October - A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
going ahead and posting this while I have some time.
1. How does the metaphor of light play into the story? Why do you think Helen chooses to refer to herself as Light?
2. Helen's first host bears a striking resemblance to the poet Emily Dickinson, who wrote a poem called "There's a Certain Slant of Light." How does this poem encompass Helen's story?
There's a certain Slant of light,
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are
None may teach it—Any
'Tis the Seal Despair
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air
When it comes, the Landscape listens
Shadows—hold their breath
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death
— Emily Dickinson
3. Can you explain/interpret Helen's jealousy toward Mrs. Brown and her affection toward Mr. Brown? Why is he the only host Helen names?
4. What are some interpretations of the nicknames of Helen's other hosts: The Saint, The Knight, The Playwright, The Poet?
5. Among the novel's many themes are those of guilt and forgiveness. Which characters feel guilt? In what ways do they attempt to mask or absolve this guilt to achieve forgiveness? Who feels rightful guilt and who misinterprets tragedy as fault? What effects does guilt have on the actions of the characters?
6. Throughout the story, the ideas of free will and absence of choice are in constant battle. Show examples of moments when Helen and James exercise free will, even when it appears as if they lack choices. Are they robbing Jenny and Billy of free will when they enter their bodies?
7. Whitcomb represents various types of ghosts in her novel. How do they differ from one another? What ties them together and why?
8. How might the story be different if Helen and James were not adults but rather teenagers themselves?
9. The role of religion in Jenny's family is quite complicated. What are the various family members' reasons for embracing religion? How does Helen view their beliefs?