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The World Made Straight

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Each chapter in the novel ends with an entry from the doctors journal. How does the information in the entries relate to the events of the present-day story? Did they change your understanding of the events at Shelton Laurel and their significance to Travis, Leonard, Toomey and the other characters in the novel?

2. "The boy had stirred up all sorts of things inside Leonard that hed thought safely locked in the past." (pg. 51) What is it about Travis that stirs these things in Leonard? What do the two men have in common when they meet that draws them together? In the end, considering all that happens by the end of the story, do you think theyre better off for having met?

3. Carlton Toomey, for all his brutality, is an eminently rational man with his own ideas about right and wrong. What do you think motivates him? Did you find him to be a sympathetic character at any point in the story.

4. When the two of them first visit Shelton Laurel, (pg. 86) Leonard tells Travis that "you know a place is haunted when it feels more real than you are," and Travis agrees. Why do you think Shelton Laurel feels more real to these men than their own lives? How does their susceptibility to the past, the ghosts and the legacy of the war, change by the end of the novel?

5. Travis first confrontation with the Toomeys leads directly to his moving out of his parents house, moving in with Leonard, and beginning to learn about the Civil War and the larger world. What do you think is the connection between these events in his mind? What would do you think would have happened to Travis in the coming years if he hadnt stepped in the bear trap on the Toomeys property?

6. What is the significance of the books epigraph, from Moby Dick? What does it say about the relationship between good and evil in the novel?

7. Why does Leonard plead guilty to the charges in Illinois? Look at his conversation with Kera (pg. 156); which of her explanations for his actions seems right? What do you think he should have done? Despite his crimes and his weakness, did you find Leonard to be a sympathetic character?

8. Why do you think Dena decides to go with Toomey (176)? Do you think Leonard should have stopped her?

9. After leaving his family dinner and confronting his father (pg 234), Travis spurns Lori, drops her off, and begins the rampage that will lead to Leonards death as well as Toomeys. Aside from his anger at his father, what is driving Travis on that night? How is his anger connected to what hes learned from Leonard? Is his attempt to save Dena and punish Toomey a sign of progress, of bravery, or just a regression?

10. "Landscape is destiny," Leonard remarks at one point in the story. How does the landscape where these characters live affect their lives in this story, their relationships and their ideas about the world? How might your own life be different if you had grown up, or lived now, in a drastically different landscape?

11. In a conversation with Shank during the early days of his lessons with Leonard, Travis decides not to tell his old friend everything hes been worrying about, and instead thinks to himself that "words ruin everything" (pg. 142). How do you reconcile Travis excitement about learning with his frustration with language? How does the conflict between words and actions come into play elsewhere in this novel?

12. Look at page 159, where Leonard is listening to Handels Messiah. "Even the words proclaimed an order, "he thinks. "The crookedness of the wthink has the author chosen this as the title?

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312426606
Author:
Rash, Ron
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
General
Subject:
City and town life
Subject:
Teenage boys
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Male friendship
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20070331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.29 x 5.5 x 0.815 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The World Made Straight Used Trade Paper
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Product details 304 pages Picador USA - English 9780312426606 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Travis Shelton is seventeen the summer he wanders into the woods onto private property near his North Carolina home, discovers a grove of marijuana large enough to make him some serious money, and steps into the jaws of a bear trap. After hours on the forest floor, he's released from the trap by the shrewd and vicious farmer who set it--but he can no longer ignore the subtle evils that underlie the life of his small Appalachian community.

Before long, Travis has moved out of his parents' home to live with Leonard Shuler, a one-time schoolteacher who now deals a little pot to make ends meet. Travis becomes his student, of sorts, and the fate of these two outsiders becomes increasingly entwined as the community's violent past and corrupt present bear down on each of them from every direction. Ron Rash is the author of several novels, including the prizewinning Saints at the River and One Foot in Eden, both published by Picador. In addition, he is the author of two collections of short stories, including Chemistry and Other Stories, also available from Picador, and three collections of poetry. He is the recipient of an O. Henry Prize and the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. For Saints at the River he received the 2004 Weatherford Award for Best Novel and the 2005 SEBA Best Book Award for Fiction. His work has been featured in The Yale Review, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and elsewhere. Rash holds the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and lives in Clemson, South Carolina. Winner of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction Travis Shelton is seventeen the summer he wanders onto a neighbor's property in the woods, discovers a crop of marijuana large enough to make him some serious money, and steps into the jaws of a bear trap. After hours of passing in and out of consciousness, Travis is discovered by Carlton Toomey, the wise and vicious farmer who set the trap to protect his plants, and Travis's confrontation with the subtle evils within his rural world has begun. Before long, Travis has moved out of his parents' home to live with Leonard Shuler, a one-time schoolteacher who lost his job and custody of his daughter years ago, when he was framed by a vindictive student. Now Leonard lives with his dogs and his sometime girlfriend in a run-down trailer outside town, deals a few drugs, and studies journals from the Civil War. Travis becomes his student, of sorts, and the fate of these two outsiders becomes increasingly entwined as the community's terrible past and corrupt present bear down on each of them from every direction, leading to a violent reckoning--not only with Carlton, but with the legacy of the Civil War massacre that, even after a century, continues to divide an Appalachian community. Poet's novels tend to be finely wrought, pretty failures--or worse. Ron Rash, a justly admired poet, is an exhilarating exception, and his third book-length work of fiction, The World Made Straight, marks him as a major Southern writer . . . Rash is too fine and knowing a writer to allow even a hint of folkloric sentimentality to intrude. His fiction inhabits a territory of great beauty and few material consolations . . . The World Made Straight is his most ambitious novel . . . Rash's skill as a storyteller, allows this novel to succeed as an intellectually satisfying work of suspense . . . The World Made Straight reminds us of the sort of compelling literature a brave artist can fashion from the shards of experience. It is less the literature of post-apocalyptic landscape than it is one in which life, searching for reconciliation, continuously recapitulates the apocalypse in ways both social and personal.--Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times An intellectually satisfying work of suspense . . . The World Made Straight reminds us of the sort of compelling literature a brave artist can fashion from the shards of experience. It is less the literature of post-apocalyptic landscape than it is one in which life, searching for reconciliation, continuously recapitulates the apocalypse in ways both social and personal.--Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times

Rash paints the beauty of the mountains vividly . . . but he] does not shy from coloring in the meanness and the harsh side of the beauty as well. He] creates a forceful reality, and his skill and style establish him as a powerful writer. He ties shadowy past and harsh present with a vine as strong and pervasive as kudzu.--Anne Moise, The Post and Courier

His third novel . . . establishes Rash as a major writer. It further demonstrates his ability to tell a contemporary Appalachian story that is strongly rooted in that region's heart-rending past . . . Rash is a supreme master at revealing character through dialogue, with showing rather than telling. Without calling a person evil and mean or wise and kind, Rash can render on the page nuances of speech and tone that let us know without doubt exactly what a person is like . . . His knowledge of his own Appalachian past, which extends back into the mid-1700s, with his keen observation of people in Oconee County, S.C., where he lives, and Cullowhee, N.C., where he teaches, enable him to craft fiction that is at once uplifting, harrowing and unforgettable.--Donald Harington, The News & Observer The World Made Straight really is engrossing--indeed, the last devastating fifty-odd pages are almost too compelling. You want to look away, but you can't, and as a consequence you have to watch while some bad men get what was coming to them, and a flawed, likable man gets what you hoped he might avoid. It's a satisfyingly complicated story about second chances and history and education and the relationships between parents and their children; it's violent, real, very well written, and it moves like a train. . . . Rash] manages to convince you right from the first page that his characters and his story are going to

"Synopsis" by , In an Appalachian community haunted by the legacy of a Civil War massacre, a rebellious young man struggles to escape the violence that would bind him to the past in this vivid, harrowing, yet ultimately hopeful new novel by the author of "Saints at the River."
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