1. What is the significance of the poem that serves as the
2. "How could we ever get revenge without burning the entire
roof off the world?" (36) How does David Adams
Richards bring history into this novel? How do historical events
matter to the different characters?
3. In what ways is the truth about what happened to Hector
Penniac absolute or relative in Incidents in the Life of
4. Many apparently free and powerful characters in the novel are
shown to be controlled by forces outside themselves or other
people's expectations of them. Show how this is the case for Amos
Paul, Max Doran, Isaac Snow or Joel Ginnish-and why it matters.
5. Discuss the character of Amos Paul. At times Amos seems to be
in "over his head" (46), and at other times to be the wisest
character in the book. How do you see him?
6. Why is Markus so haunted by the need to find out the truth
about Hector Penniac's death? Is his quest ultimately
7. Describe, as best you can, the moral perspective that informs
Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul.
8. Which character did you find most fascinating in the novel,
9. Discuss David Adams Richards' approach to telling his story
in the novel. Which contemporary writers does it remind you of, if
any? Which writers from the past? Why does he tell the story in
this way? (Can you imagine it told in an unreliable, first-person
voice, for example?)
10. What do the occasional literary references in the novel (to
Wordsworth, Fitzgerald, Conrad and the like) add?
11. "Canadians believed truth is democratic and objective and
already arrived at." (82) How is Incidents in the Life of
Markus Paul a quintessentially Canadian book?
What does it challenge Canadians to do or change?
12. What is heroic in this novel? What is sinful?
13. Why is the book called Incidents in the Life of
Markus Paul? What other titles for the novel can you come
up with, and how would they change it?
14. In what ways is this novel a detective story? How are Amos
and Markus similar and/or different as detectives?
15. Why does Joel and Isaac's relationship develop the way it
16. "You'll never get it right," Joel Ginnish tells Max Doran.
"Not with us." (162) How does the novel describe the distance
between First Nations and whites in New Brunswick? Is it ultimately
optimistic or pessimistic about their relations?
17. What role do children play in the novel? How are Little Joe
and Brice Peel intertwined?
18. Explain the changes in Max Doran's character over the course
of the book.
19. "It is not the Conibear trap that kills the beaver, but the
drowning that follows." (196, 249) How well does this phrase,
repeated twice in the novel, explain the events in the story?
20. "The primary war was between you and you," Markus tells Max
towards the end of the book, "or me and me, or my grandfather and
my grandfather. Isaac against Isaac. Joel against Joel." (279) Is
21. What do the extended hunting scenes towards the end of the
book add to the story?
22. What do the very last words of the novel tell you or