The Language of Literature
 Teacher Center

"Full Circle" by Sue Grafton


The narrator, a private detective, witnesses a traffic accident in which a young woman is killed. The mother of the dead driver hires the narrator to find out who killed her daughter because it turns out she was killed by a gunshot, not the accident. The detective interviews witnesses and people who knew the dead woman, including the woman's roommate, but learns little except that the woman was being stalked by a boyfriend. She eventually discovers that the boyfriend is the roommate's brother, and the killer. When he sees the detective at his house, a high-speed chase ensues that ends in an accident and the death of the young man at precisely the same spot where the first accident occurred.


This story addresses

  • reaction to tragic events,
  • failed relationships,
  • harassment/stalking,
  • murder/untimely death,
  • skewed justice.

Instructional Focus

To encourage students to

  • respond favorably during emergencies,
  • keep a healthy perspective on relationships,
  • identify appropriate/legal means of dealing with harassment/stalking,
  • deal effectively with untimely death,
  • accept the vagaries of justice,
  • work towards achieving justice rather than pursuing vengeance.


Oral Reading
Read the story aloud. Pause to have students anticipate problematic issues. Ask students to identify alternative reactions to the problematic events.

Class Discussion
Use the following questions as springboards to solutions:

  • Following the accident, how do different people react? Why? How many actually administer aid? How would you respond in a similar situation? Explain.
  • Michelle's death, at 22, is tragic. Why does the death of young people have such an impact? What measures can be taken to alleviate the trauma to survivors of untimely death?
  • Eventually, we learn Michelle was being harassed. What legal actions and personal precautions can one take when being harassed or stalked?
  • The narrator says "justice is skewed." What does she mean by this? How does one accept that justice is rarely adequate, especially in cases of murder?
  • What can be done to ensure that justice is at least sought?

Poetic Response
Have students write a poem that expresses one of the themes of this story. Share the poems with the class.

Instruct students to brainstorm possible responses to harassment. Pair students to compare lists. Have pairs share their most viable solutions with the class.

Real World Connection

Instruct students to research local organizations that help victims of crime. Share the findings with the class.



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