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.

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