Life is Beautiful Book Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

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

The following questions are designed to help you guide your students through a discussion about the book 'Life is Beautiful', a novelization of the Italian film by the same name.

Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful is a novelization of the 1997 Italian movie of the same name (Italian: La vita e bella), both of which were written by Vincenzo Cerami and Roberto Benigni. The story features a very unique take on the Holocaust, in which the protagonist uses his wit to make life in the concentration camp a game for his son. Comic and tragic all at once, this story should connect with students on many levels. This discussion is intended for high school students, but can be adapted to other ages if desired.

Questions about Plot and Characters

  • In one sentence, how would you describe Life is Beautiful? What is this story about?
  • How does Life is Beautiful begin? Why do you think the authors start the story this way? How does this set the tone for the novel?
  • How are we introduced to Guido? How would you define this character? What are the first signs we get as to his intelligence, imagination, and use of creative wit? How do the authors create such a strong impression of this character? What did you think of Guido?
  • How does Guido meet Dora? Where do we see attraction between them? What stands in the way? How does Guido win Dora's affections? What do these events look like from Dora's perspective?
  • How is Guido and Dora's life presented prior to the outbreak of World War II? What has the story been like up to this point? How would you describe its tone?
  • How does this story change once the war begins? Does it feel like this book suddenly shifts without warning? Does it feel like this change comes out of nowhere, taking us from essentially a romantic comedy into a wartime tragedy? Why do you think the authors didn't prepare us more for this shift? How does this represent what life in this time was like for the actual people affected by the Holocaust?
  • Once Guido and Giosue are in the camp, how does Guido manage to keep his son ignorant of the horrors they face? How does the first part of the book prepare us to believe that Guido can pull this off? Did you expect him to? What do these events look like from Giosue's perspective?
  • Ultimately, Guido is killed just as the Allies are arriving. Did he die in vain? Did he, as Giosue says, win the game? Why do you think this?
  • Why is this book, a story about the Holocaust in which the protagonist is thoughtlessly murdered in an alley, called Life is Beautiful?

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