Last Ballad (Cash) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Last Ballad … then take off on your own:

1. Talk about the quality, or more like the lack of quality, of Ella May Wiggins's life and her daily struggles to support herself and children. What are the particular challenges she faced?

2. Describe the abusive working conditions in the Loray Mill, which eventually led to the workers' strike in 1929.

3. Many, if not all, of the strike leaders were communists. How did its leadership's affiliation affect the national media and general public support?

4. Even though it ultimately failed, what role did the strike play in galvanizing the national labor movement?

5. The workers were captivated and empowered by Wiggins's songs. Later, the failed strike inspired other songwriters of the era, such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Why does music hold such power over us?

6. Consider Wiggins's rise to union leadership. Her actions were incredibly risky; do you think those risks were unfair to her four children? Would any of us today have had her courage?

7. Why do you think Cash decided to use the voices of Wiggins's daughter, the mill-owner's wife, a black Pullman porter, and the old man who pulls the "dope wagon" to tell the story? What does each bring to the telling that gives it a unique perspective?

8. Today's labor movement has shrunk in both numbers and power. Use Cash's book as a starting point to discuss the pros and cons of organized labor in the U.S.  — it's history, its demise, and whether or not it is needed today.

9. Does story resonate in today's world, given the growth of populism and concern over income disparity?

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

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2022