Reading guide for The Weight of All Things by Sandra Benitez

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The Weight of All Things

by Sandra Benitez

The Weight of All Things
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 239 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2002, 239 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The novel’s 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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 this belief?

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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 options?

  7. 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 least, hope?

  8. 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 El Salvador?

  9. 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?

  10. Thanks to The Virgin’s 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?

Copyright © 2001 by Sandra Benítez. All Rights Reserved.

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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