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ESSAY QUESTIONS / BOOK REPORT TOPICS / TERM PAPER IDEAS
1. Explain the symbolism of the various dogs throughout the story. Given Cormierís emphasis on government, do you think it is significant that Silver is a German shepherd. Is it possible that this is a reference to Nazi Germany?
2. Do you notice the theme of homosexuality in this novel. Do you think Cormier is using it to effeminate Adamís enemies? If so, is this sexist?
3. Can you find any religious symbolism in this text? For example, is Martha like the older sister of Mary in the Bible-is there any link between Louise and the Virgin Mary? Is Adam like Adam in the Bible--does the forbidden knowledge expel him from paradise? Is Amy like Eve--testing all of the rules, and trying to corrupt: Adam?
4. What is the significance of the familyís name change from Delmonte to Farmer--what is the added level of loss in identity through giving the family a WASP name?
5. Explain the parallel between Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Adam.
6. Write an essay describing Adam and his strange behavior from Amyís point of view. What might she think his secret is?
7. Do you think the Delmonte family made the right decision by joining the Witness Protection Program? What could they have done differently?
8. How do you think this novel fits into the context of its period (the late 1970s)?
9. Do you think that Robert Cormier was being paranoid about the government when he wrote this book, or do things like this really happen?
10. Do you see any parallels between the distrust of government in the 1960s and 1970s and today? Compare this novel with a contemporary novel and explain how it exemplifies distrust in government.
COMMENT ON THE STUDY OF LITERATURE
The study of literature is not like the study of math or science, or even history. While those disciplines are based largely upon fact, the study of literature is based upon interpretation and analysis. There are no clear-cut answers in literature, outside of the factual information about an author's life and the basic information about setting and characterization in a piece of literature. The rest is a highly subjective reading of what an author has written; each person brings a different set of values and a different background to the reading. As a result, no two people see the piece of literature in exactly the same light, and few critics agree on everything about a book or an author.
In this study guide, we have tried to give an objective literary analysis based upon the information actually found in the novel, book, or play. In the end, however, it is an individual interpretation, but one that we feel can be readily supported by the information that is presented in the guide. In your course of literature study, you or your professor/teacher may come up with a different interpretation of the mood or the theme or the conflict. Your interpretation, if it can be logically supported with information contained within the piece of literature, is just as correct as ours; so is the interpretation of your teacher or professor.
Literature is simply not a black or white situation; instead, there are many gray areas that are open to varying analyses. Your task is to come up with your own analysis that you can logically defend. Hopefully, these booknotes will help you to accomplish that goal.