Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Questions and Topics for Discussion for The Unnamed
, by Joshua Ferris
- Discuss the novel's opening paragraph. Why is it important that this story begins in the winter? What mood do the opening sentences create?
- How would you describe the state of Tim and Jane's marriage, based solely on what you learn of them in the novel's first two chapters?
- Discuss the importance of setting in the novel. How has living in an upscale suburb of New York shaped the Farnsworth family?
- Describe the differences between Becka's relationship with her mother and with her father. How does the progression of Tim's illness change Becka?
- How does Tim's work as an attorney shape his sense of himself as a husband, a father, and an individual? What does he enjoy about his work, and why is he good at it?
- Do you understand Tim's affliction primarily as a metaphor or as a physical affliction? Why is it important for the doctors who attempt to treat him to know whether the disease is mental or physical?
- Discuss the role of Frank Novovian in the novel.
- Why do Tim and Jane move back into the city after Tim stops working as an attorney?
- How does the final section of the novel differ from all previous sections? How would you characterize Tim's interactions with the natural world? Does the novel's ending provide a reconciliation of some kind, or simply a termination? How do Tim and Jane each deal with the process of grief, and grieving?
- Why do you think the author uses fragments of the Emily Dickinson poem "After great pain a formal feeling comes" to open the different sections of the novel?
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