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READERS GUIDE

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. 1. The subjects of sex, class, and money permeate Gissing’s novels. To what extent does New Grub Street revolve around these themes? How important a role does Gissing suggest they play in our lives, or more specifically, the lives of the nineteenth-century literary class?

2. 2. Do you think Edwin Reardon is a sympathetic figure? If not, why? Consider his relationship with Amy, with Jasper, and with the literary world in general. How does he fulfill the role of the anti-hero in New Grub Street? What are some of his weaknesses?

3. 3. Many literary critics have remarked upon Gissing’s detailed and careful representation of women in his novels. Consider the roles of Marian, Amy, Jasper’s sisters, Dora and Maud, and even Mrs. Yule. Are there any similarities in their characters? Further, are their roles defined at all by the men in their lives? If so, how?

4. 4. How is marriage represented in New Grub Street?

5. 5. Consider Gissing’s attitude toward literature and the creation and consumption of it. What is he essentially saying about literature as an art form? Further, what do you think the novel suggests about writers and the process of writing?

6. 6. Revisit the opening of the novel, when Jasper remarks at breakfast, “There’s a man being hanged in London at this moment,” and the following paragraphs. What do Jasper’s remarks tell us about him? Why do you suppose Gissing chose to begin his novel this way?

7. 7. Consider Gissing’s description of London and environs. What role does the setting play in this novel? Further, how does Gissing’s use of the landscape coincide with his naturalist tendencies as a writer?

8. 8. How does the idea of the “three-volume novel” (or the “three-decker”) function in the novel (which is also written in this form)? How is this format used as a motif, and how does it embody the machinations of the writing process? Examine the scenes of Reardon at work on his novel. What ideas do these scenes convey?

 
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