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
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,
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.