Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mr. Punch Discussion Questions

Mr. Punch is the third Neil Gaiman graphic novel to make an appearance in our book club (Eternals, Sandman series). This one takes his common themes of childhood abandonment, creepy atmospheres, and memory. McKean lends unsettling multimedia art with visual hints to help the reader decipher the complex story. The book club for Mr. Punch meets on Thursday September 15th at 7:00 p.m. at Koelbel. If these questions seem more clever than usual, we can thank Ms. Elena for her contributions.

1. Why are the actions of adults in this graphic novel ambiguous?

2. What is the effect of the Punch and Judy show on our protagonist the Child?

3. What constitutes children's entertainment? Should it be censored, or scary? How has that idea evolved culturally and over time and what are the implications of that evolution?

4. What would have happened if the Child had donned the Mr. Punch puppet?

5. What is the implication both in the original play and the graphic novel when Mr. Punch not only kills and outwits a policeman and crocodile, but the devil himself? More broadly, what does Mister Punch represent?

6. Consider the puppet show and the narrative. What does one have to do with the other? How does the Punch and Judy show function as a motif? Examine the significance of the title.

7. What is the underlying symbolism of the Mermaid?

8. Consider the idea advanced by the narrator of memories as snapshots. How do you understand this idea within the context of the story?

9. What is the significance of the dream sequence and what impact does it have on the rest of the narrative?

10. Toward the end of the book, the narrator thinks he sees Professor Swatchell. He says “Later it occurred to me that the man i saw could not have been Swatchell. Nobody lives for ever, after all; not even the Devil. Everybody dies but Mister Punch, and the only life he has he steals from others.” What does he mean by that?

11. Why does Mister Punch say, once the Devil is dead, that everybody is free to do whatever they wish? Is that true? Why or why not, and what are the implications?

12. Explain the last line of the book, “I left the churchyard then, shivering in spite of the May sunshine, and went about my life”

13. Gaiman says in his acknowledgements “[t]hank you to my parents and Aunts and Uncles, whose memories, both of Punch and Judy and of my family history, I have so recklessly and shamelessly plundered and twisted to my own purposes.” How does that color your view of the story, if at all?

14. What tone and mood do McKean’s art lend to the story? How would the story feel different if it were illustrated by a more conventional comic artist?

15. Unless the pronoun begins a sentence, the narrator refers to himself with a lower-case “i” Why is that?