Discussion Questions for
from the River
by Ursula Hegi
did Hegi choose a dwarf as her protagonist? How do the other characters
respond to Trudi's "otherness?" How do you?
compels Trudi to unearth people's secrets? She uses these stories as a means
of exchange and a tool for bartering, disclosing some secrets while holding
back others, enhancing where she sees fit. What drives her to repeat and
embellish the stories she hears? What need in her does it fulfill? Why, in
contrast, does Trudi keep her own secrets hidden? How does her desire to
possess secrets and her urge to tell stories change as the story progresses?
portrays Trudi as a woman capable of both enormous rage and great compassion.
The same woman who takes Max Rudnick a note which reads "I have seen you, and
I find you too pitiful to consider," risks her life when she hides Jews in her
cellar. How does Hegi reconcile these differences in her main character?
Trudi is fourteen years old, four schoolboys drag her into a barn and molest
her. Trudi is profoundly affected -- in what ways does this immediately change
her? How does it continue to shape her in the coming years? Is Trudi ever able
to overcome it? How?
the war, Trudi risks her life and her father's by hiding Jews in their cellar.
How does this forever transform her relationship to people? What impact do her
actions have on the town, and how does it change her standing in Burgdorf?
does Hegi develop the character of Leo? He is a constan support beam to the
townspeople and to Trudi -- how does he tie the story together? How are Leo
and Trudi different from each other, and in what ways are they similar?
Nazism encroaches on Burgdorf, Hegi's characters ar confronted with moral
dilemmas that go far beyond their ordinary experience. What are the different
ways in which the townspeople react? What reasons does Hegi suggest for their
varying emotions and actions? What do you think you might have done
differently in their place?
Michael Abramowitz is dragged away and beaten by Nazis, his wife has a thought
that she never voices: "Given a choice, she would rather be the one who was
persecuted than the one who did the persecuting." Do you think this is a
feeling shared by other Jews during the war? By ordinary Germans? How would
do not learn until late in the story that Emil Hesping is the unknown
benefactor. We discover that all the years he has been giving gifts to the
people of Burgdorf, he has been embezzling money from the gymnasium. How do
you feel when he is killed for removing Hitler's unwelcome statue from the
town square? The unknown benefactor symbolically counteracts some of the pain
Hitler's tyranny has caused. What is Hegi saying about the relation of good
deeds to justice?
the war, many of Burgdorf's townspeople refuse to speak of the war years,
pretending that they took no part in the war's evils. What compels them to
participate in this complicity of silence? Is this a healthy choice? What
purpose does it serve to bring out the truth and to never forget it? What do
you believe can happen to a people when they collectively bury a memory?
is the significance of making Trudi and her father the town librarians? Why do
you think Hegi uses a library as her novel's principal setting? In what ways
are libraries the enemy of a dictatorship?
are Burgdorf's women affected by their country's larger history? Think of
Renate Eberhardt, who is turned in by her Nazi son; Ingrid, the young woman
searching for divinity; Jutta, the strong and beautiful wife of Klaus Malter;
Hanna, the baby Trudi loves too much; Eva Sturm, who was not protected by her
husband, Alexander. What pain and atrocities are visited on the women
vision of human nature does Stones from the River express? Does Hegi perceive
human beings as fundamentally good, evil, or indifferent? As immutable or
capable of transformation?
Stones from the River, Hegi uses both stones and the river symbolically. What
significance does the phrase "stones from the river" acquire in the course of
the novel, both for Trudi and the reader? How does Trudi use the stones as a
means of self-expression? What does the river mean to Trudi, and how does Hegi
develop it as a metaphor?
Page last updated on March 6, 2001