Community Values and Behavior/Private Family Ties and Practices
How does Castillo present the importance of community? Alternately, what does she reveal about the importance of home and family life within the private sphere? Are these two areas—the public and private spheres—related thematically within the text?
La Llorona and Other Spirits
Why does Castillo introduce the mythical character of La Llorona? How does she fit into the novel’s primary themes, narrative, and/or the development of characters? Why does Esperanza—given her particular personality traits, values, life experiences, and manner of death—become something like La Llorona’s spiritual comadre? Is La Llorona related to other appearances of spiritual apparitions? If so, how and why?
Marriage and Romance
Consider and analyze the novel’s treatment of marriage and romance. What cultural, sociological, or political significance can one draw based on the author’s portrayal of marriage and/or romance?
Miracles and “Magic”
Consider and analyze the novel’s frequent descriptions of and allusions to miraculous or seemingly magical events. Why and how do they contribute to our understanding of the novel’s primary themes or messages?
Sofi’s Strength and Wisdom
Arguably, Sofi experiences the most losses and devastating tragedies among all the book’s characters. What is the source of her strength? How does she survive her hardships and even seem to grow stronger, more independent, and more committed to justice? Does the novel’s conclusion offer hope? If so, how and why?
Race and Culture
How does the novel treat issues of racial, cultural, and linguistic differences? Identify episodes of conflict or crucial narrative drama surrounding one or more of these differences. Why do you think Castillo chose to set the novel in a small New Mexican village, with a plot that almost entirely involves Latino and Native American characters and cultural as well as religious practices?
1) The relationships between Ina and symbionts are described as a form of “mutualistic symbiosis” (63). Each group benefits from and needs the other. However, does the symbiotic nature of their relationships translate into equality? Which group seems to possess a greater degree of control and power? Note the passage in which Shori attempts to offer Wright his freedom (48-49). How much freedom, if any, do you think Wright possesses as he struggles with this question? How free are the symbionts? What kind of message or question might Butler have been trying to convey regarding our understanding of mutual dependence, freedom, power, and equality?
2) Why do you think Butler chose to create the dominant character—the book’s narrator—as black? How does the issue of race affect your understanding of the book’s plot and primary themes (themes such as freedom, mutual dependence or symbiotic relationships, power, etc.)? What political and/or philosophical message or questions might Butler be trying to convey by employing racial difference in her construction of this story?
3) Most stories involving vampires carry some portrayal of sexual desire, whether implicitly or explicitly. Why do you think sexual desires, implicit sexual overtones, and/or explicit references to sexual activity are common to this particular subject matter (i.e. vampire stories, and in particular, Fledgling)? How does Butler’s Fledgling treat the issue of sexuality? What kind of relationships do typical Ina appear to have with their symbionts? How important are the roles of sexual desire and eroticism in Butler’s story? Consider, for example, Wright’s question of Shori: “Do you love me, Shori, or do I just taste good?” (139). How do you interpret Shori’s response to this query? Can such a distinction be made? Why or why not?