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 ~ 
     (1)   Insecurity 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?  

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