Meeting Next Week: The Last of the Mohicans

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we will be meeting the second Wednesday of November instead of the third Wednesday. This means that we will be meeting NEXT WEEK, Wednesday, November 14. Please join us at the Harnish building for a great discussion.

Our book for the month is The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. Come and join us, even if you haven’t read it, or finished it. Or maybe you read an abridged version. At any rate, I think we’ll have a nice discussion!

I am working on updating the “future books” list with next years’ decision. I’m excited for all the interesting classics we’ve chosen for the coming year. Thanks for your interest in the classics.


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Next Year

Tomorrow night we are meeting to discuss Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. I hope you have read it (or are still reading it!). It’s a short and quick book to read.

Whether or not you will be there tomorrow, I’d love to hear your ideas for next year’s schedule! Please consider a list of FIVE classics, preferably written before 1962, that you’d like to read as a group. I’ll compile a master list to discuss as a group next month (the September meeting). If you won’t be there tomorrow, feel free to add your list of five classics below on this post.

Thanks! Hope to see you tomorrow.


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1984 Discussion

Tomorrow night is our meeting for 1984 by George Orwell! We are meeting at the Harnish building in one of the study rooms.

I mentioned that I won’t be there tomorrow but still come to join in a great discussion! Below are some questions to get you thinking.

  1. 1984 is full of images and ideas that do not directly affect the plot, but nevertheless attain thematic importance. What are some of these symbols and motifs, and how does Orwell use them?
  2. Discuss the idea of doublethink. How important is doublethink to the Party’s control of Oceania? How important is it to Winston’s brainwashing?
  3. Describe Julia’s character as it relates to Winston. How is she different from him? How is she similar to him? How does Julia’s age make her attitude toward the Party very different from Winston’s?
  4. Describe Winston’s character as it relates to his attitude toward the Party. In what ways might his fatalistic streak contribute to his ultimate downfall? Is Winston consistent in his actions? Is he a fully developed character? How? Why?
  5. How does technology affect the Party’s ability to control its citizens? In what ways does the Party employ technology throughout the book?
  6. Discuss the idea of Room 101, the place where everyone meets his or her worst fear. Keeping in mind that for most of Winston’s time at the Ministry of Love, he does not know what he will find in Room 101, what role does that uncertainty play in making Room 101 frightening? Does the cage of rats break Winston’s spirit, or does it merely play a symbolic role?
  7. What role does Big Brother play within the novel? What effect does he have on Winston? Is Winston’s obsession with Big Brother fundamentally similar to or different from his obsession with O’Brien?
  8. What is important about the title?
  9. How does George Orwell reveal character in 1984? Do you find the characters likable? Would you want to meet the characters?
  10. Does the story end the way you expected? How? Why?
  11. What is the central/primary purpose of the story?
  12. How does this novel relate to dystopian literature? Is Winston a strong character?
  13. How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else? In any other time?
  14. What is the role of women in the text? Is love relevant? Are relationships meaningful?
  15. Why is 1984 controversial? Why has it been banned?
  16. How does 1984 relate to current politics/society/etc.?
  17. Would you recommend this novel to a friend?

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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Next Wednesday night (February 15, 2012 at 7 p.m.), we will be meeting to discuss The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

As you finish reading, here are some study guides and discussion questions to refer to.

As always, feel free to join us at the book club even if you haven’t finished reading, if you didn’t like it, or what ever the situation will be. We’ll have a great discussion regardless!

See you next week!

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Bleak House Discussion Questions

TONIGHT is our meeting at the Harnish branch at 7 p.m. I hope you are planning on attending, whether or not you’ve finished reading Bleak House. It sure was long but I finished in the nick of time. I did enjoy it, but please come even if you didn’t! I think there is plenty to discuss about it.

Below are some discussion questions. I will also bring them tonight and can get copies for you if you’d like a copy to look at. If you cannot make it to the meeting, I’d love to hear your thoughts to any of these questions in the comments below!

I hope to see you tonight!


Who? (The Characters)

  1. The narrators: Esther Summerson is one narrator, and the other is a nameless, third-person narrator. Why is the story told in this way? What differences are there between the two narrators?
  2. Did you find Esther Summerson’s narration to be a particularly female narrative voice? Why or why not?
  3. Lady Dedlock outwardly acts bored with life, but inside she’s hiding a secret that could lead to her ruin. Why does she so desperately want to hide her secret? Why would it lead to her ruin?
  4. What kind of character is Inspector Bucket? Who else in the novel engages in detection?
  5. Harold Skimpole always refers to himself as a child, someone so simple and naïve that he doesn’t understand business affairs. How do his actions undermine his claims?
  6. Discuss the nature of romance among the different characters in Bleak House. Consider John Jarndyce and Esther; Mr Woodcourt and Esther; Ada and Richard; and any other couples that stand out to you.
  7. The eccentric Miss Flite sets free her birds at the end of the novel. How are the birds important or symbolic to the story? What is Miss Flite’s role throughout the novel?
  8. Describe the role of servants in the story. Consider Charley, Rosa, Gumby, Madam Hortense.
  9. Consider Mr. Boythorn’s unhappy life. Is Esther to blame?
  10. Tulkinghorn is scheming and manipulative, but the Dedlock family is intricately associated with him. Why? Why is he relentless in his pursuit of the truth?

What? (The Plot)

  1. The meaning of Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been lost; the suit has dragged on for years. What do we really know about J&J? Why doesn’t Dickens’ include dramatic courtroom scenes?
  2. What role does the legend of the Ghost Walk play in the novel?
  3. Spontaneous combustion…
  4. What role does disease and “contagion” play in the story? (Consider Jo, Esther, Richard, etc.) How might it relate the rest of the novel on a symbolic level, considering Dickens’ social commentary?
  5. What are the different kinds of “reading” in the novel? Why is literacy important? Consider Krook writing with his finger on the wall, Esther teaching her maid Charley, etc.
  6. What is the relationship between poverty and morality in the novel? That is, who is poor, who is moral, and how do the characters in those categories overlap?
  7. Dickens almost titled the novel “Tom All Alone’s.” What is the significance of “Tom All Alone’s” in this novel?
  8. What is the difference between acceptance and abuse of charity in the novel? Which characters are charitable or not?

When? (The Dickensian Era vs. Today)

  1. How would Lady Dedlock’s situation be different today? In what ways does her struggles parallel those faced by contemporary women? How does the era in which the novel is written during influence the story?
  2. In Dickens’ England, we witness the emergence of the middle class and a loosening of strict class divisions. How is this represented in Bleak House?
  3. Which aspects of his society is Dickens criticizing? Does he propose any solutions?
  4. Lawyers and law appear throughout Bleak House. What do you think was Dickens’ view of the legal system at this time?

Where? (The Setting)

  1. The novel opens with description of the fog and mire that surrounds the High Court of Chancery and much of London. What kind of London and what kind of England is depicted in the setting?
  2. The atmosphere of Bleak House is in stark contrast to the gloominess of the other settings in the novel. Why? How does Bleak House deserve its ironic name?
  3. How do the other settings of the novel (Chesney Wold, the Jellyby home, etc.) add to the atmosphere of the novel?

Why? (The Purpose)

  1. Dickens plays with many contrasts in the novel: the two narrators, “In Chancery” versus “In Fashion”; London versus Chesney Wold; the philanthropic approaches of Jarndyce and Mrs Jellyby; Bleak House and Tom-All-Alone’s. Why does Dickens show so many contrasts in the novel?
  2. Throughout Bleak House, mothers and motherhood is a common motif. How does the role of fathers and fatherhood factor in to the novel as well?

How? (The Writing and Symbolism, etc.)

  1. Although Bleak House presents a bleak outlook in many ways, Dickens also creates humorous characters and situations. How do the comic and serious elements complement each other? Is the novel tragic or comic?
  2. What justice does the detective/police in the novel represent compared to the justice as offered by the Court of Chancery and the lawyers?
  3. What is the role of Chancery or law in the novel? Especially consider the relationship between Chancery and “chance” or fate.
  4. How does the novel play with language?
  5. Bleak House was initially published as a serial, with many installments ending with a cliffhanger. How might this have affected initially reader’s thoughts on the novel’s theme or feelings about the characters?

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Bleak House for January

Hello all, I hope your New Years’ celebrations were wonderful. This post is a reminder that we’ll be meeting to discuss Charles Dickens’ Bleak House on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.  It’s a long book (and I admit I still have quite a ways to go on it!) but it’s sure to be a great discussion so I encourage you to give it a go. Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday is the first week of February, so what could be a better way to celebrate but by reading one of his novels?

As I mentioned, I have much more to go of the novel myself. I’m noticing that there are lots of characters to keep straight, so I thought I’d give you a link to the character list. It may help you. There may be later-in-the-novel plot details mentioned in the summaries of these characters, but maybe this will help you (as I’m hoping it will help me) keep the different colorful Dickensian personalities apart.

Happy reading!

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The Portrait of a Lady Discussion Questions

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 16, we will meet at the Harnish branch to discuss The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. We’re sure to have a great discussion, so come whether or not you enjoyed reading the book, or even if you finished it!

To get you started thinking, here are some links to questions that we may discuss tomorrow night.

I’m looking forward to discussing the book with you tomorrow night. There is a lot to think about in the novel.

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