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"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
-- Albert Camus

Pug Sheridan is a ground-breaking book well-suited for book clubs and classrooms.

Study Guide for "Pug Sheridan"

Level I

Do you think Pug’s story really could have taken place in America’s past? . . . Why or why not?

Regarding racial or religious tolerance, how does Pug’s story relate to the present-day world?

Which character in the novel do you most relate to? Why?

If you were going to write a story about something that happened when you were young, what would the title be?

Find an excerpt from the book that you thought was funny and read it aloud.

In general, how does humor enhance the flow of a good book?

What clues are present in the first few chapters (especially the Halloween "CryBaby Bridge" scene) that foreshadows the violence to come?

What do you think Toad’s character symbolizes in this story? Bonus Questions: How does Toad's "back-story" underscore his role and the novel's inevitable outcome? What larger, social issue does he represent?

What other examples of symbolism did you notice? How was symbolic meaning used by the author to layer the complexity of the story? [Hints: the word "storm" … Pug's snakebite and the repeated appearances of snakes … the word "violet" … weeping willows … various uses of the word "bridge" … Fawn and birds' nests … uses of "moon" … HorseShoe Cave (symbolic womb) … rowan tree … internal vs. outer "wars" … the number seven … and others]

What did you think of Pug’s extended family, and how they included Essie and Egypt, and later in the story, Fawn, Badgerwoman, and Rola Moon? What does the word "FAMILY" mean to you?

Would you like to have been alive in 1918? What might be some of the good or bad aspects of living then? Was it really a "simpler" time?

The members of the Seven Sisters sorority are the best of friends, and yet there are many differences between them. How are they alike? How are they different?

Find examples of irony or dark humor in the book.

Do you believe in ghosts? What significance do ghosts play in Pug’s story?

A Discussion Focus Statement: "Pug Sheridan concerns the ties that bind us all, in life and even beyond."

How do the Seven Sisters change during the course of the novel? How do they stay the same?

Consider the ending of the novel in relation to the word: "REDEMPTION."

Level II

Where does religion fit into Pug's world view?

Discuss how various elements of the novel combine to thread the story together, including: the soul of female friendships, loss, betrayal, racism, self-esteem, ignorance & isolation, and courage.

Delve deeper into the layered symbolism found within the description of the Seven Sisters' childhood pledge ritual and covenant (pages 47-54).

What messages can be found within Pug's poetry (pgs. 40, 132, & 202) and how might those hidden meanings enhance the story's plot points?

What does Bagerwoman mean when she tells Pug: "Our life's purpose is to remember who we are. Life's meaning is to become that. We are not just animals. We are not just spirit. We are something more."

How does Pug's story reflect the classic personal odyssey known as the "Hero's Journey?" What plot points were necessary in order to force Pug to face her "shadow-self" (as she confronts her own capacity for violence and her inner demons?)

Part 1: Each one of the Seven Sisters (Pug, Fawn, Egypt, Violet, Ruby, Fanny, & Newt) represents something (symbolically) beyond her portrayed character. Looking at them (one by one, as well as their relationships with one another), what might they represent? [Hint: Think in broader strokes … not only relating to the themes running through the novel, but to the grander schemes of everyday life.] Part 2: The same could be said for the characters of T.H., Alton, and Rola Moon … What larger, symbolic idea (or purpose within the story) might their characters represent? [Think about the novel's characters in relation the their over-all southern community or culture, especially regarding the author's needed elements for Pug's QUEST towards identity and redemption.]

One of Sandra Cline's Author's Notes states: "Thomas Dixon's novel, The Clansmen and the D.W. Griffith film, Birth of a Nation affected popular culture and impacted history. Today, our country is still recovering from such extremist, prejudicial depictions of black Americans." . . . Discuss the quoted statement. Follow-up Question: How might the various kinds of mass media outlets (available today) be affecting popular culture in the U.S.? (Consider both positive and negative aspects of far-reaching media sources.) Is history being impacted minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and so on? Bonus Question: By Whom?

Discuss the poetic meaning woven within the novel's last paragraph: Like phantoms in the wind, hope's bounty wafted upon Rola's whispered words: "She cut and peeled a hazel wand, then sent his name upon feathered wing. He answered her call when the seasons changed, and the ancient rite traced the path to Spring." [Hint: Consider the well-known phrase, "the circle of life.")

EXTRA POINTS BONUS QUESTIONS!: Late in the novel, another character utters the phrase, "as you trace the path to Spring." Which character spoke those words, to whom was the character speaking, and what was the meaning behind those spoken words.