A pie safe is a wooden cabinet designed to store canned goods and baked
goods. Some, like the one in the story, have metal artwork in the door
panels. In "The Sutton Pie Safe," Benedict uses the Sutton pie safe and a
snakeskin belt as symbols of a family's link to the past. He subtly
provides social commentary as he contrasts Mrs. Hanson's evaluation of the
pie safe as an antique and Jack Albright's reverence for it as a family
Grade Levels: 9-12 +
English (Check Relevant
Tennessee State Curriculum Standards for history and
sociology, or the standards of learning in your state. See also Susan Mead's Celebrating
Diversity in Appalachia! Exploring Social Issues Through Appalachian
Children's Literature for applying sociological concepts to
Time Frame: Four
45-minute lessons or two 90-minute blocks (adjust based on the needs of
Relevant Tennessee State Curriculum Standards:
The student will
write to acquire knowledge, clarify thinking, synthesize
information, improve study skills, gain confidence, and promote
write frequently for a variety of purposes including narration,
description, persuasion, exposition, and personal, creative
identify and write for a variety of audiences.
recognize that language has several levels of usage determined by
audience, purpose and occasion.
demonstrate effective writing style by the use of vivid words, a
variety of sentence structures, and appropriate transitions.
evaluate and revise writing to focus on purpose, organization,
development, transitions, unity, and audience awareness.
student will develop the reading skills necessary for word
recognition, comprehension, interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and
appreciation of the written text.
Expectations: The student will
use comprehension strategies to enhance understanding, to make
predictions, and to respond to literature.
improve comprehension by interpreting, analyzing, synthesizing, and
evaluating written text.
use oral reading in individual and group presentations.
discern the purposes, main ideas, biases, points of view, and
persuasive devices found in various texts.
interpret ideas, recognize logical relationships, and make judgments
based on sufficient evidence.
select resource material in order to apply it effectively.
read, interpret, and respond in a variety of ways to various genres.
identify and interpret literary elements and figurative language.
interact with text to form a personal interpretation.
demonstrate skills in analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of
literary works through spoken language.
demonstrate confidence and poise in various speaking situations.
follow and give oral directions.
utilize appropriate verbal and nonverbal feedback in a variety of
demonstrate effective listening skills through note-taking.
demonstrate critical listening skills essential for comprehension
present oral summaries and/or analysis of material read or viewed.
Pinckney. "The Sutton Pie Safe." Town Smokes. New York: Ontario Review Press,
1986. pp. 1-12.
This story has been reprinted in Higgs, Robert J., et al. Appalachia Inside Out: A Sequel to Voices from the Hills. Vol. 1
Conflict and Change. Knoxville: Tennessee UP, 1995. pp. 278-84l and in
of pie safes: available on Internet Search Engines (such as
Google.com Images) and at
Prompt: This activity assumes that the students are
keeping a daily journal for writing practice.
If they do keep a journal, have them answer the following questions as
their daily journal entry. If not, have students address them as
homework or at the beginning of class. Allow time for students to
share their responses in class.
does heritage mean to you? What is your heritage? What items from your
past or your family's past do you treasure and why are they valuable?
did you feel when Jack Albright killed the snake? Why do you think
he killed it?
Mrs. Hanson's attitude toward the pie safe. How did it make you
do you think Cates feels when Mrs. Hanson refers to the
"country people" who reverse the punched tin on the pie
safe? How would you feel about this comment if it were made to you?
is your response to the story? Which character do you identify
most with and why?
in groups of three, the students will use their interpretation of the
characters and the events of this afternoon to outline a skit that
presents the evening meal at the Albright house. Allow the students to
present their skits to the class.
the following questions for class discussion.
Is the pie safe damaged? Support your answer using quotes from the
Why does Jack bring the dead snake to the house? What does this act
reveal about his character?
plans to make a belt for Cates.
brings the snake to the house to show his lack of respect for Mrs.
Hanson and her social status.
goes on with his life regardless of other events.
act reveals his pride in his heritage and represents a silent
rebellion against the forces that are destroying it.
also reveals his revulsion for social stratification and his belief
in the equality of all people.
Why is the Sutton pie safe so important to Jack?
What does the Sutton pie safe mean to Sara?
Why is making a snakeskin belt for his son so important to Jack? Why
does he abandon the project and destroy the snakeskin?
snakeskin belt represents a family tradition.
destroys the snakeskin to express his feelings of betrayal when his
wife sells the pie safe without his consent.
destroys the snakeskin because he feels that his son is rejecting
his heritage and that this rejection is destroying his heritage.
Why does Jack go to the "ruined barn" instead of the house at
the end of the story?
feels that he belongs in the past represented by the barn, not the
present represented by the house.
is trying to maintain a connection to his past.
wants to spend more time there before it is destroyed and replaced
by the new barn.
doesn't want to face the family that he feels has betrayed him.
What has Jack lost? How does Benedict convey this sense of loss to his
readers without specifically telling them what is lost?
has lost his past and his family identity.
uses the redundant symbols of the pie safe and the blacksnake skin
to reveal the threats to his traditional Appalachian heritage.
stigmatizes his heritage and his son rejects it because he doesn't
know how to act.
following questions may be used for a short quiz or for class discussion.
does Jack Albright mean when he says, "You're not going to
leave me anything, are you?"
does Cates feel at the end of the story? What does he learn about
his parents because of the events in this story? What does he learn
has Cates lost and gained because of his experiences during this
day? Explain your answer.
who will be the first recorder and who will be the first informant.
about a family heirloom.
first informant will tell his or her partner about his or her
heirloom, providing a detailed description and explaining the
emotional significance of the item. As the first informant speaks,
the recorder will take notes. Then the partners will switch roles
and repeat the process.
notes from your partner, create an ad for the heirloom that he or
the live audio recording of "The Strawberry Pie" by Jackie
Torrence to extend and compare stories with the same plot elements.
Jackie. My Grandmother's Treasures. Audio recording, including "The Strawberry Pie." Description from August
these stories, recorded here for the first time, the woman known to
audiences nationwide as 'The Story Lady' tells how some of the rough
moments of childhood have helped smooth her way as an adult." The
last story is about the storyteller's mother's childhood experience of
taking a strawberry pie from the pie safe and being frightened into
confessing. (Jackie Torrence was born and raised in central North
Pinckney Benedict. WV Center for the Book.
Pinckney Benedict. Author information on Press 53 publisher web site.
Brosi, George. "Pinckney Benedict, A Gleeful Writer." Appalachian Heritage Winter 2010. Available as pdf. Benedict is featured author in this issue.
Review of Town Smokes by Gilly Paget in The Richmond Review web site ("UK's first literary magazine to be published
exclusively on the World Wide Web")
The Rumpus Interview with Pinckney Benedict by Kyle Minor, 7 July 2010 (in an online magazine on culture).
by Genre: Fiction for Adults
AppLit Index by Genre: Fiction for Children and Young Adults