Justin Cronin’s The Passage: questions for discussion

Posted by Glennis Byron on April 27, 2011 in Blog tagged with , , ,

On the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling, we offer an optional module called ‘Transmutations of the Vampire’. This year, the reading list included:

John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In

Charlaine Harris, Dead until Dark and Stephenie Meyers, Twilight

Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian

John Marks, Fangland

and,  finally,

Justin Cronin, The Passage

My students may well not appreciate the publicity, but here they are (I’m taking the photo and am represented by the tea cup at front):

(moving anti-clockwise) Bridget Rohde with the laptop, Liam Dodds, Kate Harvey, Dean Mohammed, Tom Paskins, Kelly Gardner and Beth Wild.

And here are just a few of the questions that we considered in discussing the earlier parts of The Passage:

Cronin began The Passage in 2006, the year which saw, to list some of the more notorious events, the Mahmudiyah murders and the rape of a 14 year old Iraqi girl by US troupes, the publicisation of memos that revealed Bush to have been set on war months before the invasion of Iraq, the release of the National Intelligence Estimate that claimed the war had increased both Islamic radicalism and the terror threat and the admitted failure of Operation Together Forward and revelations about the mismanagement of the war which led to the resignation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Republican Party was removed from control in Congress and the year ended with the execution of Sadaam Hussein, an event broadcast to the world through an unauthorised cell phone recording and leading to world wide outrage. Racial tensions were also running high, with Harry Belafonte attacking Bush himself as a terrorist in an address to the State of the Black Union because of the treatment of blacks in America, and calling for an alliance to ‘go after the common enemy which is capitalism in America, in the hands of imperial tyrants’. To what extent does all this function as an important context for The Passage?

• The epigraph to the book as a whole is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 64, ‘When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced…’  What is the significance of this choice? What is being said about decline, natural and human, and about cycles? In the context of this post 9/11 apocalyptic narrative, how does the sonnet assume new significance?

• The expedition to Bolivia discovers an area blackened by fire. What is the significance of this and the myth associated with it?

• Why is the project called ‘Project Noah’? Methusaleh is actually more commonly associated with longevity; what are some of the many reasons why Noah might have been chosen instead? One quotation to consider in this context comes from Tom Paine on the American Revolution in Common Sense (1776):

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand… (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776)

• How would you describe the society that has emerged in ‘First Colony’? What makes it susceptible to attack – apart from the threat of the lights going out.

• In “Color Blindness: An Obstacle to Racial Justice?” Charles A. Gallagher observes that

since the mid-1990s there has been a change in the way race, race relations, and racial hierarchy have been depicted in the mass media…the media now provides Americans with an almost endless supply of overt and coded depictions of a multiracial, multicultural society that has finally transcended the problem of race (109).

Has the new society of First Colony ‘transcended the problem of race’? Think about the use of the term ‘souls’ in particular.

Tiny URL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/6emom4e