Before the Fall 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 fast-paced novel with engaging characters and thought-provoking action, try Noah Hawley's 'Before the Fall.' Use these questions about story, literary elements, social issues, and personal response to discuss it with your class.

Before the Fall

Noah Hawley's novel Before the Fall opens with a snapshot of several passengers boarding a private jet for a brief flight that ends in a tragic crash. As the novel continues, Hawley intersperses the story of the two survivors with the quest of authorities for the crash's cause and vignettes of the crash's victims immediately before the fall. The suspense of the novel is interwoven with philosophical musings and sharp details, making it an appealing read for teens or young adults. Use these discussion questions to get your class talking about the contemporary issues the book raises as well as the author's craft.

Questions About the Story

  • What do we learn about each of the plane's passengers as the novel opens? Why are these details important?
  • Why does the author mention Scott's sister?
  • Scott is surprised at the reception he gets from the ER nurse. How would you feel if you were the ER nurse when Scott and JJ arrive?
  • How does the plane crash change Scott's life?
  • When introducing each main character, the author makes a point of mentioning the character's parents and their occupations. Why do you think the author emphasizes the parents? What is the relevance to the story?
  • What are the differences and similarities in how different characters in the novel process their grief?
  • What is the function of the detailed descriptions of Scott's paintings?
  • What is the significance of Dworkin's at bat, which comes up several times in the story?
  • What do you think was the viewer reaction to Bill and Scott's interview?
  • How will people feel when they find out the reason for the crash? (Consider Emma's mom, Charlie's mom, Eleanor, Gus, Scott, and others).
  • Scott's final comment is that it's time to press play. What does he mean?

Questions About Literary Elements

  • What is the significance of the title Before the Fall?
  • What are examples of foreshadowing in the novel? Does the author use foreshadowing effectively?
  • The novel Before the Fall continually shifts viewpoints. How effective is this structure? Why would the author chose to set up the novel this way?
  • With which character do you most identify? Why?
  • This novel contains extensive descriptive passages. How does the use of descriptive detail impact the story?
  • The resolution of the novel was the discovery of the cause of the crash. What were the narrative clues leading up to the revelation of the crash's cause? Did you find it believable?

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