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Class Discussion Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS—THE EDGE OF FREEDOM

1.  Do you believe the compromise surrender by Fannin to Urrea at Coleto Creek was a pragmatic decision that would have been acceptable in our own age, or merely the product of Fannin’s tendency to vacillate?

2.  All of the defenders of the Alamo died, thereby honoring their motto of “Victory or Death.”  Some of Fannin’s men were spared or escaped during the mass executions that followed his compromise surrender, though 342 were killed.  Which was the better choice: Victory or Death or compromise and surrender?

3.  In “quantifying” loss, i.e., the numbers of men killed or saved, are we looking at the issue from a modern perspective or from the perspective of the men of the Texas Revolution?

4.  If Colonel Travis had been in command at Goliad and received a call to aid women and children in Refugio, in what ways, if any, do you think his actions would have differed from Fannin’s?

5.  To what extent do you believe the code of Southern chivalry affected the decisions of Travis and other Texian leaders?

6.  Do you believe that the code of Southern chivalry reflected the broader Age of Romanticism?

7.  How were the actions of Lord Byron, a famous Romantic poet, similar to the actions of prominent figures in the Texas Revolution?

8.  Do you believe Colonel James Fannin felt the same sense of chivalry?

9.  To what extent do you believe the romantic spirit of the age gave rise to conflict within James Fannin when he was unable to march to relieve the Alamo?

10. Do you believe that he acted in the spirit of the age when he sent his men to the aid of women and children in Refugio?

11. What do you think he should have done when he learned of the plight of women and children in Refugio, given that marching to their aid would split his force?

12. How do you understand the famous words “Victory or Death” in relation to the Age of Romanticism?

13. Do you believe Travis and Bowie acted according to the dictates of reason and logic, or, rather, acted on the basis of emotion or idealism?

14. If the Alamo was a defining event of the Age of Romanticism, why does it retain such iconic status in our modern age?

15. If the compromise surrender of Fannin to Urrea at Coleto Creek seems justifiable and practical from our modern perspective, why hasn’t “Goliad” received more attention as an event that anticipated modernity?

16. Do you see the character John White Bower as an exemplar of Romanticism or Pragmatism?  Both?

17. How would you rank the loyalties of Carlos de la Garza with respect to his land, his family, his country, his people, or to Mexican leaders, especially Urrea and Santa Anna?

18. Do you believe the American Revolution and the War of 1812 contributed to the Texians’ desire to throw themselves into another fight for freedom?

19. Which characters in the novel most exemplify the powerful legacy of the American Revolution?

20. How would you define the character and motivations of John Sowers Brooks and Joseph Chadwick?  How were they alike?  How did they differ?

21. What do you think the Bowie knife has to do with the title of the novel?

22. In what ways are the mustangs reflective of the unbridled freedom of the men under Fannin, and in what ways are the mustangs different in their freedom.

23. How did the absence of horses affect the Texians?

24. How do you believe confinement in Fort Defiance affected Fannin’s men and colored their actions and decisions later on?

25. Is freedom an unambiguous term?  Is there such a thing as too much freedom?

26. In comparing the Alamo and Goliad, how do you believe circumstances affected the respective leaders?

27. Should circumstances have had a greater impact on either the commanders at the Alamo or at Goliad?

28. Is looking at life as absolute—black and white, right or wrong, good or evil—victory or death—preferable to a relativistic view that takes into account many variables and often relies on compromise or accepts ambiguity?  How do the Alamo and Goliad illustrate these views?

29. How does the playing of the flute on the evening of March 26, as Fannin and Dr. Barnard are talking in the baptistry, relate to the title of the novel?

30. Compare the religious views of Francita Alavez and Father Thomas Molloy.

31. What is the real tragedy of Goliad?

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