Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss Discussion Questions

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

'Forest Dark' is a novel that touches on theories of identity, fiction, reality, and the multi-verse as it follows two protagonists on a journey to Tel Aviv. Use these discussion questions to help your students get the most out of Nicole Krauss's third novel.

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

Nicole Krauss's novel Forest Dark weaves the stories of Jules Epstein, an aging millionaire, and an American novelist named Nicole. Both are struggling to find meaning in their lives, and both of their paths take them to Tel Aviv. In Tel Aviv, Epstein encounters a rabbi who wants to call him a descendant of David, then a filmmaker trying to chronicle the life of David. Nicole encounters a literature professor who wants her to write about an alternate ending to the life of the writer Kafka. Forest Dark is a meditative, introspective book which can be used to spark thoughtful discussion with high school and college students.

Questions About the Story

  • The author begins the story with Epstein's children learning of his disappearance. Why do you think she chose this as an entry point to the story? What are your feelings about this beginning once you've read the rest of Epstein's story?
  • Why did Epstein give things away? How did the people around him respond? How did giving things away affect him? What do your possessions do for you? How much or what would you be able to do without?
  • What is Nicole's notion of being two places at once? How does she explain it? How does this notion affect her actions? How does the author use this concept to frame Nicole's story?
  • Nicole talks about trying to see the world as different than it really is. How do we see this in both Epstein and Nicole's stories?
  • What is the result of Nicole's experience in Tel Aviv?

Questions About Literary Elements

  • Why is Epstein opposed to belief? How is the theme of belief present in Forest Dark? What do you think about belief?
  • A major theme in Forest Dark is the theme of binding. What does the author mean by binding? What forms does it take in this narrative? Where else do you see binding in life or literature? Is it positive or negative?
  • The author alternates narratives of Epstein and Nicole. What is the difference in narrative style, and what purpose does each style serve?
  • What is the symbolism of Epstein's Annunciation painting in this story? What happens to the painting?
  • What is the role of violence in the various relationships in the book? What is the relationship between love and violence according to the author, to Epstein, and to Nicole?

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