TRT 2013

Fahrenheit 451

 Questions for thought & discussion

  1. Egan uses the word "epic" in his subtitle. What does epic mean—and how does it apply to the life of Edward Curtis?
  2. What do you think of Curtis—as a husband, father, artist, advocate, and public figure?
  3. Why did Curtis consider George Custer of the Little Big Horn battle a coward?
  4. How does Egan present the West of Curtis's time and before? Is the author's portrait of the past realistic...or idealistic? In what way has the historical West vanished?
  5. Do Curtis's photographs, sometimes doctored, reflect an authentic Native American culture? What about the alarm clock he removed from one of his photos, for instance? Or was Curtis striving for something mythic rather than authentic?
  6. What made Curtis a controversial figure in his day?
  7. How would you describe Anglo/European Americans’ attitudes toward the Native Americans during Curtis's era? How have those attitudes changed...and what changed them?
  8. Reviewer Deborah Solomon contends that Egan’s book "reads less like a thoughtful biography than a sentimental adventure story for boys." Do you agree or disagree?
  9. What have you learned about Edward Curtis and/or Native American history after reading the book? What did you find most surprising, or particularly interesting?
  10. A fine book to pair this with is Marianne Wiggins’ The Shadow Catcher [Italics] (2007), a fictionalized biography of Curtis written from the perspective of his wife, Clara.

-- Questions from