After Viewing: Discussion Questions and Activities
- In small groups, compare your notes of the different motifs that were repeated throughout the film. Which do you think were the most important? Why? Choose one and describe to the class what you think it contributed to the overall meaning of the story. Some of the answers students might give include:
- repetition of "Jill is here"
- Eve scrubbing on her hands and knees
- "Grey, yellow, red clay, shale, oil, granite, water"
- "Evelyn Mary, quite contrary"
- talk of ankles
- reading aloud
- dancing the Charleston
- the concept of "duty"
- crying and not crying
- Eve saying to Jill, "You think"
- Eve sleeping on her "good ear" and the concept of hearing or not
- the musical theme
- In the opening moments of the film, Ker Conway tells us that "however hard I try to tell my own story, it becomes the story of my mother." How does the film illustrate this? In reflecting on her memoir, Ker Conway later wrote about her mother that she felt she had to "separate from her or lose [my] own life." Do you think she was right? What evidence from the film and/or memoir can you give to support your answer?
- How did Jill's father influence her? How do you think her life would have been different if he had lived?
- The same musical theme repeats throughout this film. Listen to it first with your eyes closed at the beginning of the film (just after Jill says, "And even now, however hard I try to tell my own story, it becomes the story of my mother, Eve" through to her father speaking.) What does it evoke? How is it used in the film? How effective is it? If you were going to use this same musical theme for a dramatization of a segment of your own life, which segment might it accompany?
- The people in the Ker family do not always say what they really want to say to each other. Now is your chance to give voice to some of their unstated emotions. Choose any character in the Ker family at any point in the story and write a letter from this person to another member of the family. Write in your character's voice and from his or her point of view: what do you think this person would really like to say? Then switch papers with a partner and answer each other's letters as if you are the character to whom the letter is addressed. When you have finished, discuss together why the story might have left things unsaid.
- Ker Conway has written that "the land is meant to be a character in The Road from Coorain." If so, what kind of character is it? Describe it as you would if you were describing a person. How do the people in the film share some of these characteristics?
- What do you learn about Australia and Australians from The Road from Coorain? What else would you like to know? Make a list of things alluded to in the book or film that are foreign to you, then choose one to research. A list of such things might include:
- the ANZUS pact
- the Nardoo stones
- Australia's role in World War II
- the battle of Gallipoli
- life in the outback
- sheep farming in Australia
- Australia's role as a British colony
- Why do you think Ker Conway chose to end The Road from Coorain just as she decides to leave Australia? Do you think she is making the best choice? In the sequel, True North, Ker Conway describes what happens when she goes to Harvard to study. Write a short synopsis of what you imagine that book would be about, including the themes from The Road from Coorain that you think will continue to be present in Ker Conway's life. (You may want to follow up by reading True North and seeing if your predictions are correct.)
- Ker Conway has written, "Every autobiographer wants to persuade others to learn from his or her life." What do you think she wants us to learn from her story? Can you think of other works of literature or film, autobiographical or not, that you have learned from? Describe the work and what it taught you.
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