Wednesday, February 19, 2014
10:56 AM | Posted by Wide Lawns | | Edit Post
This book was much different than The Signature of All Things, but it shares a few themes and some of the same time period, plus both novels had red-haired, unattractive, highly-intelligent, female protagonists, so I felt these books were interesting to read together and The Invention of Wings stuck with me and made me want to discuss it in the same way as The Signature of All Things. Therefore? More discussion questions. Yay!! Warning! Spoilers in the questions, so I'm adding a jump.
The Invention of Wings Discussion Questions
1. How is Handful's relationship with her mother similar to Sarah's relationship with her mother? How are they different?
2. Were you surprised by Charlotte's boldness? What qualities of Charlotte's did you most admire? What words could be used to describe her personality? Do you think some of her choices were stupid? What would you have done in her situation?
3. Why do you think Handful left her writing in the dirt? Do you think that she subconsciously wanted everyone to know she could read? Do you think she cared about Sarah getting punished?
4. Would you agree that after reading this book that the culture of early America was extremely oppressive to everyone? Not just slaves? Who else in this book suffered oppression? How were the Quakers the same way? What about men? Did white men really enjoy all the freedom? In what instances were they too subject to oppression?
5. Why do you think this society was so oppressive in the first place? What caused it? When did it finally stop? Or did it? In what ways is our current culture similar?
6. It seems that no matter where Sarah went she never quite fit in. Why do you think that was? Was there any point in the book where she did fit in or where she experienced true freedom?
7. Do you really believe that Sarah influenced Angelina or might she have shared her same opinions regardless?
8. Was it truly the best choice for Sarah to give back ownership of Handful to her mother? Could you make the argument that this was a mistake and that it would have been more ethical for Sarah to have kept ownership of Handful because she would have been treated better and then later, she could have freed her herself?
9. Was Sarah's mother's compromise in the end a good choice or a bad choice? Why? Why do you think she wouldn't completely give in to Sarah's requests?
10. What purposes, other than domestic help, did slavery serve for white women? Could it have given them a sense of power that they otherwise lacked?
11. Were you surprised when Sarah turned down Israel's proposal? Did she make the right decision in doing so? Why or why not? Did Sarah make a sacrifice for her cause or was it not at sacrifice at all?
12. Why did the South refer to slavery as their "peculiar institution?" Why did so many people simply write off its atrocities as their "way of life," as Sarah's mother explains it?
13. Did Sarah's copper bathtub hold any special symbolism?
14. Why do you think Handful finally had sex with Goodis? Do you think that they loved each other? Was Goodis's affection a substitute for her mother's love when Charlotte went missing? Was Goodis's reaction to Handful and Sky's escape proof of his true love for Handful?
15. How were Handful and Sarah similar or different? How might each have reacted to her situation if their roles were reversed?
16. What would you have done in Handful's situation when Denmark Vesey asked her to steal the bullet molds? Did you understand her moral dilemma there?
17. Why did Denmark Vesey exaggerate his claims about his slave revolt?
18. What can we make of slaves who appeared to side with their white masters instead of their fellow slaves? How might this have been a survival strategy for some?
19. Were there any elements of the "Pet Negro" or "Magical Negro" characters in this book? Where?
20. In what ways was slavery actually a burden on white society? Can you find some examples of this in the book?
21. What is the significance of Sky's affinity for gardening? Is it possible that her name was intended by Kidd to be ironic or was it actually a fitting name for her?
22. Compare the quilt in this novel to the quilting themes in Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use."
23. Did you learn anything about slavery or abolition from reading this novel that you didn't know about it before?
24. How did you feel about the Abolitionists' reluctance to fully support women's equality? Was their argument that it weakened their stance valid?
25. How did you interpret the ending? Was it a happy ending?
26. What do you think about Kidd's choice to write a fictionalized account of real life people and events? How might this have been limiting to her creativity? Why didn't she just make up her own characters instead? How did using real people and events strengthen this novel?
27. Both The Invention of Wings and The Help are novels about relationships between black women and white women at different periods in the fight for civil and women's rights. Compare and contrast these two novels.
28. Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help has been deeply criticized for appropriating black voices, yet Kidd does the same thing here. Both books share a similar structure with alternating first person narratives. Is this okay for a white author to do? Why or why not?
Read this article criticizing The Help. Could the same arguments be applied to The Invention of Wings? Is this too just "another novel by and for white women?"
29. Reflect on the book's title. Why is it called The Invention of Wings? What do the wings symbolize? Who had wings? Who in this book "invented" wings and how? What is the significance of the choice of the word "Invention?" What other word could have been used? Can you think of any alternate titles?
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