The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam
Chapter 29 ~ Life Is What You Make It
Discussion ~ True to its title, this chapter gives us
a health dose of philosophy as we gear up for the finale. Sonny begins
to wrap up his rocket plans, the miners go full-bore at 11 East, and other
plot lines begin to converge.
Writers' Workshop ~ the writing skills in this chapter are
concentrated on integrating philosophy with the plot lines.
Freud's Couch ~
(1) One of the basic theories in psychology
is the concept of the "collective unconscious" - the idea that human beings
contain internal "memories" of events which happened to our ancestors.
This helps explain how each generation seems to possess a bit more information
and "street smarts" than their predecessors. Rev. Little touches on
this when Sonny asks him about an afterlife, saying, "...as long as one of
us is still alive, all our spirits go on." What do you think of this
philosophy? Is it comforting to imagine that not only the things we
do but also the things we
think may continue on after us? Have you ever had the feeling that you
knew something though you could not remember having ever studied or experienced
it? Could this be part of your collective unconscious?
(2) Rev. Little remarks that Homer is may not
be who Sonny wants him to be, but that Sonny needs to see him as he really
is. Our literature abounds with stories about parents trying to
shape their children, and the children rebelling as they try to discover who
they really are. The reality is that children try to shape parents
just as frequently, making them into something they really aren't.
Try writing a vignette in which you recount a time you have tried to do that
(and most likely failed).
(3) The miners attack 11 East now with ferocity,
working side-by-side with foremen they have previously been at odds with.
This relationship is particularly personified in the conflict between Homer
and John Dubonnet. Our Author refers to the long wall as a "common enemy"
now to be defeated by all concerned. This concept is regularly at the
heart of sports competition. What are some other situations from books
you have read in which this theme plays an important role? Why do old
grievances seem forgotten when we have a common enemy to face? Why
do people seem to be stronger, fiercer, and more competitive when in such
(4) Mr. Todd gives Sonny an emotional sock
in the jaw when he says, "...a boy shouldn't think something about his father
when the truth's a whole different thing." This could actually be viewed
in a number of different ways when taken out of context, but within this
story it amplifies his next action, which is to give Sonny the Christmas presents
Homer has kept for him. These gifts, in connection to the statement,
forces Sonny to think differently about his father, though Our Author does
not dwell on it now. Why do you think he lets the issue rest for the
moment? What do the gifts tell us about Homer and his true feelings
for Sonny? Have you ever had occasion to find out a piece of information
that it wasn't yet time for you to know? How did that change your relationship
with the other person in the equation?
Mountaineer Morality ~ there is a good deal of morality in the philosophy