The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam
Chapter 30 ~ The Coalwood Way
Discussion ~ As we move closer to a conclusion, this
chapter gives us an interesting lesson in mine economics. As everyone
celebrates the opening of a major seam of coal at 11 East, John Dubonnet
reminds us that production may increase, but employment is likely to decrease,
since much of the new work will be done by machinery. Jake, who is
a bit younger and may be cognizant of more up-to-date practices thinks that
hiring may actually increase. Thus ends one of the major plot lines
of our story, allowing us more energy to focus on other important issues
- like the pageant, and prom dates.
Writers' Workshop ~
(1) Why does our Author choose to use the
book's title for a chapter title at this point in the book? What elements
in this chapter are part of "the Coalwood way" of doing things?
(2) Why does our Author tell us that things
would have happened differently in "a place other than Coalwood"? Does
he do Coalwood an injustice in saying this? When he talks about such
a place, is he actually referring to some literary paradise that doesn't actually
exist in real life? Is he helping us to see the relationships of the
characters more clearly by setting the situation this way?
(3) Our Author gives us several marvelous
moments in a ridiculously short chapter. One comes when Sonny ponders
his father's success at 11 East. "Other men would sort it out, maybe
even decide he shouldn't have done it, but he had gone after his dream and
grabbed it with both hands. What could be more glorious than that?"
The way our Author puts it, not much. Reread this passage several times
until you are as astounded by it as you can be. Do these sound like
the words of a quitter? Is there any doubt left about whether Homer
is a quitter? See if you can write a passage about 1 or 2 people you
know who have persevered in a way that must be considered noble.
(4) As the chapter closes, our Author gives
us one of the best sentences of the entire (or any) book. "Together,
father and second son, we shuffled along the path of glory toward the light
in the Captain's house on the corner." How many different symbols does
the author use here? (make a list of them) The use of multiple imagery
like this is almost always a key to good writing. Why is this line
used right at the chapter's end?
Freud's Couch ~ the above are sufficient to this task
for this chapter.
Mountaineer Morality ~
about the future is also a part of the West Virginia way. Another old
saying refers to people who, "can't stand prosperity", and West Virginians
are often susceptible to that. As John Dubonnet and Jake wrestle over
whether the strike at 11 East will do good or harm for the miners of Coalwood,
Homer seems essentially successful in that he has set a goal and achieved
it, no matter the cost. Why would a group of people have difficulty
accepting their success as being something good? Does success or accomplishment
of a task always bring happiness?