Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- The names of characters have a special significance in The Barbarians Are
Coming especially in relation to nationality. Genius and Zsa Zsa are given
their American names by Lucy with a sense of ridicule and these names become
permanent. Are Genius and Zsa Zsa aware of the mockery implied by these names?
If so, why do they choose to accept them as opposed to selecting their own?
- Food, eating and cooking are intimately tied to the personalities of the
members of the Lung family. What do you learn about Sterling, Genius and Zsa Zsa
from their relationships with food?
- What qualities does Yuk possess that endear her to Genius and Zsa Zsa and
spur their desire to have Sterling marry her? Are these qualities absent in
Sterling and, if so, is their absence a result of a conscious effort by Sterling
to abandon them? Is there a sense of resentment on Sterlings part caused by the
relationship that Yuk has with Sterlings parents?
- Sterlings communication with other characters is often marred by
difficulties. He and Bliss interact better in writing than in person, there is
constant conflict with his parents regarding speaking English, he and Yuk
experience confusion concerning the phrase "move the bed". What elements of
Sterlings character contribute to these difficulties?
- In addition to being the patriarch of his own family, Morton Sass takes on
the role of father figure to Sterling after his marriage to Bliss. However
Morton also serves as Sterlings boss for "The Peeking Duck." How does each
relationship influence the other? Does either of these relationships emerge as
the dominant one?
- Sterling feels a stronger connection to Ira than he does to Moses even
though there is a lack of physical resemblance between the father and his
younger son. What factors bind Sterling and Ira together? Is the fact that Ira
appears "American" a component of Sterlings affection toward him?
- Both Sterling and Genius exhibit tendencies toward unfaithfulness in terms
of their significant relationships with women. Is this a sign of their overall
attitude toward the gender or an indication of a lack of stability in their
lives? To what extent do you imagine the lives of these two men would have be
different if they had been married to other women (Genius to Lucy, Sterling to
- In Part III of the novel the author changes the concentration of the
narrative, focusing on Genius past as opposed to the present. What effect is
achieved by doing so? Does the reader gain a greater sympathy for the character
from knowing his personal
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