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Widow's War (Gunning) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. Lyddie Berry, a woman very much of her time, ends up making a series of choices that put her at odds with the social, legal, and religious strictures of her time. What external and internal events cause this transformation? Do you think other women of this time, facing the same series of events, would have evolved in this same way? If not, what characteristics make Lyddie unique to her situation?

2. Are there other options that Lyddie ignores which might have peacefully achieved her goal of controlling her own destiny? If so, why do you think Lyddie ignores them?

3. What factors draw Lyddie Berry and Sam Cowett into their relationship? What factors cause them to back away? What parallels or contrasts do you see in the relationship between Lyddie and Eben Freeman?

4. Considering the time in which she lives, do you believe a long term relationship with Sam Cowett is a viable option for Lyddie? Does the relationship serve only as a source of physical comfort as Lyddie initially implies?

5. At one point Lyddie Berry blames Sam Cowett for alienating her from her religion. How fair is this a statement?

6. Considering the time in which he lives, do you believe Eben Freeman is forward thinking in regard to women?

7. What factors shape Lyddie's relationship with her daughter? How might they have acted to better protect the mother/daughter bond? Why don't they?

8. Sam Cowett claims that of the two Clarke brothers, Silas is the greater menace. Do you agree? Do you find any redeeming features in either brother?

9. Considering the methods of travel and communication in 1761, how do limited access and long delays affect the characters and events in this novel?

10. What is the actual significance of the Berry house in Lyddie's life? If the house had burned to the ground in the fire, do you think Lyddie would have been better able to accept living in her son-in-law's home?

11. If you were Lyddie Berry, what options would you have considered and which would you have rejected in order to make your way? Has Lyddie fully explored all her options? If not, why not?

12. Compare the political philosophies of Eben Freeman and James Otis. Who is the greater idealist? Is Lyddie an idealist or a realist?

13. If you were alive in 1761 America, how would you have responded to the ideas of James Otis? How do you imagine today's politicians would have responded to them?

14. How would you explain Lyddie's attitude toward Mercy Otis Warren and her accomplishments? How does her attitude define her times?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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