The Barn



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Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Why was Ben away from home in the first place?
  2. In what ways is Ben different from his brother and sister?
  3. Ben's mother used to say, "People who talk about luck a lot don't think much of themselves." What does this mean? Do you agree or disagree?
  4. What kind of person was Father before he got sick? Did Ben admire his father?
  5. Ben is shocked at how his father looks. Talk about what it would be like to be in Ben's situation.
  6. Why did Father want to build a barn before Ben returned home?
  7. One of the hardest things Ben has to do is to clean his father. He says, "The truth is, his filth proved that Father still lived. Thus it was to become not dirt but something of the life that we struggled to hold in this mortal world. In this way did I begin to learn how heaven and earth do mingle." What does Ben mean by this?
  8. How does Ben start to communicate with his father?
  9. What challenges do Ben, Nettie, and Harrison face building the barn?
  10. What kind of realization does Ben come to over his motivation for building the barn?
  11. At the end of the novel, Ben asks himself, "Did I build the barn for myself? Did we build it for Father? Or did Father get me to build it for us all? Or was it all three at once?" What do you think?

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.