1. Who is the hero in the monster's first tale? Who is the villain? How does the story keep surprising Conor? What does Conor hope to learn from the story? What does he actually learn?
As I was reading the monster's first tale, I was pretty sure who the hero and villain were. So imagine my surprise when the tale ended, and it wasn't as I expected it would be.
Who is the villain and who is the hero? It's all a matter of perspective, really. It depends on how you view the characters in the tale. In that way, Conor, just like me, was surprised at every twist the tale took. And, just like me, he also learned that a person can never truly be branded as just good, or evil - there is always something innately good - and a hint of evil, even - in every person.
2. While the monster was finishing the story, Conor asked him, "So how is that supposed to save me from her?" The monster replied, "It is not her you need saving from." If it wasn't Conor's grandma, then who do you think the monster means?
The monster meant Conor needs to be saved from himself. I also thought that the monster was Conor himself, so in a way, Conor needed to be saved from the monster, aka himself.
3. Describe Conor's relationship with his dad. Do you think it would have been easier for him to go through this if his parents weren't divorced?
Conor's relationship with his dad was fickle, at best. Because Conor grew up without his father, he felt distant from him: he couldn't help but notice the Americanized way in which his dad spoke, resenting it. Conor also resented the fact that the love and attention that he knew he deserved from his dad have been devoted to other people. Such anger and resentment did not help Conor cope with his mom's condition.
However, I do think that somewhere deep inside Conor, he is still hopeful that he and his dad will patch things up and foster a better relationship. Only, because of his mother's condition and his situation in school, and all the other things that have piled one on top of the other, he couldn't get himself to meet his dad halfway, and thus ended up pushing him further away.
Part 3: From Americans Don't Get Much Holidays to No Tale
1. In the monster's second tale, the parson's home was destroyed. Do you think it was the right thing for the monster to do, given his explanation?
The destruction of the parson's home was very extreme and cruel, but hey, we're talking about a monster here, right? If it had been me, I wouldn't have gone so far as to destroy his home in order to teach him a lesson. But since it was a monster that wielded his own brand of justice, then the action was to be expected.
2. Why do you think people find it easy to give up everything they believe in when times are harder?
Because they get desperate, and when people feel desperate, they forget everything - even their staunchest of beliefs. In the end, they only want to be freed of whatever it is that's causing them pain, and so principles and beliefs fly out the window. Such a situation is very commonplace.
3. "Belief is the half of all healing. Belief is the cure, belief in the future that awaits." Do you think Conor had this kind of belief?
I think Conor wanted to believe so bad, but at the back of his mind, he knows what will eventually happen. The part of Conor that keeps denying what could possibly or eventually happen to his mom was the part that wanted so desperately to believe, and he struggled with all that he had to keep his faith. But the monster knew, as well, that the nagging thought, the one that woke Conor up in the middle of the night, the one that he refused to acknowledge to himself, the one that caused his incessant nightmares, and the one that made the monster walk again --- that thought would eventually take over Conor's belief and overcome him in the end.
4. Why do you think his Grandmother reacted that way to Conor's actions? What about his dad?
Conor's grandmother reacted in a manner quite contrary to the way I expected - but, hindsight, I thought it was also an expression of her anguish at the condition of her daughter. To me, seeing what Conor did was simply the last straw, and she allowed herself to break out of the solid shell that she took as armor to protect herself from the aches and pains surrounding her.
On the other hand, Conor's dad acted in exactly the way I thought he would. I knew he would try his best to be very understanding about Conor, because he knows that he has a lot to make up for. In a way, he tolerated Conor's actions, rationalizing that it was the only way by which he could make up for everything that he missed in his son's life.