1. Beard loves physics in part because he believes that it is
"free of human taint" (p.10). In what ways does the novel
complicate this belief? In what sense is Beard''s own work
"tainted" by human entanglements?
2. The narrative structure of Solar is mostly
chronological. What effects does McEwan achieve by occasionally
departing from a straightforward chronological progression?
3. Beard claims he does not believe in the possibility of
"profound inner change" (p.77). Does he remain unchanged over the
course of the novel?
4. How does McEwan manage to make Beard such a sympathetic
character despite his many foibles? What are his most salient
5. Why is Beard so attached to preserving what he calls his
"unshareable core"? (p.307). Why does he find it impossible to tell
Melissa that he loves her? Why do his marriages keep falling
6. In what ways is Solar a satirical novel?
What are its main satirical targets? How, for example, do
postmodernists come off in the book?
7. What are some of the funniest moments in
Solar? How does McEwan create such brilliant
8. Look at the encounters between art and science in the novel,
those occasions when Beard squares off with people from the
humanities - novelists, folklorists, postmodern feminists, etc. Who
gets the better of these confrontations? Is the book as a whole
making a point through its depiction of these encounters?
9. What is the significance of the entropy in the boot room on
board the ship that is holding the conference on climate change?
What does this chaos and carelessness suggest about humanity''s
ability to stop global warming?
10. 10. Beard has a remarkably clear conscience; he is largely
untroubled by his affairs and deceits, his theft of Aldous's ideas,
his framing of Tarpin, etc. Why is he so free of the guilt that
might afflict most other men?
11. Several times during the course of the novel it appears that
public infamy - born of journalists'' insatiable desire for
controversy and Beard''s own willingness to step into it - will
doom Beard''s career. What enables him to emerge from these
disasters relatively unscathed? Will he be as lucky getting out of
the mess he''s created at the very end of the book?
12. How surprising is the ending of the novel, particularly the
final sentence? What is the swelling sensation that Beard feels in
his heart as his daughter approaches him? What is likely to happen
to Beard next?
13. How does the appendix containing the presentation speech for
Beard''s Nobel Prize alter the way Beard is finally viewed? Why
would McEwan choose to attach this appendix to the body of the
14. Solar is in many ways a picaresque and at
times farcical novel, and yet it also engages a theme of major
importance - global warming. What is the connection between
personal and planetary catastrophe in the novel, between the
meltdown of Beard''s personal and professional life and the kind of
greed, dishonesty, rationalization, and failure to face facts that
has resulted in the climate crisis? What is the significance, in
this context, of Beard''s inability to moderate his eating habits
and his sexual pursuits?
15. What does Solar contribute to our
understanding of climate change?