The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam

Chapter 7 ~ Veteran's Day

Discussion ~ 
    It's one of the biggest days of the year in Coalwood, and Sonny is involved up to his elbows.  From both an individual and family standpoint, it is complex and controversial.  (I believe that at the time it would have been referred to as Armistice Day, but have to assume that the author chose the term with which most of his readers would have been familiar.)  We are treated to more foreshadowing and symbolism in reference to both Sonny and Homer.  Homer's role as a leader both within the mine and in the town are explored, as is Sonny's status relative to those roles.  Homer's situation as he is caught between the mine owners and the Union men is also explored, expanding his character development, and letting us see him more completely.  He is beginning to work excessively, adding an element of mystery to his role, because we see him now more through Sonny's interpretations than from direct interaction.  This is an excellent strategy by our author.

Writers' Workshop ~ 
     (1) The author does a wonderful job in this chapter of describing both the way that anticipation builds excitement about a major event and the way it seems to rush past you much faster than you expected.  Describe a much-anticipated event in which you participated, where the speed of the action was so great that the event itself was nearly over before you fully realized that you were involved in it.  Is there both joy and pain in such an experience?
     (2) The author creates a neat package in this chapter, with tension between Homer and Elsie at a low but palpable level throughout the entire chapter.  Look at the way in which he accomplishes this.  How many times does he hit this note?  How does he keep from overdoing it?

Freud's Couch ~ 
     (1) What is the symbolism between Sonny playing the drums and Ginger playing the flute?  What does this imply about their relationship?  Sonny compares his plan to build his connection to Ginger with his plans in building rockets.  What do you think of his analogy?
     (2) Following an "encounter" between Homer and Elsie, the two of them go up to bed in very different fashions.  What does their body language (pace and gait) say about their moods and the way they are affected by this situation?  Who do you think will "win" this clash of values?

Mountaineer Morality ~ 
     (1) When the truck pulling the Coalwood float breaks down, who gets the blame?  In many other locations, this would be considered a mere coincidence, but in West Virginia such incidents are often associated with family shame.  What do you think causes this?  How long do you think the "shame" from this will last?

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