One Book, One Chicago Spring 2005
- From the novel’s opening, narrator Art Croft seems unsure about the rightness of joining the lynch mob, yet he does. What does this say about Croft’s character? Is his reaction typical of human nature?
- Do any characters or situations presented in the novel alter your ideas of how life was lived in America’s “Old West”?
- The female characters Frena, Rose and Ma Grier each represent different examples of women’s roles in the lynching. What motivates each of these women in her actions towards the men in the mob?
- Are the Mexican characters, Juan and Amigo, and the African American character, Sparks, genuine, three-dimensional characters or are they simply manifestations of cultural stereotypes?
- The African American character, Sparks, is almost saintly in his unselfish attitude and actions, yet he is regularly and offensively described by other characters as “the nigger” of the town as would have been common in the 19th century West. Would it weaken the novel to exclude use of the word “nigger”?
- What motivates Davies to remain the voice of reason even when he sees that his arguments are being ignored?
- Tension is almost a tangible character throughout the novel and is one of the catalysts that leads to the tragedy. How does tension between characters build?
- Major Tetley’s anger and disappointment towards his son motivates him to bully his son into participating in the lynching, but what does the major’s reaction to his son’s subsequent suicide say about his true feelings for him?
- The victims of the lynching demonstrate a variety of emotions as they wait for dawn when they will be hanged. Do the reactions of each character seem authentic?
- Several times before the actual lynching occurs it seems that the mob might disperse, yet each time they come back together. Is fear of being called a coward the only reason?
- Are there situations in contemporary America that might force average people to have to make the type of ethical choice that faced the Ox-Bow lynch mob?
- Two suicides occur in the aftermath of the lynching, but we are given little input as to the reactions of the other mob participants. How do you believe the other characters will react to their horrific and tragic mistake?