Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The title Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a quotation from a sacred book in which the “famous men” are prophets and patriarchs. What are the effects of his applying it to poor sharecroppers?

How does James Agee make the reader feel the impact of Jay Follet’s death in A Death in the Family? Does the author’s restraint play a part?

Since Jay Follet’s fatal accident parallels that of Agee’s own father so closely, why did he not write directly about his father’s death? What does he gain by fictionalizing it?

A Death in the Family is called “a novel of delightful and deceptive simplicity.” How can one be “delighted” by such a story?

Locate the “deceptive” elements in Agee’s novel. What motives might account for an attempt to “deceive” the reader?