Neil Gunn, "The Tax Gatherer," The White Hour

  1. What are some resemblances between this story and Violet Jacobs's "The Debatable Land"? How may they be described as "modernist"? Do you think the authors may have shared political or social sympathies?
  2. What is conveyed by the story's title? What kind of tax is represented here? Why may this have been chosen rather than, say, a school-tax or poor rates tax?
  3. What does the reader learn from the opening scene?
  4. What social divisions are represented in the story? From what point of view is the story told? What advantages are provided by this vantage point?
  5. Where is the tale set?
  6. How would you characterize the narrator and his reactions? What class or type of person is he intended to represent?
  7. How is the gypsy woman described? Why do you think a gypsy family was chosen to represent the poor of the story?
  8. What constitutes the plot or story line of this tale? What propels interest?
  9. What are features of the story's style? What are some symbolic moments of the story?
  10. What purpose is served by the old woman's tale of Christ's crucifixion, and by other religious references in the tale?
  11. What motive is given for the shooting of the dog? Why is this significant? Why doesn't the death of the dog eliminate the fine?
  12. What are some unexpected aspects of the court case, and the story's resolution?
  13. Does the final scene provide closure? What meaning do you attach to the narrator's final statements and his washing of his hands?
  14. What are some ways in which the author's sympathies are conveyed?
  15. What effect is created by the silencing of the woman's views?
  16. What do you think are some intentions of this story? What aspects of social organization/interactions does it critique?

Violet Jacob, "The Debatable Land"

  1. What are some features of the style of this story? What is meant by its title? How are the author's judgments conveyed?
  2. What is the story's geographical setting?
  3. What do we learn about Jessie Mary's past and character? What is her relation to her natural surroundings?
  4. What happens when she first appears at the Muirhead cottage?
  5. How is she treated by the parish, Mrs. Muirhead and Peter? Why can't she gain relief or leave her employer?
  6. What transpires in the interview between Peter and the gypsy? Why is this important?
  7. How does Peter later relate this encounter to his mother? How has he changed the facts?
  8. What bond exists between the gypsy and Jessie Mary? In the context of the story, what does he represent?
  9. Are there elements of humor and irony in this story? To what extent is the ending a happy one?
  10. What purpose is served by the image of the chicken feathers?
  11. What do you see as some contrasts in tone and theme between this story and "The Tax Gatherer"? In its portrayal of a poor woman? Of gypsies?