Sunday, September 12, 2010
TP ~ first set of DQs
1. Much of The Postmistress is centered on Frankie’s radio broadcasts — either Frankie broadcasting them, or the other characters listening to them. How do you think the experience of listening to the news via radio in the 1940s differs from our experience of getting news from the television or the internet? What is the difference between hearing news and seeing pictures, or reading accounts of news? Do you think there is something that the human voice conveys that the printed word cannot?
2. “Get in. Get the story. Get out.” That is Murrow’s charge to Frankie. Does this story make you question whether it’s possible to ever really get the whole story? Or to get out?
3. Early in the novel, Frankie reflects on the fact that most people believed that “women shouldn’t be reporting the war.” Do you think that Frankie’s gender influences her reporting? How does Frankie deal with being a female in a male-dominated field? And do you think female reporters today are under closer scrutiny because of their gender?
4. When Thomas is killed, Frankie imagines his parents sitting miles away, not knowing what has happened to their son and realizes there is no way for her to tell them. Today it is rare that news can’t be delivered. In this age of news 24/7, are we better off?
5. After Thomas tells his story of escape, the old woman in the train compartment says “There was God looking out for you at every turn.” Thomas disagrees. “People looked out. Not God.” He adds, “There is no God. Only us.” How does this novel raise the questions of faith in wartime? How does this connect to the decisions Iris and Frankie make with regard to Emma?
6. The novel deals with the last summer of innocence for the United States before it was drawn into WWII and before the United States was attacked. Do you see any modern-day parallels? And if so, what?
7. We know that Emma was orphaned, that Will’s father had drinking problems, that Iris’s brother was killed in the First War, and that Frankie grew up in a brownstone in Washington Square. How do these characters’ backgrounds shape the decisions that they make? And if we didn’t have this information, would our opinion of the characters and their actions change?
8. Discuss the significance of the Martha Gellhorn quote at the beginning of the book, “War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say, and it seems to me I have been saying it forever.” What stance towards war, and of telling a war story does this reveal? How does it affect your reading of The Postmistress?