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Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Two Old Women  >  Discussion Questions
Chapter 3 - Recalling Old Skills

 Chapter Summary: The two old women rekindle the skills they once used. They make snowshoes, and tend to another rabbit they have snared. They also recall a place where the resources were once abundant and decide to begin the journey to this place.

Discussion Questions for Chapter Three:

How do you make snowshoes? (p. 32)

Points to consider:

  • The two women use the babiche and hatchet to make the snowshoes.
  • The instructions are rather simplified, but the idea of using the snowshoes to travel on the top of the snow and minimize the effort of snow travel is important to this part of the story. The women are making their own survival items.

Why do you think the two old women were able to catch rabbits in their snares when The People didn’t? Was it luck or maybe something else? If so, what? (p. 32)

Points to consider:

  • In this novel, bad thoughts lead to bad things, while positive thoughts often lead to positive outcomes. The women hope for the best and are in some ways “lucky.”
  • The novel also discusses rules of hunting and trapping and the women are careful to always check their traps, a sign of respect for the game that ensures their success.

Why is their decision to leave important? (p. 33)

Points to consider:

  • The decision to leave opens the door for the beginning of their adventure.
  • Leaving also prohibits The People from returning to them, for bad or good.

What does their decision to leave say about the resources and the two old women’s knowledge of sustainability in an area? (p. 33)

Points to consider:

  • The women understand that the area cannot sustain their needs for food and warmth.
  • The game in the area is already too far depleted to keep them alive.

Why do the two old women worry about their band coming back? (p. 34)

Points to consider:

  • They fear The People coming back and taking their possessions, or worse.
  • There is also an underlying fear of cannibalism.

The old women know of stories where hunger created desperation. What desperate acts do the old women fear from their own band? (p. 34)

Points to consider:

  • The women fear being eaten by their own people (or other hungry bands).
  • They also fear possibly being killed and burned to keep others from consuming their flesh.

Why didn’t the people remember the place the two old women decide to travel to? (p. 35)

Points to consider:

  • The people have lost touch with their history and past in many ways, and not remembering this place is symbolic of that loss of memory.
  • They may have thought of this place, but fear of questioning and a lack of communication kept people from remembering.

Who is to blame for The People not remembering the place Ch’idzigyaak and Sa’ travel to? (p. 35)

Points to consider:

  • All the older people of the band are somewhat responsible for not remembering or choosing to remember this place.
  • The lack of communication and discussion, and the fear of questioning, created the situation where The People were paralyzed.

How had the women pushed themselves beyond their physical endurance? (p. 37)

Points to consider:

  • The women were out of shape and had been lazy.
  • Their new efforts took more energy than they realized.

Explain how shedding their walking sticks might actually make the women realize their strengths. (p. 40)

Points to consider:

  • The sticks were a burden, and the women didn’t even realize they weren’t using the sticks because they really didn’t require them.
  • This is a symbolic realization for the women, and a turning point in their progress from being babies to being self-reliant.

How do the women maintain their sense of direction? How do they know where to go? (p. 42)

Points to consider:

  • The women are in tune with their surroundings and they have a sense of the direction they need to go.
  • The women pay attention to the details of nature to know where they need to go.

Sa’ marvels at the power the land holds over people like herself, over the animals and even over the trees. What does she mean by this? (p. 43)

Points to consider:

  • This is a beautiful moment in the novel. Sa’ refers to the power of nature over all the elements that are nature itself.
  • The power the land holds over her is the power of nature to kill and nurture. The rules must be followed, or the consequences are harsh.

What does Sa’ mean when she says that the land was once “easy” for her to live on but now it seems not to “want” her? (p. 43)

Points to consider:

  • This is another special moment, where Sa’ realizes that her age and her abilities will make survival more difficult.
  • The land is alive and if she can’t recall her old skills, nature will consume her.

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