Throwback Thursday: What are Coles Notes?


There’s a scene in The Revenant where Father Paul discusses a case with Toronto’s coroner. So far, two bodies have been brought into the morgue in a state of decomposition indicating they’d died more than a week ago. In both cases, there are witnesses claiming they were alive only minutes or hours ago.  The discussion goes something like this:

“What’s this?” Paul asked.
“Autopsy file,” the coroner said.
“They didn’t teach Science at the Seminary. How’s about you give me the Coles Notes’ version?”

Coles Notes are the printed version of web sites like Spark Notes or Grade Saver. In the days before the Internet, we bought Coles Notes in Canada and Cliffs Notes in the U.S., on everything from literature to writing resumes. The author for the books is “The Coles Editorial Board” which was rumoured to be university students. Like the web pages of today that serve the same function, they were not infallible. While studying Richard III before teaching it, I found a discrepancy between their interpretation and mine, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not see how their interpretation was valid.

Though there are no Coles Notes for The Revenant, a study guide is available upon request, which would make an excellent tool for a teacher, student, or book club wishing to study the novel. Let me know if you’d like your PDF study guide by leaving me a note in the comments below or emailing me at info @ eliseabram . com.