Arcadia (Groff)

Discussion Questions
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Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Arcadia (quotes refer to hardcover):

1. Talk about Little Bit. Aside from his name's stated meaning, "little bit of a hippie," what is the thematic significance of his name? What do you think of him as a adolescent...and eventually as an adult? How does Arcadia shape his adult life—has it been a positive or negative influence? Finally, what does he come to understand by the end of the novel?

2. What do you think of Hannah and Abe—as parents and as members of the commune?

3. Do you think it's right to sequester children in a commune like Arcadia, far from the reality of society? Is Bit, or any of the children, prepared for adult life? Or, on the other hand, perhaps you believe that the security of a protected environment gives children a chance to develop the inner-strength and values they'll need as adults.

4. Talk about the hardships members of the commune face. Why do Hannah and Abe remain under such difficult conditions? Would you stay, even given a strong commitment?

5. Why do the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales hold such power for Little Bit? What do they express for him, inwardly, that he can't find words to express outwardly? What dark forebodings might they hold for Arcadia?

6. What do you think of Handy—how would you describe him? What do you think of him as a husband and father? What kind of a leader is he? What role does he play in Arcadia—initially and over time?

7. Talk about Handy's first reaction to the completed Arcadia House. What is Abe expecting—why is he deflated by Handy's response? What eventually happens to Abe and Handy's relationship—and why? At one point Handy accuses Abe of "fomenting discord" while Abe insists he (Abe) has stayed true to their original aims, implying that Handy has not [p. 123].

8. How do you view Hannah and Bit's secret marijuana field? Were you rooting for their harvest to succeed—even though they're raising an illegal drug to sell on the open market? Or do you find it understandable—given that Arcadia desperately needs money to feed themselves through the winter?

9. What is Abe attempting to teach the boys during his tutorial on Milton. What does he mean when he quotes, "the mind is its own place" [p. 120, hardcover ]?  Is it? And how might that insight help Bit survive the expulsion from Eden and his life in adulthood?

10. Comment on the observation that "when we lose the stories we have believed about ourselves, we are losing more than stories, we are losing ourselves." What are some of the stories of your life that have been shattered?

11. What do you think happens to Helle in the third part of the novel?

12. Did you have expectations about hippie communes before reading Arcadia, and if so, does the book offer any revelations—new ways of understanding the communal movement? Or has the book confirmed what you've tended to think of communes?

13. What are the ideals and goals of Arcadia...and in what way do they change over the years? Are those ideals eventually corrupted...or were they simply too naive or quixotic, making them impossible to live up to? If the latter, why? If corrupted, how?

14. Arcadia champions individual freedom. To what extent can personal freedom exist in a utopian community?

15. Follow-up to Question 14:  The word Arcadia hearkens back to a mythical province of ancient Greece—a mountainous, pastoral area where humans and nature existed in complete harmony. Are utopian communities possible?

16. SPOILER ALERT: What led to the downfall of Arcadia? To what degree is Handy responsible? Or are other factors to blame?

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

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