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1 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

The Last Town on Earth


The Last Town on Earth Cover

ISBN13: 9780812975925
ISBN10: 0812975928
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. In what ways does Thomas Mullen use foreshadowing throughout the novel?

2. The Commonwealth quarantine is rife with moral ramifications. What are its consequences? Was Charles decision reasonable? What would you have done in his place?

3. The gauze mask has a ubiquitous presence throughout the story. What is its symbolic significance?

4. The flu often causes its victims to experience delusions. What other examples of delusion, literal or figurative, can you find throughout the novel?

5. Rebecca, Elsie, Tamara and other women in the novel have important influences on their male loved ones. What do these women have in common? In what ways do they exert their influence?

6. What is Franks significance? Why does Philip grow so attached to him?

7. Does the relationship between Frank and the C.O. resonate with Philip and Grahams relationship? If so, how?

8. Were you surprised by Philips recovery? Why do you think Mullen allows him (and the rest of the Worthy family) to survive?

9. How has Philip developed by the end of the novel? Has his character progressed or regressed? Having been “stripped of so many things that he thought had defined who he was” (page 387), how, then, should we view his prior experiences?

10. Philip initially calls Graham a murderer for shooting the first soldier, but ultimately ends up shooting Bartrum to save Grahams life. Is there a difference between their acts? Where does Philip and Grahams relationship stand by the end of the novel?

11. A prominent motif throughout the novel is that of starting over after experiencing loss. Bearing this in mind, is your interpretation of the ending optimistic or pessimistic?

12. Would you have responded to the crisis more like Philip or like Graham?

13. Do you think Philip and Grahams behavior differed in part because of their situations? Does that make their decisions about the soldier more or less sympathetic/understandable?

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

richf714, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by richf714)
This book is a good read which shows how our human nature reacts to external influences which are beyond our control. The historical backdrop makes for an interesting view on how folks react under trying circumstances.
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Helen M Mendoza, December 17, 2011 (view all comments by Helen M Mendoza)
Although this is a first novel it is surprisingly well researched and polished. It has won more than one prize including the Fennimore prize for historical fiction. The book is set in the state of Washington during the last year of WWI and the flu epidemic. It celebrates the American genius for eccentricity, moral courage, and the march to a different drummer. The setting is a town founded in capitalist cash and idealism that follows the American tendency "to go it alone" until fate or human nature contrive to show that we all live interdependently and to try to ignore that is to choose a hard row to hoe. I hesitate to say too much about the plot because it is rather riveting but one character I personally found fascinating was the town's doctor. He is a man who was taught medicine in an apprentice system rife with theories of the aether and miasma of sickness yet exposed through one of his own mentees to the latest in germ theory of the time. The tension, the doubts he endures in the face of the flu epidemic are so moving and profoundly humbling. There is also an interesting and moving presentation of the Everett Washington "massacre" in a flashback of one of the main characters. The presentation of the so-called average working class American in this book is so truthful. It is an interesting contrast to Camus' The Plague but of equal moral worth.
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SusanH, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by SusanH)
It is the autumn of 1918 and a world war and an influenza epidemic rage outside the isolated Utopian logging community of Commonwealth, Wash. In an eerily familiar climate of fear, rumor and patriotic hysteria, the town enacts a strict quarantine, posting guards at the only road into town. A weary soldier approaches the gate on foot and refuses to stop. Shots ring out, setting into motion a sequence of events that will bring the town face-to-face with some of the 20th-century's worst horrors. Mullen's ambitious debut is set against a plausibly sketched background, including events such the Everett Massacre (between vigilantes and the IWW), the political repression that accompanied the U.S. entry into WWI and the rise of the Wobblies.
Great read!
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Product Details

Mullen, Thomas
Random House Trade
Thomas Mullen
Historical - General
Community life
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.01x5.30x.94 in. .68 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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