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
(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.