The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam

Chapter 4 ~ The Stoop Children

Discussion ~ 
    The time frame has moved to Halloween, but the spirit is anything but light.  The retreating charity of the Company reflects the harsh economic times that have befallen Coalwood.  The author exposes us to the painful reality of life in the coal towns following the Second World War - there has been no "Baby Boom".  Men who got out via the military had stayed out, finding other means of making a living than mining coal.  No one in Coalwood seems to begrudge them their opportunities, but those people no longer seem to exist in the "real" world.  We are made aware of two of the book's themes in this short chapter, proving that good things come in small packages.  The stoop children are the desperately poor, a class never really seen in Coalwood before.  (Ironic, since coal towns are generally considered to be economically depressed.)  Homer is overheard having a "plan", but Sonny is left entirely to his imagination to figure out what it might be (and so are we).

Writers' Workshop ~ 
     (1) Sonny gets his first exposure to the different economic classes in his small community.  What signs exist in your community of either growth or deterioration?  How could you write about them to affect an audience the way the author does here?
     (2) Perhaps you have overheard a conversation in your life that was altered because you ignored or did not hear certain significant parts.  How did (or could have) the situation turn out?  Maybe you could draw on it to create a humorous, wistful, or even painful literary situation.
     (3) This is the first really short chapter in the book.  What do you think the author is trying to accomplish by putting so little information in a chapter?  Would he have been better served to put this information in either the previous or succeeding chapters?  What do you expect to happen in the next chapter?

Freud's Couch ~  no items for this chapter.

Mountaineer Morality ~  no items for this chapter.

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