Bernard’s first letter to Frances is short, but he does ask
one profound question:
Who is the Holy Spirit
If you had to pick a topic to discuss with someone you would like to know better, what topic would you choose? Why? 7.
If this situation had occurred today instead of in the 1950s, how might the novel have been different? The same? What significant developments would alter the pace and mood? 8.
In one of his early letters Bernard writes,
“In January a man crawls into a cave of hopelessness;
he hallucinates sympathies catching fire. Letters are glaciers, null frigates, trapping us where we are in the mom
ent, unable to carry us on toward truth.”
What do you think of
thought? What paradox is created? How would technology today change this perspective? 9.
Bernard and Frances begin an exchange comparing the literature they read as children. What do these titles reveal about them? Compare their lists with what you read as a child. How are the lists different? Why? 10.
After seven and a half months, Bernard closes his letter with “Love (may I), Bernard.”
Is his declaration made too soon? How long does it take Frances to express her love? What do the timing and format of the declarations say about each character? 11.
“I can’t even teach! I had to, when I was at Iowa, but I was not very good at hiding my displeasure at mental sleepiness and mediocrity” (39).
Compare past and present ideas about education, students, and learning. How has education changed? Are students better prepared today? Are students more or less interested in learning? Explain. 12.
After a visit to Frances, Bernard writes a short letter with this final line:
“Please do not ever disappear from me” (47).
What do you think of Bernard’s plea?
Is it sincere? Desperate? Explain. 13.
“I can’t stand mysteries.
In the same way I can’t stand science fiction.
pretend we’re somewhere else?
Forensics is a feint. Why distract ourselves from the eternal
questions with set dressing? Salad dressing” (86).
Do you agree with
of these types of literature? What type of literature do you think is most rewarding? Why? 14.
Bernard tells Francis,
so much in so little time, you let everything you’re thinking bloom upon your face, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather watch than you
pass through five moods in five minutes.
What glorious weather” (8
7). Would you take these comments as a compliment or an insult? Explain. 15.
Claire tells Frances she is the “last stanz
of Keat’s ode—
when you should be lolling around at the first
Ode to a Grecian Urn
” by Keats.
do you think of Claire’s
comparison? What is she telling Frances about love? Do you agree? Explain. 16.
Why does Frances doubt Bernard’s love for her?
Is it something about Frances? Is she correct
to be wary about Bernard’s love?
How is the theme of unrequited love relevant to the lives of Frances and Bernard? Are there other stories of unrequited love you could compare to
Frances and Bernard?
How are they similar? Different? 18.
Perhaps nothing is more tragic than a love filled with regret. How is love like this for Frances? For Bernard? Is their inability to finally love each other just a matter of timing, or do you think they were never destined to be together? Explain.