Hannibal Free Public Library

Marriage of Opposites

by

Alice Hoffman

September 19, 2022

2:00 Ė 3:30 p.m.

 

Discussion Questions
 

1. Discuss the titleówhich marriage or relationship does "The Marriage of Opposites" refer to? Where in the novel do you first recognize the titleís significance?

2. In Chapter 1, Rachel says, "Perhaps that was what my mother disliked most. I resembled her. I could not help but wonder if for some women, that was the worst sin of all." Discuss Rachelís relationship with her mother, her own stepchildren, and female relationships around her. What sort of resemblance does she mean? Compare these relationships with the one Rachel has with her son, Camille.

3. "...on this island, strength was a necessity" (page 22). Consider the power dynamics in the novel, from mental strength to willpower, physical strength versus financial dominance. Discuss what is meant when Rachelís father tells her that her marriage is "a combining of strengths" (page 27). For these characters, which strength is most valuable?

4. Discuss the importance of identity in the novel. What are the roles of religion, race, and class as they contribute to each characterís definition of self?

5. Weather and the natural world figure strongly in The Marriage of Opposites. Consider how Rachel, Frederic, and Camille view the rain and the heat. Discuss the differences or similarities in their points of view. How do descriptions of weather define life on St. Thomas and life in Paris?

6. There are many sorts of love that are "forbidden" in the novel. Why does the community disapprove of Rachel and Fredericís relationship? Why does Rachel later disapprove of her sonís relationship with a working member of her household, when she herself has been so close to Adelle and Jestine?

7. The mystical world plays a key part in life on the island. Often, characters speak of spells, spirits, and ghosts and use herbs to cure emotional and physical distress. Compare the role of spirituality on St. Thomas and in Paris. At what point does the mystical distinguish itself from Jewish tradition?

8. The relationship Madame Halevy forms with Camille? Why do you think he is so interested in her and the stories she has to tell?1. The Kentucky Pack Horse program was implemented in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create womenís work programs and to assist economic recovery and build literacy. Looking at the novel, how did the program affect the people in this remote area? Do you think library programs are still a vital part of our society tod

Adapted from: https://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/13-fiction/10302-marriage-of-opposites-hoffman?start=3