Reading guide for Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Metropolis

A Novel

by Elizabeth Gaffney

Metropolis
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2005, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2006, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The hero of Metropolis remains nameless for the first part of the book; later, he tries on different names, which he then rejects, each in turn. Why are names important, and why do you think Gaffney chose to complicate her main character's identity in this way?

  2. Beatrice O'Gamhna does not initially appear to be the nicest heroine when we first meet her; she is involved in pick-pocketing and kidnapping.  How did you feel about her character, as you read? What is her appeal?

  3. Although the main character is a man, the strongest characters in the book are arguably the women: Mother Dolan, Beanie, Fiona. The issues of women's suffrage, violence against women and women in traditionally male professions such as medicine also come up in the story. What sort of point is Gaffney making? How much do you think society has changed in its attitudes toward women since the nineteenth century?

  4. Harris is dogged by bad luck in the book, but he also has his share of very good luck, and there are any number of serendipitous or coincidental events that occur. What role does luck play in the story? Are characters held responsible for their actions?

  5. Harris did not commit the particular crime of arson that he is suspected of, but he is not purely innocent either. Is his sense of guilt appropriate? Is he responsible for the things that happen after he is conscripted into the gang? Does old unresolved guilt carry over into his present?

  6. Most of the characters have complicated moral situations: they are good people, and yet they are criminals; or they are criminals, but there is some explanation for how they fell into a life of crime. In certain cases, characters appear to be good, but they are in fact deeply corrupt. In what sort of moral universe do the characters of Metropolis live? Are any of the characters strictly good or evil?

  7. There are two main villains, Dandy Johnny Dolan and Luther "theUndertaker" Undertoe. Why do you think Gaffney wanted two villains in the story, and how do they differ?

  8. The Whyo gang has a complicated secret language and uses a profit-sharing scheme where funds are collected according to ability and distributed according to need. They treat women considerably better than do other gangs of criminals; at the same time, the gang is also extremely violent and corrupt. What did you think of the Whyos, in the end, and why? Is it possible to imagine a "good" gang?

  9. Several of the characters in the story—Harris, Beatrice, John-Henry, and Luther—lost their mothers early in their lives, and Johnny grew up without a father. How do these formative events affect them, and how does each character handle the difficulty of growing up with this loss?

  10. There is a large cast of secondary characters in Metropolis, as well as many side stories and digressions from the main narrative, on topics such as street paving, sewer building, underwater caisson excavation, women's health and bacteriology. Why did Gaffney choose to include all these characters and themes, and how do you think they contribute to the main story?

  11. Do you think that the city of New York is more than just the setting forthe novel? Could the city itself be seen as a character in Metropolis?

  12. Occasionally, the narrator's voice intrudes on the story to comment on the action. How does this change the experience of reading the story?  Would you say Metropolis feels like an old-fashioned novel, or are there aspects of it that mark the book as a product of the twenty-first century?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Random House. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.