We Were the Mulvaneys Topics for Further Study
by Joyce Carol Oates

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Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

  • The animals that the Mulvaneys raise on their non-producing farm are central to this story. Make a list of all of the animals mentioned in the novel, and then write a chart that shows what it would cost to feed them all in today's dollars.
  • Michael Mulvaney's slide into alcoholism follows a fairly standard pattern. Interview a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and find out what that person thinks of Michael's behavior, as you present it. Then report to the class the steps that your interviewee said Michael or Corinne could have taken.
  • Examine the statistics linking rape and alcohol abuse in your state, and write a letter to Marianne Mulvaney explaining what happened to her and whether she has a case against Zachary Lundt that would stand up in court.
  • Author Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections was chosen for Oprah's Book Club, just as this novel was, but Franzen declined the offer, even though it would have meant thousands of more copies would sell. Research the controversy over Franzen's refusal, and conduct a debate representing both sides of the argument.
  • Much is made in the novel of the fact that the Mulvaney parents disagree about joining the Mt. Ephraim Country Club and about Michael's eventual expulsion from it. Contact at least three country clubs to find out what a person would have to do to join and what a person would have to do to be thrown out, and then write the rules that you would use if you were to start your own private club. Present your rules to your class with explanations.