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Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following discussion questions can help you to guide your students through a structured discussion about Wallace Stegner's 1971 novel 'Angle of Repose'.

Angle of Repose

Angle of Repose is a 1971 novel by American author Wallace Stegner that explores themes of family history, bitterness, and forgiveness. The story follows a wheelchair-bound man who researches his grandmother's life and contemplates his own marital struggles in the process. The following discussion is intended for high school students, but can be adapted for other ages as well as students explore their thoughts and feelings about Angle of Repose.

Questions about Plot and Characters

  • How does Angle of Repose begin? What did you think about this opening? Why is it important for us to get to understand Lyman Ward before getting into Susan and Oliver's stories? What do we learn about Lyman? What was your initial impression of this character?
  • How does the novel transition more and more into focusing on Susan and Oliver? Is Lyman's presence still noticeable as this happens? How does the author maintain the balance between these characters?
  • What is life like for Susan and Oliver? How does Lyman describe it? How does he seem to feel about his grandparents? What was your impression of these characters? How do Susan's letters play into this?
  • What are some of the struggles and challenges that Susan and Oliver face throughout Lyman's telling of their history? How do they deal with these struggles? How many of these are issues that people today can still relate to? Were you able to connect with Susan and/or Oliver at any point in this novel?
  • What is the climax of this novel? How does this bring the character arcs and conflicts to a breaking point? How is the climax resolved? What did you think about this resolution?
  • How does this novel end? How has Lyman changed? What do you think the author was trying to say with this ending? What is the message of this story?

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