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The Secrets of a Fire King
by Kim Edwards
The Secrets of a Fire King
Discussion/Study Questions

The Great Chain of Being

  • What is the meaning and/or symbolism of the title?
  • What is the significance of naming? Is it more or less significant in Eshlaini’s culture?
  • Is Eshlaini an entirely sympathetic character?
  • What is the role of destiny in the story, and how does Eshlaini react to it in the end?
  • Does Eshlaini’s father truly believe his accusations of insanity, or is he merely trying to secure Eshlaini’s presence as his caretaker?
  • What imagery is used to illustrate the dynamics of the relationship between Eshlaini and her father?
  • What is the source of Eshlaini’s strength?

Spring, Mountain, Sea

  • Is the fish a turning point in the story? Does it symbolize Jade Moon’s rejection of assimilation?
  • How do you perceive Rob? Is he passive, weak, sympathetic, simply human, or something else?

A Gleaming in the Darkness

  • What are the parallels between the women?
  • Why is the story told from the viewpoint of the observer? What advantages does this perspective offer?
  • What is the significance of the title? Specfically, what “light” is gleaming, and what does the “darkness” represent?


  • How do you think the story ends? Does he catch her? Does she dive to her death? Are they both killed?
  • Is her dive an attempt for the ultimate, like making love on their heads? Or is it an attempt at suicide?
  • What is the “balance” referred to in the title?
  • Was her dive a test of his commitment?

The Invitation

  • Does this story illustrate the impact of colonialism?
  • From where does Joyce’s high self-regard derive?
  • How does Joyce’s view of reality change after her encounter with Marcella?
  • What does Marcella (the young American) represent?
  • What does Joyce’s treatment of Jamal at the end of the story reveal/illustrate?

The Secrets of a Fire King

  • Whose child is Jubilee holding at the end? Is it hers? If so, hers by whom? Is it the preacher’s? Is it the bearded man’s? Is it Eli’s?
  • Did Phillipa give the note to the right “Fire King”? (That is, is Jubilee there to meet Jasper, or Eli?)

Rat Stories

  • What is Claire’s relationship with her husband like?
  • Once she discovers the affair, the evening’s events take on a new slant for Claire. Do they for you?
  • Why do you think Claire stays with Steve after learning of the affair?
  • What is the significance of the rat stories? Why are they the focus of discussion all evening?
  • Why does Claire bite Steve like a rat?

The Story of My Life

  • Does the title have a double meaning?

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