The House of Dies Drear
The House of Dies Drear
by Virginia Hamilton
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The House of Dies Drear Theme of Slavery

The House of Dies Drear looks at what life might have been like for people running from slavery. A hundred years before the Smalls move into the Dies Drear house, it was a shelter for runaway slaves. That's why Mr. Small, a historian, chose the house in the first place. That's also why his thirteen-year-old son Thomas is so excited about it. Thomas's vivid imagination and intense curiosity come together to send him back in time. The journey is painful, because it deals with suffering and injustice. It's also beautiful, because it looks at what it was like to be brave in the face of a dangerous struggle for freedom.

Questions About Slavery

  1. Did you learn anything you didn't know about slavery from reading this book? If so, what? If not, why not?
  2. What did you know about slavery before you picked up this book? What did you know about the Underground Railroad?
  3. This is a fiction story. Can you trust that the information we are given about slavery is accurate? Why or why not? How can you check the information in the story to make sure it's accurate?
  4. How was Dies Drear's house important to running slaves?
  5. How did the Greek cross help running slaves find freedom?
  6. Why does Mayhew think Mr. Pluto and Mr. Small think about slavery too much? (See Chapter 15.)
  7. How is the state of Ohio, where the story is set, significant to the Underground Railroad? How would you research the question? What is the Underground Railroad?
  8. Is it important to learn about and remember slavery in the United States? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The House of Dies Drear is a good way for students to learn about the Underground Railroad and the history of abolition in the US.

The House of Dies Drear isn't the best way for students to learn about the Underground Railroad, because it's hard to tell what is real and what is made up for the story.

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