A Year Down Yonder Discussion Questions
- What is the irony in Mary Alice Dowdel being called rich
Chicago girl by her classmates? What do Mary Alice and Royce McNabb
have in common?
- Mary Alice spends many days on the sidelines at school. How is being
an outsider difficult? What is her first impression of her classmates? At
what point in the novel does Mary Alice begin to feel that she belongs at
- Grandma Dowdel tells Mary Alice, I can't fight all your battles
for you, but I can give you a level start. What battles does Mary
Alice face when she comes to live with Grandma? What lessons does she learn
from Grandma about dealing with people? Cite evidence from the novel that
Mary Alice learns to fight her own battles.
- Halloween is Grandma's favorite holiday. How does it appear that
Grandma celebrates Halloween all year? Mary Alice says, To Grandma,
Halloween wasn't so much trick-or-treat as it was vittles and vengeance.
Though she'd have called it justice. What is the difference between
vengeance and justice? Cite incidents in the novel where Grandma's
vengeance becomes justice.
- Explain the statement, Grandma was famous for keeping herself to
herself, but she was everywhere at once.
- Discuss the term mixed values. What is Grandma's idea of
right and wrong? Engage the class in a debate about Grandma's obvious mixed
value system (e.g., stealing the pumpkins from the Pensinger's farm and
leaving them a pie in return).
- Trace the development of Mary Alice and Grandma's relationship from
the beginning of the novel to the end. Why doesn't Grandma go to the
school-sponsored Christmas program, or to the school's graduation
ceremony? Discuss Grandma's feelings at the end of the novel when Mary
Alice is preparing to return to Chicago. How does Grandma help Mary Alice
- What does Mary Alice mean when she says that Grandma has eyes in
the back of her heart?
- Why is it so important to Mary Alice that she and Royce McNabb be married in Grandma's house? Discuss the poignancy of the scene when Grandma gives Mary Alice away.
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