Topics for Discussion
1. Discuss the various customs that are part of Jiro's world but not ours, such as the customs involved in the offering and declining of food in chapter 2. Customs develop to serve certain social needs. What needs do the customs and social conventions of Jiro's world serve?
2. Yoshida says, "Ah—manners—they can be taught, but spirit—that is a gift of the gods." How is the balance between spiritedness and subservience to "manners" different in Jiro's world and ours? Are we better off as a result of the relative absence of manners and ceremonies in our lives? Or do we have just as many manners and ceremonies in our lives as do the Japanese of Jiro's world?
3. What do Jiro's parents think about the events of the story? How do they feel about one another? How would the story have been different if told from their points of view?
4. What words of wisdom from the novel appeal to you? Does your experience show that these "truths" are indeed true?
5. Paterson raises the issue of dealing with the hungry, homeless, and destitute in The Master Puppeteer. Of the various solutions proposed by the characters in the novel, which do you think would be most effective?
6. There is a lot of teaching in The Master Puppeteer, although it is not of the classroom sort. List as many sorts of teaching, such as teaching through art, as you can. Do you feel Jiro's education is in any way preferable to education as conventionally practiced in American schools?
7. Yoshida is the son of a samurai; thus he holds both himself and others to very high standards. The elevation of an elite class with noble standards runs counter to the philosophy of democracy. Does it have any advantages over democracy?
8. The world of television seems lavish,...
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