Discussion Questions

The following questions are designed for book discussion groups. I'm sure you can think of many more.

1. Don Quix is unobservant yet believes in God and tries to adhere to a strong moral code. Is he religious?

2. Jack Spring is a clownish character, but he has a more serious side. We don't know much about his childhood. How might his upbringing have affected him? Do you think he uses humor to hide his worries? Why or why not?

3. How did Ken Jackson's combat experience change him?

4. Can you imagine Don as a non-American? Denise as a non-Belgian? Why or why not?

5. On Page 226, Ken describes enlisted men such as Don and himself as "just a coupla little gears grinding away in a giant machine." What does this statement say about the nature of modern warfare and the soldiers who engage in it? Compare and contrast Ken's attitude with Don's.

6. Don is a great optimist. If he had come of age today, would he have the same amount of optimism? Why or why not? What if he was an American soldier in post-Saddam Iraq instead of World War II Europe?

7. Under different circumstances, Don would have been an aerial gunner or perhaps a pilot. How might those roles have changed his character?

8. Based only on what you know of Don, what career is he most likely to pursue after the war and why?

9. Don is not always candid with his parents and superiors. He is described as part Eddie Haskell and part Wally Cleaver. How would you quantify those portions of Don's character and why? Is Don Clintonesque?

10. Don sometimes wrestles with moral complexity, much of it revolving around Denise. Had Don impregnated Denise, how would he have reacted? What would he have done and why?

11. Has Don matured as a result of his wartime experiences? If he was 39 instead of 19 when he entered the service, would he have behaved differently? What if he were married? Had children?

12. Shortly before the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, Don was very concerned about being shipped to the Pacific. If President Truman had decided to attack the Japanese mainland conventionally, what would Don's experiences have been like? Would the tone of his letters have changed? If so, how?

13. Can you imagine Don coming from a wealthy family? As an officer? How would these influences have affected his character?

14. How did Denise change Don? Be as specific as possible and give examples.