Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice,” Shirley defines Christians as “lonesome”. Why?

In “An Interest in Life,” John Raftery claims that Virginia’s problems—which he refers to as a “list of troubles”—only add up to “the little disturbances of man . . . .” What significance does this comment have not only in defining his and Virginia’s characters but in shaping the underlying theme of the story and the collection of the same title? what does his comment say about his attitude toward women, considering that he deems Virginia’s troubles not “real”?

In the same respect, Virginia comments that “noisy signs of life” are “so much trouble to a man.” What does this comment (and the above comment by Raferty) say about gender attitudes?

Of her many stories, Paley’s “The Loudest Voice” is often anthologized and quite popular. What makes the story so accessible, so universal?

Consider the ambiguousness of the title “Faith in a Tree.” What significant meanings do you find attached to the title and present in the story?

What is the tone of “Faith in a Tree”? How is it conveyed by the author?

Consider the stories with neighborhood settings. How do these settings reflect the attitude of the narrator? How does each alienate or embrace the narrator?

As an author, Paley incorporates part of her familial, writing, and political life in her works. Which stories are clearly centered on family and the importance of family? Which are more political in tone or theme? Does the authorial inclusion interfere with the story? In the same respect, do you find her motherly themes an interruption of feminism?