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The Chosen Place, The Timeless People by Paule Marshall

Marshall's book explores the hearts and minds of poor, black Caribbean islanders, who are inextricably linked to their past enslavement. Their interaction with both the rich, educated black population of the island and the white research scientist who've come to study them keenly dramatize the vicissitudes of power.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Paule Marshall makes a point about the tension existing among the different sections of the Bourne community. No doubt, the principal forces underlying these tensions are economic in nature. What are three of those economic factors?

  2. Salted cod is sold in the local grocery (Delbert’s Shop). Why is the cod salted? Why do people who have access to fresh fish eat salted fish?

  3. Discuss how the incident of Lyle and the older white woman and her dog in the elevator reflected 1)master status, 2)labeling, and 3) stereotyping.

  4. Nature is often personified throughout the novel. How might it mirror the existing tension on the Island? What might it symbolize?

  5. How is perception of beauty as related to skin color affected by former and current European domination on the island?

  6. What famous incident did Cuffee Ned execute?

  7. The Protagonist or main character in a fictional work is the precipitator of action or perhaps the receiver of it. How does Marshall utilize this concept in the beginning of the novel?

  8. The researchers from Philadelphia Research Institute go to Bourne Island to complete a research project. Describe how they plan to carry out their research as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their methodology. Include a discussion of the potential problems of being a participant observer.

  9. A sense of place is one of geography’s essential themes. How does the geography of Bournehills make it the Chosen Place?

  10. Contrast the colonial government Bourne Island was historically subject to with its present government structure.

  11. What do civil servants and professionals believer is needed to develop Bourne Island? What do the Bournehills residents believe is needed?

  12. The epigraph "from the Tiv of West Africa" says "Once a great wrong has been done it never dies. People speak the words of peace, but their hearts do not forgive. Generations perform ceremonies of reconciliation, but there is no end." Is this the book’s theme? If not, what is?

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