Is this story appropriate for a volume entitled, “Stories of the Seen and the Unseen”? Is this a better title than “Stories of the Supernatural”?
Are there aspects of this story which don’t seem typical of a ghost tale? (told from point of view of ghost, more than of those who see her)
What is the theme of the story? How are Lady Mary’s habits and life-choices described? (somewhat self-satisfied and heedless)
What motivates her to delay making her will? Why does she hide it?
Who are her chief male friends and advisors? (the lawyer, doctor, vicar) What are the motives of those who urge her to act in favor of her niece? (kindness, realism)
How are servants presented in the story? Does their presence add to our sense of Lady Mary's social ambiance?
What is added by the intervention of Mrs. Turner? What social milieu do she and her husband represent? What point is made about the attitudes of her neighbors towards her family?
What are some features of the afterlife as represented? Does it resemble the Christian heaven, hell, or purgatory?
When the spirit of Lady Mary returns to her former home, which things wound her most?
Who is able to recognize her spirit? What is the effect on them of this vision? (perturbation) Who senses her presence?
What places do others usually feel a spirit may be inhabiting? (liminal spaces, e. g., stairwells, the street, a side room)
Does Lady Mary achieve her wish of communicating with the living? How are we expected to interpret her niece Mary’s fainting fit? (she later claims Mary has recognized her, though they were not able to speak)
What incident finally enables the living to find Old Lady Mary’s will? Has she contributed in any way to this outcome?
Does Old Lady Mary ever know that her niece has been able to inherit?
What roles are played by the doctor and vicar? Why is neither able to deal adequately with the situation?
What reason is given for the vicar’s refusal to give credence to the story of Old Lady Mary’s return? (would seem an admission of the existence of Purgatory) What does the author think of his stance? (evasive, literal-minded)
Is the ending effective? Had young Mary not been loving and forgiving, would the story have ended so well?
Although this is a “ghost” story, how do you interpret the fact that the outcome is dependent on natural causes? Do you think that for Oliphant the supernatural is a reality or a state of mind?
Are there antecedents in 19th century literature for the motif of the revenant who sees he or she has been forgotten? (Christina Rossetti)
May there be autobiographical resonances of this tale?
Is this a good story? Is it well told?
A Story of A Wedding Tour"
(prob. written 1870s; published 1898)
What is ironic about the title? What is this story ostensibly about?
How is the heroine described? What attitude toward her does the narrator convey?
What financial information about the characters places them for us in the social scale?
What do you make of the frequent use of the word "little"?
How would you describe the story's style and point of view?
How are the Midhursts and Mr. Rosendale described? Are any of their actions blameable?
What do we learn about Mr. Rosendale's point of view? Are aspects of his portrayal stereotyped?
What are unusual features of the plot? Why do you think so much is made of railroad travel?
How does the protagonist respond to the death of her husband? Does she feel regret? Do you think she was indeed partly responsible for his death?
May this story be read as a commentary on marriage practices of its time? Do you think its account of Janey's life in southern France is a realistic one?
How would you describe the tone of the ending? Of the story? Do you think it is altogether consistent?
Does this story have a moral? Do the characters receive their fitting reward? Would you describe the ending as cheerful or troubled?
In your view is this a good short story? On what basis can one make such a judgment?