Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Annie Dillard is someone for whom nature holds special significance. In what ways does nature have an impact on her thinking and on her beliefs?

If Dillard is a philosopher of life, someone who searches for meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe, then what answers does she find in nature? What contradictions?

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek explores the violence and isolation inherent in the living world and universe. What specific examples illustrate this perspective? How does Dillard use such vignettes to make a larger point?

Dillard asserts that she is a Christian. In what ways do her writings such as Holy the Firm support this worldview and in what ways do they depart from a purely Christian perspective?

Memoir is a particular form of narrative writing that involves the purely personal. In what ways are An American Childhood and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek examples of this form? Why would someone choose to write in this way? In what ways do these books go beyond the individual to make larger statements?

The Living focuses on the settling of the American West. What is it about the West that symbolizes the spirit of America? How are these aspects of the American Dream evoked in this novel?

Dillard is often described as a writer who focuses on what it means to be a writer. What specific kinds of instruction about being and becoming a writer can you find in such books as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Teaching a Stone to Talk, and An American Childhood?