Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind is a 2001 novel by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon, translated into English in 2004. The novel contains a story within a story, following both the main protagonist and the mysterious author with whom he has become obsessed. The book has received wide acclaim for its structure and plot, and will be an engaging read for students. The following questions can help guide a class discussion on this novel, and its plot, structure, and themes.
Questions about Plot and Characters
- In one sentence, describe The Shadow of the Wind using your own words. What is this book about?
- Who is the main protagonist in The Shadow of the Wind? How are we introduced to Daniel? What are some of the first things we learn about him? Why are these things important? Why does his age matter at the start of the book?
- What is the Cemetery of Forgotten Books? What does this place represent to Daniel? How does he become obsessed with Carax over the following years? What events throw the rest of the plot into motion? What is the central conflict? How is that established?
- Who are some of the other characters (protagonists and antagonists) that Daniel meets along his journey? How are each of them different from Daniel? How are each of them similar to Daniel? What impact does each have on the plot and on Daniel?
- How does Daniel himself change throughout the novel? Where do we see this? What do you think is the best example of Daniel's character growth?
- What do we learn about Carax? How does this change Daniel's impression of him? How does this change your impression of him? Does meeting the real man, not the legend or the rumor, change this impression?
- What is the historical context around this story? What has happened in Spain? How does this define the characters? How does it define the plot?
- How does The Shadow of the Wind end? What did you think of this ending? What did you think of The Shadow of the Wind? Would you recommend it to somebody else? Why or why not?
Questions about Themes and Structure
- How is the narrative told in The Shadow of the Wind? What are the advantages and challenges of this style of writing? How does the plot unfold? What is hidden, and what is revealed at different points? Did this work for you? Why?
- What do you think of the author's writing style? Which part of the book was your personal favorite? Which character was your favorite? Why?
- What do you think are the main themes of the book? Where do we see these themes? Which characters or places are most attached to each theme?
- What is the significance of the theme of memory in The Shadow of the Wind? Where do we see this theme? How do books connect to the theme of memory? When is memory something to be preserved, and when is it something to be destroyed?
- The battle between preserving and destroying Carax's works is set around the Spanish Civil War- do you think that's a coincidence? How are these two conflicts similar? How do Carax/Daniel and Fumero represent different sides of both conflicts? Why did the fascists burn books? How does that fit into the other themes of this book?
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