Reading Group Guide: Meeks

Thu 24 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

Told from four different perspectives, Julia Holmes’ Meeks is an engaging read that presents a satirical view of marriage and society. While short, it is full of thought-provoking ideas. Here are some discussion questions by Kimberly Pavlovich to get you started. And, of course, there are no right answers:

  1. The theme of grief is first introduced when Ben discovers his mother is dead. He is fitted for a black suit, during which the tailor asks, “What is grief but a sudden inability to sustain belief in the story that preceded it?” (13). Do you agree? How would you define grief? How does grief play a role in the novel?
  2. Marriage is highly valued in Meeks; there are consequences for those who remain unmarried. How do you think Holmes views marriage, based on the ideas in the book? Do you think the way marriage is presented in the novel reflects some of our own society’s ideas? What are your own thoughts on marriage?
  3. How are each of the characters’ perspectives (Ben, Meeks, the Brother, and the Father) connected? As you read Meeks, did you find yourself wanting to hear an additional character’s story? How would the story change if characters’ viewpoints were added or omitted?
  4. When Ben discovers his room at the Bachelor House is connected to another bachelor’s room, he immediately wants to switch – until he meets him. How would you describe Ben’s and Finton’s friendship? Meeks and Bedge also have an interesting bond. How would you describe their friendship?
  5. What is your take on the Brothers of Mercy’s role in society?
  6. What holds Ben back from becoming a “typical” bachelor? Is it his black suit, or is it something else?
  7. Ben longs for a pale suit, while Meeks longs for a gun. Eventually, they steal these items from the same prone bachelor. What compels each of them? Would you have done the same?
  8. In the course of the novel, Ben wears a black suit, a pale suit, and finally a gray smock; each act as a symbol to other people. How does Ben’s behavior change with his attire, as well as the behavior of the people he interacts with? Why do you think clothing has the ability to temporarily change the wearer and how the wearer is treated – not only in Ben’s society, but in our own? Have you ever felt “changed” by your clothing?
  9. What is the significance of the heavens watcher’s story about “the man marooned on an island”?
  10. Who is “the man in the black jacket”? Do you think Meeks made the right decision when he refused to switch costumes with him? How would the story change if he had?
  11. What is your interpretation of Ben’s last line: “Let everyone see him, let them finally get it: when something is lost, it’s lost forever” (185)?
  12. Were you satisfied with the ending? Did it surprise you?



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