Sunday, March 10, 2013

Amontillado Book Club Discussion Questions

In Amontillado, a book club meeting introduces us to one of the novel's main characters. That same book club later provides a bit of insight to propel the story forward.  Obviously, then, book clubs play an important part in Amontillado. Do they play a part in your life? Are you a member of one? If so, why not suggest Amontillado as your next read? These discussion questions might help start the conversation.  Feel free to suggest others. And keep in mind, there are minor spoilers nestled into these questions, so you might want to avoid reading them until you've read the book.

And if you're already planning to read Amontillado as a group, or if you plan to suggest Amontillado in the future, we'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment here or shoot us a message (and maybe even a photo of the group!) via the Amontillado Facebook page. Thanks!

"The cellar is cold and the Amontillado tasty. Tonight, we usher in the unknown, and we embrace it. " Cheers!

Discussion Questions

1. What sort of tale is Amontillado? It's been called a literary mystery, but there's no such genre. Is it general fiction? Mystery? Does it fit into any single genre? Should it?

2. Throughout the novel, we return to the present day as police detectives interrogate Jacob Lyons. Each time we revisit the scene, the detectives reveal a new detail about the crime(s). Did these scenes add suspense? Did they drive the story forward? Did they contribute to the mystery? How did the plot structure add to or detract from the story as a whole?

3. Who is most responsible for the state of Jacob and Breeana's marriage? Are they equally at fault? They obviously don't take the best path toward trying to resolve their issues. Was their fate unavoidable?

4. Breeana's gynecologist is a family friend, a close acquaintance of her husband. Is this a bad idea?

5. Who is Daniel Jefferson? Is his behavior justified? Would a male friend do for Jacob what Daniel did? Was Daniel motivated in any way by his attraction to Bree or the failure of his own marriage?

6. Amontillado takes place in a modern world with modern technology, but it's also set in a fictional city where rain is constant, where electricity is unreliable, where men speak with overly formal and flowery language, and where fedoras are an everyday piece of decorative apparel. Does this bother you? Does it add a sense of timelessness to the tale? A sense of the macabre? Would the story be better served in a fix location and period? Why?

7. Of Jacob, Daniel, Marcus, and Breena, who is the story's true protagonist? Who is most sympathetic?

8. At the end of the book, are Bree's actions justified? Think about her state of mind, the outcome of her previous decision making. Better options always exist when seen from afar, but what if you put yourself in her shoes? Can you understand or rationalize her motivation?

9. The oft-quoted line from Edgar Allan Poe's tale is, "I must not only punish but punish with impunity." Who receives the harshest punishment?

10. This is a mystery novel about murder. Did you guess how it would end? If so, when? If no, why not? Were you mislead at all? Were you shocked when you realized the truth? Was the novel solidly plotted, or was the resolution too contrived?

11. Amontillado was first conceived as a movie and written as a screenplay. Does knowing this fact affect how you perceive the novel, from either a story or mood/atmospheric sense?

12. Breeana is a strong character, but her strength is tested and weakened throughout the novel. She obviously feels as though events are moving beyond her control, yet she makes many of the critical decisions that propel the story forward. Is this a symptom of depression? Or is she simply confused, responding to a difficult situation based on emotional needs instead of rational decision making? She makes constant demands of herself to gain more control. Are those demands warranted? Can anyone ever gain control when surrounded by so many competing interests?

13. Breeana believes many lies throughout the story. Is she simply gullible, or did events put her in an emotional place where she lacked the defenses and reasoning abilities to fully grasp the intents of the men around her?

14. Jacob writes a novel as way to apologize to his wife. Is this a genuine romantic gesture or a self-serving, passive attempt at manipulation?

15. If you could say one thing to each character, what would it be? And at which point of the book would you say it?

16. The novel pays tribute to Edgar Allan Poe with countless allusions and parallels. Do they work? Do they add to the tale? Do they justify any of the author's decisions regarding language, setting, plot, etc.?

17. Given that most of the characters are dead at the end of the book, a sequel is unlikely. What if the author were to entertain the idea of a prequel? Which character(s) would you most want to visit at an earlier point in life?

18. The story unavoidably ends on a somber note with Jacob alone facing an uncertain future. Did you have any compassion for him? Did you want a more concrete resolution? Did you expect something different, and if so what? 

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