Hologram for the King (Eggers) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available. In the meantime use these LitLovers talking points to kick off a discussion for A Hologram for the King...then take off on your own:

1. What do you think of Alan Clay? What kind of man is he? Consider his last name "Clay." Why might Dave Eggers have given him such a name? Is Alan a sympathetic, likable character? Do you feel sorry for him, admire him? Do you find him weak or irritating at times?

2. How would you describe the predicament Alan finds himself in, both at home and in Saudi Arabia? What are the stresses in his life—and in what way might he be a symbolic stand-in for middle-aged, middle-class Americans?

3. What do you think of the conversation Alan has on the plane over to Saudi Arabia? Do you agree with his seatmate—that America has seen its best days pass? Is the American Dream over, with "the dreaming being done" elsewhere—in China, Dubai, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi?

4. The concept of "hollow" pervades this novel, most obviously in the title, which refers to the use of a hologram replacement for human presence. Hanne considers Alan himself "hollow" or defeated. Where else / how else does hollowness show up...and why is the concept so significant? What is Eggers suggesting about Western and Saudi society?

5. What do you think of Saudi Arabian society—talk about the disparities between public values and private action. Were you surprised?

6. Throughout the novel, Alan tries to write to his daughter, but he but never follows through. What is it that he's trying to convey to her?

7. Alan cuts into the growth at the back of his neck. Why? He thinks, at one point, that scars are evidence of living. What does he mean?

8. Why is Alan's relationship with his father so fraught with anger (on his father's part) and disappointment (on Alan's)? Is Ron correct in his assessment of what is happening to the U.S.—they're building our bridges in China, for God's sake!—and his son's role in it? Or is he overwrought and caught up in defeatism?

9. What was Alan's role with regards to the Schwinn bicycle? Did he have a choice other than moving operations over to China? Does any U.S. company have a choice? Or could things be different?

10. SPOILER ALERT: What do you think of the novel's ending, the futility of the wait in the tent and  the fact that the contract went to a Chinese company? What about Alan's decision to remain in Saudi Arabia? Why does he want to stay?

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

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