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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 585

Accidents in Common

  1. In Thomas E. Lange’s “A Vicar’s Baptism”:

    1. The veteran’s confession tells a story within the story. Is “A Vicar’s Baptism” technically a frame story?
    2. Four main characters are introduced: Fr. George, Nathan, Clive, and the veteran, who is named only at the end. What is the dramatic function of each character? How do their personalities differ? What philosophies or attitudes do they represent?

    3. Luke 4:1-13 explains the meaning of baptism, which calls upon the baptized to “renounce the Devil and all his empty promises.” In what way does the story show those words fulfilled?

    4. In what way does the young vicar, Nathan, himself receive absolution?

    5. The veteran who comes to confession says he was a serial killer in his life before the war. Would his remorse be more plausible if he had committed only a single crime? Does Nathan’s youth suffice to justify his reaction to the veteran’s story?

    6. In what way does “A Vicar’s Baptism” reflect the crisis of confidence at the beginning of what historian Raymond Aron rightly called “the century of total war”? Albert Camus called it “the century of fear.” Why might Aron have been more right about the 20th and Camus, about the 21st?

  2. In Bob Welbaum’s “Combat Fatigue”:

    1. At what point in the story can the reader reasonably surmise that Stu is talking to a computer?
    2. In light of Stu’s experience, might he be better off talking to a real person? Instead of a computer or even a psychological health professional, how might Stu talk about his experience with someone who has been through something similar but has a different point of view?

  3. In N. Joy Lutton’s “Pongo”:

    1. What is the function of cussing? Is Jake’s home state relevant to the story in any way other than distance?
    2. At what point in the story can the reader reasonably surmise that Jake is gay?

    3. Does Jake express any feelings besides annoyance for his parents? How do Jake’s parents feel about him? What does his mother say that hints he would be welcome only as he was, not as he is?

    4. At the end, Jake sobs hysterically over the contents of his childhood thermos bottle and asks himself why he has traveled so far only to retrieve Pongo’s remains. How might the story end with Jake’s realizing why he’s taking the trip?

  4. In B. Z. Niditch’s “Brothers Under the Skin,” what do the poet and the painter have in common?

  5. In Sarah Ann Watts’ Winter Ship, “Agis Scarthaga”:

    1. Kyran says that only the questions about his uncle Lucid and the two princes “never vary.” And Kyran presumably keeps giving the same answers. Why must the two repeated questions and answers be significant?

    2. Kyran tells Queen Daria, “I may be a murderer, but I’m no traitor.” The statement might be true, but coming from Kyran it’s self-contradictory. Why?

    3. At one point, Kyran exclaims, “That’s a lie!” What might his outburst imply about the other information Queen Daria purports to reveal to him?

    4. How does Naraya seem to feel about Kyran? What does she say that might lead him to trust her? Does she really do anything besides state the obvious?

    5. Queen Daria moves her court bag and baggage to Majvaz’ kingdom and, foreseeably, becomes his captive. Why would she make such a drastic decision?

    6. Ever since Kyran was taken from the temple by his uncle Lucid with a promotion to Lord Protector of the two princes, Kyran has been used, abused, bartered away, beaten, betrayed and tortured. Why don’t Queen Daria and Majvaz just put him out of his misery?

      Aside from the fact that it would be unseemly to murder even a disinherited king’s son, do Daria and Majvaz suspect that Kyran knows something they don’t? What events in chapters 4 and 5 indicate that they would be right to do so?

    Responses welcome!

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