Reading guide for Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

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

Salem Falls

by Jodi Picoult

Salem Falls
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2001, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2002, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Throughout the novel, the author uses quotes from Arthur Miller's The Crucible and from the story of Jack and Jill. How do these quotes increase your understanding of the story as a whole? In what ways do these seemingly disparate sources work in terms of the subject matter?

  2. After pretending to be sick from school, Gillian explains to her friends, "I am not faking; I'm method-acting." Method acting is often described as a tool for telling the truth of a character under imaginary circumstances. How might this definition help us better understand Gillian's actions and her motivations in this novel? What is the truth in her life that needs to be shared?

  3. The tension between truth and fiction is a major theme here. Similarly, the concept of believing in lies so strongly that they become truth also powers this narrative. To what extent do you think Gillian and the other girls actually believe their own lies? Does this change for any of them by the end?

  4. Throughout history, witches have been the victims of persecution. Recently, witchcraft and pagan religions have gotten a lot of attention both in the media and in popular culture. What drives our fascination with witches and witchcraft? Why do you think some people seem to find it so threatening?

  5. In the same vein, what is so attractive about witchcraft to the girls of Salem Falls, either in the stereotypical sense or in the realistic sense? Or to any girls, for that matter?

  6. Do you know any people who practice Wicca? If so, how authentic is the author's presentation of the religion? To what extent is this book about spirituality/religion, and its abuse?

  7. In Salem Falls, much is made of the individual characters' point of view. People seem to see what they need to see in order to keep their world in order. In what way are characters in this novel affected, either positively or negatively, by the lenses through which they see the world?

  8. What is the significance of Jack's role as a history teacher? How about his vast knowledge of trivia?

  9. By the end of the story, the majority of the residents of Salem Falls prove themselves to be rather suspicious, closed-minded people, yet somehow Addie is not this way. This is interesting in light of the personal tragedies she has endured through her life -- many of which would make most people distrustful or bitter. What is it about her personality or her experiences that allows her to take Jack in off the street?
  10. Delilah tells Jack early in the novel, "I think that all of us have our ghosts." Although she may be literally addressing Addie's situation, how does this concept apply to the other characters in Salem Falls? Which ones, if any, successfully exorcise their ghosts?

  11. Who do you consider to be the strongest character in this story? Discuss the different ways strength manifests itself in this novel and the various degrees to which the characters maintain their strength -- or fail to.

  12. How much does setting affect this novel? How similar is the world of Salem Falls to the world of The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter, books from which the author clearly draws?

  13. At one point, as he is watching his students walk to the locker room, Jack thinks to himself, "Beauty is truth, and truth, beauty." Do you agree with this? What do you think the novel suggests?

  14. Do you believe that Jack, in light of all his experiences, should be totally free from blame? Are there instances when his judgment seems to be off, or is he truly the unluckiest man in the world?

  15. Jack's mother forgives the prostitute that her late husband was seeing, so much so that she invites her to live with her, yet she immediately turns on her own son when he is accused of rape. How can one account for this shift in her character? Is it a shift? Were you surprised that she did not ask for his side of the story, or do you think there is some sort of solidarity among women that transcends familial ties?

  16. Picoult tells the story of Jack's life backward, to the moment of his birth. How do these flashbacks affect the present-day story, and why do you think she chose to do this?

  17. Should a verbal accusation of rape be enough to set the judicial wheels turning? Explain, using the examples of both Catherine Marsh and Addie Peabody.

  18. Compare the father/daughter relationships of Addie and Roy, Gillian and Amos, Charlie and Meg, Matt Houlihan and Molly, and Catherine and Reverend Marsh. How does the bond formed between parent and child influence each of their actions?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Washington Square Press. 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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...
  • Book Jacket: When Breath Becomes Air
    When Breath Becomes Air
    by Paul Kalanithi
    When Breath Becomes Air is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, written in the time period between ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

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.