The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam
Chapter 20 ~ Six Hollow
Discussion ~ Elsie takes Sonny up to Six Hollow, giving
both of them a chance to think about the nature of friendships. Six
Hollow is a poverty stricken area from which the stoop children came in Chapter
4. Both Elsie and Sonny are forced to come to grips with some serious
realities in their lives.
Writers' Workshop ~
(1) The setting is marvelous in the way it supports
the underlying themes. Make a list of all the words that are used in
this chapter to set the environment of Six Hollow. Think about how these
words also relate to the plot lines that are related to it.
(2) Another wonderful thing about this chapter
is the way it is actually a story within a story. Why would an author
introduce and (at least mostly) conclude a plot line this late in a novel?
Can you see how it ties in to plot lines we discovered earlier?
Freud's Couch ~
(1) Both Elsie and Sonny have lost something from
their lives, partly from their own negligence and partly from circumstances
beyond their control. Think of a time you have experienced this, and
write about it. Try to capture the feelings you had when you realized
that your own actions had played a role in the loss.
(2) At one point, Elsie exclaims, "Poor Henrietta,
why didn't she let me know she was leaving?" Why do you think that happened?
Shortly afterward, she adds, "I always meant to come visit her. I don't
know why I didn't." Do you think you know? (There are probably
several likely reasons.)
(3) Billy says that he is "just tired" of Sonny.
What is it that he's tired of? Have his actions been an overreaction
to Sonny's behavior in his life, or are there other factors? How must
Sonny feel about having this weight dropped at his doorstep? To make
matters worse, Elsie responds to Sonny's angst by saying, "You've been known
to get full of yourself from time to time." Do we have any evidence
that he does? How must he feel about this comment? Do you feel
sorry for Sonny that he is not getting any sympathy? Can you recall
a time when people in your
life seemed to "pile on" like this?
Mountaineer Morality ~
(1) When Elsie sees
a sign that says, "Hickam go to Hell", she remarks, "At least they spelled
it right." (meaning the family name) This is a certain type of
WV family humor, in which the intended victim turns away any anger by seeming
to accept the comment in a pleasing way. Maybe your family has similar
retorts to common insults, or maybe you can create a few situations where
such a comment might come in handy. If a "soft answer turneth away wrath",
this is the softest sort of answer.