Consider the characters one by one, and discuss how free you think each is and how does each person deal with his or her freedom

Select one question below and write a paragraph or two (a minimum of 200 words) that answers the questions in your prompt. Make sure you address all the questions being asked (though you can combine your answers into a few sentences if you like), and make sure to use at least two specific examples from the play to support your answer.

Note that you must select a question that has not yet been answered. Do not duplicate a prompt until all four questions have been answered at least once. For the best selection, post early in the week.

1.In a Huntington Theatre newsletter article about their production of Gem of the Ocean, August Wilson said of Aunt Ester that “obviously, no one can live to be as old as Aunt Ester…As for the decision to put her on stage, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want just this mystical presence hanging over everything. I wanted her to be very human. Then we find out that this position of being Aunt Ester – this body of wisdom and memory that is her – has been passed down from one Aunt Ester to the other over a period of time. Though technically, I think, she is 285 years old in Gem, the actual person is 72 or 73.” Who do you think Aunt Ester really is? What does she represent? What is the wisdom that is being passed down? Where did it come from in the first place? Why do you think August Wilson chose to represent the character this way?

2.What is the City of Bones? Do you think it is a real place, or does it exist only in the mind? Aunt Ester says that it is necessary for Citizen to believe the two pennies are special because “he need to think that before he can come face to face with himself.” What does it mean to come face to face with yourself? Why is this important? What really happened to Citizen while he was there? Do you think he was washed clean of his sin? When a man is guilty of another man’s death, who do you think can grant forgiveness? What does it mean to be forgiven? Is it more important to forgive yourself or to have others forgive you?

3.The characters in the play are all living in freedom, but are they truly free? How do you define freedom? Is it as much a state of mind as anything? Consider the characters one by one, and discuss how free you think each is. How does each person deal with his or her freedom? How does each character’s freedom change throughout the play?

4.Does your past define you? How much of what a person has been through determines who he is at the moment?  Do certain things weigh more heavily than others? Does Citizen’s guilt over Garret Brown’s death make him a bad person? Does Solly’s work with the Underground Railroad earn him dispensation from any wrongs he may perpetrate now? Did it surprise you to learn that he burned down the mill? Why do you think he did it? What about Black Mary? How do all of her past relationships with men affect the way she deals with them now?

Consider the characters one by one, and discuss how free you think each is and how does each person deal with his or her freedom

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