Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The novels story is told through the eyes of Nicolás Veras, a
nine-year-old Salvadoran boy. Do you think this point of view is effective?
What do you think is gained by portraying the story this way? Would the story
have been more powerful if told through the point of view of an adult?
The concept of fate the idea that events occur in our lives over which
we have no control and that we must do the best we can to play with the cards
we are dealt is deeply embedded in Latin American culture. In what ways did
Nicolás show he accepted his fate? And in what ways did he show he refused to
accept his fate?
When fate is unkind, many turn for help from a higher power. Nicolás
turned to The Virgin after whom he was named. Do you think this belief really
helped him? Do you think he would have coped just as well if he hadn't had
Benitez couches the appearances of The Virgin to Nicolás in ambiguous
language so that the reader can't be sure whether they're meant to be real or
merely imagined. However, we know that Nicolas believed she really did appear
and speak to him. Did you?
In the final analysis, which group threatened the most harm to Nicolás
the guerilleros who commandeered his rancho in the mountains or the soldiers
who offered him "a new life" at their garrison? Why?
Nicolás and his grandfather, Tata, wanted nothing more than to just be
left alone. They didn't want to take sides. But circumstances were such that
neither the left nor right would allow them to be neutral. Do we sometimes
find ourselves in a similar situation? What can we do about it? What are our
There appear to be few joyful moments in The Weight of All Things. But joy
is relative. Do you remember a scene or two that could pass for joy or, at
What is it, do you think, that enables people to keep functioning in the
midst of constant ambiguity, fear and stress such as characterized the war in
Aside from Nicolás, which other characters in the novel struck you as
being highly memorable? For you, what is the most poignant scene in the novel?
Thanks to The Virgins support, Nicolás is left with a philosophy to live
by: adopt the gentleness of the lamb, the strength of a lion. Might this
philosophy be one that is of use in our own troubled world today?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Hyperion.
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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