The Last Days of Night 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.

Who invented the light bulb? 'The Last Days of Night' can serve to enlighten your high school students on potential answers to this question. Use these discussion questions to help them explore this historical account of invention and betrayal.

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Moore's The Last Days of Night provides insight into the relationship between Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla. Told from the perspective of lawyer Paul Cravath, the story uncovers some of the deceitful tactics Edison may have used to unfairly lay claim to the invention of the light bulb. Help your high school students analyze the book's complex themes and characters by using these discussion questions. Consider using them for a one-on-one discussion with a single student or providing a list of questions to student teams. You could also use them as a springboard for a whole group discussion.

Edison's Antics

  • Thomas Edison is credited in most textbooks as the creator of the light bulb. However, this claim comes into question in The Last Days of Night. How does Moore portray Edison throughout the novel? Do you think this is an accurate depiction of the inventor? Why or why not? If two people work together on an invention, is it fair for the one who ''does more'' to take credit? Why or why not?
  • Do you think Edison takes advantage of Tesla and/or Westinghouse? Why or why not? Use specific examples from the novel. Should they have known better than to work with Edison? Do you think Edison's reputation for taking credit for others' work preceded him or were the two unaware? Why did they decide to work with him?
  • Edison has the backing of financier J.P. Morgan. Do you think this connection makes him ''untouchable''? Why or why not? Why do you think he has more financial backing than the other inventors? Do you think he deserves it? How does his relationship with Morgan change throughout the events detailed in the book?

The Elusive Tesla

  • Tesla disappears multiple times throughout the novel. Paul solicits the help of Agnes and others in finding him. Explain Tesla's struggles and the potential reason(s) for his repeated disappearance. Do you think he is afraid of Edison? Why or why not?
  • How does Tesla overcome his fundamental disagreements and call a truce with Westinghouse and Edison in the end? Do you think Tesla should trust Edison and/or Westinghouse? Why or why not? Was Edison a victim in any of these happenings? Explain fully. Does the formation of General Electric constitute a betrayal of Tesla by Westinghouse? Why or why not?
  • How does Paul view Tesla? Does he think Tesla is the true inventor of the light bulb? Why or why not? How does his relationship with Tesla change throughout the book? Do you think Tesla trusts Paul? Should he? Why or why not?

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