1. What are some features of the society into which Christian was born? What do you note about family relationships and inheritance? The importance of dwellings? Class differences?
2. What seem to have been some features of her personality? What were her attitudes about travel? work? her relatives? class differences? men?
3. What do we learn about her parents? What did her parents work at, and what were their social circumstances? What values did her mother impress on her? What kind of relationship did she have with her parents?
4. What was her religious background? What seem to have been her responses to religious authorities?
5. What was her attitude toward education? Why was she not given more education, and what did she feel about this relative deprivation?
6. What were some of her more important early experiences? Under what circumstances did she work as a servant? Which occupations did she most enjoy, and why?
7. What response did she have to London? to the people and landscape of the Highlands? What kinds of pleasures did she and her friends enjoy?
8. What does she have to say about the events which followed the defeat of the Jacobites in 1746? By whom was Fraserburgh invaded? What actions made the population so bitter?
9. What were some features of life in the bothy? Of selling fish inland? What do you make of her comment that she would readily stab anyone who attacked her?
10. What attitude did she have toward tinkers (gypsies)?
11. What was her reaction to working at Philorth? Which family members did she like or resent, and why? What do her experiences seem to indicate about class relations at the time?
12. What are her attitudes toward men and marriage? Why did she refuse to marry Murray Fraser, despite his greater social status? On what grounds did her parents disapprove of the match? What other proposals does she reject, and why?
13. What seem to be her attitude toward those of higher social station or wealth? Do you think some of her response may be defensive?
14. What comments does she make on the Highland Clearances? On the refusal to teach Highland children in their own language? What reasons does she give for her interest in the subject?
15. What comments does she make on the presence of illegitimate children? In general, how would you characterize her social attitudes?
16. What are her opinions on what her editor calls the "agricultural revolution"? How did it adversely affect the people among whom she lived?
Christian Watt’s Memoirs, pp. 40-end
1. What were some of Christian’s views on politics—including class differences, contemporary law, perquisites of middle-men, factors and lawyers?
Why do you think one of the Saltoun’s called her a “Tolpuddle Tory”? According to this account, was he correct?
What were her relations with members of the aristocracy? On what basis did she seem to get along with some members of the Saltoun family? Do you think her views were idiosyncratic or consistent?
2. What were Christian’s views on the subject of illegitimacy? What kind of contract began her relationship with her husband? What was her reaction on conceiving a child before formal marriage?
3. What seems to have been her attitude towards house ownership? What happened to 72 Broadsea over the years? How was it lost to her and how regained?
4. What were important features of her courtship? At what age did she marry? Why do you think she married James Sims rather than her previous suitors or a potential later one?
5. Why did she refuse to marry Peter Noble? What were the fates of her former suitors?
6. What were her evaluations of her marriage? What did the couple have in common, and on what issues were they divided? What circumstances killed Christian’s first two sons and husband?
7. What events precipitated her first breakdown? Her second? What legal and social consequences resulted from her problem? What better circumstances, if any, do you think might have prevented her confinement to a mental institution? Can you tell what her attitude may have been toward being committed (107)?
8. How do you think her problems might have been treated by contemporary U.S. doctors? What do you think of the advice and aid given their in the Aberdeen asylum? Was she ever diagnosed as sane?
9. How did she respond to her first American experience? What are some ways she tries to support her family after James’s death?
10. Which occupations did she engage in during her lifetime? What are some other occupations followed by her relatives and friends?
11. Are there instances in the book where she seems to hold more than one opinion on a topic? Do you think she evolved in her opinions, or changed her mind?
12. What circumstances in the fishing trade and other social changes seem to have contributed to the Sims’ poverty? Why do you think she was never able to support her children after she was widowed?
13. Was she fortunate in her other human relationships? How did other family members treat her? What were the characters and fates of her children? Did you find anything strange about her reaction to the death of her son Watt?
14. Why did she remain at the Asylum in later life? How and o what extent did he maintain her family life? Why did she later refuse to join her son James at 72 Broadsea?
15. What seems to have been the nature of her religion? At what points in her life did she have epiphanic religious experiences? What effect did her beliefs have on her life? How did she feel about her son’s secular marriage?
16. Which features of her religion seemed conventional for their time, and which were unusual or idiosyncratic? Did her beliefs help her deal with her strong condemnation of those in authority?
17. What attitudes does she express toward the wars she experienced—the Crimean War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Boer War, and the First World War? What effects did they have on the people she knew? Do you think her views are generally consistent with those of modern historians?
18. What do you see as some consistent aspects of her character? What do you make of such incidents as the attacking of someone who tried to cheat her, or the desire to confront the church over the birth of an illegitimate child?
19. On which occasions does she seem to show generosity with her property, and on what grounds does she seem to make these decisions?
20. What are her views on gender relations in marriage, women’s suffrage, child labor, and soldier’s pensions? Had she been able to do so, how do you think she would have voted?
21. What does she remark on about the mental patients in the Asylum and their treatment? What were G.P.I.’s (113)?
22. How may the fact that she tells her story from the vantage point of extreme old age have affected aspects of her narration? Are there aspects of her experiences that are treated briefly or imperfectly, and if so, why may this be the case?
23. What attitudes does she express towards Negroes? Jews? other different ethnic groups and languages in her region?
24. What are some features of the social world presented in the illustrations?
25. What does she see as important social/economic changes which affected her and others in the nineteenth century? What does she see as important changes in the early twentieth century? Which, if any, of these changes does she consider to be improvements?
26. As her account ends, what are Christian’s final observations and hopes? To what extent do you think her life and account achieves a sense of peace and closure?
27. What are some of your reflections after reading this book? Has it changed or extended your views about everyday non-middle-class life in the nineteenth century, and the writings of minimally educated people?