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Everyman: A Novelby Philip Roth
Reading Group Guide
1. What is the relevance of the title to the story that is told in the novel?
2. What do you learn about the man being buried from the opening scene at the cemetery? What would the book be like if this scene came—as it might if the story were told chronologically—at the end rather than at the beginning?
3. Describe precisely his predicament with his sons, Lonny and Randy.
4. Describe precisely his relationship with his daughter, Nancy. What is the nature of their predicament?
5. Why does he refuse the consolations of religion despite his sharing in the universal terror of death?
6. What is his relationship with the dead? a. With his dead parents. b. With Millicent Kramer. c. With those of his family who are long dead.
7. Why does he take up painting, and why does he abandon it? Why does he begin teaching painting classes to his fellow retirees, and why does he stop teaching?
8. Exactly what transpires between the young jogger and the hero? Trace the shifting development of their encounter line by line.
9. While visiting his parents graves, the protagonist imagines his father telling him: “Look back and atone for what you can atone for, and make the best of what you have left” [p. 171]. Why does he imagine his father giving this order? Why doesnt he imagine his mother giving it? Why does he imagine his mother saying “Good. You lived” [p. 171]. What does she mean? How do you explain the difference between what is voiced by the father and what is voiced by the mother?
10. Some readers have said that they wept when they finished reading the book. Did you weep? If so, why? If not, how do you understand the response of those who did?
11. Examine the final paragraph of the book sentence by sentence. Discuss the motifs that are gathered together in these final sentences and the importance of each to the novel.
12. How does the twenty-first-century novel Everyman significantly diverge in content, form, and intent from the fifteenth-century English morality play Everyman? In what important ways has Roth modernized and secularized that medieval text?
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