Discussion Questions for “Anderson” by Emma Donoghue
1. How does the author use the setting of the story to convey a sense of confinement and oppression? What effect does this have on the characters and the overall tone of the story?
2. Analyze the character of Mr. Anderson and discuss the various ways in which he exhibits controlling behavior towards his family. How does this control impact the dynamics of the family and the individual members?
3. Explore the theme of identity in the story. How do the characters in “Anderson” struggle with their sense of self and how does this struggle contribute to the overall plot and development of the story?
4. Discuss the role of gender and power dynamics within the family in “Anderson.” How are these dynamics portrayed and what impact do they have on the characters and their relationships with one another?
5. Examine the use of symbolism in “Anderson.” Identify and analyze at least two symbols used by the author and discuss their significance in relation to the themes and motifs in the story.
6. Compare and contrast the characters of Sylvia and Violet in “Anderson.” How are they similar and different in terms of their personalities, actions, and motivations? How do these similarities and differences contribute to the overall story?
7. Analyze the author’s use of language and narrative style in “Anderson.” How does the writing contribute to the overall tone and atmosphere of the story? What effect does it have on the reader’s understanding and interpretation of the events?
8. Explore the theme of escape in “Anderson.” How do the characters in the story seek to escape their circumstances, both physically and emotionally? What obstacles do they face and how successful are they in achieving their desired outcomes?
9. Discuss the significance of the title “Anderson.” How does it relate to the themes and motifs explored in the story? What deeper meanings or interpretations can be associated with this title?
10. Analyze the ending of “Anderson” and its implications for the characters and their future. How does the resolution of the story contribute to the overall message or themes in the text?
Emma Donoghue’s short story “Anderson” explores themes of confinement, control, identity, and escape within the context of a family struggling to find their place in a restrictive society. Through the use of vivid language, complex characters, and a carefully crafted setting, the author creates a compelling narrative that prompts readers to reflect on power dynamics, gender roles, and the search for individuality.
From the very beginning, the setting of “Anderson” plays a crucial role in conveying a sense of confinement and oppression. The Anderson family lives in the harsh environment of an isolated island, cut off from the rest of society. Donoghue describes the island as “one goose’s tread of ochre sand stitched with marram, five jet-black rocks like hearts in the shallows.” This vivid description not only creates a stark and desolate image but also evokes a feeling of entrapment. The island becomes a physical representation of the family’s limitations and the constraints placed upon them by their circumstances.
This feeling of confinement is further heightened by Mr. Anderson’s controlling behavior towards his family. He is portrayed as a domineering figure who exercises his authority over every aspect of their lives. For example, he strictly controls their access to the outside world, limiting their interactions with others and monitoring their activities. This control has a profound impact on the family dynamics, creating a sense of tension and resentment. The individual members of the family, particularly Sylvia and Violet, struggle with their own identities under Mr. Anderson’s oppressive rule. They yearn for freedom and autonomy but are constantly reminded of their subordinate positions within the family structure.
The theme of gender and power dynamics is also prevalent in “Anderson.” Mr. Anderson’s control extends not only over his wife and daughters but also over his son, who is expected to conform to traditional masculine norms. This dynamic reinforces traditional gender roles and perpetuates a patriarchal hierarchy within the family. Sylvia and Violet, in particular, are limited by societal expectations of femininity and must navigate the constraints placed upon them by their gender. This struggle for agency and individuality is a central theme in the story and propels the plot forward as the characters search for ways to break free from their predetermined roles.
In addition to these themes, “Anderson” uses symbolism to enhance the reader’s understanding of the characters and the overarching narrative. One example of symbolism is the use of the sea, which represents both freedom and danger. The sea acts as a catalyst for change in the story, enticing the characters with its vastness and possibilities, yet also posing a risk that they must navigate. This symbol reflects the characters’ desire to escape their confinement and find their own paths, but also underscores the challenges and risks involved in doing so.
Overall, “Anderson” is a thought-provoking and complex exploration of confinement, control, identity, and escape. Through its compelling characters, rich setting, and poignant themes, the story prompts readers to reflect on power dynamics, gender roles, and the struggle for individuality within a restrictive society.