Freud's Couch
Collected items from all chapters.

Chapter 1
     (1) All seasons of the year have traditionally had certain characteristics attached to them.  Autumn is usually seen as a time of endings and death.  Here, the author takes the completely opposite approach.  Make a list of the characteristics of the other seasons, then see if you can write a paragraph about one of them that defies the usual stereotypes as the author does here.

     (2) The author uses the snow goose as a symbol of things that do not belong to a certain time or place.  It symbolizes Sonny's feelings of being alone, even within his family and in a town as small as Coalwood.  What symbols would you use to reflect those times when you feel like you do not belong?
     (3) Do you agree with Tag Farmer's assessment that "A man who hurts his woman is a man who most of all don't like himself."?  How can we tell from people's actions that they are lacking in a strong self-concept?  How can you use that insight in your future writing?
      (4) The author closes the chapter with an expression of Sonny's mixed feelings about a variety of subjects (his grades, the pageant, rocketry, Poppy).  Have you had a time in your life when you were this overwhelmed by strong emotions on a wide variety of topics?
Chapter 2
     (5) The author does a fairly amazing thing by describing Poppy through the eyes of the young man he was when this incident occurred.  How difficult is it for us to look back in time, remembering not only how we felt at the time, but how we thought as well?  Do our judgments of others (and for that matter, ourselves) change over time?  Why?
     (6) What are Sonny's feelings about simply being present in the clinic?  Have you ever been in a place that evoked certain feelings that you were having difficulty dealing with?  Write a description of that event, recalling as much as you can about the elements that brought out those feelings.
     (7) Sonny notices that his father is acting very much out of character, displaying extreme tenderness toward Poppy.  We notice such things about our parents, especially in trying times.  Describe a time when you noticed an aspect of one of your parents' character that you had previously overlooked or ignored.
     (8) Part of Sonny's unresolved pain about this situation revolves around his desire to simply escape from a stressful situation.  Unfortunately, this desire prevents him from properly saying "good-bye" to his grandfather.  Most of us have lost someone close to us without having had the opportunity for closure.  Describe such a situation from your own life.
Chapter 3
     (9) Sonny mentions that he feels a "slight depression" from time to time.  Do you ever experience sporadic emotions that seem to have no immediate source?  When do you notice them?  Is this a common "disease" for teenagers?  Does that mean we should minimize it?
     (10) Sonny has such anxiety and ambivalence about his sadness that he cannot even pray for his own blessings.  He greatly desires to know the origin of that sadness.  Do you think you know?  Sonny is going to start keeping a list of things that might be bothering him.  Predict what you think will appear on that list.
     (11) At the end of the chapter, Sonny declares that God "was shaping us powerfully hard".  It is often said that, "God never gives us more than we can handle."  Do you think Sonny would agree with that at this point in his life?  Have you ever been under such duress that you felt that you were getting more "on your plate" than you were equipped to handle?  What did you do about it?
Chapter 5
     (12) In the conversation between Sonny and Mrs. Dantzler, he says, "I'll keep practicing."  She replies, "No you won't".  Does he mean what he says?  Why does she seem so upset?  Is she only concerned about the loss of a $2 fee?
Chapter 6
     (13) During the scene, Ginger shows up and innocently gives Sonny a hip bump.  What do you think about the innocence of such an action?  What does it foretell about the plot?
     (14) We also see that Dreama reacts very differently to males and females.  Why do you think this is so?  What does it tell you about her personality or character?
     (15) Cleo Mallett and Elsie have distinctly different ways of looking at Dreama.  What clues does the author give us about why this is so?  What other factors do you think play into their differing opinions?  What does the author accomplish by giving us these very different viewpoints?
Chapter 7
     (16) 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?
     (17) 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?
Chapter 8
     (18) The fence-line gossips take a small incident and find a way to attach to it everything they hold against the Hickams.  What is their motivation for doing so?  What do they hope to gain by being so mean?  How would you expect Homer and Elsie to react when they hear of such gossip?  Have you ever participated in this type of "gripe session"?  Were your motivations any different?
    (19) Elsie plans the Christmas pageant as her "comeback", but Sonny refuses to participate in any way.  Near the end of the chapter he asks a very personal, but universal question, "Was this a part of growing up, wanting to hurt the people who loved me the most?"  Well, what do you think?  Have you ever felt this way?  What are the ramifications of behaving in such a way?  Can we ever fully recover all the elements of our relationship with our parents after an incident like this?  In some strange way, do parents actually expect us to behave thus?
    (20) Sonny acknowledges that thoughts of Poppy might be making him feel maudlin at this traditionally festive time of year.  I would also admit to uneasy feelings near the anniversaries of my parents' deaths.  Why do we associate certain times of the year with these losses?  How long would you expect such feelings to last?  How might we remedy these feelings?
    (21) Why do you think Billy Rose is so defensive with Sonny about the rocket? (Look for several elements.)
    (22) Elsie confides to Sonny that she has lost many friendships due to Homer's role at the mine.  Why has this happened to her?  Why does he feel so uncomfortable having a parent share adult concerns with him?  How do you feel when your parents discuss adult issues with you?
    (23) Coach Gainer serves his role (philosopher who contributes insight) when he says, "A woman's mildness will provoke a man's guilt far better than ever her wrath."  What exactly does he mean by this?  How does it apply in this situation?  Is he correct?  (It is a WV trait to state simple philosophical truths in formal, nearly Biblical, verbiage.  Why do you think that is?)
    (24) In another very personal, revealing comment, Sonny observes that Daisy Mae can find "tranquillity after disappointment", expressing doubt that he will ever be like that.  Do you understand what he means by this?  How are you likely to respond after such disappointments?  How do you think his prediction has turned out?  Did Sonny ever find a way to find tranquillity after disappointment?  Could there be any positive applications of this personality trait?
Chapter 9
    (25) 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?
    (26) 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?
    (27) 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?
    (28) 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?
Chapter 10
    (29) Mr. Dubonnet reckons that Homer is a "good man" but not a "fair man".  What do you think of his reasons for saying this?  Why does he make the distinction?  Is the distinction valid?
    (30) Sonny, finding Homer asleep on the stairs, declares that he cannot talk to his father about the mine "in any form."  Why is this?  Must fathers and sons always have these major issues between them about which they cannot talk?  What effect does that have on their relationship?
    (31) Sonny closes the chapter by referring to himself as the "unforgiven son".  How many different elements have brought him to this point?  Considering all the elements you have noticed, is his despair well-founded?  Is any son ever truly unforgiven by his father?
Chapter 11
    (32)  Sonny adds several things to his list in this chapter.  What things do you think he is leaving out at this point?  What do you expect him to add in the near future?  What would be on your list?
    (33)  Elsie asks an astounding question in this chapter; "Why is it, I can't have at least one thing in my house I love?"  Though she is in obvious pain, the implications of her words are far-reaching and devastating.  Sonny is definitely hurt by these words, but has no response (nor, likely, would we).  Recall a time when someone you care about (or maybe yourself) uttered such a thing.  Try to be as descriptive as possible about the emotions and thoughts that were generated by those words.
    (34)  Sonny also has to "take the rap" for an incident that may have been beyond his control.  Do you think he is a responsible as everyone wants him to be?  He seems to have expected to get the blame, but do you think his expectation reached to this extent?
    (35)  Sonny finds self pity addictive, but insufficient to resolve his problems or soothe the accompanying sense of doom he has.  You have probably indulged in self pity at some point in your life.  Describe such a time, with emphasis on the elements above.  Did you find the tactic fulfilling?  Did it have unexpected side-effects or consequences?  Did it, in fact, resolve any problems or assuage your gloomy feelings?

Chapter 12
    (36)  Elsie expresses a desire to go somewhere that Homer can't mine anymore.  Do you think this has anything to do with her feelings about Poppy?  In her mind, how does the mine represent both everything good in her life, and everything bad?
    (37)  In this chapter, Sonny looks back over his list and decides that he can "cure" at least one problem on it through active intervention.  What do you think of his chances?  How "curable" are such problems? 

Chapter 13
    (38A)  Sonny says (with no small measure of satisfaction and gloating), "All that bragging that Dad had done over the years about Jim and never about me was going to come back at both of them now."  Why has Homer been much more openly proud of Jim than of Sonny over the years?  Is the disparity in praise as great as Sonny thinks?  Why is he happy to see both his dad and Jim embarrassed?  Are younger children more likely to have such emotions than the eldest child?  How does Jim probably see the situation?  How do we expect Homer to really feel about Jim's announcement?
    (39B)  Relative to the above, write about situations in your own home in which sibling rivalry leads to conflict between the children and also with the parents.  Develop a future situation which would lead your parents to see your strengths while minimizing your sibling or siblings' accomplishments.
Chapter 15
In this chapter, it really becomes Tag Farmer's couch.  He provides great insight into human nature by his observations about several characters.
    (40)  Why is Dreama going back with Cuke?  What does it say about her motivations and self-concept that she is willing to do so?  Why is she so desperate to belong in Coalwood?  Have you ever felt extremely desperate to belong to a group or situation?
    (41)  Cleo Mallett  is predicted to keep trying to drive Dreama away.  Why is Cleo so motivated to do so?  What is so unlikeable about Dreama that Cleo would feel this way?  Have you ever been driven out of a group by someone like this?  Have you ever tried to oust someone else?  Why can't we just let people be?
    (42)  Tag warns Sonny not to hang out with the Junior Engineers.  Where does he imagine that might lead?  Why does he care about the directions Sonny might take?  Why would he imagine that Sonny is intrigued by the Junior Engineers anyway?
    (43)  When Tag says that Sonny and Ginger make a "cute couple" has he finally missed the mark?  When Sonny replies that they are "just friends" is he wrong?  Why do people use these terms?  How often are those term simply wrong?

Chapter 16
    (44)  Elsie refuses to help Dreama get her tooth fixed, in what seems to be a reversal of opinion.  Though she admits that it's mean not to help, she agrees with Cleo on this subject.  Why is she taking this stance?  What does she consider unacceptable about Dreama?  What does she probably think about Sonny's interest in this situation?
    (45)  Roy Lee puts a humorous spin on the fascinating subject of Melba's figure.  (If you do not know the song "Brazil", you should look it up on-line.)  In spite of that, how do you think the two boys (Roy Lee and Sonny) look at Melba differently?  As the chapter title implies, what is Roy Lee actually "lamenting"?  Do you think the two boys are too interested in Melba's shape?

Chapter 17
    (46)  Encountering a starving fawn causes Sonny to express affection that he seemed to be lacking in relation to Poppy.  Does this represent a change in Sonny's character?  Why does he seem more concerned about an animal than about his "own blood"?  Have you had a time when two seemingly different situations engendered the same feelings in you, causing you to see a connection you had missed earlier?
    (47)  Finding it difficult to think of how his father had been as a child causes Sonny to say, "I couldn't imagine him any other way than the way he was."  Though it is a problem for most of us, a good author must be able to imagine people and situations differently than they have seen them.  Write a passage about one of your parents or grandparents when they were children.  Imagine how they must have looked, spoken, and acted.

Chapter 18
    (48)  Each of the girls who are mentioned in this chapter have a role to play in Sonny's personal life.  Freud implied that most of our relationships with members of the opposite gender have some bearing on our development as sexual creatures.  Make a list of all of the females mentioned in this chapter, and describe how they relate to Sonny's psychosexual development.
    (49)  Dorothy uses a "magic phrase" that creates a variety of emotional responses in Sonny.  Make a list of all the reactions he has to these three words.  Can you think of other "magic phrases" that cause people to have a variety of emotions?

Chapter 19
    (50)  Sonny is somewhat bemused that Rev. Schrieber seems more concerned with the starving people in Africa than those in Coalwood.  Do you think Sonny's interpretation is correct?  Why do some people seem to be better able to focus on problems that are far away (either geographically or chronologically) than those that are quite present?  Why is Sonny so deeply concerned about this issue?
    (51)  Elsie gives Doc Hale "permission" to fix Dreama's tooth, justifying it by saying that being the Superintendent's wife "does have its moments".  Why is she taking such satisfaction in this particular good deed?  Is it worth her using some of her influence in order to make it happen?  Would we characterize Elsie as "power mad"?  What does it say about Elsie that she is willing to spend her "political capital" on something seems to have nothing to do with her or her family?  (or am I missing something?)
    (52)  Regarding supplies he needs from the mines for his church windows, Rev. Richard says, "Ol' Homer usually comes through after some foot dragging just to show you he don't have to do it.  Guess you know how that goes."  Do you know how that goes?  Does Sonny?  What does Homer gain from this sort of action?
    (53)  Rev. Richard shows off his psychological insight when Sonny asks about the relationship between Dreama and Cuke.  "A man can't hit a woman and stay a man.  He becomes a loathsome thing, even to himself.  But the woman who stays with such a man panders to his darkness.  They both risk their souls."  What do you think of the various elements of this philosophy?  It doesn't seem to actually explain the behaviors, but what insights does it give us?
    (54)  Sonny realizes in this chapter that even though he considers fellow Rocket Boy O'Dell a friend, he has never been to O'Dell's house, and there is much about this friend that he doesn't know.  What does this say about their friendship?  Do you have such friends?  Is this sort of relationship far more common today than it used to be?  Perhaps you can recall a similar situation where you found out something significant about your friend that you had not known before
Chapter 20
    (55)  Both Elsie and Sonny have lost something from their lives, partly from their own negligence and partly from circumstances beyond their control.  Think of a time you have experienced this, and write about it.  Try to capture the feelings you had when you realized that your own actions had played a role in the loss.
    (56)  At one point, Elsie exclaims, "Poor Henrietta, why didn't she let me know she was leaving?"  Why do you think that happened?  Shortly afterward, she adds, "I always meant to come visit her.  I don't know why I didn't."  Do you think you know?  (There are probably several likely reasons.)
    (57)  Billy says that he is "just tired" of Sonny.  What is it that he's tired of?  Have his actions been an overreaction to Sonny's behavior in his life, or are there other factors?  How must Sonny feel about having this weight dropped at his doorstep?  To make matters worse, Elsie responds to Sonny's angst by saying, "You've been known to get full of yourself from time to time."  Do we have any evidence that he does?  How must he feel about this comment?  Do you feel sorry for Sonny that he is not getting any sympathy?  Can you recall a time when people in your life seemed to "pile on" like this?

Chapter 21
     (58)   Tag Farmer relates that Dreama had told him that "she just wanted to be a Coalwood girl."  What characteristics do you think Dreama ascribes to "Coalwood Girls"?  Why does she want to be like them?  What would she achieve by this?
Chapter 22
     (59)   What is really at the heart of Sonny's aggravation about Tug & Hug Yates being considered "Rocket Boys"?  How is this offset (or complicated) by Quentin's analysis that Sonny is a "prig"? 
     (60)   Sherman brings in another poignant point when he reflects that this is really the guys' last Christmas because when you leave Coalwood, you're not really a Coalwood Boy anymore - you're not actually part of the town.  This serves to remind all of us of the rites of passage that change our status in the world.  When we change schools, teams, neighborhoods, and even towns or states, some sort of transformation prevents us from ever being the same again.  It is why Thomas Wolfe says, "You can't go home again."  You should be able to recall at least one instance in your life when you returned to a place that was special to you at one time only to find that the relationship had changed so much that you no longer felt that you belonged.  Be sure to consider whether the place has changed, or whether it is changes within you that are most significant to the change in the relationship, or some combination of both.

Chapter 23
     (61)   For much of this chapter, John Dubonnet acts as though he is the one who owns and runs the mine, prompting some pretty strong emotions from Sonny especially (and maybe some disdain from Jake).   Can you "analyze" a bit how the Union organizer might come to think such a thing in this situation?  What motivates him to be so strong in his opinions?  When you hear about his romantic feelings does it change your opinion of his motivations any?  John thinks the loyalty of the miners lies with him, but Sonny knows it really lies with Homer.  Why do you think this is so?
Chapter 24
     (62)   When Elsie announces that she has decided not to go to Myrtle Beach, Sonny is elated, but Elsie seems to have some bitterness about it.  This provides us with two insights into human psychology that make for interesting plot turns.  Elsie has done what she knows she must do, even though it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth.  We all must make decisions sometimes that we regret or resent, and the knowledge that we have done what we must does not make the decision any easier.  What thoughts do you imagine are going through Elsie's mind?  Conversely, Sonny is pleased by her decision (since it meets his needs and satisfies his desires) even though he must know that Elsie is less than fully satisfied by her choice.  We often fail to see fully the view of others when their decision results in our getting what we want.  Is Sonny being selfish in this regard?  Either of these scenarios would make a nice segment of a short story for your notebook.
     (63)   Elsie tries to make Sonny feel better about his conflicts with Homer, particularly as they revolve around Poppy.  She points out that Homer has difficulty expressing his deepest feelings, especially to Sonny, or to admit that he has been wrong in his interpretations of events.  Perhaps this sounds like someone you know.  These kinds of emotional character qualities help to make literary characters much more real to the reader.
     (64)   In response to Sonny's aggravation that Elsie has read his "list" of concerns, Elsie responds that, "Parents can do any dang thing they want if it's to make sure their kids get brought up right."  It should be easy to see that this statement is both highly defensible and an obvious violation of Sonny's rights.  Since this is a situation that almost every teen has experienced, you could write about a time when this happened to you - how you felt about it and what you said and did.  Our Author assumes that you have been through such a situation, because he expects you to identify with Sonny without a complete explanation of that character's feelings.
     (65)   Elsie reveals that she once felt about Big Creek kids the way Sonny had about the kids from Welch (until he met them).  She relates a story of how she gained her "revenge" when her basketball team from Gary whipped the "snooty" bunch from Big Creek and taught them a lesson.  Sports often exaggerates our differences with opponents from other geographic, social, or economic regions and provides motivation to prove ourselves better in some tangible way than those with whom we compete.  Perhaps you have a story from your own experience in which you encountered "the enemy" and "taught them a lesson."

Chapter 26
     (66)   Sonny briefly mentions that he has asked Melba to the Prom.  What do you think were his reasons and motivations for doing so?  An old saying goes that if we "act in haste" we shall "repent at leisure".  Do you think this saying applies here?  How can you imagine this playing into the remainder of the story?
     (67)   Following the car disaster, Roy Lee tells Sonny, "You're just not hero material."  Is this statement true, or does it only apply to certain types of heroes?  What are the characteristics of a hero in a story like this one?  Is Sonny the de facto hero because he ends up writing the story?  Is Sonny a different kind of hero than Roy Lee is visualizing?  As a writer, how do you make your main character both heroic and unheroic at the same time?
     (68)   Roy Lee also provides a little birth-order philosophy when Sonny asks if his parents like Jim better.  What do you think of his analysis?  Where do you fit in your family's birth order?  How would you characterize the special feelings that come with being a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, middle, last, or 12th child in a family?  Understanding the issues attendant to such positions makes the characters you write about more believable.
Chapter 27
     (69)   As the chapter opens, Sonny ponders Roy Lee's opinions from the previous chapter, waxing poetic as he describes his "heart in the icy cold vise of truth where hearts tend to suffer".  Why is he being so dramatic in his word usage?  Have you ever experienced this sort of feeling?
     (70)   Sonny gives us some pretty deep philosophy when he rejects Rev. Little's interpretation, and says, "It was History, not God, at the control of the great Potter's Wheel and it ground without cease, thought, or remorse."   Up to now, Sonny seems to have demonstrated some fairly stable religious values - why does he seem to reject them at this point?  As you think deeply about it, is he actually rejecting those values?  What difference does it make, philosophically, whether it is History or God at the controls?
     (71)   Everyone's troubles seem momentarily suspended by the wedding.  Why do certain events seem to make life better for everyone touched by them?  How long does that effect last?  Are the emotions of the wedding attendees exacerbated by the many issues that are creating tension in Coalwood?  (Evidence)
     (72)   So, who did write "The Book of Love"?  Though human beings in general and teenagers in particular celebrate individuality, we can easily see that people of certain age groups follow many unwritten rules when engaged in certain activities (like romance).  Is this evidence of "human nature", coincidence, or are there other forces at work here?  An action that would make sense would be for Sonny to break his date with Melba (she's attractive and has plenty of time to get another date) so he could go to the Prom with Ginger (who he has much greater affection for anyway).  What unwritten rules would this break?  Would Sonny be a "bad guy" for doing so?  [Would you love to find the right Big Creek yearbook from the 50's to see who Sonny actually went to Prom with?  And then speculate who is the character known as Ginger?]
     (73)   Sonny closes the chapter with a tremendous emotional outburst that is rather embarrassing.  It essentially revolves around his feeling that he has not earned the respect of his father.  Would such an emotional outburst be likely to engender respect?  Is it a universal desire of boys to earn their father's respect?  I remember the actor Burt Reynolds once explaining that much of his bad behavior as a young man came because he never felt that his father viewed him with any respect, and claimed, "In the South, you're never really a man until your father tells you that you are."  Can such a thing really hold true?  If so, what happens to boys whose fathers die young?

Chapter 28
     (74)   Sonny is surprised to discover that Jim has indeed not quit school.  Jim relates his conversation with Homer, who has told him, "Hickam's never quit.  It isn't in us to quit."  While this may be true of the Hickams (and is certainly part of Mountaineer Morality), what family would admit that they are quitters?  Why do people cling so firmly to these kinds of "truths"?  What are some other "truths" you can think of?  How might you have characters in your writing admit to the opposite of these truths in order to create dramatic tension?
     (75)   It is noted several times in this book (and other of Our Author's writings) that Teachers define Coalwood society.  In this chapter, Mary Alice Cox states, "An ignorant mind can be tolerated as long as it is silent."  This is very representative of "old time" teachers.  Have you had any such teachers in your life?  Do teachers still "define society" the way they did in Our Author's schooldays?  Do they define it in any different ways?  What favorite sayings do some of your own teachers have that would be useful to you in your future writing?

Chapter 29
     (76)   One of the basic theories in psychology is the concept of the "collective unconscious" - the idea that human beings contain internal "memories" of events which happened to our ancestors.  This helps explain how each generation seems to possess a bit more information and "street smarts" than their predecessors.  Rev. Little touches on this when Sonny asks him about an afterlife, saying, " long as one of us is still alive, all our spirits go on."  What do you think of this philosophy?  Is it comforting to imagine that not only the things we do but also the things we think may continue on after us?  Have you ever had the feeling that you knew something though you could not remember having ever studied or experienced it?  Could this be part of your collective unconscious?
     (77)   Rev. Little remarks that Homer is may not be who Sonny wants him to be, but that Sonny needs to see him as he really is.   Our literature abounds with stories about parents trying to shape their children, and the children rebelling as they try to discover who they really are.  The reality is that children try to shape parents just as frequently, making them into something they really aren't.  Try writing a vignette in which you recount a time you have tried to do that (and most likely failed).
     (78)   The miners attack 11 East now with ferocity, working side-by-side with foremen they have previously been at odds with.  This relationship is particularly personified in the conflict between Homer and John Dubonnet.  Our Author refers to the long wall as a "common enemy" now to be defeated by all concerned.  This concept is regularly at the heart of sports competition.  What are some other situations from books you have read in which this theme plays an important role?  Why do old grievances seem forgotten when we have a common enemy to face?  Why do people seem to be stronger, fiercer, and more competitive when in such situations?
     (79)   Mr. Todd gives Sonny an emotional sock in the jaw when he says, "...a boy shouldn't think something about his father when the truth's a whole different thing."  This could actually be viewed in a number of different ways when taken out of context, but within this story it amplifies his next action, which is to give Sonny the Christmas presents Homer has kept for him.  These gifts, in connection to the statement, forces Sonny to think differently about his father, though Our Author does not dwell on it now.  Why do you think he lets the issue rest for the moment?  What do the gifts tell us about Homer and his true feelings for Sonny?  Have you ever had occasion to find out a piece of information that it wasn't yet time for you to know?  How did that change your relationship with the other person in the equation?

Chapter 31
     (80)   Sonny admits that he doesn't think he is a quitter anymore, to which Elsie responds, "I'm not surprised.  You boys don't know a thing about quitting.  I guess you haven't seen enough of it to learn."  Are you surprised?  Elsie implies here that quitting may be a learned behavior.  What is your position on that?  If it's genetic (nature, rather than nurture), how would a person overcome it?  (or would they be like a character in a Greek tragedy, doomed to fail because they couldn't avoid their "quit" gene?)
     (81)   Elsie thinks it's a good day to "do the impossible".  Is there really any such thing, or is she only saying this because she has chosen this day for an "impossible" task?  Can a thing be considered "impossible" if one may simply determine to do it?  What will happen if Elsie or Sonny fail in their impossible task?

Chapter 32
     (82)   Why does the finale include a trip down to Rev. Little's church?  Is it simply to close one more plot line, or is there more to it than that?  Does it serve at all to show us how different people celebrate differently?  Are the differences really all that pronounced in Coalwood, or does this scene help to show how similar people are?
     (83)   Sonny wistfully appreciates being a boy "...whose mother loved him enough to give him the gift of inspired vexations so that he could rise above his own petty ones."  The insight here is staggering.  How many teenagers realize that most of what irritates them is really insignificant?  How many of any of us can be appreciative of those who irritate us, even when it produces something useful?  (I am reminded here of the analogy of the grain of sand in the oyster.  If you don't understand that analogy, look it up.)  How many of us are willing to grant the people in our lives the honor of recognizing their important roles in shaping us, especially when the thing they provide is vexing?  Who in your life provides the "inspired vexations" you need to become the best person possible?

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