The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam

Chapter 19 ~ Trigger & Champion

Discussion ~  Don't be fooled by the innocuous title, here's a chapter full of exposition and plot development.  Sonny goes to church, learning some things he doesn't expect to and raising some questions he can't answer.  He goes to O'Dell's house, expecting a bit of relaxation, but includes a plan that will complicate his life further.  He also visits Rev. Richard, experiencing synergy without fully realizing it.  The action is amazing!

Writers' Workshop ~ 
    (1)  During his discussion with Reverend Richard, all the important pieces of Sonny's list come into the conversation, though it doesn't really sink into his head at this point.  This is a fabulous way for our author to remind us of all the key elements of one storyline.  Compare the conversation here with the list Sonny created in earlier chapters.  What resolutions do you think Rev. Richard might be suggesting?  Will Sonny follow his advice?
    (2)  On the other hand, Rev. Richard says about his windows, "Sometimes a thing can't stand to be talked about before it happens".  How does this apply to Sonny's various problems?
    (3)  Jake drops by to ask Sonny what his plans are for Saturday.  His request that Sonny wear boots is rather mysterious.  Why does the author leave this conversation unresolved?  Why does he create a sense of mystery here?  What do you think Jake is up to?
    (4)  To create a full circle, the author closes the chapter by having Sonny add items to his list.  What do you think of the items that are added?  He feels that one thing is missing from this list.  Can you sense what that one thing is?  Is it part of the writer's art to make the item both obvious and uncertain?
    (5)  Since the horses (Trigger and Champion) actually do nothing of great importance in this chapter, why is the chapter named for them?

Freud's Couch ~ 
    (1)  Sonny is somewhat bemused that Rev. Schrieber seems more concerned with the starving people in Africa than those in Coalwood.  Do you think Sonny's interpretation is correct?  Why do some people seem to be better able to focus on problems that are far away (either geographically or chronologically) than those that are quite present?  Why is Sonny so deeply concerned about this issue?
    (2)  Elsie gives Doc Hale "permission" to fix Dreama's tooth, justifying it by saying that being the Superintendent's wife "does have its moments".  Why is she taking such satisfaction in this particular good deed?  Is it worth her using some of her influence in order to make it happen?  Would we characterize Elsie as "power mad"?  What does it say about Elsie that she is willing to spend her "political capital" on something seems to have nothing to do with her or her family?  (or am I missing something?)
    (3)  Regarding supplies he needs from the mines for his church windows, Rev. Richard says, "Ol' Homer usually comes through after some foot dragging just to show you he don't have to do it.  Guess you know how that goes."  Do you know how that goes?  Does Sonny?  What does Homer gain from this sort of action?
    (4)  Rev. Richard shows off his psychological insight when Sonny asks about the relationship between Dreama and Cuke.  "A man can't hit a woman and stay a man.  He becomes a loathsome thing, even to himself.  But the woman who stays with such a man panders to his darkness.  They both risk their souls."  What do you think of the various elements of this philosophy?  It doesn't seem to actually explain the behaviors, but what insights does it give us?
    (5)  Sonny realizes in this chapter that even though he considers fellow Rocket Boy O'Dell a friend, he has never been to O'Dell's house, and there is much about this friend that he doesn't know.  What does this say about their friendship?  Do you have such friends?  Is this sort of relationship far more common today than it used to be?  Perhaps you can recall a similar situation where you found out something significant about your friend that you had not known before.

Mountaineer Morality ~ 
    (1)  Rev.  Little's statement about the windows, "Sometimes a thing can't  stand to be talked about before it happens", is common of a certain type of WV wisdom.  Why do some people avoid talking about an event they would like to happen?  Why do some people avoid talking about events they do not wish to have happen?  Is this sort of avoidance bad or good or both?
    (2)  Mr. Bolt has created a nozzle out of water putty by using a little simple ingenuity, a common strategy for West Virginians.  Perhaps you can recall a time when you saw someone solve a problem by making a "tool" or process out of unusual items and a bit of common sense.

Return to the Mainpage