Why teach The Man in the High Castle?

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle rose to new prominence when an Amazon Prime original series was adapted from it and as concern about social cohesion, illiberalism, and authoritarianism has regained salience.

The counterfactual 1962 presented by Philip K. Dick encourages us to think about how much we know for sure about how history turned out or would have turned out. The constant (inaccurate) guesses by characters about what the world would look like if the Allies had won the war and the occasional defence of the Axis victory in the book can inspire students to think harder about the wars of our past and present and to take more thoughtful positions on them.

As identity politics have become more important in North American politics, teachers may find that an exaggerated case of racism, such as the one presented in The Man in the High Castle, to be a useful tool for enabling students to talk frankly about these issues, and this guide provides resources to help encourage just that.

While Liberal Studies Guides encourages Socratic discussion and collaborative learning as regular practice, the unconventional and ambiguous ending of The Man in the High Castle creates a perfect opportunity to encourage collaborative learning in your classroom. Reading the final pages aloud and encouraging students to decide among and for themselves what they think the book means can encourage respectful discussion, self-directed and peer-supported learning, and deeper thought about what authors try to accomplish when they write a book.

The Man in the High Castle Study Guide

Exercise Sheets

Chapter 1-3 Exercises

Chapter 4-6 Exercises

Chapter 7-9 Exercises

Chapter 10-12 Exercises

Chapter 13-15 Exercises


Changes in Language Over Time

English-to-English translation sheet

Swaminathan – Use It or Lose It_ Why Language Changes over Time (Scientific American)


Dealing with Discrimination

The Cat in the Hijab


The Jews in Shanghai and the Japanese in China

New resource: The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting (The New York Times)

Shanghai’s Forgotten Jewish Past – The Atlantic

Survival in Shanghai (Orthodox Union)

Israel honors Japan’s ‘Schindler’ who saved thousands of Jews in WWII

Chiune Sugihara, Japan Diplomat Who Saved 6,000 Jews During Holocaust, Remembered – The Huffington Post

The Nazi Leader Who, in 1937, Became the Oskar Schindler of China – The Atlantic

At the Rape of Nanking: A Nazi Who Saved Lives – The New York Times


Banned books, banned ideas

Freedom to Read Week (February/March)
(Freedom to Read is a Canadian site cataloging banned books. It sells Freedom to Read “kits” with posters and other resources are available through their site.)

Challenged Books and Magazines in Canada: February 2016

Goodreads list of top “Subversive Novels”

What Makes A Novel Subversive? (New Republic)

Free Inquiry on Campus – A Statement of Principles by over One Hundred Middlebry College Professor

Statement on Principles of Free Expression _ Free Expression _ The University of Chicago


The inevitability of war?

Steven Pinker – The surprising decline in violence (TED Talk Transcript)
(TED talk available here.)


How does the world change?

Methods for Social Change


Can you punch a Nazi?

Should you punch a Nazi? (CBC Radio: The 180 with Jim Brown)

We Asked an Ethicist if It’s OK to Punch Nazis in the Face – Vice

On Punching Nazis – Popehat



For resources on trauma, see the study guides for The Forever War and Slaughterhouse Five.