A Tale for the Time Being Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki is an intriguing journey from history to the present day. These discussion questions can help you guide your high school students through an exploration of theme, character, setting, and point of view.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being is an enthralling novel that spans generations through the writing of three central characters: Ruth, Nao, and Nao's great-uncle, Haruki. These discussion questions will explore all three of these characters, as well as their family members, to help students fully grasp the novel's complexities. Thematic questions encourage students to connect concepts from the novel to the world today. Characters are explored with questions about how they relate across time and place. Questions related to the novel's unique shifting point of view will help you engage students in understanding how it affects the characters, themes, and setting. These questions are best utilized as whole-class or team discussion starters. As a summative activity, you may also want to ask students to respond in writing to one or more of the questions.

  • Note: These questions are to be used after reading the novel.

Questions about Theme

  • Bullying plays a large role in Nao's life. Explain how bullying affects her. Provide specific examples from the novel. Bullying plays a large role in society today. Explain how bullying happens beyond the school setting. How should bullying be addressed?
  • Do you think that bullying led to her contemplation of suicide? What else could she do to cope with this issue in her life? Do you think that Nao ended up committing suicide? Why or why not?
  • Do you think that bullying led to Nao's prostitution? What other factors drove her into the grips of prostitution?
  • What role does technology play throughout the novel? Consider Haruki #2, Nao, and Ruth primarily and discuss how technology was used by each of them in positive or negative ways.
  • Both Nao's father and her great-uncle Haruki take strong stands based on a clear set of values that defy cultural norms of the time. Why do they make these decisions? Do you agree or disagree with their decisions? What other decision could they each have made and what might the outcome have been?

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