Discussion Questions and Talking points on KELROY
1. Before she wins the lottery money, Mr. H's antipathies to Kelroy may appear to be justified as simply legitimate concerns of a wise mother taking care for the future of her daughter. She doesn't want Emily to be subject to the demoralizing poverty and humiliation (hearken back to the scenes wherein Mr. H is confronted by the grocer and milliner) that goes with inability to be independent. But after the lottery money is hers, Mrs. H's motives are less justifiable--why does she hate Kelroy so?
2. The Gurnet episode (pp. 153-163) serves what purpose? What is Rush trying to accomplish with the transitionless intrusion of the episode at the point where it is inserted? Why the dramatic shift in tone from the Gurnet visit to the sorrowful realistic note about the death of Kelroy's mother? Is Rush trying something new, something sophisticated with narrative, or is she just clumsy at inserting comic relief?
3. Where is the moral authority in the novel? Is there any character who is totally admirable? Is Emily? Is Kelroy? What is the narrator's point of view--is it intrusive? Where at and to what end? What about the manipulations of fates within the novel--Mrs. H's horrific death, Kelroy's accidental death, Emily's sentimental death, Marney's blind and deformed state--what's going on here?
4. Does Emily (or anyone else for that matter) have an epiphany of understanding? Does anybody ever see clearly in the novel? What about Charles? Is there perhaps a "fool" in the novel who speaks wisely? What of the doctor?
5. Clearly this is a novel about manners and class? What is the point of including entire conversations overheard at fancy parties and dinners? Some of the nouveau riche are shown to ignorant of art, music, history, and so on? What is Rush's point? Are we to be sympathetic to the plight of these social climbers or with those who have already climbed? Is there a bastion of enlightenment from which these pretenders are rightfully to be prevented to enter? What about the character of Walsingham--his knowledge of Mrs. H and his willingness to help Kelroy, why is he so duped by Lucy and what is Rush's point about making the "nice" guy so gullible? Is there any significance that he is English and returns to England?
6. Rush's novel is credited with being a novel pushing for social reform. If it is, how does it push and for what?
7. What about the character of Kelroy? What are we to make of all the talk in the beginning about genius versus common sense? What is the purpose of making Kelroy a supersensitive poet? Characterize his sensibilities? How do they compare with others'? What especially about Emily who seems to die of offended sensibility?
8. What is the point of taking Mrs H through gradual degradation to loss of everything in the fire (with the insurance canceled just a week before) and then rescuing her with the lottery? Are we at any time to feel sympathy for Mrs. H? Is she really evil incarnate? Is she like Ahab? Like Chillingsworth? Like Claggart? What are the causes of her evil acts?