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VUSM 160:001Franciscan Values & Tradition

Shaking Words: Examining Franciscan Virtues through Young Adult Literature
Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Discussion Questions

How did you respond to Marcelos father? What are his strengths and flaws as a
character? What does he perceive as a fathers primary responsibility to a son?

Is Arturo an ethical person? Is he a moral person?

Do you accept Arturos explanation for keeping the memo from Garcia (288-289).

How did you respond to Marcelos relationships with others?

Discuss the types of real worlds that Marcelo inhabits: the law office, Paterson, the
Tree House, Jasmines home in Vermont.

Marcelo is told to learn the rules of the real world. What are those rules? Who sets the
rules? What rules do you follow in the following worlds:

College Life

Marcelo is not bi-polar; but nevertheless, he experiences conflicting values. Discuss the
paradigm of values that he confronts. What ethical or moral dilemmas does he face, and
how does he resolve them?

Arturo says that Competition is an attitude. Its a way of understanding that the motive
behind someones action may be self-interest, and reacting to that accordinglyits
helpful to assume that most people are looking out for number one (44). What is your
response to Arturos definition of competition? How do you see competition functioning
in your world?

How would you summarize Marcelos spiritual self? Does it shift in the book? Do you
agree with Rabbi Heschels sermon on God (275-79)? Can you define your spiritual self?
How do you define faith?

How would you summarize Marcelos moral self? He states, I feel like what is right
should be done no matter what (253). He reads Micah 6: 8 -- "He has shown you, O
man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love
mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" Is this a good philosophy for personal
conduct? What is the context of the scripture?

This novel is a bildungsroman novel, i.e., an educational novel. What does Marcelo learn
about himself, relationships with others, the future, work, forgiveness? How does he
learn these things? Are you comfortable with Marcelos conclusion that it is not right for
a person to be unaware of pain (302)?

Read Platos the Allegory of the Cave. Apply Marcelo in the Real World to Platos

Thoreau and Saint Francis come into the novel in different ways. Discuss how each
figures life influences Marcelo.

Research Topics

Aspergers Syndrome
Francisco Stork


Internal Music
The illustration of a tree branch at the beginning of each chapter


Choose one or two passages in the novel that you feel illustrate a theme of the novel.

Marcelo in the Real World

Questions for Discussion
by Francisco Stork
1. In describing the Internal music (IM), Marcelo says: the music is not heard with the
ears. What are some of the way that Marcelo describes the IM? Why is it so hard
for him to describe it? Marcelo tells Dr. Malone that the IM is always there when he
looks for it. What happens to Marcelos ability to hear the IM as the summer
progresses? What do you think is the relationship between Marcelos ability to hear
music and his religious faith?
2. Can you list some of the reasons why Marcelo does not want to attend a regular high
school? What is it about Paterson that he likes? Why does his father want him to
attend Oak Ridge High the following fall? Where does Aurora stand on the Paterson
versus Oak Ridge debate?
3. What kind of relationship does Marcelo have with his father? Aurora asks Marcelo
if he trusts his father. How does Marcelo trust his father and what happened to this
trust as the summer developed? Do you think Marcelos trust for his father is
different than his trust for his mother? Marcelo says that trust is one of those abstract
words that is hard for him to understand. Can you point to concrete instances where
Marcelos ability to trust is challenged?
4. What are some of the rules of the real world that Marcelo finds difficult? Arturo tells
Marcelo that the rules of the real world deal with the way to do things in order to be
successful. Do you agree that to be successful you need to follow the rules of the
real world? What are some of the rules of the real world that you believe are wrong?
Do you agree with Arturo that the mailroom of the law firm is more real than
5. Marcelo tells Aurora before he starts his summer job at the law firm: suffering and
death do not affect me the way they seem to affect others. Do you think Marcelo
has changed in this respect by the end of the summer? What happened to him to
make him change?
6. Aurora tells Marcelo that kids his age do not generally have the kind of thoughts he
has? Do you agree? How is Marcelo different from other kids his age?
7. Why do you think Marcelo has a problem with his fathers description of his
condition as a cognitive disorder? Why is Marcelo reluctant to call his condition
Aspergers syndrome? Marcelo says that when he talks about his special interest,
he can see something like a glass wall descend between him and other people. If
someone told you that their special interest was God, how would you react to that
8. Wendell asks Marcelo if he ever feels attracted to a female body and Marcelo
answers that he does not. How does Marcelos sexuality evolve throughout the
summer? How would you describe Marcelos relationship to Jasmine at different
points during the summer?

9. How would you describe Marcelos relationship to Jasmine? Do you see this
relationship evolving on the part of Marcelo from friendship to a more romantic
relationship? What makes Jasmine and Marcelo right for each other on a
friendship level? On a romantic level?
10. When Marcelo visits Rabbi Heschel towards the end of the summer, he tells her that
he has stopped praying and that he has stopped reading holy books? Why did he
stop? Compare Marcelos faith at the beginning of the summer and at the end. What
happened to his special interest?
11. What role does Ixtel play in the novel? How does she affect Marcelo? How is her
influence different from Jasmines?
12. If you were to ask Marcelo at the end of the summer, how do we live with all the
suffering? What do you think he would say to you? Can you point to places in the
book where you think Marcelo might have glimpsed at the answer to that question?