The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam
Chapter 12 ~ Jake's Present
Discussion ~ Another really thin deer is spotted, continuing
this plot theme, and adding more tension to the overall story. Elsie
makes a big announcement, 11 East becomes a greater issue, Jake Moseby returns
to town, and the Coalwood Organization of Women takes matters into their own
hands. All in all, it's a chapter filled with tension and foreboding
related to several plot lines.
Writers' Workshop ~
(1) After a few paragraphs that relate to the
previous chapter, our author makes a dramatic change in the direction of
the plot. What is the purpose in such a switch? What are
the elements that make it so dramatic? Can you find other examples
from stories or books you like of these types of dramatic scene changes?
(2) Another increase in the tension occurs when
there are two injuries at 11 East, intensifying rumors of a general strike.
Why is Homer pushing so hard on this issue? How does his approach to
this situation intensify the feelings surrounding it? How does the author's
return to this issue both reinforce the importance of the plot line and build
tension in the overall story?
(3) Look at the rapid scene shift between Sonny's
encounter with the Mallett boys and his discovery that Jake Moseby is returning
to town. Look at the elements that create this scene shift and how it
could be used in different situations to create surprise on the part of the
reader. Have you seen other such scene shifts in other books?
(4) Sonny has great respect for Jake, and Jake
has connections to many other characters in the book. How does the
author use these connections to advance the overall plot, and to throw a
few "curves" into the storyline? Outline all the elements of the book
on which he has some effect.
Freud's Couch ~
(1) Elsie expresses
a desire to go somewhere that Homer can't mine anymore. Do you think
this has anything to do with her feelings about Poppy? In her mind,
how does the mine represent both everything good in her life, and everything
(2) In this chapter, Sonny looks back over his
list and decides that he can "cure" at least one problem on it through active
intervention. What do you think of his chances? How "curable"
are such problems?
Mountaineer Morality ~
(1) Once again, our characters show us the true nature of mountain
humor when Homer reminds Elsie that marriage was "for better or worse" and
she responds, "Your better, my worse." It is common in WV to turn a
phrase in this sort of way, even if the result sound overly exclusive.
Do you have any such sayings around your house? Can you create some
brief exchanges in which characters respond to each other in such a way?
(2) When Sonny notes that there are many hungry
birds and deer, Homer responds, "The strong will get through. The rest
won't. That's nature's way." This is close to the heart of WV
philosophy, and applies to humans as well as animals. Do you
see this approach as sensible or heartless? Is Homer cruel or without
sympathy, or is he simply realistic? Does this approach prevent a person
from being charitable?