Lone Star

Direction and

by John Sayles


Discussion Questions

Scene 1: Learning About Where You Live
1. Why is it important to learn about where you live?

2. Why is one of the soldiers able to distinguish between different kinds of plants whereas the other knows 150 different kinds of beer? Is it desirable to be able to make fine distinctions?

3. Why does Sam correct the soldier when he speaks about "the scene of the crime"? What are the disagreements to which Sam refers?

Scene 2: Disagreements Over the Years
1. Pilar tries to explain the importance of knowing the complexity of history. What is her argument? Is she correct?

2. Pilar sees herself as caught in between two extreme positions. What are those positions, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each?

3. Whose story is "history"? Can history be objective?

Scene 3: What You Mayors Do
1. How does Hollis's attitude about the past differ from that of Pillar and Sam?

2. Why does Hollis think that Sam might want to believe that his father was guilty of a murder?

3. Why does the scene take place on a fishing boat? What is the connection to the opening scene?

Scene 4: The Colonel and His Father

1. Why is Otis called the mayor of "dark town"? What does that mean?

2. Why does the colonel seem to resent Otis's position in the community?

3. The colonel says that people must choose between Otis's bar and the Holiness church, but Otis disagrees. Why?

4. When the colonel leaves he says that Otis will be notified of his decision when he makes it. What decision is he talking about? Is his answer a response to the question Otis has asked?

Scene 5: Our People
1. What is the subject of Otis's museum? Why is it so important to him?

2. Otis's grandson says that the colonel, his father, believes that everyone starts from scratch and is responsible for what they become. Does Otis agree?

3. How does Otis describe the relationship between fathers and sons?

4. According to Otis, why did the Seminoles work for the U.S. army against other Native Americans?

5. How important are blood ties for Otis and his family?

Scene 6: The Colonel and the Private
1. Why did the private join the army? What was particularly appealing about it to her?

2. What do the colonel and the private think about the large number of African Americans in the army? How do their views on the army compare?

3. What do the colonel and the private learn from their conversation?

4. Why does the colonel give the private a second chance? Why does she want it?

Scene 7: Football World
1. Why does Sayles include such a long scene about Bunny's obsession with football? What does it say about the character of contemporary communities and individuals?

2. Should we learn as much about our future spouses as coach's do about their draft choices? Would it make for better relationships?

3. What does Bunny say is the difference between her father's friends and herself? Does she belong to a more authentic community than does her father? How does it compare with the other communities we see in the movie?

4. In what ways is Sam like Bunny?

Scene 8: The Legend and the Truth
1. Is it a surprise that Sam finds Otis and Hollis at the bar together? What does their relationship say about race relations in the community?

2. What does Sam expect to learn from Hollis and Otis? Is he disappointed when it does not turn out the way he expected?

3. Why did Hollis kill Charlie Wade and why was it necessary to hide that fact?

4. Earlier in the movie Otis tells his son that there is no clear distinction between the good people and the bad people, but does his story about Charlie Wade support this argument?

5. When Sam thought his father was a murderer he wanted to discover and reveal the truth, but now that he knows he was not the murderer he is willing to cover up the truth. Why?

6. Is it better to base a community on the truth or a legend?

Scene 9: Forget the Alamo
1. Sam and Pillar believed that their parents had kept them apart because of racial prejudice but nothing could be farther from the truth. Why?

2. Does the movie present a more optimistic portrait of race relations past and present than we might have originally anticipated?

3. Is the taboo against a relationship between siblings merely another prejudice of the community? What is the basis of that taboo?

4. How important is blood in this case? Does it make any difference that Sam and Pillar did not know they were related when they began their relationship?

5. Is it possible that Sam and Pillar could be happy together? Even if they separate, can they ever forget their past together? How should they understand it?

6. At the beginning of the film Pillar and Sam wanted to know about the past, but now they would like to forget about it. Which attitude toward history does the film endorse?

7. What is the relationship between the theme of family and the theme of race in the movie? Which is more deep-seated, the tensions between one generation and the next, or those between races?

8. What are the common problems faced by all racial groups in the film? Could these common problems be a support for a common community?

Paper Topics
1. Is the film optimistic or pessimistic about the future of race relations in the United States?

2. What does Locke's account of paternal authority and political authority teach us about the various relationships in the film?

3. To what extent can we as individuals determine our own destiny and to what extent are we shaped by our parents and community? Compare and contrast the views of two of the movies' characters with those of two of authors you have read for this unit.

4. Must we have a color-blind society if we are to achieve racial harmony? Is such a society desirable or possible?

5. Discuss the attitudes of the various characters in the film on the importance and place of history in our lives? Do the lessons we learn about family history apply to political history? What are the most important of those lessons?

Lone Star Reading

Guide to unit 4

back to unit 4