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The Lizard Cage


The Lizard Cage Cover

ISBN13: 9780385525039
ISBN10: 0385525036
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Reading Group Guide

1. During a meditation, Teza reflects on the following Buddhist principles:





These are the Four Divine Abidings. Love. Compassion. Joy in the good fortune of others. Equanimity.

How are these principles depicted in the novel, and in what way do they help Teza cope with his imprisonment? Does he always succeed in living by these principles? How does he impart them to Little Brother?

2. How do Tezas experiences inside the Lizard Cage represent the larger political turmoil in Burma (now Myanmar)? Despite the inhuman conditions, does hope still reside inside the prison?

3. “Words are like the ants. They work their way through the thickest walls, eating through bricks and feeding off the very silence intended to stifle them.” How is the irrepressibility of truth evident in The Lizard Cage? What parallels can you draw from other civil rights conflicts in the world?

4. Brothers Teza and Aung Min chose different paths of resistance, the former peaceful protest and the latter armed revolution. In your opinion, whose choice was more effective? How does Teza keep their relationship alive through memory? In what ways is Tezas friendship with Little Brother similar to his relationship with Aung Min?

5. Why are pen and paper contraband in the Lizard Cage? Even Little Brother, who cannot read and write, understands their power. How is language a powerful weapon against oppression?

6. “From solitary, the whole cage is a foreign country to him. He lives on the very edge of it, straining to hear the other voices.” While confined, Teza reflects on life, from his family and first love to his education and political actions. Can memories be both freedom from captivity and a torturous reminder of a life not lived? When have you experienced this paradox?

7. Little Brother is referred to by various names, most commonly the boy, rat killer, Free El Salvador, Nyi Lay, and his real name, Zaw Gyi. Why is Teza comforted to know the boy has such a strong name? What does ones name signify in terms of social hierarchy and character?

8. Animals, particularly lizards, play an important role in The Lizard Cage. What is the significance of the characters relationships with animals? How are those relationships spiritual, and what do they teach us about human relationships?

9. How are jailers Handsome and Chit Naing products of the environment in which they live? Why do they have such different attitudes toward Teza even though they have the same occupation? Are they motivated by survival, loyalty, or ambition?

10. In what way does Teza achieve freedom through Little Brother? What does the novel say about the resilience of the human spirit?

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Jon Larson, September 28, 2013 (view all comments by Jon Larson)
The Lizard Cage is the heartbreaking, harrowing story of an orphan boy and a political prisoner in a Burmese prison ruled by Burma's military junta. By avoiding trite attempts at lauding the resilience of the human spirit in times of distress, or making heroic martyrs of ordinary human beings doing what ordinary people will in extraordinary circumstances, Karen Connelly provides us with a view of the Lizard Cage from the inside out. The inhumanity of the jailers becomes an allegory for our times, expanding our sense of human possibility in ways both reassuring and horrifying.

I at first thought I'd have to put it down. I'm glad I didn't. The Lizard Cage was, for me, a story about the the importance of expression, human contact, and communication, however constrained, and what happens to us when we lose these ordinary features of life, at least as we once knew them. At a time when so many of us are feeling squeezed, isolated, alienated from a world in which computer screens often substitute for people, and email for the human voice, the Lizard Cage is a powerful reminder of what is lost when simple human contact is filtered through everything from politics to paper.

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Product Details

Connelly, Karen
Spiegel & Grau
Literature-A to Z
burma;fiction;prison;human rights;political prisoners;myanmar;buddhism;novel;historical fiction
burma;fiction;prison;human rights;political prisoners;buddhism;myanmar;novel;canadian;historical fiction
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.90x5.20x1.00 in. .87 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

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