A Gentleman in Moscow Discussion Questions

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

If you're looking for a delightful, thought-provoking novel for your students, look no further than 'A Gentleman in Moscow.' With an abundance of personality and philosophy, this book will set you up for rich discussions. Use these questions to get you started.

A Gentleman in Moscow

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to life in exile in the Hotel Metropol for the crime of being an aristocrat. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles tells the story of the ensuing decades of the Counts tenure at the Metropol. What might seem a narrow cage proves also to be a ground for rich friendships and deep thought. Towles weaves the story of Count Rostov with beautiful prose and engaging characters. The Count's philosophic bent ensures that the novel contains plentiful fodder for discussion with high school or college students.

Pre-Reading Questions

  • What is exile? Why might exile be chosen as a punishment? Do you think it would be effective?
  • What do you know about Russian history, politics, and philosophy? What are your sources of information?
  • If you were exiled, what would you miss the most? What would be unimportant?

Questions About the Story

  • On the day of his sentencing, the Count has drinks with Andrey, Vasily, and Marina. How does this session set up their future relationships?
  • What is Nina's role in the Count's acclimation to his exile?
  • The Count has a long-standing relationship with the actress Anna Urbanova. From this relationship, what do we learn about him, about the changing political climate of Russia, and about relationships?
  • The Boyarsky is a significant location for the Count throughout his stay at the Metropol. What does the Boyarsky tell you about the Count? How do the changes in the Boyarsky parallel the changes for the Count and for the country? What does the Boyarsky symbolize?
  • What changes for the Count with Sophia's arrival?
  • What prompts Misha to remark that when the Count was exiled he became the luckiest man in all Russia? What do you think the Count believes about this claim? What is the author's perspective?
  • How do the Count's escape and the epilogue change your understanding of the story? What do you predict might happen next? What textual evidence supports your predictions?

Questions About Literary Elements

  • The novel opens with a segment of a poem. How does this set the tone for the novel? What question is asked? How is this question addressed in the rest of the novel? What is the significance of each place the poem claims purpose is not?
  • Purpose is a theme of this novel. What is meant by having or finding purpose? What is your purpose?
  • What is the symbolism of the book of Montaigne's essays?
  • How does Towles foreshadow each of the details of Rostov's escape as the story unfolds?
  • What are the major turning points of the story?

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