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The Woman at the Front Reader’s Guide

By Lecia Cornwall

The Woman at the Front by Lecia Cornwall


Reader’s Guide
The Woman at the Front by Lecia Cornwall
Discussion Questions:

1.   Eleanor has a difficult relationship with her father. He tries to dissuade her from practicing medicine. Is his behavior toward his daughter meant to strengthen Eleanor for the challenges of her chosen career, or is his attitude truly just Victorian scorn for smart women who don’t know their place?

2.   Eleanor’s brother sees the war as a chance to rise in society. Is he cold and self-serving, or part of a necessary change in the social order that allowed people of talent to take higher roles?

3.   Louis Chastaine strives to be a hero in his own right, taking dangerous chances to prove himself. In the end, he must bow to the strong female influences in his life to succeed, including his mother, Eleanor, and Lady Frances. Is this emasculating?

4.   The book discusses various types of allies and enemies. How do these elements drive identity and create conflict in the story?

5.   The colonel represents the old tradition of men as the stronger sex caring for women as the weaker. The war challenges this belief for him. What factors allow the colonel to accept the new paradigm of strong women when other men, like Eleanor’s father, refuse to embrace it?

6.   In this era, men had authority. How does Eleanor deal effectively with masculine authority?

7.   Each class of society in this time period lived by certain expectations. Are the upper classes truly freer than the classes below them, or are the rules actually more restrictive?

8.   Although some medical women practiced in war zones without the sanction of the British government, the army refused to allow women to serve as doctors on the front lines. Was it right to protect them from the horrors of war even though there was a shortage of qualified male doctors?

9.   World War I saw many women taking jobs outside the home for the first time. Did the necessity for women to step up and become breadwinners and essential workers further or impede the argument for suffrage?

10. Women gained many advantages within society because of the war. Was this out of necessity or a matter of seizing opportunities previously denied to them?

11.  How culpable was Eleanor in the unexpected outcome of the medical school exam? Was she truly naive, or is it likely she must have somehow known the truth?

12. Could Eleanor have returned home at the end of the war? What would she have had to sacrifice to do so?

13. Fraser finds his own way of coping with the horrors of war by refusing to consider the past or the future. How do his feelings for Eleanor challenge this strategy?
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