Reading Guide Questions
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- All of the characters in this novel have their failings and as a result
they are all fully human. Are you surprised by the secrets Elinor and
Michael Mompellion each reveal to Anna about their marriage? How do they
change your feelings about each character? Do they make either seem weaker
in a way?
- The Bradford family bears the brunt of Mompellion's rage when they leave
town to save themselves. However, weren't they only doing what every other
noble family did in those days: run because they had the means to run?
Setting aside the events near the end of the novel (which make it clear that
one would be hard-pressed to find a redeeming quality in any of them), can
you really blame the Bradfords for running?
- How much of Mompellion's push for the quarantine had to do with the
secrets he shared with Elinor? Did his own dark side and self-loathing push
him to sacrifice the town or was he really acting out of everyone's best
- Keeping in mind that this story takes place a good twenty-five years
before the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, what is the role of the
Gowdie women in the novel? What is it about these women that drives their
neighbors to murderous rage? How does their nonconformity lead to their
- How would you explain Anna's mental and spiritual unraveling? What are the
pivotal experiences leading up to her breakdown and her eventual rebirth?
- Discuss the feminist undertones of the story. How does each female
characterAnna, Elinor, the Gowdies, and even Anna's
stepmotherexhibit strengths that the male characters
- In a story where the outcome is already known from the very beginningmost
of the villagers will diediscuss the ways in which the
author manages to create suspense.
- The author creates an incredible sense of time and place with richly
textured language and thoughtful detailsof both the
ordinary (everyday life in Eyam) and the extraordinary (the gruesome deaths
of the villagers). Discuss some of the most vivid images and their
importance to the story and to your own experience reading it.
- Can we relate the story of this town's extraordinary sacrifice to our own
time? Is it unrealistic to expect a village facing a similar threat to make
the same decision nowadays? What lessons might we learn from the villagers
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