The Coalwood Way
by Homer Hickam

Chapter 9 ~ The Coalwood Sky

Discussion ~ 
    Quentin expresses disappointment in Sonny's insufficiency in being rigorous, which Sonny adds to the viable reasons for his personal "pity party".  The guys develop "water putty" as a solution to one problem, and Quentin "invents" TANG.  New characters are introduced, leaving us with all sorts of questions about the roles they will play.

Writers' Workshop ~ 
     (1) The author gives us only a quick flash on the subject of Billy, which we sense to be an important story line, but Sonny is busy at the time and pays little attention.  Why do we get so little information here?  What is your prediction about where this plot line is headed? (Be assured that our author never drops a plot line carelessly, nor loses track of one.)
     (2) Jake Moseby, Gerhard, and Dieter are introduced in this chapter.  There are a variety of reasons (some positive, some negative) for introducing characters this far into a book.  Write down as many as you can think of.
     (3) Good writers create not only visual images with their words, but also emotional context as well.  What are the feelings engendered when Dieter says, "We help him at 11 East"?  In what direction do you expect this revelation to take the story?

Freud's Couch ~ 
     (1) Quentin suggests that Sonny resolve his emotional issues by making a list of things that bother him.  (This will also serve the author's purposes, as he will be able to continue reminding us of important plot lines.)  How effective a strategy do you think this is for remedying emotional distress?  Do you have any personal experience with this strategy?
     (2) Our beloved author says, "It was not in the nature of the people of Coalwood to look up at the sky."  What is the symbolism implied in this?  How does this connect with John Bunyan's and Teddy Roosevelt's reflections on "muckrakers"?  What is the effect of the Rocket Boys on this habit?
     (3) In reference to Jake, Elsie says he "loves that mine as much as your dad."  Considering that Jake and Homer are so radically different in every other way, how can this be possible?
     (4) Will "leaving Coalwood" end up on Sonny's list?  Why do we behave differently when approaching a "rite of passage" in our lives?  Have you noticed your relationships changing as you get closer to leaving for college?

Mountaineer Morality ~ 
     (1) The author states, "It was a WV custom to be curious, but to never go past a rebuke."  Once again, what exactly does he mean by this?  Are both parts of it still true?  Why are both elements necessary in order for the statement to have some uniqueness for Mountaineers?

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