“Are We Not Men?” by T.C. Boyle

Illustration by Kristian Hammerstad from The New Yorker

A prolific American author, T.C. Boyle has published 26 books of fiction (two more since the last time we read a story of his for our published piece) and his short stories have appeared in magazines including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and McSweeney’s. He received both his MFA and PhD from the University of Iowa, and he is a creative writing professor at USC. His work has been translated into more than two dozen foreign languages, and he’s won numerous awards.

This week we’re reading “Are We Not Men?” and here are some questions for discussion:

  1. What techniques does Boyle employ to make the world he’s created believable? To what extent do you find this story a warning?
  2. What do you make of the way Boyle uses the “cheating” trope? Would you agree or disagree that he turns it on its head?
  3. In what ways is the protagonist relatable? How do you feel about the girl, and the natural baby versus the one picked from a menu?
  4. How does Boyle explore economic status in this story?
  5. What do you make of the various creatures in the story, from the Cherry Pit to the dogcat to the micropig to the crowparrots? Discuss the animals’ relationships to each other and to the protagonist. What does each animal symbolize? What do you make of the ending?

 

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