Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend is an extraordinary expose' on the lives of two teenage girls in a small, low-income Italian community. Their friendship is complex, as are the interactions of all the characters with one another. The novel explores important themes, such as wealth and power, parent-child relationships, and violence. You may want to use these questions as the basis for a one-on-one conversation with a single student or provide a list of questions to student teams. Alternatively, you can use them as a springboard for a whole group discussion. Consider asking students to prepare written responses to a few of the questions to serve as a summative assessment.
- Notes: These questions are designed to be used after students have finished reading the novel. Additionally, there are mature sexual themes addressed in this novel. A couple of the questions address sexual violence. Use your discretion in selecting questions for your students.
Questions about Characters
- Carmela Peluso is friends with Lila and Elena. Describe her role in the friendship. Does she grow as a character, or as a result of her friendships with the two main characters? Use examples from the text.
- Lila is courted by many local young men, namely Marcello Solara and Stefano Carracci. She eventually marries Stefano. Why do you think she chose him over Marcello? Do you think she made the right choice? Why or why not? How does he betray her in the end of the novel? Do you think she will be able to forgive him for his betrayal? Will she financially benefit from her shoe design? Why or why not?
- When Lila and Rino make a shoe design that they are excited about, they offer their father the idea of replicating and selling it. Why does he disapprove? How do Lila and Rino continue their work behind his back? Do you think this was the wrong thing to do because they disobeyed their father or was it right for them to continue following their dream?
- Do you think Lila or Elena will make it out of the neighborhood to find new lives? Why or why not? Support your reasoning with supporting details from the text.
Questions about Conflict
- There is immense conflict between the Carracci and Solara families. Describe their power struggle. Who do you think should have control of the town? Do you think that one of them is a better ''ruler'' than another? Do you think there will be a time in the future when the town is not controlled by any single family? Why or why not?
- Elena and Lila could be considered the best of friends; however, there is an internal conflict that Elena often faces in which she resents Lila to a certain degree. Describe how their friendship begins and how it changes throughout the novel. What conflict(s) do they have with one another, even if unspoken? Describe in detail.
- Donato Saratorre and his son Nino are at odds with one another. Why? Do you think Donato deserves his son's respect? Why or why not? Is there a way for the two to move forward in a positive manner and build their relationship? Explain your reasoning.
Questions about Theme
- Violence is a central theme to this novel, as it is imposed by the powerful families and is present in the characters' homes. Discuss the role of violence in the family homes. How does it affect the children? Is it ever okay to use physical punishment with children? Why or why not? Do you think any of the family situations in the book qualify as domestic violence? Explain your reasoning.
- Who do you think murdered Don Achille? It is rumored that it was Mr. Peluso; do you agree? Why or why not? Do you think that the harm Don Achille had done to the community and the acts of violence he had committed justify his murder? Did he ''get what he deserved''? Explain your reasoning.
- Elena Greco and Nino Sarratore have a friendship throughout their lives. Elena clearly wants it to be more than that. Do you think they will end up together? Why or why not? Can Elena separate Donato's sexual assault from her connection to his son? Do you think Nino would leave his family behind to be with Elena? Why or why not?
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