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Oscar and Lucinda (Carey) - Discussion Questions

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 Oscar and Lucinda:

1. The earliest of the many arresting episodes in this book is the Christmas pudding incident. How does Oscar's delight in this new taste—and the subsequent anger of his father—set the stage for the events of the novel?

2. In relation to Question #1, many see the pudding scene as a retelling of Adam and the forbidden fruit in Genesis. Does that reading make sense to you? How might that interpreta-tion, the fall and expulsion from paradise, play itself out in the remainder of the story?

3. What explains Oscar's conversion from his father's fundamentalist sect to the Anglican Church? Discuss Oscar's hopscotch-like theology. Does God direct where the stone falls...or is it a game of chance? What does Oscar believe? What do you believe?

4. Talk about Oscar's religious beliefs. Is he good...or corrupt? Is he endangering his soul by gambling? Or does the fact that he devotes his winnings to charitable causes justify, or make right, his gambling obsession? What does Oscar believe?

5. In relation to Question #2: Peter Carey invokes 17th-century mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal in this novel. Pascal postulates that belief in God is a necessary bet: if you're right about the existence of God, you win. Even if you're wrong, and there is no God, you still win because you've led a good life. Oscar adheres to Pascal's ideas: belief in God is a gamble. What do you think? Is Oscar (or Pascal) right? Can faith be reduced to a bet—a matter of chance?

6. What kind of characters are Oscar and Lucinda? They're eccentric, of course, but how else might you describe them? What makes them fall in love? (Can you recall the moment when Lucinda suddenly realizes that she might be in love with Oscar?) Why aren't the two honest in their feelings with one another?

7. Discuss the ways Lucinda flouts prevailing societal codes for women of her day?

8. In what way do Oscar and Lucinda refuse to accept their society's racist views of Australia's Aboriginals?

9. Is it a flaw, or a strength, in their characters that neither Oscar nor Lucinda understands or cares (which?) how others view them?

10. Reviewer Aravind Adiga writes that "for Oscar and Lucinda, [gambling is] an expression of their desire for real change and reformation. In that sense, gambling is also an expression of their innocence." Thus the two make their fantastic wager on the glass church. Can you comment on Adiga's observation? Do you think he's right—that their gambling is not only a rebellion but also a way to right the wrongs of rigid societal codes—against Aboriginals, women and innovators? (See the full review in The Second Circle.)

11. What is Lucinda's fascination with glass? (Consider the name Lucinda...just for fun.)

12. Relating to Question #11: glass is obviously (clearly?) symbolic in this work. What does it represent? Carey has said in an interview with BBC World Book Club that glass is perfect and pure but also dangerous—when glass breaks, it cuts. How does that idea connect with a church of made of glass—which is being carried into the wilds of Australia? What might it mean, metaphorically, that Oscar bets he can carry the glass without breaking it?

12. Although it may be overly schematic, consider the metaphor of church and commerce betting against one another for the soul of Australia (or any society). What are the ramifications of such a bet by two powerful institutions— particularly for indigenous people?

13. Oscar comes to regard the trials of his journey through the outback as punishment for his sins. Do you think he's right? Will his suffering redeem him in God's eyes?

14. What affect does the use of shifting perspectives have on your reading of the novel? Did you find the varying points of view illuminating or confusing or interruptive?

13. What was your experience reading this book? Did you find it humorous, sad, funny, intriguing? Talk about Carey's writing style—his descriptive passages; insinuations and indirect sentences; and satirical eye. He has been compared by some to Charles Dickens in his idiosyncratic characters and convoluted plots. Do you see similarities?

14. Were you satisfied or disappointed by the novel's ending? Where were the plot's turning points—where different decisions by either Oscar or Lucinda might have changed the story's outcome?

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

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