Thomas Hughes was a lawyer and M. P., a Christian Socialist, a volunteer at the Working-Men's College, and the author of The Manliness of Christ.
What are some features of this book which seem especially Victorian?
How might adolescent and adult readers respond/have responded differently to this book?
What constitutes the plot? (Tom becomes more established and gains in moral development.)
Why does the plot move at such a leisurely pace, especially in the opening chapters?
What are some features of the novel’s style?
What is added by the illustrations? (esp. those by Arthur Hughes) Which illustrations are especially dramatic?
Do Arthur Hughes’s illustrations differ in tone or emphasis from Hughes’s text?
In the context of this book, what is meant by “manliness”? (courage, fairness, honesty) Are there sexist implications to describing these traits as "manly”?
How are the women of the book presented? May this tone be related to the homosocial nature of Tom’s environment, and of the novel?
What seems to be meant by “fair-play”? Why do you think this would be stressed?
What are some effects of the homosociality presented and affirmed by Rugby and the novel?
What is the importance of sports in the novel? Of physical combat in general?
Are there ways in which the novel’s tone is euphemistic? Nostalgic? Do the incidents presented always confirm the narrator’s generally affirmative tone?
Do we have a clear sense of Tom’s future life or prospects? Why may this be?
What role is played by religion throughout the novel? What religion would this have been, and what seem its features as presented by Hughes?
What would have been perceived as advantages of attending Rugby by those of the time? What ideal of character did the school seek to enforce?
What is the importance of personal loyalties throughout the book? (an ethic of friendship, enables Tom to position himself morally in the world)
Why would the social relations within a boys’ school be seen as important? (represent a microcosm of society at large)
What roles are played by East and Flashman? What is the significance of bullying as a theme?
Would you describe this as a society which promotes hero worship? Would this have had value as a means of surviving psychologically in a stratified society?
What would be its equivalent in adult life?
How is bullying presented? Is this it a concern still relevant today?
How important is academics in this school? What curriculum is studied, and would this have had a practical value for most of the attendees?
What contribution does Arthur make to Tom’s life?
Is there a significance to the choice of names—Tom, Arthur, Harry, etc.?
What are some of the speech patterns represented in the novel?
What place do women and members of the lower classes play in this novel?
What purpose is served by the inclusion of the young naturalist? Is he aided in his studies by his environment?
What are evidences of the fagging system, and what are its results? Does the narrator seem to find the system whereby young boys become servants acceptable?
What are some of the first things we learn about Rugby? What kind of social and political attitudes are implied in the confrontations at football and other sports?
How is the school governed? What emphasis is placed on team activity and eagerness to fight?
What picture is drawn of Dr. Arnold's behavior and character? (The historical Dr. Arnold was not especially fond of sports and did not believe they should hold a large part in the curriculum!)
What incidents lead to Tom's improved character?
What does the novel seem to imply about the role of an educator, and the influence of a headmaster or other mentor on students?
What are some other themes of the novel? (e. g. the assumption that boyhood is the best part of life; the importance of male bonding and friendship)
What are the literary merits of the book?
What purpose is served by the choice of quotations?
What adult lives do you predict for Tom, East, Flashman, Brooke, Arthur and Martin?
In what ways do you think this book accurately represents some Victorian middle-class social mores? To what extent does it romanticize these? Attempt to reform them?
Is it appropriate that the novel should end with a farewell to the dead? Why may this have been a common conclusion for works of literature at the time?
What is the function of the introductory chapter? Who are the Browns? What are some of their characteristics?
Do you think the author perceives these traits to be generally good? (combative, gregarious, patriotic, imperialistic, philanthropic, managerial, upper-middle class)
What significance is placed on the White Horse? (sign of British and local patriotism)
What are some of the ideological arguments which the author attempts to make to young readers? Which of these seem appropriate? (claims for the Browns as backbone of England)
How is the audience expected to respond to the narrative voice? (author a character) How might this response have changed from the Victorian period until the present?
Why is Tom chosen as a hero? Is he intended to be representative, and of what?
Chapter 2 The “Veast”
How is Tom educated before he goes to public school? What are some modern trends deplored by the author?
What attitudes toward persons of other nationalities seem to be acceptable? Toward older persons?
What are signs of class differences throughout this chapter? (respect of servants, relative poverty of back-sword fighter William)
How is Tom’s nurse described? (Charity is seen as inept, as opposed to the child Tom) Who then becomes his caretaker, and why is this seen as important?
How are we supposed to respond to the accounts of the back-sword fight? (apparently with enjoyment; narrator describes it as a “very noble sight”) How does it end? (unexpectedly won by an older man who gives a half-sovereign to William)
What qualities are praised in Mrs. Brown?
What views does the narrator give on the chasm between social classes? (these are too divided) What must any effort to bring together members of the different classes do? (must include socializing and sports—can’t be solely instructional)
What do these admonitions imply about the class status of the reader?
Chapter 3 Sundry Wars and Alliances
How is the topic of folk medicine presented through the character of Farmer Ives? Are his remedies helpful? (at least doesn’t claim he can cure arthritis)
What does Tom learn from his village friends? What backgrounds do they come from? (learns to fight, especially one complicated grip)
What are some signs of their respective class positions? (others give him gifts as he leaves for school)
What are Squire Brown’s politics? (Tory, 56) How is his view of the world described? (still believes in valuing character—didn’t Whigs?) Are his views as presented entirely consistent?
What is Tom’s reaction to the women who raise him? (his ambition is “to be free of the world of women” and join other boys, 58-59; loves mother) What does this reveal about gender norms of the time?
How is Tom’s mother described? (evinces “self-sacrifice”)
What early education does he receive? (taught by governess before going to private school)
What views does the narrator hold on supervision by ushers? (feels masters not ushers should supervise)
What assumptions underlie this view?
What does the narrator identify as some of the vices of the school? (tale bearing; oppression of small by large boys—might there have been some remedy for these?)
What do you make of fact that the game of “mud patties” is seen as enjoyable? (68) (no respect for those who clean their clothes!)
What do we see as Tom’s traits during this period? (makes friends with boy who opposes tale-bearing, likes escapades, 68)
What is Tom’s attitude toward leaving for a “public school”? (69, very eager) How does his mother react? Is her opinion heeded? (reluctant)
Chapter 4 The Stage Coach
What are some features of the mode of transportation of the time? What food and lodging is supplied along the way? (meat breakfast, 78; great emphasis on meat)
In general, why is food an important topic throughout the book?
What is the significance of Squire Brown’s parting words to his son? In response, what is Tom’s prayer?
What views does the Squire hold of the aims of Tom’s schooling? Do you think his education is well-fitted to achieve these aims?
What does the narrator find admirable in the unpleasant cold of the coach ride?
What tales does the coachman tell of past Rugby students? (81, shoot peas at Irish road workers, persecute old man on highway, remove pins from carriage wheels) Are these innocent?
How does Tom react? (thinks they are great fun) How is the incident in which they persecute the older man on the highway resolved? (he knew their parents and lets them off, 83, no talk of harm they might have done; enforces view that connections trump justice)
Does coachman differ? (reminds him of consequences)
What traits of Tom does the narrator feel are shown here? (excitement, love of danger, 83, ethos of attack, breaking bounds)
Chapter 5 Rugby and Football
What are characteristics of Tom’s first acquaintance East? (snobbish, replete with “ways and prejudices”)
How does Tom react to these? (picks them up immediately)
What immediate reform in Tom’s appearance does East demand? (new hat) Is this symbolic?
How are the boys’s rooms described? (tiny, 81, cold) Do they seem comfortable? Do they allow for privacy?
What is revealed by the custom of wearing white trousers? (87)
What have been some accidents occasioned by the boys’s sports? (97, broken leg and other injuries) Could these have been prevented?
What are some features of the long description of a cricket game? (99-102, blow-by-blow account) In what ways does it resemble a battle? (103, military language and metaphors used)
How do the boys react to their conflict? (very excited, 106, commend those who do well)
What do East and Tom contribute to the game? (East does well and is commended, 108, Tom flattened in rush, seen as a natural player, 109) How does he respond to being flattened? (109)
Why is this conflict important? (seen as a sign of character, 104)
Would Rugby have been a pleasant place for a boy who didn’t like sports? What effect does the fact that Tom is a natural sportsman have on the book’s tone?
Chapter 6 After the Match
What characterizes the boys’ purchase of tea? (Tom able to purchase for others, East has spent his money, 110)
How do the boys behave toward the coachman? (mean, 112) What allegedly propitiates him? (they pay him off) What effect may this practice have?
What characterizes the group singing? What type of songs are chosen for singing? (comic, sea-songs, one is anti-American, 116)
What are the main points of Brooke’s speech? (116, union, fellowship)
What attitude is shared by all toward tale-telling? (117) Why might this have been the case? (need to enforce group loyalty; also, unstated, fear of reprisals)
Of what kind of drinking does Brooke disapprove? (118, beer fine, other drinks outside of school are undesirable)
On what grounds does he defend the Doctor, and against what charges?
What view does he hold of loyalty to one’s school? (each must stand up for his own school, 120)
What is the purpose of the blanket tossing? Could it be dangerous? (123) What are the dangers of double tossing? (26) What part does Flashman play in these activities?
Chapter 7 Settling to the Collar
What do we learn in this chapter about the fagging system? Is it presented critically? (129, 133)
In early boyhood, what are the salient features of Tom's responses and character? (132)
In what terms is Dr. Arnold described? How does he compel respect? (132) What attitude towards him does Tom take? (resolves to follow him 133)
What importance is attached to playing games? (130)
What occurs when the boys attempt to hunt hares? (136) How are they treated on returning home? (Doctor doesn’t scold them)
What do you make of the practice of urging the coaches to race one another? (143-44, dangerous?)
How expensive is Tom’s ride home? (144)
Chapter 8 The War of Independence
In what context does the Doctor strike a student? (150)
At what stage of life does the narrator believe that personal influence is most important? (151) Is this a plausible view?
What causes Tom and East to rebel against the bullying of Flashman? (they fought against new demands for fagging for the 6th form)
What incident serves as the immediate occasion for the fight? (162) (Flashman wants to force a boy to surrender his winning lottery ticket in a context in which persistent pressure is rationalized)
What is the effect of the "fight" on Tom? (roasted, faints) What results acrue to him and other from this conflict? (166, finally authorities intervene, others respect him)
Based on this book, would you conclude that "might is right"?
Chapter 9 A Chapter of Accidents
What are the “accidents” referred to in the chapter title?
How has the prior incident with Flashman affected the future of Tom and his friends?
What are the circumstances of the final fight with Flashman? Why do you think their friend Diggs urges the boys to fight but doesn’t assist them?
Why is it assumed that fighting is the only way to prevent further attacks? In the real world might this encounter have turned out differently? (Might isn’t always right.)
How do Tom and his friends respond to the demands of those for whom they are expected to “fag”?
To what extent does this novel intend to critique the system of having boys wait on older boys?
How are their “pranks” looked on differently as they become older? (177)
What attitudes are shown in the incident of Tom’s fishing on the wrong side of the river? Was he justified in his actions? How is he treated by the adults who encounter him?
On what basis does he befriend the under-keeper? Is this a familiar pattern? (gives him money and continues to bribe him) Are there any moral implications to poaching?
What do you make of the incident in which Tom and East scale the towers and deface the clock? How does the Doctor respond? (moderately)
What student misbehaviors bother him more? (bullying 188)
Under what circumstances are Tom and the other boys caned? Does the narrator seem to disapprove of this practice? (records instance of flogee who is later grateful, 188)
Are there any consequences of flogging unmentioned in the book?
What is the significance of the quotation from Alfred Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” which concludes the chapter? (we expect his improvement)
Part II: Chapter 1 How the Tide Turned
What preoccupies the boys as they crowd around the housekeeper after their arrival? (room assignments, 190)
Why has Tom been assigned to room with Arthur? What efforts are made to induce him to be kind and protective to Arthur? (prodded and flattered by Mary, invited to take tea with Arnold family)
What behaviors does he warn Arthur not to exhibit? (to talk of home, to answer loaded questions truthfully)
What unusual behaviors does Arthur exhibit? (washes before bedtime, says prayers at side of bed)
How does Tom respond to sight of his roommate praying? (defends him, feels guilt that he has failed to keep his promise to pray nightly)
What does he assume will happen if he follows Arthur’s example, and what does in fact happen?
Chapter 2 The New Boy
What does Tom do to try to help his new friend? How does East respond? (with friendly sympathy)
On what grounds do Tom and Harry attack the student who asks them to “fag” for an older boy?
Do they seem to attack him for being effeminate? Do you think there are subtexts to this incident? (208)
Why is Arthur unhappy? What is proposed as an attempt to heal his grief for his dead father? (210ff, speaks of him)
What do we learn of the father’s life and death? (had been a reforming curate, had died perhaps from bad conditions in industrial district)
What does Tom find unusual about Arthur’s mode of reading the Bible? What topics engage the young men?
How are their reading practices similar to or different from those used in schools and universities today?
Chapter 3 Arthur Makes a Friend
What is gained by the introduction of the character of the “Madman”? In a different day and time, might his interests have been given more scope?
How does East respond to his friends’ new interests? (able to be politely assimilated into the group)
What exercises are assigned the boys, and what are the different strategies used to complete them? What does the passing down of former exercises reveal about the ethics and educational methods of the school?
Chapter 4 The Bird-Fanciers
How does Tom respond to Arthur’s increasing independence? (adapts, but at first is a bit hurt)
What is the aim of the boys’s search for nests? Does this reflect attitudes toward the study of birds and animals at the time? (killed and preserved specimens)
What difficulties must they overcome in collecting eggs?
What aspect of their search gets them into trouble? Is the farmer justified in his suspicions and anger?
What saves them? (presence of friends, payment of money) Does this episode resemble others we have witnessed?
Chapter 5 The Fight
How does the narrator prepare his audience for the lengthy description of the fight? What defense of fighting in the abstract does Hughes give? (242-43)
What form of academic conflict exists between the teacher and students? (they try to delay the lesson so that less is accomplished)
What unprecedented response to the lesson by Arthur startles everyone? (246, weeps at affecting passage)
Why does Slogger Williams object to Arthur’s recitation? (he goes on past 40 lines, the point of contention)
What is the occasion for the fight? (Williams attacks Arthur 248)
Was it really necessary to engage in combat? Why doesn’t someone try to intervene?
Why is the fight described in such detail? Does it operate according to agreed-upon rules?
What mild intervention is made by Brooke? What is the Doctor’s response to the fray? (Brooke has been partial; there shouldn’t be fights) Why hasn’t the Doctor intervened earlier? (wished to delegate)
Is the possibility of more serious injuries elided in this account?
What do you make of the twin emphasis on religious practice and combat at this stage of the narrative?
In view of Dr. Arnold’s objection to fighting, is the narrator’s defense of fighting consistent with its obvious admiration for him?
What do you make of the fact that the former opponents are required to shake hands the next morning, and are described as becoming friends? (258, male bonding over conflict) What has happened to the original issue?
What final advice does the narrator give, and does it seem consistent? Is it always wise not to “give in while you can stand and see”? (260)
Chapter 6 Fever in the School
How has Arthur changed during his time at Rugby? (becomes healthier)
Who first dies of fever? What moral ideal does the Doctor espouse in his funeral sermon? (so to live that death may become a blessing, 263)
What does Tom tell Arthur are his life goals? (268) What does Arthur suggest that Tom must cease doing? What reason is given? (dishonest, not that he isn’t learning anything, 269)
What is the nature of Arthur’s vision? Is it well told? (271-72)
How is Arthur’s mother described? How does Tom respond to her? (kisses her hand, 276)
Chapter 7 Harry East’s Dilemmas and Deliverances
How do Tom’s friends respond to his decision to do his lessons without using a crib? What compromise is reached? (they don’t carry the crib into the schoolroom)
What does East claim is his theory of the relationship between teachers and students?
What does Tom note is the Doctor’s attitude toward his students? (as though they were working with him, 282)
What attitude does the narrator claim Tom takes toward those in a difficult position? (284, helps those on weakest side)
Why does East feel he is unpopular? What standard rite has he failed to undergo? (confirmation)
What type of religion does East dislike? (one that preaches hellfire, 287) How does Tom attempt to dissuade him?
What instance does Tom give of how one should view evil? (has prayed for Flashman, 287)
How does the Doctor respond to East’s confession?
Chapter 8 Tom Brown’s Last Match
How does the narrator call attention to the act of writing and publishing? (291) How does he feel about remembering the friends of his past? What comforts him about those who are dead or whom he will never see?
How does he feel about those whose views he can’t accept? (will reconcile in next life though not this one, 292)
What characterizes the conversation of Tom, Arthur and their teacher as they watch the match? How have Tom and Arthur both changed?
What do they all agree is the virtue of cricket? (one must play for one’s team rather than oneself, 300)
What opinion do they share of the Doctor? What evidence does the teacher give of his wise decisions? (301)
When Tom eats with the master, what do they discuss? What has been East’s flaw? (not willing to obey, 305
What does Tom say he wants to do in the future? What response does the tutor give? (one’s work may be wherever one is, 305; earning one’s living and doing good may be entirely different matters)
What does Tom learn about how the Doctor has influenced his life? (307)
What does the tutor give him as a parting present? (Doctor’s sermons, 310)
Chapter 9 Finis
Under what conditions does Tom learn of the Doctor’s death? (312)
How does he pay his respects to the Doctor’s memory? (returns to Rugby Chapel)
For what does he honor him? (had taught him to see that all souls were linked together in one brotherhood, 322)
What is the narrator’s view of hero-worship? With what final insight/admonition does he leave us?