The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam

Chapter 28 ~ Once Like the Beautiful Snow

Discussion ~ Crises abound as our story rushes toward its conclusion.  Shocking events create unique situations that tie all the plot lines together.

Writers' Workshop ~ 
     (1)   The title of this chapter seems very literary, and I cannot help but imagine that it is an allusion to something that would provide us a little insight.  Maybe a little research on your part would uncover the meaning of it.
     (2)   Our Author once again takes a simple, seemingly innocent occurrence and turns it into a wonderful pivot point for reinforcing the storyline.  Sonny tries his first cup of coffee (now that he's feeling all grown up and everything) and finds it disgusting.  Elsie comments, "What sometimes smells sweet tastes bitter in the trying."  Obviously, she is referring to the coffee, but there is also an allusion to something else.  What is it?  Why does Our Author feel the need to reinforce, even subtly, that idea at this point in the story?  (Notice also that he does it with great economy of words, as always.)  What simple, everyday event might you be able to use for similar story pivots?
     (3)   The final scene of the chapter, Sonny realizes that he knows the solution to a major new problem that has been created - the need for a good powder man.  It is a moment of clarity, and one which allows Sonny to be useful and relevant.  Then, Our Author leaves us dangling as to the resolution.  It's a great, suspenseful way to end the chapter.  Do you think you know who Sonny has in mind?  What is the value of ending a chapter in this way?

Freud's Couch ~
     (1)   Sonny is surprised to discover that Jim has indeed not quit school.  Jim relates his conversation with Homer, who has told him, "Hickam's never quit.  It isn't in us to quit."  While this may be true of the Hickams (and is certainly part of Mountaineer Morality), what family would admit that they are quitters?  Why do people cling so firmly to these kinds of "truths"?  What are some other "truths" you can think of?  How might you have characters in your writing admit to the opposite of these truths in order to create dramatic tension?
     (2)   It is noted several times in this book (and other of Our Author's writings) that Teachers define Coalwood society.  In this chapter, Mary Alice Cox states, "An ignorant mind can be tolerated as long as it is silent."  This is very representative of "old time" teachers.  Have you had any such teachers in your life?  Do teachers still "define society" the way they did in Our Author's schooldays?  Do they define it in any different ways?  What favorite sayings do some of your own teachers have that would be useful to you in your future writing?

Mountaineer Morality ~  Nothing additional to the above.

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