Discussion Questions on Rushdie, Hull, and Armstrong

Philip V. Allingham, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Discussion Questions on Salman Rushdie's "Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella Consumate Their Relationshsip (Santa Fé, A. D. 1492)," Robert Hull's "Columbus," and Jeanette Armstrong's "The History Lesson"

A. Plot

1. Since most readers are aware that Queen Isabella of Castille (1451-1504), wife of King Ferdinand V of Aragon since 1469, awarded the Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) the Charter of Santa Fé after seven years of alternate encouragement and repulse, and that on 12 October 1492 he sighted the New World (probably Watling's Island in the Bahamas), how does Rushdie sustain the reader's interest throughout the story?

2. Suspense is generally generated by mystery, dilemma, and conflict. With specific reference to the story, identify which of these suspense-generating devices Rushdie uses.

3. The formal short story requires an introduction, rising action, a climax, and a denouement: identify how Rushdie handles these conventions in the story.

B. Setting

4. How does Rushdie dramatize or vivify the chronological and geographical settings of the story?

5. What are the differences in the settings of the two poems and the short story? How are these differences significant to the authorial intention behind each work?

6. Of the three works, which has the most vividly-realized setting? How does the writer achieve this vividness?

C. Narrative Point of View

7. Identify and explain the narrative points of view employed by Rushdie, Hall, and Armstrong.

8. What do we know about the personas of Jeanette Armstrong's and Rushdie's narrative voices?

D. Character

9. How is the character of Christopher Columbus differently presented by Armstrong, Hull, and Rushdie?

10. Why does Jeanette Armstrong refer to Christopher Columbus, "Admiral of the Ocean Sea," simply as "Christopher" (line 1)?

E. Symbol and Irony

11. What is ironic about the narrative voices' ridiculing the Genoese explorer and intellectual (he was a colleague of Florentine astronomer Paolo Toscanelli) as a vulgar and barbarous foreigner?

12. Of what is the Alhambra, the Moorish palace-fortress of Granada, symbolic in Rushdie's story?

F. Motivation

13. In Rushdie's story, what considerations motivate Isabella to treat Columbus as she does?

14. What motivates the European interlopers in Armstrong's poem? Cite specific lines.

G. Imagery

15. What images in "The History Lesson" suggest a Canadian aboriginal perspective? Explain.

16. What images in Hull's poem suggest the beauty and purity of Columbus's initial vision of his voyage to the Indies? Explain.

H. Allusion

17. Explain the significance of the allusion with which Armstrong concludes her poem.

18. What is the significance of Rushdie's allusion to the expulsion of Granada's Jews (p. 115)?

I. Theme

19. Formulate and justify a statement of theme for "The History Lesson."

20. Formulate and justify a statement of theme for "Columbus."

21. Formulate and justify a statement of theme for Rushdie's short story.

Additional Questions

Postcolonial Pakinstan OV Rushdie OV Canada

Last modified 14 January, 2004