Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405
1. Armageddon Summer reflects Yolen's particular interest in the technique of telling a story from different perspectives. Select at least five of the items interpolated among Marina and Jed's alternating chapters, and indicate how each contributes to an understanding of events, themes, or characters in the novel. Treat Myrna Marlow's "first draft" and "letter sent" as one item. Do the same for Reverend Beelson's several sermons and the inserted conversations following chapters thirty-four and thirty-six. Does the technique enhance the novel?
2. Many critics hail Emily Dickinson as one of the geniuses of American poetry. Explore accounts of Dickinson's life and ideas and consider references to her and the quoted lines of her poetry in the novel. Based upon your research, write an essay that links Dickinson to Marina. Why does Marina find comfort in thinking about Dickinson and her poetry ?
3. Could the novel have a better ending than an exchange of e-mails between Marina and Jed? Should the authors have brought the two of them together in the final scenes? How would you end the novel, and why?
4. American history is peppered with accounts of millennialist groups or cults considered dangerous by mainstream society. In recent decades, for example, much publicity was given to the People's Temple of Jim Jones in Guyana and the Branch Davidians of David Koresh in Waco. Research one of these groups or another like it, and compare your selection to the Beelsonite Believers.
5. Read Yolen's The Gift of Sarah Barker, another novel with a basis in religion, and compare it to Armageddon Summer. How are the novels similar in technique, theme, characterization? Do they differ in significant ways?
6. Yolen and Coville employ mythic elements in their writing. Marina thinks about "maybes" in regard to Ms. Leatherby's reference to the mythic snake Ouroborus. Marina relates her religious understanding to the word: "Maybe." Research the mythic Ouroborus. How does Ouroborus relate to Marina's thoughts about the Believers?
7. What is the origin of the word "Armageddon"? How does its original meaning apply to Reverend Beelson's interpretation and events at the conclusion of the novel?
8. Yolen's interest in religion led her to study the Shakers, or the "Shaking Quakers," who flourished in America in the last half of the nineteenth century. Characterize the Shakers. Can you find any similarities to the religion depicted in Armageddon Summer?
9. Is religion or family the focus of the novel? Or is the relationship between Marina and Jed most important?
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