Discussion Questions The Sheik CHs 5 – 7

Discussion Questions for Group 10: JG, BJ, ET

1. “The divan where Diana had been sitting was strewn with magazines and papers, the imprint of her slender body still showed in the soft, heaped cushions, and a tiny, lace-edged handkerchief peeped out under one of them. He picked it up and looked at it curiously, and his forehead contracted slowly in the heavy black scowl. He turned his burning eyes toward the curtains that divided the rooms. Saint Hubert’s words rang in his ears. ‘English!’ he muttered with a terrible oath. ‘And I have made her suffer as I swore any of that damned race should if they fell into my hands. Merciful Allah! Why does it give me so little pleasure?’” (126).

This takes place right after Ahmed has his discussion with the Vicomte and has left in a bit of a huff concerning Saint Hubert’s opinions on what he has done to Diana. Do you think this is the moment where the Sheik starts to acknowledge his growing feeling for Diana? Also why do you think her being English has so much to do with his treatment of her?

2. “The proof of her obedience was a hard one, from which she shrank, but it was harder far to see the look of anger she had provoked on the face of the man she loved […]. She was at his feet, tamed thoroughly at last, all her proud, angry self-will swamped in the love that was consuming her with an intensity that was an agony.

“‘Well?’ His voice was hard and uncompromising, […].’

“She set her teeth to keep down the old paralyzing fear. ‘I will do what you want. I will do anything you want, only be kind to me, Ahmed’” (116-117).

This scene takes place just after Saint Hubert arrives and Diana has had a relapse of her old obstinacy because Ahmed treated her badly earlier in the day. How does the Sheik’s demands of obedience change Diana herself? Also, how does this affect her relationship with the Sheik?

Posted in E. M. Hull, Gender, relationships, The Sheik | 2 Comments

Discussion Questions for The Sheik CHs 1-4

Flapper Magazine

Flapper Magazine cover, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1. In the early chapters of The Sheik, Diana Mayo is repeatedly characterized for her boyish characteristics and her asexuality:

“She was only of medium height and very slender, standing erect with the easy, vigorous carriage of an athletic boy” (9).

“’I was brought up as a boy, my training was hard’” (14).

“Dressed as a boy, treated as a boy, she learned to ride and to shoot and to fish—not as amusements, but seriously, to enable her to take her place later on as a companion to the man [her brother, Aubrey] whose only interests they were…With that end in view her upbringing had been Spartan, no allowances were made for sex or temperament and nothing was spared to gain the desired result” (19-20).

Diana, in fact, has difficulty seeing herself as a woman: “’God made me a woman. Why, only He knows’” (14). Plus, she assures Aubrey that she will be at his wedding “’in time to be best man’” rather than a bridesmaid in his wedding party (28) .

What does the novel gain, both in terms of character development and plot, in giving Diana such gender-bending characteristics?

Sheet music cover for the "Sheik of Araby"

Sheet music cover for the "Sheik of Araby," courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2. The Sheik is an unusual romance novel in that the meeting of the heroine and hero consists of a criminal act: kidnapping and rape. After the Sheik kidnaps Diana and brings her back to his camp, he rapes her, but E. M Hull never uses the word rape to describe what happens.

What language does Hull use to depict the sexual assault, and how does that language simultaneously convey a sense of the erotic? What is the “strange fear” that Diana repeatedly refers to when she thinks of the Sheik?

3. Pamela Regis explained that the first element of a romance novel, “Society Defined,” is the “society that the heroine and hero will confront in their courtship” that “is in some way flawed” and “oppresses” the couple (31). Given this definition, what constitutes the society in which Diana and the Sheik begin their courtship, and how is it “flawed?”

Posted in E. M. Hull, Female Chastity, Gender, Pamela Regis, Rape, sex, The New Woman, The Sheik | 5 Comments

Discussion Questions for Rebecca CHs 18-21

Discussion Questions for Group 9: MG, AK, and BU

1. At the end of chapter 19, Maxim admits that “There was never an accident. Rebecca was not drowned at all. I killed her. I shot Rebecca in the cottage in the cove…It’s Rebecca lying there dead on the cabin floor. Will you look into my eyes and tell me that you love me now?” (270).

How did your attitude towards Maxim change after reading this, if at all? If you were in the narrator’s place, how might you have reacted?

2. On page 290, the narrator states that, “Our happiness had not come too late. I was not young anymore. I was not shy. I was not afraid. I would fight for Maxim. I would lie and perjure and swear, I would blaspheme and pray. Rebecca had not won. Rebecca had lost.”

Why do you think the narrator is so relieved and excited after hearing such a tragic and surprising story? Is it right for her to stand behind Maxim and support him even though he took his ex-wife’s life? Why or why not?

Posted in Character Analysis, Daphne Du Maurier, Marriage, Point of Ritual Death, Rebecca, Recognition, relationships | 8 Comments

Discussion Questions Rebecca CHs 13-17

Discussion Questions for Group 8: KC, LR, IS, JT

1. In Chapter 14, Mrs. Danvers gives the narrator a creepy tour of Manderley’s west wing:

“’Now you are here, let me show you everything,’ she said, her voice ingratiating and sweet as honey, horrible, false. ‘I know you want to see it all, you’ve wanted to for a long time, and you were too shy to ask. It’s a lovely room, isn’t it? The loveliest room you have ever seen.’ She took hold of my arm, and walked me towards the bed. I could not resist her, I was like a dumb thing. The touch of her hand made me shudder. And her voice was low and intimate, a voice I hated and feared” (170).

What type of tone and body language does Mrs. Danvers use during the tour? What does this tell you about Mrs. Danvers’ character?  How does the tour add to the gothic sense of the house? How does the tour affect the relationship between the narrator and Mrs. Danvers?

2. In Chapter 13 we meet Mr. Favell who has come to visit “Danny” (Mrs. Danvers). When he finds the narrator hiding behind the door to avoid running into him, he begins small talk with her about Maxim:

“‘How’s old Max?’ he said.

“I was surprised at his tone. It sounded as though he knew him well. It was queer, to hear Maxim talked of as Max. No one called him that.

“’He’s very well, thank you,” I said, “He’s gone up to London.’

“’And left the bride all alone?  Why, that’s too bad. Isn’t he afraid someone will come and carry you off?’” (162).

What do his visit and manners (e.g., use of informal names like Max and Danny) tell you about his character? How would you describe the relationship between Mr. Favell and Mrs. Danvers? What affect does Mr. Favell’s visit have on both the narrator and Mrs. Danvers?

Posted in Barrier, Character Analysis, Daphne Du Maurier, Mood, Rebecca, relationships, Tone | 2 Comments

Discussion Questions for Rebecca CHs 7 – 12

Discussion Questions for Group 7: MDF, EG, and AT

1. “You see,” she said, snapping the top, and walking down the stairs, “you are so very different from Rebecca” (107).

Beatrice makes this comment after meeting the narrator for the first time. Throughout the section, the differences between Rebecca and the narrator are repeatedly mentioned and implied. What does this say about Rebecca? Why do you think everyone makes such a point of noting the differences between Rebecca and the narrator?

2. “I was sitting in Rebecca’s chair, I was leaning against Rebecca’s cushion, and the dog had come to me and laid his head upon my knee because that had been his custom, and he remembered, in the past, she had given sugar to him there” (79).

How does this statement reinforce the narrator’s feelings of being “second best” to a dead woman? What are other examples of the narrator’s insecurities? How do these insecurities affect her relationship with Maxim?

Posted in Character Analysis, Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca, relationships | 3 Comments

Discussion Questions for Rebecca CHs 1 – 6

1. Many critics claim that Jane Eyre created a new genre: the feminist fairytale (86), a genre that combines the Cinderella myth with a feminist tract, but romance novel scholar Pamela Regis argues that this is just a “backhanded naming of the romance novel, which can…include a feminist statement” (86). In what ways do you feel Jane Eyre reflects elements of a fairy tale, and in what ways is it a feminist statement? Are romance novels basically fairy tales anyway?

2. Compare the betrothal scenes in Jane Eyre and Rebecca:

Jane Eyre–Rochester: “My bride is here…because my equal is here…Jane, will you marry me?”

Rebecca–Max de Winter: “’Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me.’

Narrator: ‘Do you mean you want a secretary or something?’

Max de Winter: ‘No, I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool’” (52).

Neither of these betrothals come at the end of the story, and in Rebecca, it comes almost at the beginning. Given what you know about Rochester and Max when they proposed, what is your reaction to these betrothals? Do you see these men as romantic heroes? Explain your answer.

Posted in Betrothal, Charlotte Bronte, Daphne Du Maurier, Fairy Tale, Feminism, Jane Eyre, Pamela Regis, Rebecca | 3 Comments

Discussion Questions Bridget Jones’s Diary October November December

On Thursday, October 13th, we will have a quiz over all of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Below are several discussion questions and some review tips.

1. Bridget’s constant litany of worries and anxieties tell us that she is at war with herself. For a women with a good job and many friends, she seems surprisingly unsettled. What social/cultural forces might have made Bridget the way she is?

2.  At the end of the novel, Bridget claims that she has “finally realized the secret of happiness with men,” a secret she learned from her mother: “’Don’t say “what,” say “pardon,” darling, and do as your mother tells you’” (267). In your own words, explain what this means and state whether the novel supports the advice Bridget’s mother has given her about men.

3. Critics have argued that the end of Bridget Jones’s Diary feels rushed, and that the “heroic” behavior of Mark Darcy is not fully motivated in the novel. Do you agree? Were you convinced that Mark Darcy would have behaved as he did? Explain your answer.


To review for Thursday’s quiz, make sure you know the definition of the following literary terms: derivative work, Chicklit, satire, and sarcasm. Be familiar with words Fielding coined for the novel, such as emotional fuckwittage, smug marrieds, and singleton.

Feminism and postfeminism are not the same thing. Know the difference between the two ideological movements.

Make sure you understand how the diary format influences the presentation of Bridget’s story. Keep in mind that Bridget’s “diary” is a hoax played upon the reader since it’s unlikely that a person would record events while in the middle of a fashion or culinary crisis. 🙂

You should also be prepared to make comparisons between Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and the book upon which it is based, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Posted in Bridget Jones's Diary, Character Analysis, Helen Fielding, relationships | 4 Comments

Discussion Questions Bridget Jones’s Diary July August September

Discussion Questions for Group 6: CL, RL, AR, HW

1. Why, after a failed relationship with Daniel, does Bridget continue to focus on finding a male partner so that she can form a “functional relationship?” (164). Why doesn’t she focus solely on herself?

2. Even though Bridget’s parents are still separated, Pam, Bridget’s “Mum,” still feels the need to shove Mark Darcy down Bridget’s throat in the hopes that the two will date. Pam even tells Bridget that he describes her as “‘bizarre'” (182), and yet she presses Bridget to attend the ruby wedding celebration Darcy is throwing for his parents .

What do Pam’s actions imply about her attitude toward Bridget? Why does she feel Darcy would be a good catch for Bridget even though he characterizes her as “bizarre?”

3. When the wrong word ruins everything: As Bridget begins to make-out with twenty-something Gav, he touches her stomach and say, “Mmm. You’re all squashy” (190).

How does Bridget react to those words, and why do you feel she responds that way? How do her age and insecurities impact how she reacts? Do you agree or disagree with her reaction?

Posted in Bridget Jones's Diary, Character Analysis, Helen Fielding, relationships, sex | 4 Comments

Discussion Questions Bridget Jones’s Diary April May June

Discussion Questions for Group 5: KF, MF, and SG

1. On Thursday, April 6th, Bridget starts writing about how she wants to start going with the flow. She says, “Flow, it seems the right thing to do, I will tell her what I saw. Nothing of value comes from struggle; it is all about Flow. Zen and the art of life. Zen. Flow. Hmmm, but then how did I happen to bump into Jeremy and the worthless trollop if not through Flow? What does that mean, then?” (83).

Do you think Bridget goes with the flow? Or does she not believe flow to be legitimate? Can this be applied to her relationships with men?

2. On Tuesday, May 17th, Magda tells Bridget how lucky Bridget is not to be tied down with children or any other burdens. Bridget is confused as to how someone who has everything she wants herself could be jealous of her. She reflects back on something her friend Tom has told her over and over: “Only Women Bleed” (114).

What do you think Tom means by this and how does it apply to Magda’s life?

Posted in Bridget Jones's Diary, Character Analysis, Feminism, Helen Fielding, self-help | 2 Comments

Discussion Questions Bridget Jones’s Diary January February March

Discussion Questions for Group 4:  HC, AC, RT, BW

1. Claiming to be a single and independent woman, Bridget contradicts herself when she caves in and begins to obsess over Daniel Cleaver: “Panic stricken, I reached for the Silk Cut. Which girls? What? Somehow I made it through the day, got home, and in a moment of insanity left a message on Daniel’s answer-phone” (Monday 9 January).

Finding herself at one of her low points in this section, how do her actions support or fail to support the idea of women’s independence? What is the significance of Bridget’s actions in calling Daniel Cleaver?

2. Walking into the apartment, Bridget’s mother’s presence captivates Bridget in a way that is unexplainable: “I know what her secret is: she’s discovered…and everyone is sensing her power and wanting a bit of it, which makes her even more irresistible. So all I’ve got to do is find someone or something to have power over…” ( Saturday 4 March).

With Bridget’s mother finding this new sense of self, how is this power she has relevant to Bridget’s life and the life of the new “independent” woman in this time period? How is this power role significant in the relation between Bridget’s ideals of herself as a woman and society’s ideals?

Posted in Bridget Jones's Diary, Character Analysis | 3 Comments