The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam

Chapter 17 ~ The Gathering of the Greens

Discussion ~  We continue to learn more about a family tradition that was introduced in the last chapter, and Sonny has another bout with the blues.  Sonny and the boys get an opportunity to reminisce about the "good old days" while acknowledging that there are many real-life problems for them to be concerned about.  They experience the joy of a day together, but face a situation that forces them to realize that life is often unfair and cruel.

Writers' Workshop ~ 
    (1)  At one point, the boys see a jet flying past, causing Sonny to say, "I'm going to ride in a jet someday."  This touches on the theme of setting goals, one which I think we can safely say the author has accomplished.  What is the purpose of this interjection?  Is this goal overly simplistic?  How does it affect our view of the characters when we hear them setting goals that we assume they surely accomplished later?
    (2)  Following his experience on Sis's Mountain, Sonny is comforted by his cat, Lucifer.  Is there a certain "poetic justice" to this?  Why does the author choose an animal to comfort him at this point?  Can you think of other authors who have used this same technique?  (FC) What roles do animals serve in our emotional lives?
    (3)  Sonny has to bind the greens together with wire, which caused me to think of the similarity to an author weaving his most important plot lines through a variety of other ideas.  Consider the plot lines that are woven throughout this chapter, including the animals, the struggling economy, Sonny's romantic troubles, his blues, his relationship to his friends, his concerns about Homer and Poppy, and the Potter's Wheel.

Freud's Couch ~ 
    (1)  Encountering a starving fawn causes Sonny to express affection that he seemed to be lacking in relation to Poppy.  Does this represent a change in Sonny's character?  Why does he seem more concerned about an animal than about his "own blood"?  Have you had a time when two seemingly different situations engendered the same feelings in you, causing you to see a connection you had missed earlier?
    (2)  Finding it difficult to think of how his father had been as a child causes Sonny to say, "I couldn't imagine him any other way than the way he was."  Though it is a problem for most of us, a good author must be able to imagine people and situations differently than they have seen them.  Write a passage about one of your parents or grandparents when they were children.  Imagine how they must have looked, spoken, and acted.

Mountaineer Morality ~ 
    (1)  West Virginians cherish their traditions, like the Hickam's gathering of greens as Christmas.  Part of this is due to our mixture of heritage, with many different nationalities playing a role.  What are some of the traditions that your family has that are not common to many people you know?  Write about the one that you find most unique.
    (2)  Jake gives us another dose of WV wisdom when he says, "Until you get knocked down, you don't know how good it feels to stand."  Think of other sayings that remind us that adversity helps us appreciate the good things in our life.

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