The Group

By Mary McCarthy
Genre: Literary Fiction
Buy Now This book is on reading list for February 2014

Discussion Questions

  1. The Group follows eight women after they graduate from Vassar in 1933. While it features an ensemble cast of characters, who are the most significant?
  2. What role does marriage play in the development of the characters? How do we get to know Kay, Polly and Priss better after their marriages?
  3. What is Norine’s role in the novel? Is she merely a foil to show Harald’s sadism or does her character serve other purposes?
  4. How do the attitudes toward sex in the 1930s differ from those today? Consider the scene when Dottie abandoned her ‘contraceptive equipment’ under the bus bench.
  5. Does McCarthy have a negative bias toward men? Harald, Dick, Gus, Sloan are all less than admirable. What is the author saying about the difference between the genders?
  6. In what ways did the members of the group assert their freedom in terms of employment, relationships, marriage? Was there any ability to control a woman’s destiny at this point in history?
  7. The novel ends with Kay’s funeral along with the revelation that Lakey is a “Lesbian.” Why do you think McCarthy concludes the novel this way? What do you make of the last conversation between Harald and Lakey? Does this summarize the theme of the novel?
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