Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
How do Jim's uncles each play the role of father-figure? Do they make up for his father's absence? Should Jim's mother have remarried when she had the chance in order to give Jim a "real" father?
Both the setting and Jim's life have a simple quality, yet through each flows a more complicated undercurrent. How do the setting and era reflect Jim's character?
Why does Uncle Zeno take Jim on the trip out of town? What do the incident with the horses and his first view of the ocean teach him?
Jim's mother turned down the marriage proposal because she believed she had already met and married her one eternal love. Do you believe, as she does, in the idea of eternal love?
Why did Jim feel such a strong sense of rivalry toward Penn? What about their pasts and their families' pasts gave them a special bond?
Jim has moments of selfishness. How does he begin to take responsibility for his actions as he grows older?
In just one year, both Jim and the United States experienced tremendous change. How does Earley incorporate the evolving society into Jim's story? Think about education, the economy, electricity, transportation, race relations, and polio. What will Jim experience as society evolves that his uncles and mother never did? How will his adult world differ from theirs?
What role does Abraham play? What lessons does he teach Jim, both in the field and in the alley?
What is the significance of the final scene with Jim's grandfather and his two cousins? What realizations does Jim have during this scene?
Think about the stories that are told about Jim's father. What is his vision of the kind of man his father was?
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Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Back Bay Books.
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