Find
10 South Emerson, Mount Prospect, IL 60056 | 847/253-5675
Font:

Check It Out

Book Discussion Questions: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

 

Title: The Age of Innocence
Author: Edith Wharton
Page Count: 362
Genre: Classic literature, Love stories, Social commentary
Tone: Bittersweet, Moving, Nostalgic, Satirical

 

1.  What do you make of Newland Archer? Is a hero, a victim, or something in between?

2.  Were his motivations selfless or selfish?

3.  Did Newland truly love either May or Ellen?

4.  Why do you think Wharton made Newland the lead character in her novel? How might the story be different if told from the Countess Olenska’s point of view? Or from May’s?

5.  For which character did you feel the strongest, either positively or negatively? Did your opinions evolve as the story progressed?

6.  Would Newland have been happier with Ellen?

7.  How might the story have been different if Newland and Ellen had embarked on a full affair, rather than a fairly conservative flirtation?

8.  Would you have liked to know more about Newland and May’s courtship? What might those details have revealed about the characters, about their marriage?

9.  What does Newland see in May at the beginning of the novel? What does he see in Ellen? What does each woman represent for him? What does each woman see in Newland?

10.  Some critics have described May as one of the great villains of American literature. Does that characterization surprise you? Is it a fair assessment? In what ways might she be considered villainous?

11.  Can you attach any symbolic significance to May’s skill with a bow and arrow? What does this side of her reveal about her character, about her relationship with Newland?

12.  How does the novel portray marriage? How does it portray passion and sexuality? Are the ideas surrounding each applied differently to the male and female characters?

13.  Is this a classic tale of star-crossed lovers, of love unrequited—or is it something else, something more? Is it a story of an affair or of a marriage?

14.  Some critics have called this novel a story of identity. Would you agree? What do you think it has to say about identity? How might this be a story about belonging?

15.  How much of our identity comes from the life we are born into versus the life we create for ourselves? How do you see this question working in the lives and identities of the characters in this novel?

16.  What other characters made an impression on you? How significantly did the peripheral characters influence the lives of Newland, May, and Ellen?

17.  Think about the title of this novel. Is it meant to be taken literally—was it truly an innocent time? Or is the title ironic? Who among these characters could be described as innocent?

18.  Wharton often expressed her dislike of modernity, her unhappiness with the hustle and bustle and lack of courtesy in modern life. Is her novel a piece of nostalgia for the “good old days”? In what ways might it be considered satire?

19.  Upon its publication, The Age of Innocence became an immediate sensation. Why do you think that is?

20.  Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence, but only after some controversy where the prize was taken from its original recipient—Sinclair Lewis for Main Street (a biting social satire of small-town America). The Board of Trustees said Wharton’s novel “presented the wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood.” Was their assessment correct?

21.  It’s a novel about the very wealthy. Could a similar story be told about the very poor? What elements would be different? Which would be the same?

22.  It is certainly a novel of its time and place. Would you also consider it a timeless story? Do its themes resonate today?

23.  The novel ends with Newland deciding not to meet with Ellen later in life. Why do you think he made this decision? Did you want him to see her? What would you have done if you were him?

 

Other Resources
Reader’s Guide from the Big Read
The life and legacy of Edith Wharton
Painting believed to have inspired the title of Wharton’s novel
Edith Wharton/Sinclair Lewis Pulitzer Prize controversy
Roger Ebert’s review of Martin Scorsese’s 1993 film adaptation

 

If you liked The Age of Innocence, try…
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

The Innocents book cover    The Magnificent Ambersons book coverMansfield Park book cover

 

 

 

 

 

By MPPL on July 9, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Literary

Staff Pick: Bron / Broen (The Bridge)

Cathleen staff picks photoA body is discovered lying across the border of Sweden and Denmark, and it’s only the first in a series of violent crimes designed to draw attention to social ills. A fascinating achievement of international television, Bron / Broen (The Bridge) straddles intersecting character arcs in a tension-filled series that examines the boundaries we cross.

By Readers' Advisor on July 8, 2014 Categories: Movies and Television, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Picks by Cathleen, Staff Picks

Fiction: My Wish List by Grégoire Delacourt

My Wish List book coverIf you won the lottery, what would you do? Most would dance and shout and call friends and quit jobs, but that isn’t Jocelyn. This mild-mannered fabric shop clerk doesn’t tell a soul. She doesn’t even cash the check. Instead, she tucks it away and dreams of what she might do. Buy a new shower curtain that isn’t flowery? A full-time nurse for her ailing father? Travel? Sexy red lingerie? For a while at least, this is hers alone to contemplate, and she does so while evaluating other choices she’s made in life. International bestseller My Wish List by Grégoire Delacourt has won several French literary prizes and is a featured selection in our Sister Cities book discussion program. At only 163 pages, this slim conversation starter is a welcome windfall.

By Readers' Advisor on July 7, 2014 Categories: Books

New: Historical Fiction and Romance

Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

New: Historical Fiction Books

The Auschwitz Escape book cover

The Pelican Bride book cover

Glorious book cover

 

– The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg

The Pelican Bride by Beth White

– Glorious by Jeff Guinn

– China Dolls by Lisa See

– The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

– Dark Aemilia by Sally O’Reilly

– The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

– A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

New: Romance Books

The Marriage Pact book cover

The Heart's Pursuit book cover

The Best Medicine book cover

The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller

The Heart’s Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher

The Best Medicine by Tracy Brogan

– The Kissing Bridge by Tricia Goyer

– A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

– Uncommon Romance by Jove Belle

– Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

– Flirting with Forever by Molly Cannon

By MPPL on July 4, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals, Romance

Fiction: Addition by Toni Jordan

Addition book coverGrace suffers from OCD, which breeds her love of inventor Nikola Tesla and causes her to fixate on numbers, attaching symbolic significance to things as seemingly mundane as the number of steps to her local coffee shop. But it’s at this coffee shop that she meets Seamus, a cute Irishman who disrupts her routine and shakes up her life of self-isolation. As romance blossoms, so does Grace’s uneasiness about making herself vulnerable to another person. Australian author Toni Jordan explores her heroine’s psychology with depth, revealing surprising hidden traumas from Grace’s past which are always threatening to bubble to the surface. Addition is no cookie-cutter romance—it’s like chick lit with a twist of grit.

By MPPL on July 3, 2014 Categories: Books, Romance

Staff Pick: Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

Joyce Staff Picks photoAwakening in a casualty tent in France, 1916, Stella Bain, an American woman suffering from shell shock and amnesia, must find out who she is and recover the life she had. Anita Shreve’s newest title tells a story of love, loss, strength, and forgiveness against the backdrop of war.

By MPPL on July 1, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Joyce, Staff Picks

Fiction: Happily Ever After, edited by John Klima

Happily Ever After book cover

“Once upon a time…” Are there four more thrilling words? No matter our age, we love a story! If it’s been too long since you’ve visited a faraway land, set sail for Happily Ever After, a collection of retold fairy tales by masters of fantasy, horror, and young adult fiction. Gregory Maguire riffs on Snow White with “The Seven Stage a Comeback,” Cinderella takes a disturbing turn in Peter Straub’s “Ashputtle,” and “The Troll Bridge” has never been as fun as when Neil Gaiman is telling it. Edited by John Kilma and with an introduction by Fables creator Bill Willingham, Happily Ever After is an ideal choice for enchantment during this year’s Discover the Magic summer reading program.

By Readers' Advisor on June 30, 2014 Categories: Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Humor

New: Fiction and Nonfiction

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

New: Fiction Books

Wonderland book cover Kicking the Sky book coverThe Pink Suit book cover

     -  Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo

     -  Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa

     -  The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby

     -  The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

     -  Where the Earth Meets the Water by Pia Padukone

     -  I Pity the Poor Immigrant by Zachary Lazar

     -  All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

     -  The Bend of the World by Jacob Bacharach

New: Nonfiction Books

Cubed book coverLife Is a Wheel book cover A Sliver of Light book cover

     Cubed by Nikil Saval

     -  Life is a Wheel by Bruce Webber

     -  A Sliver of Light by Shane Bauer

     -  The Burning Shore by Ed Offley

     -  The Hiltons by Randy J. Taraborrelli

     -  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

     -  Cathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty

     -  The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter

By MPPL on June 27, 2014 Categories: Books, New Arrivals, Nonfiction

Nonfiction: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

My Friend Dahmer book coverComic book artist Derf Backderf keeps eerily close to home in his exploration of the adolescence of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, his former high school classmate. This graphic novel is stark in its imagery, full of dread and foreboding. As the young Dahmer spirals further and further into depravity, the adults in his life, parents and educators alike, seem not to notice, too absorbed in their own troubles to notice the wolf at the door. While My Friend Dahmer is certainly a frightening read, it’s never gory, and it manages to show, without being sensationalistic, the making of a monster.

By MPPL on June 26, 2014 Categories: Books, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: 1776 by David McCullough

1776 book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

 

Title: 1776
Author: David McCullough
Page Count: 386
Genre: Narrative nonfiction, History
Tone: Upbeat, Nostalgic

 

1.  Could King George III have done anything differently in 1776 to avoid war, or was it inevitable at that point?

2.  Did he underestimate the Americans? How so?

3.  What did you learn about George Washington from this book that surprised you? How much of what we know about Washington is a myth?

4.  How important was Washington’s role in American independence?

5.  How did Washington try to overcome his failings? Was he successful?

6.  Why did—and perhaps still do—people respond so positively to him?

7.  How has the reputation of Commander-in-Chief affected wars in our country since Washington’s time?

8.  Was Congress right in not having Washington attack Boston? Why do you think Washington wanted to attack, especially when nobody else thought it was a good idea?

9.  Washington was very concerned about his appearance. McCullogh writes: “And as with everything connected to that role—his uniform, the house, his horses and equipage, the military dress and the bearing of his staff—appearances were of great importance: a leader must look and act the part” (p. 42). How much of Washington’s ideas about appearance and presentation do you suppose was influenced by his living under a monarchy?

10.  What do you think about Washington later deciding to wear civilian (rather than military) clothes when acting as president? Does this reveal anything about his character, his beliefs, etc.? And how much do you think that decision influenced the American people’s view of the Office of the President?

11.  Washington was originally referred to as “His Excellency.” Do you think Americans today want their president to have an air of grandeur, or do they desire a more approachable “commoner” president? What are the pros and cons of both?

12.  What were some of the biggest differences between the warring armies, and how did they affect the battles?

13.  What about the American army surprised you? Were there any ways in which the inexperience of the American troops and their leaders were helpful to the cause?

14.  In what ways did the technology of the time cause problems for the patriots that could have been avoided with today’s technology?

15.  What formalities of war existed during Revolutionary times, and how does this differ from how wars are waged today?

16.  What wins a war? Number of troops? Talent? Leadership?

17.  Is it necessary for the enlisted to truly believe in the cause in order to win the war?

18.  Are there any parallels to be drawn between the American Revolution and our current military conflicts?

19.  Is it important for Americans to know the history of the Revolution? Why or why not?

20.  How do you think modern English citizens would feel about this book and its portrayal of their history?

21.  McCullough wrote this history as narrative nonfiction. Was he successful? Were you more interested or engaged reading this than you would have been with a more academic take on the subject?

22.  The author chose to focus on a single year: 1776. Was this adequate to tell a compelling and clear story? Do you feel like there are things you still want to know, background information you wish you’d had?

23.  After reading this, do you find it miraculous America gained its independence?

24. Do you think you would have joined the American cause or stayed loyal to England?

 

Other Resources
Radio interview: Author discusses researching and writing 1776
The Declaration of Independence at the Library of Congress
Images from the American Revolution
George Washington biography

 

If you liked 1776, try…
American Gospel by Jon Meacham
Hallowed Ground by James McPherson
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

American Gospel book cover    Hallowed Ground book coverTeam of Rivals book cover

 

 

 

 

 

By MPPL on June 25, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction