Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
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.
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?
The following questions review Julian's final day.
- How does Julian's personal life impact his professional life? Why is it important to keep your personal life in check to be successful?
- Why do you think Julian considers suicide as an option to escape his problems? What is the connection between Julian's grandfather's suicide and Julian's suicidal thoughts? Why do you think a family history of suicide increases the risk? What can families do to prevent recurrences?
- Why does Froggy Ogden turn against Julian? What would you do if your best friend mistreated your cousin? Why do you think Julian has such a strong reaction towards Froggy?
- What do you think Caroline wants from Julian? What does Julian need from Caroline? What would it take to salvage their relationship? Explain your answer.
- What do you think would have happened if Julian had hosted the party as planned? What are Julian's options? Five years later, which of Julian's issues would have continued to be a problem?
- What do you think of the ending of this book? How might you rewrite the ending?
- What is the author's message to the reader?
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