff. Marsh was an experienced gunman and knew what his actions would telegraph to the sheriff.
    • Marsh was a brittle man who depended for his sense of himself on how others viewed him and on his relationship with his daughter. When the relationship with his daughter crumbled, he couldn't see beyond the immediate shame and pain.
    • People in the town liked Marsh. The sheriff wouldn't have killed him on purpose.

    It Was All a Mistake:

    • Marsh didn't shoot himself. The sheriff shot him.
    • Tossing the bottle through the bar window was the type of dumb thing that people do when they're drunk. It is mere supposition to say that it was designed to set up the whole suicide scenario.
    • When the sheriff came to get Marsh, the sheriff was expecting a fight and was jumpy.
    • Marsh was drunk and had an attitude.
    • Marsh had the gun on his lap and his hand on the barrel. When Marsh started to hand the gun over, his movements were too quick and the sheriff thought Marsh was going to shoot. So, the sheriff shot first.
    • Marsh was a responsible member of his community, was very well liked and was important to his family. He was unlikely to commit suicide.

    Many thanks to the 2005 Senior Writing and Composition Class of teacher Connie Cantrell, Collins Career Center, Chesapeake, Ohio, for helping us see that there was a question about whether Marsh Turner committed suicide. Particular thanks to: Justin Ash, Lanesha Brown, Sean Kelley, Dave Jenkins, Claude Franklin Kingery, Tommy Stapleton, Eric Brumfield, Mike Cremeans, Brandon Samples, Corey Thomas, and James McCallister.

For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

    Quick Discussion Question:

    Families are systems that operate through a web of relationships. In "Cross Creek," one family member abruptly changes position in relationship to the other members of the family. This causes a dramatic reaction by another family member, and ultimately, a great tragedy. (1) Who made the change? (2) What was the change? (3) What was the dramatic reaction? (4) How could a modern family in a similar situation avoid a tragic result?

    Suggested Response: (1) & (2) Ellie made the change. She ran away and rejected the close relationship that she had previously maintained with her father. (3) When Ellie rejected him and ran away, Marsh Turner was bereft. For him, his place in the family and his place in the world had been destroyed. His reaction was to commit "Suicide by Cop." (4) Each member of any family has a place in the family system, and the actions of one family member affect all the others. At the same time, being a member of a family involves responsibilities to the rest of the family. This is true for both children and adults. In healthy families, this web of relationships nourishes each individual and helps them attain personal fulfillment. In unhealthy families the relationships hinder self-realization. It is clear in the movie that the mutual dependence of the father and the daughter were excessive. The family would have benefitted from counseling to help them improve the way they related to each other. After all, what was the father going to do when the daughter got married and moved away? What would he have done if she had decided to go to college? In the alternative, the father could simply have waited, having faith that the daughter would eventually come to her senses.


    Discussion Questions:

    1.  See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

    2.  What are the differences between The Yearling and the events set out in "Cross Creek"?

    3.  Does the fictional story of The Yearling tell less of a human truth than the realistic tale of "Cross Creek"?

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  Would you run away if your father had to kill your favorite pet in order to prevent it from eating your family's food?

    2.  What could have happened to Ellie when she ran away?

    3.  Running away from home is obviously risky behavior. In today's world, what are some of the alternatives to running away if life at home becomes intolerable?

    4.  What is the most important unexpected consequence of Ellie's reaction to her father killing the deer?


    See the Quick Discussion Question.

    5.  What assets do modern families in developed countries have in dealing with a crisis which were not available to the Turner family in Cross Creek? How could that have changed the result?


    6.  Did Marsh Turner commit suicide or was his death caused by a misunderstanding?

    7.  Two related questions: (a) Was Marsh Turner right when he thought that his relationship with his daughter would never be the same? (b) Can you think of a strategy that he could he have used to deal with the situation other than killing himself or placing himself in a situation in which the sheriff killed him? As you answer, notice the resources are available to most people in developed countries that could have changed this situation.

    8.  The sheriff shot and killed Marsh Turner. Shouldn't he have just wounded him?

    9.  What is a stakeholder and who were the stakeholders in the father's decision to commit suicide or to engage in behavior which would put him in a dangerous situation?

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.


Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

Selected Awards:  1983 Cannes Film Festival: Best Film; 1983 Academy Award Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Torn), Best Supporting Actress (Woodard), Best Costume Design, Best Original Score.

Featured Actors:  Mary Steenburgen, Rip Torn, Peter Coyote, Dana Hill, Alfre Woodard, Malcolm McDowell.

Director:  Martin Ritt.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.

    1.  Analyze the actions of any major character in the film applying two tests which any ethical action must pass: (1) The Golden Rule: Would the person taking the action want to be treated by others in the same way? Or, alternatively, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" and (2) The test of universality: Would it be good for society if everyone acted that way in a similar situation?

    2.  The plots of most films turn on one or more ethical choices which must be made by the characters in the movie. Which of The Six Pillars of Character, if any, are involved in the plot of this film? Tell us whether the ethical decisions made by the characters complied with the standards set out in the Six Pillars. Justify your opinion.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)


    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)


    (Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)


    (Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don't take advantage of others; Don't blame others carelessly)


    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)


    (Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.


    Bridges to Reading: Proficient readers at ages 13 - 15 should read The Yearling.




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