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The Big Dark 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 structured group discussion about Rodman Philbrick's children's novel 'The Big Dark'.

The Big Dark

The Big Dark is a children's novel by Rodman Philbrick that explores the question of what would happen if the world suddenly lost its electrical power. Dealing with this is a boy who must find ways to secure medicine for his mother and deal with a dividing town. This book should give your students plenty to talk about, and these questions can help to keep that conversation focused. This discussion is intended for middle school students.

Questions about Characters and Plot

  • In one sentence, how would you describe The Big Dark? What is this story about?
  • Who is the main protagonist in The Big Dark? How are we introduced to Charlie? What was your first impression of this character? How would you describe his personality?
  • How does this book describe the power going out? What do you think this would be like? What would be the scariest part for you? What sorts of issues would you have to deal with? How do people in this town start to realize the challenges ahead and deal with them?
  • How is Charlie's family impacted by the blackout? What plan does Charlie concoct in order to get medicine for his mom? What are the challenges he faces along the way? How does he deal with them? How do you think Charlie grows as a character from these experiences?
  • How does the rest of Charlie's town deal with the blackout? Who are the potential leaders that emerge? What makes them different?
  • Who do you think is the main antagonist in this book? How are we introduced to the Bragg family? How do they respond to the blackout? Why do you think they reacted so differently from everyone else? Why would some people be excited for a crisis?
  • What is the climax of this novel? How does this bring the central conflicts of the novel to a breaking point? How does this represent a chance for characters to demonstrate growth? How has Charlie changed by this point? How is the climax resolved?
  • How does this book end? Why do you think the power come back on? How do people go back to their lives afterwards? What do you think would be the hardest part about going back to daily life after these experiences? What do you think should happen to the Braggs? What should happen to other characters who tried to be good leaders?

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