Ideas for Group Discussions
Surely the unusual, demanding formal quality of this novel will be the first topic of discussion, as reading it may well create negative responses and a feeling of being lost. Discussion may well center upon why Matthiessen has selected such an uncommon method of storytelling, and what possible advantages it may hold. Its impressionistic qualities may as well give rise to impressionistic responses, which can then be expanded into a discussion of themes.
1. Does the unusual experimental form Matthiessen adopts here — the dependence on dialogue, the typographical effects — serve its purposes? What would be lost, or gained, by telling the story in a more conventional way?
2. The form of the book tends to mute authorial comment on the actions of the characters. Where does the author invest his sympathies — in what character or characters?
3. What is it exactly that Captain Raib is trying to impress upon his crew, and why are they unable to learn their lesson from him? Is he too inflexible, or merely mired in the past?
4. What significance can be attached to the name of the ship, the Lillias Eden?
5. What function does Desmond Eden play in this novel, for Raib, or as a symbol in general?
6. In what ways do the ideas of Darwinism manifest themselves in this book, with respect to ways of life, human beings, or the natural world?
7. In what way does Speedy occupy a mediating...
(The entire section is 283 words.)