Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.
English 204:1 Environmental Literature
Into the Forest -- Discussion Questions
What did you learn from Into the Forest about what
is important in your life? If you were in the sisters' situation,
what would you keep to start a new life? What would you leave
What did you learn from Into the Forest about sisterhood?
In many ways Into the Forest is a "growing up"
story. Plot the individuation of both of the sisters: Eva and Nell.
Can you cite different stages of development?
Make a diagram of the "Man versus Nature paradigm in the
story: Technology/knowledge versus Nature/intuition. Include
page numbers of passages that illustrate the different parts of the paradigm.
What various roles does Nature play in the novel?
What statements does the novel make about the various
ways of "learning?"
Discuss the various forms of narratives in the novel:
myths, journals, legends.
Imagine what society Eva, Nell, and Burl will create.
How do the following metaphors function in the novel:
gasoline, the house, men, definitions, the encyclopedia, Christmas, tulips.
What did you think of Hegland's decision not to use chapter
Explore various on-line Web Sites that deal with Post-Apocalypse
survival. Write a comparison/contrast journal entry of two of the
Spend one week without the use of some piece of
technology. For example, don't watch any television for one week,
or don't listen to the radio or CD player for one week, or don't use the
internet for one week. Substitute a "natural" activity for the time
you would have spent with technology. Write a journal entry of your
Keep a log of the time you spend with technology
during the week. For example, how much time do you spend watching
TV or the movies, listening to the radio, surfing the internet, etc.
During the next week, spend the same number of hours you spent on technology
on a "natural" activity. Write about what you learned from the activity.
1. Read the third full paragraph on page 11.
Keep track for one week of the "casual way we use things." Read also the
penultimate paragraph on page 135. Collect in a garbage bag everything
that you would normally throw away. Then, at the end of the week, assess
what you have accumulated. What conclusions can you draw? Any
surprises? What changes can you make to "casually use" less?
2. Read the fourth paragraph on page 12. Write
an essay on what changes we are ignoring. You may also want to look at
3. Read the last paragraph on page 15. What
does it mean "to defend our way of life?"
4. Read the first and second paragraphs on page 17.
If the old rules are suspended, then what rules replace them? Look also on
page 232. What needs to be fixed?
5. Spend one week without using any electrical
appliances. Write a report on how the week went.
6. Read again the section where Nell eats the candy
kiss (pp. 101-1105). What does the section reveal about the human
7. What does Nell come to learn about death?
How does she learn it? Look carefully at pages 158-172. Compare the
deaths in this book (and what we learn from those deaths) to the deaths in
Refuge and Into the Wild.
8. Read pages 171-173. How much do you know
about your environment? Can you name the trees, the shrubs, the animals,
the birds that reside in your neighborhood? You have one week to find out.
9. What is the purpose of knowledge? Look at
how the encyclopedias are used in the novel. Read pages 177 and 207.
10. How do you define yourself? Are you your
11. What books would you save and take with you if
you were in Nell and Eva's situation?
12. This book has three scenes where sex is used as
an important vehicle to advance the plot and theme. Discuss them.