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The Known World

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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. Why is the character of Moses significant to the novel? How would you characterize his relationship with Henry and Caldonia Townsend? What about with his wife and child?

2. What is the significance of the title, The Known World? What "known world" is charted in John Skiffington's map in the jail? What world is charted in The Creation described by Calvin in his letter to his sister Caldonia? What role does the land and its borders play in this book?

3. Who is William Robbins and how does he impact the lives of blacks on neighboring plantations? Did you find his relationships with Henry, Augustus, and Mildred Townsend, and Philomena, Dora, and Louis compelling?

4. What is the significance of the Augustus Townsend character? In what ways is Augustus a victim of attitudes about slavery in the South? In what ways is he a victor? How did you respond to his captivity and its outcome?

5. How would you characterize Jebediah Dickinson? What explains his sudden appearance at the Elston farm? When Fern says of Jebediah: "With him there ... I feel as if I belong to him, that I am his property," what does she mean?

6. Were relationships between parents and children notably different during the era of slavery than in the present day? Consider Caldonia, Calvin, and Maude; William Robbins, Patience, and Dora; and Augustus, Mildred, and Henry in your evaluations.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 22 comments:

Witz, June 27, 2014 (view all comments by Witz)
This is "big story" novel that builds slowly and pulls the reader into the lives of slaves who have emulated their masters, masters who have done everything possible to break-down the family unit and and one slave in particular who has became a new kind of plantation master. Positively all- encompassing and breakthrough scenes of life and strife which I remember now years after reading.
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lukas, March 17, 2014 (view all comments by lukas)
This won the Pulitzer and was in a Times list of the best American novels since 1980. So maybe I went in with unreasonable expectations. I did appreciate this story of race and the wages of slavery in the South, with its echoes of Faulkner, Morrison and Twain, without really getting into it.
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lukas, March 17, 2014 (view all comments by lukas)
This won the Pulitzer and was in a Times list of the best American novels since 1980. So maybe I went in with unreasonable expectations. I did appreciate this story of race and the wages of slavery in the South, with its echoes of Faulkner, Morrison and Twain, without really getting into it.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060557553
Publisher:
Harper Paperbacks
Subject:
General
Author:
Jones, Edward P.
Author:
by Edward P. Jones
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Publication Date:
May 25, 2004
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
8.06x5.32x1.00 in. .73 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » General
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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles

The Known World Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 432 pages Amistad Press - English 9780060557553 Reviews:
"Review" by , "This extraordinary novel [is] the best new work of American fiction to cross my desk in years."
"Review" by , "[S]tunning....With hard-won wisdom and hugely effective understatement, Mr. Jones explores the unsettling, contradiction-prone world of a Virginia slaveholder who happens to be black."
"Review" by , "[K]aleidoscopic....Jones has written a book of tremendous moral intricacy: no relationship here is left unaltered by the bonds of ownership, and liberty eludes most of Manchester County's residents, not just its slaves."
"Review" by , "Jones's prose can be rather static and his phrasings ponderous, but his narrative achieves crushing momentum through sheer accumulation of detail, unusual historical insight and generous character writing."
"Review" by , "[A]mbitious....A fascinating look at a painful theme, this book is an ideal choice for book clubs. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "A masterpiece that deserves a place in the American literary canon."
"Review" by , "If Jones. . .keeps up this level of work, he’ll equal the best fiction Toni Morrison has written about being black in America."
"Review" by , "Brilliant...Jones' novel movingly evokes one small landscape of a larger map that so stubbornly yields up its truths today."
"Review" by , "The Known World is a great novel, one that may eventually be placed with the best of American Literature."
"Review" by , "A grand and inspired work of historical fiction. . .[It] deserves every word of praise that comes its way."
"Review" by , "Complex, beautifully written, and breathtaking...the book will knock the wind out of you with the depth of its compassion." QBR: The Black Book Review
"Review" by , "Heartbreaking....fascinating."
"Review" by , "Astonishingly rich...The particulars and consequences of the 'right' of humans to own other humans are dramatized with unprecedented ingenuity and intensity, in a harrowing tale that scarcely ever raises its voice...It should be a major prize contender."
"Review" by , "A profoundly beautiful and insightful look at American slavery and human nature."
"Review" by , "Vivid....[An] epic novel."
"Review" by , "An exemplar of historical fiction...[it] will subdue your preconceptions, enrich your perceptions and trouble your sleep....The way Jones tells this story...recalls Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez."
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