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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Taps: A Novel

1. Taps opens with this description of Fisk's Landing: "The hills came sweeping down from their hardwood forests and challenged the flatness, mingling with it in querulous juxtaposition" (p. 1). How is landscape, particularly the relationship between the flatlands and the hills, important to the story? How are the characters shaped by the land around them?

2. When recalling his father's death Swayze remarks, "Selective memory is a human trait, and memory itself, I have learned, is the 'corrector is existence'" (p. 18). In what ways does memory operate as a "corrector of existence" in this novel, and in life?

3. Swayze notes, "An observant boy in the small town of that long-ago American era could learn much by just listening and watching, and could privately appropriate merely in the course of events more knowledge of an adult person than that person might have of himself" (p. 33). Whom does Swayze understand better than the person understands him or herself?

4. On some levels, Durley Godbold and Amanda Pettibone seem poorly suited for each other. The town gossips burst with ideas as to why they are together — most hypotheses centering on the Godbold money. Why do you think Amanda marries Durley?

5. Swayze recognizes that in his position of funeral director Potter Ricks has become "a custodian of our past" (p. 121). Are there any other characters who can be similarly described?

6. Swayze asserts that doing something well makes one a hero (p. 290). Who are the heroes in Taps?

7. When Swayze and Arch are first commissioned to play "Taps," they look upon it as a somewhat unwelcome task. By the end of the novel, their playing has clearly taken on a new meaning for them? In what ways does this experience change them? Is it for the better?

8. Fisk's Landing has sent its young men to many a war — the Legionnaires, for the most part, represent veterans of WWI, and the VFW has begun recruiting from the veterans of more recent wars. How does the Korean War affect the town differently from any past war?

9. Willie Morris has often been categorized as a "Southern" writer. Could this story have been set anyplace else?

10. Luke Cartwright is described as "achingly American" (p. 70). What makes him so? What is Willie Morris's definition of "American"?

Taps: A Novel
by Willie Morris

  • Publication Date: April 8, 2002
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0618219021
  • ISBN-13: 9780618219025