Respond to each of the following questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. Responses should
make ample use of
specifics to support your assertions, particularly quotes from the material
from the week. Any response that does not include direct references from the texts will only
receive half credit (or less). Responses should be around a paragraph each, 5-7 sentences long.
1. The epigraph for Saving Grace comes from T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets and reads:
“We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of our exploring/Will be to arrive
where we started/And know the place for the first time.”
Why do you think Smith chose this as the epigraph for her novel? Explore the ways
Grace has “arrive[d] where [she] started.” How has she changed through her exploration,
and is she able to “know the place for the first time”? While you might talk about this
literally, a good response will discuss the other ways in which Grace’s story resonates
with this quote, beyond physical location. You might discuss her journey with religion,
spirituality, relationships, and her own identity. Refer to specific quotes and scenes in
your answer.
2. Grace’s father’s name is Virgil, which is an allusion to the Roman poet Virgil, who was
Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory in Dante’s
Inferno. Discuss the role Virgil
plays in Grace’s journey, both beneficial and destructive. How does her relationship with
her father bring her to different stages in her journey? Refer to specific quotes and scenes
in your answer.
3. In Tara McPherson’s work
Reconstructing Dixie, she worries that “Southern studies
sometimes ‘boutiques’ the South, focusing [only] on the unique or colorful elements of
the region…without contextualizing these elements” (9). In other words, people who talk
about a region can tend to focus on what makes it strange or different, perpetuating
stereotypes or giving false impressions of the region as more distinct from mainstream
culture than it really is. This statement holds true for Appalachia. Do you think Smith
focuses too much on the strange and bizarre, or does she manage to tell a believable story
with sympathetic characters about an element of Appalachian religion without
‘boutiquing’ it? Find some specific scenes or characters that demonstrate your points.
4. Reflect on and describe some of Shelby Lee Adam’s photography. Do you find it to
include sympathetic or “othering” portrayals of Appalachian people? You may think
along the lines of the previous question. Compare his representations to Smith’s in
Saving
Grace.
5. Reflect on one of the final scenes in the novel, in which Grace finds herself at the odd
location of Uncle Slidell’s Christian Fun Golf after “one of the worst nights” of her life.

What is the significance of this encounter, and what do you think it symbolizes for
Grace? Do you find this to be a hopeful encounter, or is it more ambiguous than that (pay
attention to the end of the scene, particularly)? What does this moment seem to mean for
Grace—is she “going crazy,” “finding Jesus,” or something else? Reference specifics
from the text, including quotes.

American literature