“The Sweet Hereafter” Novel Questions

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QUESTION 1

Read the poem which follows and select the emotions and imagery of a parent’s perspective on a child’s death that also appear in The Sweet Hereafter (you can choose more than one).

“Luna Rayne” by Susan Michalski

I hold this tiny thought

in my fist

if my moon girl could

she’d dance

through the storm puddles

left behind

in my next dream

and sing like rain

on canvas

for one brilliant moment

as I recall

The lonely image of the moon

The feeling of anger like a fist

The feeling of being in a dream

The feeling of living in memories

The feeling of joy one has when dancing

QUESTION 2

Read the poem which follows and select the symbols and imagery of death that also appear in The Sweet Hereafter. (you can choose more than one).

“Absence” by Amy Lowell

My cup is empty to-night,

Cold and dry are its sides,

Chilled by the wind from the open window.

Empty and void, it sparkles white in the moonlight.

The room is filled with the strange scent

Of wisteria blossoms.

They sway in the moon’s radiance

And tap against the wall.

But the cup of my heart is still,

And cold, and empty.

When you come, it brims

Red and trembling with blood,

Heart’s blood for your drinking;

To fill your mouth with love

And the bitter-sweet taste of a soul.

The cold

The darkness

The color red

The sweetness

The empty cup

QUESTION 3

Read the poem which follows and select the emotions and imagery of an outsider’s perspective of death that also appear in The Sweet Hereafter. (you can choose more than one).

“There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House” by Emily Dickinson

There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House,

As lately as Today —

I know it, by the numb look

Such Houses have — always —

The Neighbors rustle in and out —

The Doctor — drives away —

A Window opens like a Pod —

Abrupt — mechanically —

Somebody flings a Mattress out —

The Children hurry by —

They wonder if it died — on that —

I used to — when a Boy —

The Minister — goes stiffly in —

As if the House were His —

And He owned all the Mourners — now —

And little Boys — besides —

And then the Milliner — and the Man

Of the Appalling Trade —

To take the measure of the House —

There’ll be that Dark Parade —

Of Tassels — and of Coaches — soon —

It’s easy as a Sign —

The Intuition of the News —

In just a Country Town —

The image of the undertaker

The numbness of the bereaved

The curiosity of the children

The image of the casket and the procession

Survivors looking to the church for comfort

QUESTION 4

Read the poem which follows and select the emotions and imagery of an outsider’s perspective of death that also appear in The Sweet Hereafter. (you can choose more than one).

“Every Death Is Magic from the Enemy to Be Avenged” by Brooks Haxton

When fever burned the last light out of my daughter’s eyes,

I swore to find and kill the ones to blame. Men

must mount the long boat in the dark with spears.

At dawn, where the flowering spicebush hid my scent,

I crouched. A young wife, newborn slung across her chest,

came first for spring water. She stooped. My god,

for vengeance, spoke her secret name inside my ear. Her god

stepped back with no scream, his right hand at his mouth,

the knuckles clenched between the pointed teeth.

The idea of secrets being told

The idea of assigning blame

The image of the flowering bush

The image of the pointy teeth

The image of the newborn

QUESTION 5

In The Sweet Hereafter, why is the accident scene described only in similes – “bearing down on me like a wall of water” – and surreal images – “the sky tipped and veered away and the ground lurched brutally forward?”

A description of the accident would be too graphic and brutal for most readers

None of the characters can remember the accident well enough to tell it

It is too hard to write a graphic description of an automobile wreck

A graphic description of the accident would not serve the themes, plot, or characters

QUESTION 6

Which lines from The Sweet Hereafter do the following lines (see stanza 5 in bold typeface) from the Emily Dickinson poem relate most closely to?

“There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House” by Emily Dickinson
There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House,

As lately as Today —

I know it, by the numb look

Such Houses have — always —
The Neighbors rustle in and out —

The Doctor — drives away —

A Window opens like a Pod —

Abrupt — mechanically —
Somebody flings a Mattress out —

The Children hurry by —

They wonder if it died — on that —

I used to — when a Boy —
The Minister — goes stiffly in —

As if the House were His —

And He owned all the Mourners — now —

And little Boys — besides —
And then the Milliner — and the Man
Of the Appalling Trade —
To take the measure of the House —
There’ll be that Dark Parade —Of Tassels — and of Coaches — soon —

It’s easy as a Sign —

The Intuition of the News —

In just a Country Town —

“‘Show me my room, Daddy.’…it was all very nice like my own apartment.”

“The pallbearers stepped forward…and took their posts by the caskets.”

“The girl has done us all, every single person in town, a valuable service.”

“Angry? Yes I’m angry; I’d be a lousy lawyer if I wasn’t.”

QUESTION 7

In The Sweet Hereafter and the following poem, what does the newborn symbolize?

“Every Death Is Magic from the Enemy to Be Avenged” by Brooks Haxton
When fever burned the last light out of my daughter’s eyes,

I swore to find and kill the ones to blame. Men

must mount the long boat in the dark with spears.

At dawn, where the flowering spicebush hid my scent,

I crouched. A young wife, newborn slung across her chest,

came first for spring water. She stooped. My god,

for vengeance, spoke her secret name inside my ear. Her god

stepped back with no scream, his right hand at his mouth,

the knuckles clenched between the pointed teeth.

Death is not evil.

Innocence of childhood

The continuing cycle of life and death

The children that will never be born

QUESTION 8

In section four, which of the following is the extended metaphor for Nichole’s mental state.

The room her father built her from the sunroom

The wheel chair she sits in

The computer from Mr. Stephens

The teddy bear from her childhood

QUESTION 9

Match each kind of figurative language from a poem with the same kind of figurative language from the novel The Sweet Hereafter.

      –

          1. “The skeleton of the Ferris wheel…called out to me”

          2. “We sounded like strangers, sitting in a dentist’s waiting room.”

          3. “In Vietnam he was field commissioned.”

A. “A Window opens like a Pod”

B. “A piercing Comfort it affords/In passing Calvary – / To note the fashions – of the Cross – “

C. “At the word, the saw,/As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,/Leaped out at the boy’s hand”

QUESTION 10

In three or four paragraphs, compare and contrast the irony of Nichole’s reasons for lying to the court about the accident to another well-known character who lies that you have encountered in literature. Which of these characters had a better reason to lie: your character or Nichole? Which of these characters got the outcome they hoped for when they told the lie? What does the irony in each story say about the nature of truth and lies? (Note: some famous literary liars you might consider writing about are: Elizabeth Proctor or Abigail Williams from The Crucible; Odysseus from The Odyssey; Romeo from Romeo and Juliet; Tom or Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby; Arthur Dimmesdale from the Scarlet Letter; the narrator or Marla Singer from Fight Club; Cyrano or Christian from Cyrano de Bergerac; Sheherazhad from Arabian Nights; Huck Finn from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Pip from Great Expectations, or a liar of your choice from a book or play you have read/seen)

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