1. Under what circumstances was A Dream of John Ball composed? Toward what audience does it seem to be directed? Why did Morris chose the Peasant's Rebellion of 1381 as the subject for a historical dream fantasy? (antecedents in Froissart, Langland's Piers Plowman, Sidney Dobell's The Roman, and Carlyle's Past and Present)
2. How does this tale function as a time-travel fantasy? What are some features of its descriptions? Do they make the story more dreamlike?
3. What are some features of the medieval English world of John Ball? What are features of John Ball's rhetorical delivery? Of his message?
4. What are some qualities of Morris's style in this text? Are there poetic features in his prose? What is the effect of such detailed attention to architecture and everyday physical reality?
5. How does this story present the medieval Catholic Church? Are the features of Morris's creation historically accurate, in your view? Why might Morris have altered some features of the past to appeal to a modern audience?
6. Have you read other Victorian historicist works with which to compare this text? How is Morris's view of the Middle Ages different from that of, for example, Ruskin or Carlyle?
7. What seem to be the values of the narrator? With which aspects of his new setting does he identify?
8. What is the purpose of casting the narrator's experiences as a dream? What seems to be his relationship with Will Green? What is the symbolism of Will Green's name?
What are some instances of the author's self-reference? How do these contribute to the story's effect?
9. What are some of the main points of John Ball's sermon? What does he believe about the possibility of historical progress? Which evils of society does he denounce? Is his message consistent with New Testament Christianity? With nineteenth-century socialism?
10. What hope does John Ball have for the future? In which historical forces does he place this hope?
11. What role do women play in this idealized medieval craftsmen's world?
12. Why might Morris have considered the conditions surrounding the Peasant's War parallel to the situation of the English working-class of his time?
13. How is the battle described? Are certain likely features of battle underplayed? How does the battle of John Ball differ from modern warfare?
14. What type of vision does John Ball have during the fight? What seems to be his doctrine of fellowship?
15. What is the relation between Ball's notion of "fellowship" and life after death? What does the narrator think should be the meaning of "fellowship"?
16. In chapter 9, "Betwixt the Living and the Dead," what views do John Ball and the narrator express about the meaning of life and death? What "wall" parts the two?
17. In chapter 10, "Those Two Talk of Days to Come," what news does the speaker give to John Ball about his future and the future of his social ideals? Why is the latter content to die? What now-deceased family members does he remember? What changes in the future will make John Ball's life worthwhile?
18. In chapter 11, "Hard it is for the Old World to See the New," what future does the "sending" describe to John Ball? What major changes in the modes of production and land use have occurred in the past five hundred years? (e. g. enclosures, lowering of prices, rise of wage labor) What hopeful aspects of the future can he relate, if any? (p. 102)
19. In chapter 12, "Ill would change be at whiles were it not for the change beyond the change," what economic changes does the guest predict? How does John Ball respond to the news of global capitalism? What factors will inhibit change?
20. What last wish does he live, and how does this affect the tale's ending? (wishes to know that in the future people will continue the struggle, 101; readers realize that they must strive for a better world in order to validate and continue the efforts of those in the past)
21. What role is played by sound in this tale--for example the role of the church and factory bells?
22. What remedy do the two men agree in looking for, and what ideal of the future do they share? Will social progress require strife, in their view? What parting blessing does John Ball leave to the speaker? What is gained/lost by not presenting John Ball's actual death?
23. Into what world does the speaker awake? What is the relation between his present world and that of John Ball? How does the audience participate in the conclusion?
24. Is the ending satisfactory? What kind of closure is provided? Could it have been expanded in any way--or have a sequel (News from Nowhere)?