Topics for Discussion
1. Discuss the characteristics of the fade, such as what happens to a character going into the fade, what can be seen or smelled when in the fade, how and when the ability to fade is passed on from generation to generation.
2. Discuss whether the fade is a gift or a curse.
3. Compare and contrast the faders and the effects of the fade on Adelard, Paul, and Ozzie.
4. Discuss the Ku Klux Klan. Mention some of their beliefs and a possible reason why Cormier included them in his novel set in the Northeastern United States when they are generally associated with the Deep South. What is Paul's attitude toward them? Is it possible to determine Cormier's attitude toward the Klan? If so, what is it?
5. Discuss the strike at the Monument Comb Shop. What is the conflict? Consider the scene in the Rub Room, the role of superintendent Hector Monard, and the importing of scab laborers by Rudolphe Toubert.
6. Why does Paul Moreaux murder Rudolphe Toubert? Consider his relationship to his aunt Rosanna and her past relationship to Toubert, the newspaper routes, Rubberman Robillard, and Paul's father's condition at the time of the murder. Was it "premeditated"? Who dies shortly after this murder? What does Paul resolve to do, or never to do, after this death? What does this resolve tell the reader about Paul's basic morality?
7. Compare and contrast the deaths of Adelard's brother Vincent and Paul's brother Bernard. What are Paul's feelings about this subject?
8. In what ways might Ozzie Slater be considered a victim?
9. Discuss Susan's role in the narrative. What purpose does she serve?
10. Discuss the role of Jules, Susan's grandfather.
11. Discuss the five-part structure of the novel. What would be the effect of ending the novel at the close of the first section? Why do Paul and Susan have two sections each? Why did the author add the very short fifth section?
12. Discuss the fantasy elements of this mostly realistic novel. Do they work? Is the novel believable? How does Cormier achieve his goal of making careful readers—intelligent, perceptive people—actually question whether or not a fantasy element (the fade) could be possible or real?
13. Look for some examples of Cormier's use of similes and metaphors. What purposes do they serve?