Johnstown Flood (McCullough) - 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 The Johnstown Flood :

1. What was Johnstown like before the flood—how does David McCullough describe its people and surroundings? Consider, also, what the book reveals about class and ethnic divisions.

2. McCullough insists that the Johnstown flood was not a natural disaster. Is he right? Where McCullough lays the blame? The dam was repaired after its purchase in 1879—why were those repairs not sufficient? Should individuals have been held accountable?

3. Could something of the magnitude of the Johnstown Flood happen today? Why...or why not? Or would you say that we have, in fact, experienced similar kinds of man-made disasters in recent years?

4. Is McCullough able—through his use of only language and imagery—to create a vivid picture of what the wall of water would have looked like? Overall, are McCullough's descriptive powers as a writer up to the task?

5. How did the townspeople cope after the flood? Talk about the administrative, governmental measures they undertook the day after the deluge. Were you impressed by their level-headedness or ingenuity?

6. McCullough presents us with a portrait of one of America's most beloved heroines, Clara Barton. Talk about Barton and her work in Johnstown.

7. Talk about some of the individuals McCullough writes about—those who acted bravely and those who acted foolishly. Who most impressed you...and who least impressed you?

8. After reading The Johnstown Flood, what have you learned about the flood and/or the era? What surprised you...or struck you as particularly interesting...or made the greatest impression on you?

9. Have you read other words by David McCullough? If so, how does this one compare?

10. Overall, how would you describe The Johnstown Flood—in terms of clarity of writing, story-telling power, ability to sustain your interest, and exposition of historical events and people?

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

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