in a unified and logical essay, about House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. Early in the novel Behrani buys himself a hat, which he says gives him “the appearance of a man with a sense of humor about living, a man who is capable to live life for the living of it” [p. 28]. Why is this a poignant thing for Behrani to wish for himself? Does he in fact take life too seriously? What does Kathy’s response to Nick’s desertion reveal about her character? Why does Lester fall in love with Kathy? Is he better for her than Nick was? Who, of the three main characters, is most complex? Who is most straightforward? Where does the hostility between Lester and Behrani spring from? How do their memories–Lester’s of his teenage girlfriend and her brother, Behrani’s of his murdered cousin, Jasmeen–function to reveal the deep emotions that motivate action in this novel? At what point do Kathy’s and Lester’s actions depart from the path of a simple desire for justice and move into something else? Why can neither of them seem to act rationally? Does Behrani act rationally? Note the epigraph to the novel, from “The Balcony” by Octavio Paz: “Beyond myself/ somewhere/ I wait for my arrival.” How does it apply to the problems of self and alienation in each of the three main characters? Who has the clearest sense of his or her identity? What does it mean to have a clear sense of self? Describing the success of her recovery program, Kathy says, “I had already stopped wanting what I’d been craving off and on since I was fifteen, for Death to come take me the way the wind does a dried leaf out on its limb” [p. 46]. How does the novel affect your response to the social and psychological issues of addiction, depression, and suicide? Do you find yourself being understanding or judgmental of Kathy as the stress of the conflict increases? Is she actually more of a survivor than she thinks she is? Is Behrani’s wife, Nadereh, an admirable character? Does her feminine role in a very traditional marriage reduce her importance as an actor in this drama? Does she have qualities that are missing in Behrani, Kathy, and Lester?
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