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Other titles in the Ballantine Reader's Circle series:
Fancy Strut (Ballantine Reader's Circle)by Lee Smith
Reading Group Guide
1. The title of this novel is Fancy Strut. What does the
title of the book mean to you, both literally and figuratively?
Does your interpretation of the title change as the book
2. Why do you think Lee Smith chooses to begin and end
the book with Miss Iona? In which ways is she a symbol
for the town of Speed and what its gone through over the
festival period? How does her story interweave with that
of Speed? What does she realize as the book progresses,
both about the town and about herself?
3. The theme of appearance versus reality threads
throughout Fancy Strut. How does the Sesquicentennial
Festival provide a showcase for this conflict? In which
ways does it make a turning point within Speed? How
does the involvement of the White Company, an outside
organization that conducts the festival, bring this struggle
to the surface? How is the White Company different from
how it appears?
4. How do daydreams and imagination provide an outlet
in Fancy Strut? Who in the town grapples with the conflict
between fantasy and reality? In your opinion, are these
fantasies healthy or unhealthy for those who have them?
Who is most likely to turn his or her daydreams into
reality, and why?
5. In which ways is Bob Pitt much different from how he
appears to the outside world? What drives him toward his
daydreams? How does his attitude toward his family, his
role in the festival, and Sandy underscore his struggle?
6. “We have to preserve our anachronisms,” Manly
Neighbors tells Monica (page 64). In which ways is
the town of Speed itself an anachronism, especially
considering racial and social factors? How are certain
oppositional forces in the town, such as Bill Higgins
and Lloyd, emblematic of the fight between the status
quo and modern changes? How does the balance of
power shift as the novel progresses?
7. The book follows the thoughts and actions of many
people in the town, including Bob Pitt, Monica, Bevo,
Lloyd, and Buck Fire. What effect does this shifting point
of view have on the story? How does this contribute to a
cohesive narrative and to painting a complete picture of
Speed? Is there one individual whom you view as the
“voice” of the narrative? If so, who, and why?
8. In which ways is Monica Neighbors a typical smalltown
wife and society lady? How does she chafe under
these classifications? How does she express her ennui,
both externally and in her daydreams?
9. Discuss the evolution of Ruthie. What is her motivation
for entering the Queen pageant? In which ways does this
action change her life? Why is Ron the Mouth so taken
with her? Why do you think she succumbs, finally, to his
advances—is she in love, or are her feelings more
pragmatic in nature?
10. What does being Queen represent for each of the
contestants? How do they see the crown as a gateway to
bigger and better things? How do organizers spin the
election process as fair and democratic? Is it really? In
your opinion, is the right person chosen as queen? Why
or why not?
11. Why does Buck Fire appeal to the women of the
town? What, originally, does Monica think of him, and
how does her mind change as the book progresses? Why
does Monica want to have a baby by the end of the book?
Do you think shes truly tired of herself, as she says?
Why or why not?
12. What significance does the housing suit brought
by the Speed Junior College students have for both the
festival and for the town as a whole? What motivates
both Theolester and Chall toward the suit? In which ways
are they idealistic, and in which ways pragmatic? Why
do you think Lloyd becomes their lawyer? How do others
in the town, particularly the mayor, react to the nascent
civil rights movement, both in the town and in the
13. Why does Miss Iona write obituaries for the
majorettes, and for Sandy, Frances, and Manly? Why
does this group inspire such particular contempt from
her? How is each symbolic of a changing world that she
neither likes nor understands?
14. How does the fire at the pageant galvanize the town?
Why does Bevo set it in motion? Does Sharon perceive
Bevo differently after the fire? How is the looting of the
town significant? Does it portend larger national events to
15. What do you think happens to the characters in Fancy
Strut after the Sesquicentennial and fire? Whom can you
see leaving Speed to embark upon a new life? Who would
be most likely to attempt to remain in the town and
maintain the status quo? Why?
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