Lincoln (Vidal)

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Lincoln:

1. You might start by reading the (very long) exchange in the New York Review of Books between Vidal and two Lincoln historians, from which the above critical excerpt by Richard Current is taken. A good question, then, is how important is it for historical fiction be factual? Is "poetic license" fair or ethical...or does the reader understand that fiction is, well...fiction, and that a degree of embellishment is expected?

2. How—and why—do the men in Lincoln's cabinent underestimate him? Does Lincoln encourage their underestimation...intentionally? What advantages would he gain by doing so? Do any of the cabinent members change their opinions of Lincoln? 

3. Talk about General McClellan—how is he portrayed in this book? Why is he so beloved by the public? Why does he refuse to prosecute the war more aggressively? Why does Lincoln put up with him...and why does he finally dismiss him. 

4. How is Ulysses S. Grant protrayed?  Compare him to McClellan?

5. Talk about Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln's marriage?  What do you think of Mary Todd? Is she a good helpmate for her husband? Was she fairly treated by the press?

6. What is Lincoln's attitudes toward African-Americans, slavery, and emancipation?  Why was he so tardy in emancipating the slaves?

7. What did you learn from reading Vidal's Lincoln ... what new insights did you gain into Lincoln as a man and as a president? ... and into the Civil War period?

8. If you haven't already, you might consider reading Doris Kearn Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005).  It would be interesting to see how Goodwin's historical account compares with Vidal's fictional approach.

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

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