, Jan 1, 1999
- 219 pages
1. What is the role of The Mirror in the story? In what way might the novel itself be considered a mirror? 2. Agnes undertakes many risks in the course of the novel. What are they? Are there risks she avoids taking? Can you explain this? 3. What are the things that Agnes determines for herself as either desirable or necessary? Do these change over the course of her life? What are the things she cannot make happen? What, if any, are her unfulfilled longings? 4. What does Agnes give up for her freedom? What does she gain? 5. Are independence and love mutually exclusive for this main character? What role does love play for the other characters in the book? 6. What are the values that Agnes subscribes to? What about Sarah or Leah? How would you rank these same values for yourself? 7. What other female protagonists are memorable for pushing the edges of conventional society? How are they like Agnes and how do they differ? Are there male counterparts that you would put in the same category? How do they differ from the female characters? 8. From the beginning of the novel Agnes wears a small purse around her neck. What is the meaning of this image? When the purse reappears at different points later in the novel, is its meaning the same? 9. What issues of class are brought up in the novel? Does class play a role in the story? 10. Why does Agnes identify the men and the mother-in-law in her story without reference to their names? 11. How would you describe the tone of the narrative? What sort of voice and manner of speaking do you imagine the narrator to have? 12. Are there any quotations from the novel that you found striking? Choose a few and discuss how they affected you. 13. Describe the relationship between Agnes and Leah. What other mother-daughter characters in novels or film come to mind? What comparisons can you make? 14. Compare the ways Sarah, Agnes, and Leah each looks at her own past and future. How do those different views influence the way they see themselves and each other? 15. Can you remember your own earliest sense of yourself? How did it come about? Did it change over time? How did you get a sense of that change? 16. Leah finds herself caught between two strong and different women. Is she like either of them? How does she deal with their competition for her? 17. Agnes says toward the end of the novel that she was 'homesick for the future I'd once looked forward to.' What do you think she means by that? 18. What themes of the novel are revisited in the last chapter? What conclusions does the narrator come to about these ideas? 19. What is it in the Byron poem at the front of the book that is well suited to the novel? 20. This novel is written in the form of a journal or memoir. Of what value is it to the narrator to tell her story? If you were writing a memoir of your own life, what sorts of truths would you tell or omit? On what basis would you make those selections?