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My Brilliant Friend Book Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

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.

Reading 'My Brilliant Friend' with your high school students can be a fascinating look into the lives of a small Italian town in the 1950s. Use these discussion questions to help your students understand more about characters, conflict, and theme. Updated: 11/19/2019

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.

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