Secret Scripture (Barry) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. Although Roseanne is very reluctant to converse with Dr. Grene about her past, she pours her recollections into her secret journal. Why do you think she is so reticent with regard to the psychiatrist and so blatant in her private revelations?

2. Do you think that The Secret Scripture is specifically intended as a story about Ireland and the Irish psyche, or is it a more universal story about issues that affect oppressed people everywhere?

3. The theme of woman as a sexual transgressor and outcast has long engaged writers of fiction from Hawthorne to Hardy and beyond. In what ways, if any, did The Secret Scripture contribute to your understanding of women who are punished for their sexual behavior?

4. Early in the novel, Joe Clear calls Father Gaunt "a good man." Subsequent events call this judgment gravely into question. Playing devil’s advocate, can you think of reasons for calling Father Gaunt a good man? If so, then why does his "goodness" have such disastrous effects?

5. Father Gaunt’s account of Roseanne’s life is clouded by his prejudices. Roseanne’s autobiographical testament is rendered unreliable by her age and her suspect mental condition. Which version of events do you find more trustworthy? Is either account completely untrustworthy?

6. How does Dr. Grene’s relationship with his wife, Bet, relate to the principal plot of the novel?

7. Early in the novel, Joe Clear drops feathers and hammers from a tower in a botched attempt to explain the force of gravity to his daughter. Why do you think Barry inserts this curious vignette into the book?

8. What character names in The Secret Scripture do you think serve a symbolic function? What, specifically, do these names suggest?

9. Although Roseanne Clear is plainly victimized by those around her, she also makes some very poor choices, like going to meet John Lavelle on Knocknarea and seeking help from Mrs. McNulty when she is on the verge of giving birth. Is she in some strange sense complicit in her own suffering?

 10. The novel explores the risks inherent in seeking truth. Have your own searches for truth sometimes had unforeseen consequences?

11. In the end, do you find Roseanne’s story tragic or triumphant? Explain.
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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