What is the purpose of the epigraph? Does the story attempt to answer this question? In your view, does it do so successfully?
To what genre does this story belong--realist, naturalist, sentimental, didactic? Is it a blend, and to what extent is this blend successful?
What does the narrator claim is her relationship to the story? (stands in the same house in which Wolfe lived; possesses the statue) Does this seem uncanny, and how does it add to the narrative?
What role does the narrator take throughout? Where does she intervene, and to what purpose?
Who is her audience, the “you” of the first sentence? Why does she choose this segment of the population to address?
How is the plot shaped to be relevant to a middle-class audience? (visitors to the iron mills are a doctor, a factory owner, and a prosperous dilettante) Are these good role models, as shown in the story?
What are some features of the district of the iron mills? How are the inhabitants described? (dull besotted faces, life a drunken jest) According to the narrator, are they able to see their situation in a detached way?
What is added by the use of dialect? Who uses it?
What do we learn about Hugh Wolfe? Is his name well chosen? What are the social circumstances of the Wolfes, and how are Hugh, Deborah, and Janey related, and do we know for certain? (Janey is a neighbor child whose father is often drunk.)
What is Deborah’s age? What circumstances have constricted her life? (disabled, unattractive, poor) Would her problems have been unusual? How is her diet different from the meal she prepares for Hugh?
What internal tensions do we see in this small group, and why are these emphasized? (Deborah feels unreciprocated love and devotion, feels jealousy toward Janey) What traits does she admire in Hugh? (love of “whatever was beautiful and pure”) unattractive)
What unusual pastime does Hugh practice? Of what material are his sculptures made, and what do they represent? How are they symbolic of his life situation?
What is Hugh’s relationship with his fellow workers? Why do they consider him strange? On what grounds do they make fun of him? (call him “Molly Wolfe”)
How do the three visitors differ in their response to the workers and to Hugh? In what ways are they rude and insensitive? (they mock the mill workers even though the latter can hear them)
Are they afraid of the workers? (yes, when darkness falls)
What do we learn about the political power of the mill owners? (owner’s father has “brought seven hundred votes to the polls” at the last election)
What points does the young stranger make to his fellow visitors? How do his words affect Hugh? (he feels the degradation of his condition more deeply)
How do the men respond to Hugh’s artwork? (they understand that it is the work of a gifted man)
What would Kirby prefer be done with workers? (machines should be used instead)
What excuses do they give for not helping him? What could they have done instead? (one says he has no responsibility beyond the cash nexus, another that can’t afford it; another that it’s no use to help just one individual and that the workers must rise as a mass)
What is offensive about Dr. May’s claim that Hugh can make himself whatever he desires? What contemporary ideologies may Davis be critiquing?
What act of loyalty has Deb performed? (has brought Hugh food) How do the visitors respond to the presence of Deb? (Mitchell gives her a bit of money)
What crime does Deborah commit? Are there mitigating circumstances? (shown as naïve, unaware of consequences) Would the reader respond differently if her crime had been premeditated? If Hugh had committed the actual theft?
Does the narrator indicate how Hugh should have responded? What mitigating circumstances does she adduce? (has always been honest, had never intended to steal, thinks of value of money in rather abstract and unspecific terms; is so naïve that he fails to consider whether he will be caught)
What are his motives for not returning the money? (desires a better life)
How does the narrator intrude to remind the reader that they should not judge? (“I only want to show you the mote in my brother’s eyes; then you can see clearly to take it out”) To what biblical passage does this refer?
What is the effect of his visit to a Gothic church? (sermon fails to connect with his life) What comment may Davis be making on contemporary religion?
How is the criminal justice system portrayed in this story? (both sentencing and prison conditions are harsh)
What are the ironies in Dr. May’s response to reading of Hugh’s arrest in the newspaper? Does he feel regret or remorse at not having helped him?
What is the effect of presenting Hugh’s arrest indirectly? Of presenting his death as experienced by Deborah, the jailor, and outsiders?
What sad emotions dominant in Hugh’s last interview with Deborah? In her acceptance of his choice? Should he have tried to comfort her also? What are his last frustrated desires? (wishes to hear someone speak to him)
Are the details of his death left intentionally vague?
How does the narrator use religious ideas and imagery to make her final points? (“Father, forgive them”) Is the analogy between Christ and these workers entirely accurate?
What purpose is served by the entrance of the Quaker woman? How is she able to save Deborah from despair?
What final kindness does she perform? (buries Hugh) Would this likely have been possible?
Why is Deborah described at the end as old, deformed woman? What may be her last desire and hope?
At the story’s end, what meaning now attaches to the sculpture? Does the final image of the dawn have any social referent?
What purpose is served by the final scene with the Quaker woman and by the narrator’s interpretation of the statue’s final meaning?
Is this an effective story for its purpose?