Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497
1. Benjie says in the first chapter that he hates for people to lie to him and that he does not "dig stealin," yet he admits in the same chapter that he has stolen and has lied about it. Throughout the story, we see him both lie and steal. What does this tell us about Benjie?
2. Jimmy-Lee blames only "skag" for the distance between himself and Benjie. Are there other differences between them that cause problems in their relationship? Why or why not?
3. Benjie relates that he used heroin the first time to show that he was not "chicken." Would it have taken more courage to say no to his friends? Why or why not?
4. Over and over, Benjie says that he is not "hooked" and that he can quit any time he wants to. Can he? Point out some details from the story to support your answer.
5. Walter tells us that if he did not sell drugs there would be plenty of others who would, so those who want drugs could get them just as easily. Is his reasoning justified? Why or why not?
6. Benjie sometimes delivers drugs for Walter to pay for his "fix." He says, though, that he is not the real pusher. Is he less guilty than Walter? Why is he glad he was not the one who gave Kenny the overdose?
7. Why does Benjie's grandmother put a lock on her door? Is she justified? What effect does her use of the lock have on Benjie? Why?
8. The novel is written in the language of the individuals telling the story, much of it in street dialect. Would it have been as effective and as believable in standard English? Why or why not? Does a person's use of dialect in speech or writing show a lack of intelligence? A lack of education?
9. Rose tries to tell Benjie that she loves him, but her attempts come out as criticism. Why? Is it often difficult to express one's true feelings to others? Why?
10. Is Butler a good "father figure" for Benjie throughout the novel? Is there a change in him? If so, when does this change take place?
11. About the doctor and Jimmy-Lee, Benjie says that neither is "the worst person in the world." He later repeats this phrase directly to Butler. What does he mean? Does he ever praise anyone more highly than in this statement?
12. What is the meaning of the title? Does it help you to understand the story? Why or why not?
13. Butler sometimes says he would like to send Benjie to some place out of town, maybe in the South, in a country setting. Do you think it likely that this would solve Benjie's problems? Why or why not?
14. At the end of the book, Butler is waiting for Benjie to come to the drug rehabilitation center. Reread Benjie's own last narrative. Do you think Benjie will go? What details in the story lead you to believe he will or will not?