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The Weir takes place in a small island fishing village during the years before World War II and is set against a backdrop of hard work and struggle. Ruth Moore brilliantly and authentically captures the characteristics of coastal Maine and its people while using them to write a story of universal human drama featuring two primary families who feud, gossip, and struggle while being battered by the relentless tides of change sweeping over their community and their entire way of life.
1. As Alice and Leonard argue about their plans, Alice says, “You can’t know [what you want] when you’ve only tried one thing” (P. 117). Is this statement supported or opposed by the characters and their experiences in The Weir? Do you agree with this statement?
2. While Hardy “shied away from the finality of a decision,” Josie believed that “most issues were simple … either she did a thing or she didn’t” (P. 141). How do you make decisions—more like Hardy or more like Josie?
3. Earlier in the novel, Alice says, “I want Leonard—only I want him different. I want him to like what I’ve made of myself and to think I’m as much of a person as he is” (P. 150). Does Leonard become this person by the end of the novel?
4. “It was the same island … which in the 1750s had meant home and harbor to men sick of sailing everywhere … but a man now groped after that safety, sensing its loss and feeling more and more that, if it were not here, then it must be somewhere else” (P. 209). How does this statement resonate today? Can one outgrow a place?
5. Morris proves to be a villain by the end of the novel, did you imagine this would be the case upon Morris’ introduction in The Weir?
6. The changing of one’s livelihood, especially later in life, is often greeted with surprise, apprehension, or confusion. After Leonard expresses such emotions to Hardy over buying the store, Hardy is defensive, saying, “I dunno what I could say or do that you and the rest of the family'd think was right. I s’pose you think I’m goin’ to build that goddam weir for the rest of my life. Well, I ain’t.” (P. 275) Why are midlife career changes often met with negative reactions? Has this changed in the 21st century?
7. By the end of The Weir, many families have left Comey’s Island. Also, Morris is dead, Alice and Leonard plan to marry, and Sayl and Haral plan to fish together. Do these plot lines make for a happy ending? Why or why not?
8. While The Weir does an excellent job highlighting the negative aspects of small communities (backbitin’ and fightin’ and gossipin’), discuss examples in the book of positive aspects of living in a small community?
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