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The professional work titled The Iguana in the Bathtubs Download The Iguana in the Bathtub by Anne Doten uses features of descriptive writing. As you read this work, consider these questions:

  1. What words, phrases, or lines are richest in showing rather than telling?
  2. Focus on this opening paragraph: What did you notice about the language? What word or punctuation patterns did you notice, and how do they affect the description overall? What words are surprising?
  3. Refer to the body paragraphs: What words create a powerful image? What do they make your picture?
  4. The writer, Anne Doten, begins the word “Dumpster” with a capital letter. What does it represent in this writing?
  5. Which words did Anne Doten use or could have used in the following sentences that imitate natural sounds and allow readers to hear the sound?
    • Iguanas started falling from the trees:
    • We rose early the next morning:
    • John opened the bathroom door:
    • We walked toward the tub:
    • John put the box in the dumpster:
  6. What are iguanas compared with? Why?
  7. What other comparison does the writer use? Why?
  8. Which transition words does Doten use to illustrate where the iguanas were located?
  9. The writer could have stopped after the first sentence and taken out all the following descriptions. With only 800 words to work with, why do you think she kept all the descriptions?
  10. Go to the concluding lines, where she says, “Some things are just beyond saving.” What does she mean? 
  11. What important lesson about life do you perceive in this work? Where do you think the work will go from here? Why might all this “showing” be important?

Remember to review the academic expectations for your submission.

Submission Instructions:

The Iguana in the Bathtub

By Anne Doten

Illustration by Melinda Josie

When the temperature dipped below 40, iguanas started falling from the trees. Small, sleek green iguanas; big iguanas as long as four feet from snout to tail, scales cresting gloriously from their heads; orange-and-green iguanas, their muscled, goose-pimpled arms resolving into sharp claws. Iguanas were everywhere: in the bushy areas surrounding canals, on sidewalks, in backyards, lying helpless among the fallen, rotting fruit of mango and orange trees.

The iguanas lay on the ground as if they were dead, a rhapsody of corpses dotting the landscape like musical notation. But they weren’t dead — not at first, anyway. They had lapsed into a sort of hibernation in response to the cold. If it warmed up fast enough, they would awaken from their deep slumbers and climb back onto their perches in trees or return to sunning themselves on rocks and the hot metal encasements of electrical boxes.

Cold snaps do sometimes occur in South Florida, but they usually pass within 48 hours. This time, the frigid temperatures lingered for days, and the iguanas remained motionless where they lay.

On the third day of the iguana plague, my husband, John, arrived home carrying a cardboard box. Inside was a large green iguana, slender and peaceful, lying on its back.

“What?” I said.

“I think it’s still alive,” he said.

I followed him to the bathroom. He placed the box inside the tub and edged past me toward the hallway.

“Where are you going?”

He didn’t answer but returned a minute later wearing yellow rubber gloves and carrying a stethoscope in his hands, the cheap one he used when he was in nursing school. He perched on the edge of the bathtub, stuck the rubber buds in his ears and carefully lifted the iguana out of the box. Its limp, lean arms looked strangely graceful. Balancing its body with one hand, John placed the flat circular end of the stethoscope against the reptile’s chest.

“I should get my camera,” I said. “Do you know how crazy this looks?”

“I’m checking for a heartbeat,” he said.

I was quiet for a few moments, then said: “Well? Did you find one?”

“Shh.” John stared at a space on the green tiled wall, face crimped in concentration. Then he frowned. “Maybe the stethoscope isn’t strong enough. Iguanas have really thick skin.”

“How about some chest compressions? Maybe a little mouth to mouth?”

He gave me a withering look as he gently returned the iguana to its cardboard cradle. He pulled the stethoscope out of his ears.


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