The Corner (1997)

by David Simon and Edward Burns


Study Guide





Chapter One (3-56)


            A. (3-8)           Fat Curt on New Year’s Eve


What makes the traditional New Year’s fusillade a good metaphor for the general situation in West Baltimore?


            B. (8-19)          Gary McCullough


Why would a man who had achieved the American Dream in the ghetto throw it all away and become a drug addict?


            C. (19-32)       DeAndre McCullough


To what extent has DeAndre, at fifteen, already been swallowed by corner life?


Why doesn’t DeAndre keep his promise to Ms. Davies and stay in school?


            D. (32-44)       Ella Thompson


What impact has Ella made on not only the children but also the addicts in her neighborhood? Is it enough? What kind of program would be needed to seriously address the problem?


            E. (44-56)        Fran Boyd


Describe Fran’s character. What makes her a successful player on the corner?


Why did Fran and Gary’s marriage fail (with such devastating consequences)?


Describe Fran’s relationship with DeAndre. Can she make any claim to being a real mother? What would DeAndre have been like without her?


            Chapter One (Review)


Of all the characters we have encountered, which ones do you believe will escape the street life?


Compare the conditions of this neighborhood in the 1990’s to the Washington neighborhood of Talley’s Corner. How have conditions changed?


Chapter Two (57-120)


A.     (57-60)      We Can’t Stop It!


Why can’t the drug problem be stopped, according to Burns and Simon?


            B. (60-74)        The New Corner of the 1990’s


                                    How has corner culture changed in the last thirty years?


                                    How does the analogy to ‘a watering hole’ fit?


                                    What were the old rules? What are the new rules?


            C. (74-86)       Long Day’s Journey: Fat Curt


            D. (86-99)       The Thirty Year History of the West Side’s Decline


What political point are the writers making by entwining the story of William McCullough with the story of his neighborhood’s decline?


What is the terrible irony of the impact of de-segregation on West Baltimore?


            E. (99-112)      Gary in the Snake’s Grasp


            F. (112-120)    DeAndre and Tyreeka


                                    How does DeAndre get busted?


Chapter Three (120-182)


            A. (120-136)   Rec Center Hoops and Blue’s Arts and Craft’s Program


                                    How has Ella instilled hope in her neighborhood?


                                    With government assistance could her program accomplish more?


                                    What would be suitable expectations?


            B. (136-147)    Tyreeka Visits DeAndre at Boys’ Village


                                    (What was the most recent scandal at the Hickey School all about?

How will this issue come back to haunt Kathleen Kennedy Townsend during her gubernatorial campaign?)


            C. (147-158)   The Return of Officer Bob Brown


How effective was Mayor Schmoke’s “community policing” policy of fighting crime?


            D. (158-169)   The Paper Bag Law


What have been the consequences of the “just say no” policy towards the drug trade?


What would the authors think of O’Malley’s “zero tolerance” policy?


            E. (169-182)    The Happy House on Bruce Street






Chapter Four (185-198)


            A. (185-198)   Gary’s Caper


            B. (198-212)    History of Ella’s Rec Center


Why are volunteer organizations essential to the health of any neighborhood?


                                    Why didn’t community action programs work in the 1960’s?


                                    What is ‘crimping ‘em up’?


                                    By what age have the rules of the street been taught to the young?


            C. (212-221)   Spring Cleaning


What is the authors’ implied comment about Echo House’s Programs?


            D. (221-229)   Tyreeka and DeAndre


                                    Why does De Andre want this baby?

                                    Why does Tyreeka want this baby?


Compare the authors’ implied comment with that of Liebow in Tally’s Corner.


            E. (230-236)    Babies Making Babies


Why do the teens in the ghetto conceive so many illegitimate children?

                                    What value system, beyond middle class morality, is at work?

What is the conventional wisdom about this issue in middle class America?


Chapter Five (237-285)


            A. (237-246)   Baltimore Recovery Center


Why won’t the government spend more money on recovery and treatment centers?

What is Fran’s plan?


            B. (246-255)    R.C. and Hoops


                                    What could be done to save R.C.?


            C. (255-266)   Gary’s Assault Trial


What does this story tell us about the effectiveness of our justice system and the impact of the law on the multi-billion dollar drug market?


            D. (266-276)   DeAndre’s Oratorical Contest


What small victories do teachers in our public school system accomplish on a daily basis?

                                    Is it enough to save DeAndre?

                                    Have we made our best effort?


            E. (276-285)    Public Education in the Ghetto


Why, according to the authors, can education never succeed in addressing the needs of inner city kids?




Chapter Six (289-338)


            A. (289-300)   Old School Hoops


                                    What has happened to the alumni of Ella’s program?


            B. (300-307)    DeAndre’s Interview at McDonalds


            C. (307-318)   The Baker Street Scrap Yard Caper


                                    What shocks Gary when this caper goes awry?


            D. (319-329)   The Corner Stews in the Summer Heat


What programs might assist an old addict like Fat Curt if he wanted to get straight?


            E. (329-338)    Fran’s Turn Around


                                    How about Fran?

Does she deserve the humiliation she experiences when the detox center sends her home?


Chapter Seven (339-390)


            A. (339-349)   DeAndre: The Expectant Father


                                    How does DeAndre understand his responsibilities as a father?

                                    Why won’t Tyreeka consider an abortion?


            B. (349-359)    Gary at Cardy’s Crab House


                                    What effect does a regular routine have on Gary’s life?


Is Gary justified in comparing the situation in the ghettos of West Baltimore to the Holocaust?


Is the drug culture a creation of American racism?


            C. (360-370)   Fat Curt’s Aid Application


                                    Does society have any responsibility to help Fat Curt?

                                    What is the option to getting him into treatment?


            D. (371-379)   The Welfare


What is Fran’s experience like at Rosemount when she goes to apply for welfare?

                                    What impact does welfare have on the corner?

What types of programs would Simon and Burns call for to effectively address the crisis in the cores of our cities?

What kind of national consensus would be required to pass such legislation?

In the current political climate what chance does such legislation have of passing?

What then should be done?


            E. (379-390)    Fran in Recovery


                                    How does Fran get the new apartment?




Chapter Eight (393-434)


            A. (393-401)   Pumpkin


When does R.C. begin to look at himself as a finished product and just go on down to the corner?


            B. (401-410)    The New House: 2500 Boyd Street


How long do families typically wait for Section 8 housing to become available?

What is Fran’s monthly budget?

What is her epic plan to stay away from the corner?

What is DeAndre’s epic plan to avoid the corner?


            C. (410-419)   Miss Ella’s Meditation


When Ella looks back on her work in the neighborhood, what satisfaction can she draw?


            D. (419-426)   Fran’s Brave New World


What pressures draw Fran back toward the corner world even though she has gotten clean?


            E. (426-434)    The Bottom


What would need to happen in Baltimore for everyone to realize that we have hit bottom?


Chapter Nine (435-473)


            A. (435-446)   The White Boy Hillbilly Caper


                                    Describe Gray’s latest scam. How does this one end up?


            B. (446-453)    Fran’s Relapse


                                    How, miraculously, does Fran pull out of her sharp decline?


            C. (453-464)   DeAnte Tyree McCullough


After DeAndre’s return to the corner, how does Tyreeka find the will to survive?


            D. (464-473)   Blue’s Return


How is Blue able to make it while the rest of the gang slides towards death?


Chapter Ten (474-519)


            A. (474-479)   The Thirty Year War on Drugs


                                    Explain the furious, sardonic tone of this screed.

                                    What is Vietnam logic?


            B. (479-490)    Shoot Out


Describe the violence. How is it different from our preconception of inner city violence?


            C. (490-499)   The Garden at Fayette and Monroe


How does the neighborhood group surprise Ella at the dedication of their small park?

How has she come to terms with the loss of her child?


            D. (499-509)   Gary’s Epiphany


                                    When does Gary quit?


            E. (509-519)    No Pretending


How is Christmas Dinner different than Thanksgiving Dinner for the McCulloughs?

What point has DeAndre reached in his life on the corner?


Epilogue (521-535)


            Who escapes? Why?