Ideas for Group Discussions

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419

In Country offers the possibility for much discussion concerning the aftermath of the Vietnam War upon the cultural and social attitudes of the United States. Sam's interest in the war obviously differs from that of the generation which preceded her. Emmett's character adds an element of discomfort for readers who...

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In Country offers the possibility for much discussion concerning the aftermath of the Vietnam War upon the cultural and social attitudes of the United States. Sam's interest in the war obviously differs from that of the generation which preceded her. Emmett's character adds an element of discomfort for readers who may personally seek a reconciliation with the effects of the war, or for those who may, through the novel, find they can vicariously experience Emmett's inability to adapt to his postwar setting. Mason's use of a daughter searching for a relationship with her lost father nicely parallels the male's search for identity through his sometimes lost father found so often in mythology. Group members familiar with aspects of the quest, such as the search for identity, the journey, the helper, the descent into Hades or darkness in search of the truth, and sacrifices that must be made along the way, might want to discuss parallels to Sam's own quest in the novel. Also interesting would be a discussion of whether Sam finds a "prize" or "reward" like that sought by ancient figures involved in a quest. In other words, is her journey a success, achieving the closure in terms of knowledge of her father that Sam seeks?

1. Construct descriptions for Sam and for Emmett as they are at the novel's opening, and then as they are at its conclusion.

2. What is Sam's moment of "epiphany" when she finally reconciles herself to the loss of her father? What is Emmett's moment of "epiphany," when he reconciles himself with his own war losses?

3. Why or why isn't Emmett a good character to represent the unrest felt by many Vietnam veterans?

4. How does the Vietnam Memorial act as a release for much of the hostility felt by American citizens over the American intervention into Vietnam?

5. Why or why isn't Sam's attempt to duplicate the jungle-like conditions her father experienced successful?

6. How does Sam's seeing her father's name on the memorial help her in shaping her own identity?

7. The hero's voyage in mythology, such as Ulysses's journey home following the Trojan War, remains vital to the character's development. Discuss how Sam's mental, emotional, and physical journeys add to her character development. Do the same for Emmett.

8. In what ways might Emmett have better assisted Sam in her quest to know something of her father?

9. Analyze the importance of Sam's grandmother to the novel's plot.

10. What does Sam's choice not to move with her mother and her new stepfather tell you about her character?

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