The Palace Thief Discussion Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'The Palace Thief' is a 1994 short story collection by Ethan Canin about male relationships. This asset provides student discussion questions about these stories.

The Palace Thief

Ethan Canin's The Palace Thief is a compilation of four short stories with male protagonists who struggle with personal relationships. Each protagonist is facing his own midlife (or late in life) crisis as they are feeling unfulfilled in their ordinary existence. The following questions guide student discussion questions for these short stories.

The Accountant

  • Who is Abba Roth? What is Abba's definition of success? Do you think Abba is successful according to his own definition? Compare Abba's idea of success to yours.
  • How is Abba's marriage to Scheherazade characterized? What do Abba and Scheherazade have in common? Would you be happy in a marriage like theirs? Explain your answer.
  • Why is Abba jealous of Eugene Peters'? How accurately do you think Abba is able to assess Eugene's life? What are the challenges with comparing yourself to someone else? What advice would you give Abba?

Batorsag and Szerelem

  • What is the narration style of 'Batorsag and Szerelem'? How does this style impact the relatability of the characters?
  • How do you think the author chose the title of this story? What other titles would be appropriate?
  • Describe the relationship between William and Clive. What prompts William to consider his relationship with his brother? What will you remember about your sibling at the end of his or her life?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe Clive? How is Clive different from the other members of his family?
  • How does Clive's relationship with Eliot impact the family dynamic? How does William react to his elevated status in the family? Why does William respond this way?
  • What happens to Clive? Why do you think the author chose to write this story?

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