Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Luke Chandler is exposed to events that many adults have never even seen.
What is the effect of reading about these circumstancesfrom a difficult
childbirth to the possibility of financial ruinthrough the eyes of a
The Chandlers cannot afford some of the hallmarks of the 1950s American
dream, such as a television set or a stylish-looking car. Yet other aspects of
that time period, such as the Korean War, make an unmistakable impression on
them. How does the Chandler household measure up to your own memories or
impressions of that era?
Several generations of women are presented in A Painted House, including
Gran, Luke's mother, and Tally. How do contemporary women compare to those three
Baseball is a central theme in the novel, providing Luke with heroes,
dreams, and a diversion from the exhaustion of picking cotton. When the
Arkansans challenge the Mexicans to a baseball game, however, Luke sees a darker
side to competition. In what way does this scene foreshadow the conclusion of
How might the novel have been different if Luke's father or mother had
How does your opinion of Cowboy change throughout the novel? What do you
think attracts Tally to him? How did you react to his final showdown with Hank?
Discuss the role of Ricky in A Painted House. Though we never meet him
directly, he does play a key part in the progress of the plot. What is the
effect of his absence, and the letter writing it inspires? In what way does his
experience differ from that of modern soldiers?
What keeps Pappy from giving up on farming?
What role do the Methodist and Baptist churches play in the Black Oak
community? How well do religious teachings serve Luke during 1952?
In what way is Black Oak a snapshot of the world at large?
Luke says that most members of his community are descended from
Scotch-Irish immigrants. What are some of the legacies of this ancestry?
The weather is a powerful force in A Painted House; floods, heat, hail,
and tornadoes all add suspense to the novel. What is it like for the Chandlers
to live at the complete mercy of the weather? How is their situation different
from that of the cousins who perform indoor industrial work up north? What are
the costs and benefits of relying on the natural world for your livelihood?
At the end of the novel, Luke and his parents become migrant workers
themselves, venturing off to a new part of the country solely for employment
opportunities. Twenty-first-century workers are often asked to transfer to a new
part of the globe in order to further their careers. What is the best way to
make decisions between financial security and family or cultural ties?
Poverty is a highly relative concept in A Painted House. Though they have
no indoor plumbing and have perilously high debts, the Chandlers nonetheless
give generously to those in need. How do you define "rich" and "poor"?
The Chandler house itself conveys a meaningful message. What is the
significance of the way in which it gets painted? Do you believe that Pappy
really does finish the job after Luke and his family leave? What is the effect
of that detail? What causes Luke to set aside his dream of ordering a Cardinals
jacket and instead use his meager earnings to buy paint?
In terms of plot and writing style, are any elements of John Grisham's
legal thrillers evident in A Painted House?
Discuss your own coming-of-age story. What are your first memories of
home? Who were the first people you loved?
A Painted House ends with tantalizing possibilities. Speculate about how
Luke's life unfolds after his family leaves the Arkansas Delta.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Dell.
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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