1. How closely does New Boy
follow the original Othello
storyline? Which parts are different? How does that affect how you read it?
2. Why do you think Chevalier chose to make the main characters 11 years old? How would the book be different if they were, say, 16?
3. A few adults make appearances in New Boy
. What part do they play?
4. The 1970s is evoked through cultural references to music, fashion, books, even candy; and political references are made to the Black Panthers and to Watergate. How does setting the story in 1974 affect how we perceive it? How would the story change if it were set now? What attitudes have changed and what remained the same?
5. In Shakespeare’s Othello
the parts of Desdemona and Emilia are minor. In New Boy
they play much larger roles. How does that affect the balance of the story?
6. Osei’s sister Sisi plays an off-stage role but her presence is strongly felt. Why is she part of the story?
7. Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom called Iago in Othello
“an artist in evil,” in part because Shakespeare does not spell out his motivation for tormenting Othello. Would you say Ian in New Boy
is evil? How does his age and the little background Chevalier gives him shape what we think of him?
8. One of the issues productions of Othello
struggle with is making Othello “turn” so quickly from love to jealousy. How does Chevalier handle this problem in New Boy
? Is it believable?
9. Although Chevalier has chosen to make Osei black, is race the primary issue in New Boy
or a means to an end?
10. Chevalier’s choice to set New Boy
in a schoolyard is a dramatic departure from the story’s original setting. Can you imagine other ways of retelling the story of Othello