Night of the Whale

by Jerry Spinelli

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 310

1. The central ethical question in the novel involves saving the whales. To help determine whether Hacksaw or Sandy and Jim Hennigan are right about what should be done with the stranded whales, do some research about whale strandings. Popular news magazines, like Time and Newsweek, periodically run articles about strandings. They are indexed in The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature that may be in your school library. Also, articles appear from time to time in various newspapers about strandings. Some of these newspapers, like the New York Times, may also be indexed in your library. What kinds of facts and figures concerning survival rates do these sources present? What do they suggest is the appropriate action to take in connection with stranded whales?

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2. Investigate what humankind's relationship to wild animals should be. In connection with this topic, you may want to correspond with the National Parks Service about the way that animals are treated in the winter in Yellowstone National Park or with your own state's parks department.

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3. Compare and contrast Night of the Whale to some of the more traditional stories of heroic adventure, such as "Jack and the Beanstalk" or even Homer's The Odyssey. Try to determine in what ways the characters in Night of the Whale, especially Mouse and Digger, resemble or do not resemble traditional quest heroes and in what ways their adventures are or are not similar to those of traditional quest heroes.

4. What is the role of the ocean itself in the book? In particular, what kinds of ideas does Mouse connect with the ocean? In what ways does the ocean become symbolic when Mouse views it at sunrise?

5. One of the most appealing aspects of this book is the way Wags is treated. Examine her treatment carefully. What is her attitude toward her inability to walk? What are the attitudes of her friends?

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