Study Guide

The Luminaries Revenge

By Eleanor Catton

Revenge

After greed, the desire for revenge is probably the largest motivator for Hokitika's residents in The Luminaries (if the characters in the novel are a representative sample of the population, that is). Lots of people seem to be caught up with the idea of getting back at someone: Crosbie Wells wanted (and got) a certain amount of revenge on Frank Carver, and then Frank Carver wanted revenge on him (for cutting up his face), and Sook wants revenge on Carver. Meanwhile, Shepard wants revenge on Sook for a crime Sook didn't even commit against his brother. And then there's the bad blood between Anna and Lydia Wells, whose "kindness" Anna has promised to repay. All in all, this is a vengeful bunch—we haven't even mentioned all of the examples of people who have a settle to score in Hokitika. That would take too much space—why do you think Catton needed over 800 pages for her novel?

Questions About Revenge

  1. George Shepard says he thinks seeking revenge is unjust. Does the novel bear this perspective out? Or is revenge justified? And more importantly, does it result in a better life in some way for the person seeking revenge?
  2. Sook dies before he can seek revenge. What message, if any, do you think the novel sends about the particular way he went about seeking revenge? Is it justified? Was the approach itself just? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think Shepard realizes he's a hypocrite when he says he kills Sook for trying to take revenge on Carver, when really he kills him to avenge his brother's death? Why or why not?
  4. What is going on when, during the séance, Lydia Wells repeats Sook's vow to kill Carver? Was she shamming to try to make Sook think Carver was already dead, or…was it something else?

Chew on This

Shepard doesn't say it, but the reason he's drinking (and invites Devlin to drink with him) after Sook's death is that he's feeling guilty since he realizes he's a hypocrite for seeking revenge on Sook (which he supposedly doesn't believe in).

Shepard drinks after killing Sook to celebrate. Since he's totally not self-aware, he has no idea what a hypocrite he is (but don't worry, the narrator clues us in).

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