Study Guide

A Northern Light Family

By Jennifer Donnelly

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Family permeates the entirety of A Northern Light. Mattie wants to leave hers to follow her dreams, but she feels guilty for even considering it because she loves her family and she promised her mom she'd help them. But Mattie's not the only person coping with family difficulties and tensions. The Loomis/Hubbard dynamic is the opposite of conventional, and Weaver's dreams are so closely tied to his family that when his mother is injured, he's willing to give up his dream for her. Then there's the marriage of Miss Wilcox to her horrible husband.

So when we look at the concept of family in this book, we get a pretty good look at what binds a family and what tensions can put a family apart.

Questions About Family

  1. What sort of meaning does the word family have for Mattie? For Weaver? For Royal?
  2. Which family in the novel is the least dysfunctional? The most dysfunctional? What makes you say this?
  3. How do the ties of family affect each character's actions? Think in particular about Pa, Mattie, Royal, Frank Loomis, and Weaver.
  4. Do characters necessarily have to choose between their duties to family and following their dreams, or is this a choice they construct for themselves? Why do you think this?

Chew on This

Pa will never forgive Mattie for abandoning him and her sisters.

Royal Loomis's actions are justified because of his love for his family, in particular his mother.

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