Monday, January 31, 2011

Answering My Own Questions

OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck has always been one of my favorite novels. I read it, on average, once a year. Studying this novel in high school is one of my more vivid memories. I remember debating the morality of George’s decision to shoot Lennie and what specific traits were illustrated by each character. I remember discussing conflict, theme, symbolism and universality. But mostly I remember wondering if Mr. Steinbeck considered any of these things as he wrote his novella, or did he write the story he wanted to read? Did those characters rise up to him and tell their story without regard to the definition of a traditional tragedy or with those boundaries firmly in mind? Did he plan the symbolism and know before writing the first sentence that George would never realize his dream?

I’m thinking of my favorite novel and those high school questions as I write discussion questions for my own book—questions that I’ll post on my website for readers to consider. What is the significance of the title BENT ROAD? Surely, as the author, I have an answer for this question. And, in fact, I do. But did I consider that answer when deciding on the title? What are the similarities and differences between Celia (the daughter-in-law) and Reesa (the mother-in-law) and how do those similarities and differences account for the conflict between them? Again, I know the answer, but did I identify and specify each character trait to support the mounting tensions between the two women or did they bubble up on their own? What is the significance, if any, of placing the story in the Kansas plains during the late 1960s? Did I choose the setting and place in history to support the plot, or did it just feel right?

In late April, my own reading group will be reading and discussing BENT ROAD. Perhaps we'll use the discussion questions that I am writing today. Just in case, I'll make sure to have my answers well rehearsed before the first cork is popped. Watch for more discussions questions—to be posted soon.

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