Discussion Questions: The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Lee

Below is a conglomeration of discussion questions gleaned from various Web sources relating to our current book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.

MORE COMMON DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Many online sources — Reading Group Guides, Harper Collins, the books publisher, and others — have shamelessly plagiarized one another’s reading guide questions. Here they are, in all their commonality:

  1. Some early readers of the novel have observed that viewing the world through a dog’s eyes makes for a greater appreciation of being human. Why do you think this is?
  2. Enzo’s observations throughout the novel provide insight into his world view. For example:
    • “The visible becomes inevitable.”
    • “Understanding the truth is simple. Allowing oneself to experience it, is often terrifically difficult.”
    • “No race has ever been won in the first corner; many races have been lost there.”
    • How does his philosophy apply to real life?
  3. In the book’s darkest moments, one of Zoe’s stuffed animals — the zebra — comes to life and threatens him. What does the zebra symbolize?
  4. Can you imagine the novel being told from Denny’s point of view? How would it make the story different?
  5. In the first chapter, Enzo says: “It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.” How does Enzo’s situation — a human soul trapped in a dog’s body — influence his opinions about what he sees around him? How do you feel about the ideas of reincarnation and karma as Enzo defines them?
  6. Do you find yourself looking at your own dog differently after reading this novel?
  7. In the book, we get glimpses into the mindset and mentality of a race car driver. What parallels can you think of between the art of racing and the art of living?
  8. The character of Ayrton Senna, as he is presented in the book, is heroic, almost a mythic figure. Why do you think this character resonates so strongly for Denny?

OTHER DISCUSSION GUIDE QUESTIONS

A deeper plunge of the Internet provides more unique discussion guide questions. The blog Read to Enrich offers these for discussion:

  1. What was your favorite scene in the novel?
  2. Did you like the technique of making Enzo be the narrator?  Would the story have worked if the narrator was one of the humans?
  3. Do you think dogs or other animals can really understand humans and have the desire to communicate with them?
  4. Discuss Enzo’s more human characteristics:
    • His feelings after Eve died (and his animal reaction of chasing and eating the squirrel ) [page 165]
    • Advising people to learn to listen (page 102)
  5. Can dogs and other animals sense things that humans cannot?  Enzo smelled Eve’s cancer well before anyone made a diagnosis.
  6. What did you think of Enzo’s description of communication, “…there are so many moving parts.  There’s presentation and there’s interpretation and they’re so dependent on each other it makes things very difficult.”  (page 5) Was this a good analysis?
  7. What did you think about Enzo’s analysis of his death?  He said about Denny, “He needs me to free him to be brilliant.”  (page 5)
  8. The author wrote, “A true hero is flawed.  The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph.”  (page 135)  Do you agree?  What do you think about the obstacles “being of his own making?”  Can you name anyone who you think is a hero?  Does he or she fit this description?
  9. About a champion, he wrote “It makes one realize that the physicality of our world is a boundary to us only if our will is weak; a true champion can accomplish things that a normal person would think impossible.”  (page 65)  Do you agree?
  10. One of Denny’s favorite statements was “…that which we manifest is before us.”  (page 43)  What did he mean?  Do you agree?
  11. The author stated that women and dogs feel pain the same (“tap directly into the pain” page 62) whereas men “are all filters and deflectors and timed release.”  (page 63)  Is this an accurate description?  Do you think there is a difference in how men, women and dogs experience pain?
  12. Regarding the evil zebra, at the end Enzo realizes that the zebra is, “not something outside of us.  The zebra is something inside of us.  Our fears.  Our own self-destructive nature.  The zebra is the worst part of us when we are face-to-face with our worst times.  The demon is us!”  (page 264)  Do you agree?  Can you think of any examples from other books you have read where the characters were their own worst enemies?
  13. There were many comments in the book about life in general.  What comparisons were made between driving a race car and life?  Can you add others?
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