Diary of Mattie Spenser (Dallas)

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Diary of Mattie Spenser:

1. We learn that Luke seemed attracted to lovely Persia at first. But he chose Mattie instead. Were you initially suspicious? Why didn't Mattie question his motivations? Why was Luke considered such a catch?

2. At the heart of this pioneer story of hardship and adventure is the marriage of Mattie and Luke. Talk about that relationship and the difficulties of a husband who remains distant, sometimes dismissive. Do you like Luke...or admire him...or what?

3. Luke says to Mattie that if "one had to write down such happenings, they weren't worth remembering, and that diary keeping, like writing poetry, used up time that might be put to better use." How would you have answered Luke had you been Mattie?

4. Reading of the dangers and travails Mattie and Luke (and others) faced, which would have been the hardest for you to cope with—Indians, loneliness, childbirth, illnesses, brute hard work?

5. What are some of the codes of "civilized society" that Mattie realizes don't apply to life on the frontier? Do those broken rules suggest that the rules were were meaningless to begin with? Or do different places/times require different standards?

6. The Diary of Mattie Spenser can be seen as a coming-of-age story in which a young, naive girl full of illusions develops into a mature woman. How does Mattie grow into her adult self—in what ways does she change and mature?

7. Is the novel's end satisfying? Or Would you have preferred a different conclusion? Given all that happens, could the story have ended any other way?

8. Dallas says that although this is a fictional journal, some readers have asked her where the journal is kept—in other words, they believe it is real. Did you have that sense, too, as you were reading The Diary—that you were reading the voice of a "real" 19th-century pioneer woman? Does Dallas's voice as a late 20th-century author, writing of 19th-century characters, ring true?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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