The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam

Chapter 13 ~ Jim's Decision

Discussion ~  Educational issues take the forefront in this chapter, wherein some are very serious and some more frivolous.  Sonny has difficulty with friends, girls, and his brother, which keep adding to the concerns he has on his famous list.  Jim provides a shocking pronouncement, and Sonny licks his lips at the tasty troubles this is going to cause.

Writers' Workshop ~ 
    (1)  Principal Turner "accosts" Sonny, asking him why Billy Rose is quitting school.  Sonny is thoroughly caught off guard by this news, sputtering in his reply.  The principal delivers a tough shot by saying, "a man should take care to observe his friends lest they be needful."  Why is Sonny held accountable for his friend's decision?  How does the nearly Biblical wording of the principal's statement add emphasis and meaning to it?  Can this technique be used in every sort of story by nearly any writer?
    (2)  Sonny is suddenly afloat in femininity as he finds himself attracted (and attractive) to a trio of girls: Dorothy, his former flame; Melba, a "real" woman; and Ginger, who is characterized as "okay".  How does this situation add complexity to the storyline?  Is this situation serious or humorous or both?  Look at how carefully the girls are described and separated.  What are the qualities that put each of them into different "categories"?  Why are triangles such an appealing strategy to authors?
    (3)  Sonny also rhapsodizes on all of Jim's good qualities, then says, "otherwise, I couldn't imagine the attraction."  What does Sonny really think of his brother?  Why does he use sarcasm at the end of a list of good qualities his brother possesses?

Freud's Couch ~ 
    (1A)  Sonny says (with no small measure of satisfaction and gloating), "All that bragging that Dad had done over the years about Jim and never about me was going to come back at both of them now."  Why has Homer been much more openly proud of Jim than of Sonny over the years?  Is the disparity in praise as great as Sonny thinks?  Why is he happy to see both his dad and Jim embarrassed?  Are younger children more likely to have such emotions than the eldest child?  How does Jim probably see the situation?  How do we expect Homer to really feel about Jim's announcement?
    (1B)  Relative to the above, write about situations in your own home in which sibling rivalry leads to conflict between the children and also with the parents.  Develop a future situation which would lead your parents to see your strengths while minimizing your sibling or siblings' accomplishments.

Mountaineer Morality ~ 
    (1)  Sonny quotes Red Carroll has having said, "Never wake up a dog unless you want to get bit."  In this case, what does this saying mean?  Who is the "dog" referred to, and what is the issue about which it could be awakened?  Think of a situation in your own life to which this thought could be applied.

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