So Long, See You Tomorrow
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1. How old is the narrator now, as he is writing? What sort of life do you think he leads as an adult?

2. What distinguished the murder of Lloyd Wilson from other violent crimes was the fact that the murderer had cut off the dead man's ear and taken it away. "In that pre-Freudian era people did not ask themselves what the ear might be a substitution for, but merely shuddered" (p. 5). What does Maxwell mean by this?

3. "My father was all but undone by my mother's death" (p. 8). How does the father's reaction to her death differ from that of the narrator himself? Which of the two, in your opinion, is the more profoundly wounded? Which makes the more complete recovery?

4. In fairy tales, the narrator writes, "for the father to remarry is an act of betrayal, not only of the dead mother but of [the children], no matter what the stepmother is like" (p. 16). Do you think that the narrator believes that his own father has betrayed him? Why does he see his father's happiness as a "threat" to him? Does he have any justification for feeling so? 

5. How did society change during the 1920s? What does the narrator mean when he says that "so far as good manners are concerned, it was the beginning of the end" (p. 18)? Why did the dancing teacher ask the narrator's father and stepmother to leave the floor when they danced the Toddle?

6. Maxwell quotes Ortega y Gasset as saying that life is "in itself and forever shipwreck" (p. 22). What does this metaphor express? How do the narrator's and Cletus's life illustrate this idea?

7. "I was a character" (p. 29), the narrator says of his young self. What does this word connote to his community? What do the other children's reactions to him tell us about that community and its values? Why are the attitudes of the kids at the city high school (p. 50) different?

8. Why don't Cletus and the narrator tell one another about their troubles? Why doesn't the narrator speak to Cletus when he sees him in the corridor of the city high school? Why do you think Maxwell has chosen their words to one another, "So long, see you tomorrow," as his title?

9. How do the lives of the tenant farmers differ from those of the townspeople, in their daily routine, their mores and religion, their beliefs and assumptions? They "apply the words of the Scriptures to their own lives, insofar as they are able" (p. 57). How do the Smiths and the Wilsons illustrate that fact?

10. What is Fern Smith like? Is she a wholly unsympathetic character, or does the narrator show some compassion for her wish to have a more exciting and fulfilling life than other farm women, women like Marie Wilson? How does Fern perceive herself and her actions?

11. What kind of a person is Cletus? Is he like, or unlike, the narrator? Do you think that the narrator, in inventing Cletus's inner life, gives Cletus some of his own thoughts and characteristics?

12. What is Lloyd Wilson like? In what ways does he differ from Clarence? Why is he so ill-matched with Marie? Do you think that he and Fern would ever be happy together if they were able to marry? "All my life I've been a stranger to myself," he says on p. 77. How does this fact manifest itself in his family life?

13. What is Fern's initial reaction to Lloyd's declaration of love? How does her attitude change?

14. Whose betrayal do you think Clarence resents the most, Fern's or Lloyd's?

15. How does Lloyd's treatment of his little boys compare with that of the narrator's father toward his sons?

16. "Fern Smith wasn't meaning to avoid trouble; she was bent on making it. It was her only hope" (p. 98). Her only hope of what?

17. Why are Fern and Lloyd unable to marry? Why can't they live together without marriage?

18. Why does Clarence call Cletus "You little fucker" and strike him (p. 102)? What boundary has Cletus overstepped in his relationship with his father?

19. How would you describe Clarence Smith's character? Has violence always been evident there, even before his wife's betrayal? What evidence do you see of violent tendencies? With whom, and in what situations, is Clarence at his best, and when is he at his worst?

20. What does Clarence and Fern's divorce trial tell us about the legal system? Which of the two is tougher and more capable, Fern or Clarence? Which, in your opinion, is the nicer person?

21. Why does Clarence stop going to church? In what ways is the religion preached by his church inadequate to the real circumstances of his life? How do his ideas of cause and effect change?

22. Why did Fern marry Clarence? Did she ever love him?

23. Why do you think that Maxwell writes from the dog's point of view toward the end of the book? 

24. Cletus "seemed so indifferent these days. About everything" (p. 125), Fern thinks. Why does he seem indifferent? Why has he decided that this is the best way to act?