Dolores Claiborne

by Stephen King

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Ideas for Group Discussions

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The novel has two great strengths that make it accessible to a variety of topics and discussion groups. First is its trenchant examination of various social issues; the second is its focus on the singular character of Dolores Claiborne and the unique narrative style that brings her into being.

1. Vera Donovan terrified Dolores with her hallucinations of haunting dust bunnies and live, creeping wires. What does Dolores think these images mean to Vera?

2. Examine a passage of Dolores's narrative. What is King's narrative style: how does Dolores express her emotions, her reflections, attitude, or the facts regarding Vera or Joe's deaths? What qualities represented in the passage make Dolores feel real?

3. Examine the newspaper articles at the end of the novel. How do they close the action and conclude the novel? What do you have to infer or add to the articles to make meaning of them?

4. King creates a double narrative of Joe's murder and Vera's death. How are Dolores's and Vera's circumstances and emotional responses similar? Different? Connected? If you consider Dolores Claiborne and Gerald's Game another doubling of a larger narrative regarding women in American culture, compare and contrast Dolores's and Jessie's life. Or Selena's and Jessie's experiences and reactions.

5. Most people are not comfortable with describing themselves. Yet King creates a character that describes herself, her family, her home, community, and employer. How does Dolores create the characters and settings without sounding like a catalogue?

6. Explore the characteristics of oral narratives, folklore and performance. How does King integrate these qualities into his novel?

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