Study Guide

A Northern Light Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Jennifer Donnelly

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Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

It seems uncomplicated to readers from the beginning of A Northern Light: Mattie dreams of going to college, and she's got a plan to get there. She even has a scholarship and a place to stay. But her ambitions, like those of several other characters, are stymied. Whether gender, race, class, or other forces show up, everyone who holds hopes for themselves in this book finds themselves staring down some serious obstacles.

And while the verdict's still out for many characters (think: Weaver, Miss Wilcox) when it comes to realizing their dreams as the book closes, we see our main girl, Mattie, finally stepping into hers. Yay.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

  1. Is it futile for characters in the novel to have hopes and dreams if reality will just interrupt the realization of these hopes and dreams? Why or why not?
  2. Which character's hopes and dreams are the most difficult to realize, and what makes you say this?
  3. What does each character's response to setbacks in realizing his or her hopes reveal about that character's personality?
  4. Why might Donnelly have chosen to write characters that settle for the status quo and characters that overcome obstacles to achieve their desires?

Chew on This

It's easier for Mattie and Weaver to give up on their dreams of college than to see their dreams come to fruition, and it's okay for them to give up.

Grace Brown's letters have no bearing on what Mattie decides to do about her goal of college.

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