The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam
Chapter 3 ~ In All My Born Days
It is fall of 1959, and
Sonny is beginning his Senior year at Big Creek High. He introduces
his "sadness" theme here, as well as Quentin, his unique and eccentric friend,
and Reverend Julius "Little" Richard, a pivotal character in the story.
It is "Little" who injects the theme of the Potter's Wheel into the story.
We also find Homer with a crisis at the mine, a situation that reveals much
about his character and values.
Writers' Workshop ~
(1) Though the author
is never showy in his vocabulary, he also refuses to "dumb down" conversations
or characters in order to make them more simplistic. Here, Elsie quotes
their preacher by saying, "Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies."
To which Homer replies, "What in Sam Hill does that mean?" Look up
the definition of "edify" and see if you can fully explain just what she
means by this.
(2) What is the source
of the title of this chapter? How does it relate to the part of the
story told here?
Freud's Couch ~
(1) Sonny mentions that
he feels a "slight depression" from time to time. Do you ever experience
sporadic emotions that seem to have no immediate source? When do you
notice them? Is this a common "disease" for teenagers? Does that
mean we should minimize it?
(2) Sonny has such anxiety
and ambivalence about his sadness that he cannot even pray for his own blessings.
He greatly desires to know the origin of that sadness. Do you think
you know? Sonny is going to start keeping a list of things that might
be bothering him. Predict what you think will appear on that list.
(3) At the end of the
chapter, Sonny declares that God "was shaping us powerfully hard".
It is often said that, "God never gives us more than we can handle."
Do you think Sonny would agree with that at this point in his life?
Have you ever been under such duress that you felt that you were getting
more "on your plate" than you were equipped to handle? What did you
do about it?
says that West Virginians just don't come out and admit that they have a
problem, because that would be "pitiful". What is the rationale behind
such a philosophy? Is it better to adopt this approach, or to be more
open with one's difficulties? Which is more interesting in a story
(2) Rev. Little reads
Sonny the story of the Potter's Wheel from the book of Jeremiah even though
he certainly knows the passage perfectly from memory. This reminds
us again that in WV it is a sin to be too proud of one's knowledge.
Why does the author keep emphasizing this point? Does our current society
punish hubris or glorify it?