Reading guide for Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow

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Homer & Langley

By E.L. Doctorow

Homer & Langley
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2009,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2010,
    224 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Natasha Vargas-Cooper

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. There were several unusual sets of people who came into Homer and Langley's lives. Do you feel that Homer collected people the way that he collected objects? Why do you suppose that is or is not?

  2. What do you think of Langley' s Theory of Replacements? Given today's 24-hour news environment in which historical context is rarely addressed, does Langley's theory and perspective have some merit?

  3. Langley is obsessive in his quest to create one universal newspaper of "seminal events". What categories were used by Langley so that the newspaper would be "eternally current, dateless"? What categories would you add or change? Why?

  4. What effect did the war have on Langley — did he come back mentally damaged along with his medical problems? How would the brothers' lives have been different if there had been no war?

  5. Discuss the importance of Jacqueline in the story. Would the story have been as effective without this "muse"? Do you think she really existed?

  6. On page 76 Homer talks about how things were for him when he and Langley returned to the house after their night in jail. He said, "this time marked the beginning of our abandonment of the outer world." He also said that for the first time he felt that his sightlessness was a physical deformity. What was it about the night in jail, the end of their community dances, and/or their return home that caused such a drastic shift in their lives?

  7. One of the novel's themes is isolation/a feeling of being separate from the world. Some characters do this by choice, others not. Discuss how Homer, Langley, and their various houseguests feel isolated from the world around them.

  8. In what ways is the house a character as well as the setting? How does the house's condition reflect the brothers' physical and mental conditions?

  9. The brothers' paranoia became ever-increasing, causing them to lay booby traps and close themselves in with physical as well as emotional shutters. Homer's last thoughts were, I wish I could go crazy so I might not know how badly off I am. Could Homer and Langley have been "saved" from themselves?

  10. The book is told from Homer's point of view. Why do you think the author chose Homer to tell the story of the brothers? How did Homer's disability affect his telling of the story? How would the story be different if Langley had been the voice?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Random House. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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