Appointment in Samarra Discussion Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Appointment in Samarra' is a 1934 novel by John O'Hara about the social decline of a successful salesman. This asset provides discussion questions for students about this novel. Updated: 11/14/2019

Appointment in Samarra

John O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra is a fictitious novel about fate, suicide, marriage, and self-destruction. The book follows the protagonist, Julian English, over a three-day period in which he descends from being a well-respected socialite to exile. The following questions encourage discussions about this novel for high school students.

Christmas Eve

The questions in this section reflect on the characters and the beginning of Julian's descent.

  • Compare Julian and Caroline's marriage to Lute and Irma's marriage. Why do you think it is difficult to assess the success of another family? Connect this to a time that you were surprised to find out that a couple or a family were less functional than you imagined they were.
  • How does the setting at the beginning of the story support the characterization of the couples who live on Lantenego Street? How are their Christmas celebrations different from the way you celebrate the holidays?
  • Why is Julian resentful of Harry? What part does alcohol play in the conflict between Julian and Harry? What misconception does Julian have about his position in society? Do you think the outcomes would be different if Julian had selected a less popular adversary? Justify your answer.


This section contains questions about the second day of Julian's self-destructive behavior.

  • What adjectives would you use to describe Ed Charney? Describe the relationship between Al Grecco, Ed, and Helene?
  • How does Julian's family background impact him? How would you respond to Julian's father if you were Julian? Explain your answer.
  • What motivates Julian to apologize to Harry? Why is Harry's response problematic? What do you think Julian should do to resolve this conflict?
  • Why does Caroline refuse Julian's advances? How does Julian respond? Why do you think Julian is choosing to make matters worse with self-destructive behavior? What character traits would Julian need to develop to change course at this point?

December 26

The following questions review Julian's final day.

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