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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z
1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

The Fourth Hand


The Fourth Hand Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. The novel is clearly critical of the kind of news media epitomized by the footage of Patrick Wallingford s accident and by the “calamity channel ”in general.And yet it doesn t renounce TV and modern media entirely.What kind of news coverage do you see the novel advocating?

2. How would you describe the narrator s tone and perspective?

Do you think the narrative voice has a journalistic quality?

3. What role does the circus play in the novel?Have you read any other John Irving novels in which circuses are involved? If so,how does Patrick Wallingford s experience with the Great Ganesh Circus -and his infamous encounter with the lion - compare to depictions of circus characters and themes in Irving s earlier work?

4. How did the novel s portrayal of transplant technology -both the personal dimensions and the philosophical differences represented by Dr.Zajac and the medical ethicists -affect your views on these kinds of medical procedures?

5. Hands -and Wallingford s “fourth hand ”in particular - represent many things in the novel.What does the hand-transplant ordeal seem to say about loss and absence?

6. What are the turning points in Patrick Wallingford s life? How would you describe his development as a character?

7. From Wallingford s reverie brought on by the cobalt-blue capsule in India to Otto Clausen s nightmarish vision in the beer truck,dreams play an important role in the novel.How would you articulate the connection between dreams and the future for these and other characters?Do you think “destiny” figures into this?

8. E.B.White s Charlotte s Web and Stuart Little and Michael On-daatje s The English Patient are all carefully read and iscussed by characters in the novel.How do these books function in The Fourth Hand ?What do their readings suggest about the relationship between literature and life?

9. Patrick Wallingford is not a devoted fan or watcher of sports events before he meets Doris and the Clausens.The Clausens are almost religious about their commitment to football and the Green Bay Packers.What does being a sports fan seem to represent in the novel?

10. After Wallingford s first meeting with Doris Clausen,he develops a new sense of how becoming -or not becoming -a mother affects a woman s life.What do you make of this new interest?How does it relate to Wallingford s perceptions of the book s female characters -Marilyn, Mary, Evelyn Arbuthnot, Sarah Williams, the airport security guard, and Doris Clausen?

11. We learn that Patrick Wallingford s favorite oxymoron is “no-fault divorce.”Why do you think he sees such irony in this phrase?How do successful marriages differ from unsuccessful marriages in The Fourth Hand ?What kind of hope, or concern, do you have for Wallingford s relationship with Doris Clausen?

12. The novel draws a sharp contrast between Patrick Wallingford s New York and the Clausens Green Bay,Wisconsin,homes and their lake house.What does the Midwest -and “heading north ”-seem to represent to Wallingford?

13. In what ways does this novel have elements of a fairy tale or fable?

14. Would you call The Fourth Hand a love story? Why or why not?

Product Details

Irving, John
Ballantine Books
New York
Transplantation of organs, tissues, etc
Love stories
Television journalists
Donation of organs, tissues, etc.
Transplant surgeons
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
fiction;novel;american;literature;humor;transplants;amputation;usa;contemporary fiction;love;romance;india;journalism;transplant;contemporary;american fiction;20th century;relationships;america;2000s;surgery;us;21st century;adult;news;general fiction;circ
fiction;novel;american;literature;humor;transplants;amputation;usa;contemporary fiction;love;romance;india;journalism;transplant;contemporary;american fiction;20th century;relationships;america;surgery;21st century;us;2000s;adult;american literature;news;
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
May 2002
Grade Level:
8.18x5.48x.76 in. .61 lbs.

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Related Subjects

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

The Fourth Hand Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$3.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345449344 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[A] rich and deeply moving tale, and (in the best sense) vintage John Irving: a story of two very disparate people, and the strange and unexpected ways we may grow."
"Review" by , "[C]ompulsively readable....This is classic Irving....[F]or all its machismo and conflicted feelings about women, this is one crazy but sweet little love story."
"Review" by , "Irving presumably means all this to be a Dickensian fable...but it's a self-indulgent mishmash of let's-see-what-weird-things-I-can-come-up-with-next plotting and complacent commentary laid on by a very heavy, omniscient authorial, uh, hand."
"Review" by , "A blend of sexual farce, journalistic satire, and tender love story....From what at first seems bizarre, Irving builds the best kind of love story: an improbable one. Wallingford gets more than a transplanted hand; he begins to find his soul."
"Review" by , "A riveting entertainment and certainly one of the funniest novels of the year. The authoritative control of Irving's storytelling has never been more impressive....The delighted reader is powerless to look away."
"Review" by , "A beautiful story about the redemptive power of love."
"Review" by , "[A] thoroughly satisfying literary experience....Irving's most compassionate and redemptive [novel] to date....[His] mastery of characterization is unequaled in American novelists of the day."
"Review" by , "A turbocharged plot and outsized heroes and villains [who] will delight fans? In The Fourth Hand, as in his past works, [Irving] aims to tell a sweeping narrative with big, poignant themes, and he succeeds with brio."
"Synopsis" by , By turns brilliantly comic and emotionally moving, this New York Times #1 bestseller is hailed as "a riveting entertainment and certainly one of the funniest novels of the year" (Chicago Sun-Times).
"Synopsis" by , While reporting a story from India, New York journalist Patrick Wallingford inadvertently becomes his own headline when his left hand is eaten by a lion. In Boston, a renowned surgeon eagerly awaits the opportunity to perform the nations first hand transplant. But what if the donors widow demands visitation rights with the hand? In answering this unexpected question, John Irving has written a novel that is by turns brilliantly comic and emotionally moving, offering a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change.
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