Study Guide

The Art of Fielding Community

By Chad Harbach


What makes a community? Some of the factors include having a clear set of goals, being flexible, and being a reliable support group. They forgot snazzy uniforms, but no list is perfect. A baseball team like the Westish Harpooners could fulfill most of these requirements, plus the snazzy uniforms that we don't think should be optional. When they're at their best, they support each other, they cover different positions on the team, and they have the same goal: win. When they don't fulfill these requirements, that's when things start to fall apart.

Questions About Community

  1. Are the Harpooners a good team—not in terms of stats, but in terms of teamwork? When do they succeed and when do they fall short?
  2. How about Westish College itself? What defines the college as a community? Why are its students proud to go there? Why doesn't Guert want to leave?
  3. Are there other communities present in the book, communities that don't have to do with sports or academics? If so, what defines those communities? If not, why are they absent from this novel?

Chew on This

Were it not for baseball, most of these men probably wouldn't be part of the same community. For many of them, baseball is the only common interest they share.

The desire for community is strong in all the characters—the players have their team and Guert has his college—but Pella doesn't really have a community of her own. Maybe that's why she goes back to school at the end of the book—to belong.

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