Chapters 1-9

  1. Does this book remind you of any other narratives you have read, especially those written before 1872? (e. g. Gulliver's Travels, Robinson Crusoe)
  2. What is the significance of its title? Is this truly an account of "nowhere," and if so, why?
  3. What do we learn about the narrator in the opening chapters? Why may the author have omitted discussion of his past, and what effect does this have on the reader's response to the narrative?
  4. What seem to be features of his character, and his motivations for travel? In what ways is he a suitable narrator for a work of this kind?
  5. Can you detect the presence of autobiographical features in this novel?
  6. Where is the novel set? How would the British reader have responded to the setting and culture he represents? How do features of the terrain affect its meaning?
  7. In chapter 2, "In the Wool-Shed," we are introduced to Kahabuka, or Chowbok. How is he presented, and what is the narrator's relationship to him? Do you think the narrator embodies standard imperialist notions in his treatment of this indigenous chieftain?
  8. In chapter 3, "Up the River," Kahabuka deserts the narrator; what does the latter believe may be his motive? Do you think he is correct? Why do you think Butler chose to present a story in which a lone traveler ventures into another culture's terrain without any guide?
  9. In chapter 4, "The Saddle," what excites the narrator about his vision of the river and gorge? What emotions does he experience after descending and crossing the river? What effect does the music/noise he hears have on him?
  10. In chapter 5, "The River and the Range," what are the narrator's emotions and hopes? What do you think is Butler's attitude toward the narrator's desire to convert Chowbok, and his belief that he may have located the lost ten tribes of Israel?
  11. How does the narrator respond to the circle of statues? What kind of music do they create, and what is their relation to his dream of an organ playing Handel? How are these statues related to his memories of Chowbok?
  12. In chapter 6, "Into Erewhon," what are his first impressions of the people he encounters? What do they seem to notice about him, and how do they treat him at first? What does he believe impresses his captors in his favor?
  13. In chapter 7, "First Impressions," what offense does the narrator seem to have unwittingly committed? What do you make of the museum of broken machinery?
  14. In chapter 8, "In Prison," what occupations and associates relieve the narrator's boredom? What seems to be the origin of the name Yram?
  15. While in prison, what does he learn about the values of his captors and the reasons for his fellow prisoners incarceration? What do you make of the grounds on which he is to be released?
  16. In chapter 9, "To the Metropolis," who is Mr. Nosnibor, and why is he well-regarded in Erewhon? Why does the narrator's wish to avoid staying with an embezzler? What seems to be the attitude in Erewhon toward the respective culpability of crime, poverty and sickness?
  17. What point do you think the author is trying to make with these reversals?
  18. Does this book raise any metaphysical issues?
  19. How would you characterize the genre of this romance/novel/polemic?