L111 American Best Sellers and Their Movies
Reading Tips

Diagramming Character Relationships | Active vs. Passive Reading |
Life of Washington | Uncle Tom's Cabin | Charlotte Temple | Ragged Dick | Secret of the Old Clock |
Quaker City | Ten Nights in a Bar-Room  | Peyton Place | The Godfather | Misery | Harry Potter

1) Where do you see social or relational structures upside down in this story?

2) Who are more powerful in this story, men or women?

3) What is the most interesting instance of motherhood in this story?

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1) What do you learn about early American publishing from the reproduced pages entitled "To Ladies and Gentlemen"?

2) What role does a character's nationality play in the plot?  Focus on one character to illustrate your point.

3) How does the text seem to define "benevolence," and why does it play such a major role in the story?

4) Do Montraville and Belcour change in their basic character in the course of the story, or do they end up pretty much the same people as they started out?

5) How do the activities of reading and writing bear on the plot?

6) This book is often described as an advice manual.  What kinds of advice does it offer its readers?

7) Why do you think Rowson felt it necessary to include the final chapter?

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Quaker City

1) Why might Lippard include the footnote "No reader who wishes to understand this story in all its details will fail to peruse this chapter" for chapter six?

2) How are men and women portrayed in Quaker City thus far?  Does Lippard seem to favor one sex over the other?

3) There are two main love plots so far in Quaker City: Lorrimer/Mary and Fitz-Cowles.  Why might Lippard feel the need to include two plots rather than one?

4) Take some time to look closely at the descriptions of the characters in this section of Quaker City.  Why might Lippard choose to describe people in the way that he does?  Pay particular attention to the descriptions of Devil Bug on pages 327-328 and Lorrimer on pages 389-390.

5) Control is a central issue for Lippard.  Pick a character who exercises control and explain how they do it.

6) In the extended seduction scene between Lorrimer and Mary in chapter thirteen of Quaker City, what strategies and forms of  rhetoric does Lorrimer use to seduce Mary?

7) What evidence do you find in this section which might allow you to argue that Quaker City is more salacious and titillating than strictly edifying (as Lippard has claimed in his Preface)?

For those of you who are interested, here is a brief summary of how Quaker City ends:

Lippard wrote this book in serial fashion, and a host of new characters are introduced to fill out a volume that will run to nearly six hundred pages when it is published in book form.  The characters introduced in “Book the First” are intimately related to the final chapters of the book.

Lorrimer refuses to marry Mary and is killed by Byrnewood, fulfilling the astrologer’s prophecy.  A group of characters then move to live in a cottage in western Pennsylvania’s vale of Wyoming.  This group includes: Mary Arlington,  Lorrimer’s mother and sister, and Byrnewood and his wife, Annie (the servant girl he had seduced).  Mary never really recovers from her rape and sham marriage; the last words of the book are her crying out the words: “Lorraine.” 

There is some ambiguity to whether or not Devil Bug is killed at the end of the novel.  Fitz-Cowles escapes death, but not prison for his many crimes.  The merchant Livingstone is burned to death at his country estate after revealing to his wife Dora that he is of royal blood and could have offered her a true coronet from the English aristocracy.  He kills Dora by poisoning her before the fire engulfs the house and kills him.

Bess is repentant for her deeds against Mary and tries to help her escape Lorrimer and Monk Hall.  Mary eventually does escape with the help of Bess.  Bess is later found dead near her father’s grave.  Luke marries a woman named Mabel (an important character later in the book).  They live happily ever after.  Oddly enough, it turns out that Mabel is the stunningly beautiful and virtuous daughter of Devil Bug, who is separated from him at her birth.  Finding out that he has a daughter significantly changes the character of Devil Bug, who is not nearly as evil at the end of the book as he is when we meet him in “Book the First.”

1) By closely examining the character of Simon Slade, which virtues does the author seem to hold most dear and which vices most dangerous?

2) What role does parenthood play in this story?

3) How does money and economics figure into the thematic development of this tale thus far?

4) Temperance is a term intimately tied to notions of control.  Where do you see differing notions of power and control in this novel?  Are certain forms of control favored over others?  Focus on only one character or form of control.

5) Note how the author places emphasis on facial expressions in this work.  Why might he spend so much time on this aspect of characterization?

6) What might Judge Lyman represent in this novel, and why might he be given such a large part in the story?

7) What do you make of the place of Joe Morgan as the novel ends?

8) If alcoholism is a disease - as T. S. Arthur  would have us believe - what are his prescriptions for improved health in this novel?

1) What role does luck play in this novel?

2) Why might Alger include so many DIFFERENT boys in the story?

3) How are women portrayed in this story?

4) What are the different uses of money in this story?

1) What seems to be Nancy’s central, defining personality trait in this book?

2) Why might it be important that Nancy’s mother is dead?

3) Why might it be important that Nancy owns and drives a car?

4) Why might Carolyn Keen choose to make this detective story about the loss of money rather than some other crime?

5) What thematic purpose do Isabel and Ada Topham serve in this narrative?


Book I, chapter 1 - Book II, chapter 

1) Emotions play a huge role in this book.  In this first section, what are the major emotions King is interested in exploring?

2) Why might King chose to use words like "rape" (pp. 5-6) and "castrate" (p. 89) in such unusual circumstances in his book?

3) What is the role of parents in this novel so far?

4) Even though they don't appear in this section, what is the importance of the Roydmans?

5) How might snow function as a symbol in this novel?

6) What might be the importance of the following lines in the novel so far?
-"The subject dictates the form." (p. 21)
-"Keeping up appearances is very, very important." (p. 89) 

Misery, Book II, chapter 6 - Book II, chapter 17

1) Why might it be important thematically that Paul is given a typewriter that is missing a letter?

2) What similarities do you see between Paul and his character Misery in Misery's Return?

3) Of all the animals Stephen King could have chosen, why might he have chosen a rat to parallel Paul's condition?

4) What are the key developments in Annie and Paul's relationship in this section?

5) What are the key relational developments between Paul and his character Misery?

Misery, Book II, chapter 18 - Book III, chapter 18

1) What do you think King might mean when he writes of Paul Sheldon: "The Annie in him knew." (p. 192)

2) What thematic importance do animals have in this novel?

3) Why might King leave the "n's" out of Book III, Chapter 1?

4) What parallels are there between the following characters:  Misery and Paul; Annie and Paul?

5) How might the way in which Annie kills the police officer be significant?

Misery, Book III, chapter 19 - end

1) What importance might typescript and long-hand have in developing the themes, tone and symbolism of the novel?

2) What significance might there be in Annie's tendency toward self-mutilation?

3) Why turn Annie into a bee in one of Paul's dreams? (p. 304)

4) Why associate Annie so closely with an idol or a goddess?

5) What Gothic elements are there in the book's ending, and why might they be there?

6) Why have Annie die in the way that she did? (p. 335)

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
1) Think about the character’s names so far in Harry Potter and make an argument for why Rowling might have named one of the characters in the way she did.

2) Why might Rowling have chosen the Dursleys as Harry’s family?

3) So far in the story of Harry Potter, what do you think is Harry’s most pronounced characteristic and why might Rowling have wanted to foreground this characteristic?

4) Why might have Rowling included ghosts in her story?

5) What is the importance of quidditch as this game relates to some of the larger themes of the story story?

6) Make an argument for why it was important to include chapter twelve or fourteen in the narrative?

7) Make an argument for why Rowling decided to include Hermoine as one of Harry’s closest friends.

8) What is the moral of this particular story?

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Last Updated: 07/17/15
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