Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Family

By M.T. Anderson


Octavian Nothing could have been a book about a single mother and her son if not for the fact that the mother-son duo are enslaved and live in a college of male philosophers and scientists. Those men make the mother-son relationship more like a mother, a son, and a bunch of potential father-figures. You know—"it takes a village," only the village is a whole lot of white male scientists.

In other words, family is kind of a far-out concept in the book. It's much more abstract than your typical two-parent household with 2.5 kids.

Questions About Family

  1. Is Octavian's adoration of Cassiopeia too intense, or perfectly okay for a mother-son relationship?
  2. What kinds of fathering does Octavian end up getting from the men in his life?
  3. Is Octavian jealous of Lord Cheldthorpe? If so, why?
  4. How does Bono both fail and succeed as a father figure for Octavian?

Chew on This

Octavian's "family" at the College may be unusual, but it beats the typical two-parent household.

Octavian's relationship with Cassiopeia is completely incestuous because Cassiopeia treats him like a substitute husband.

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