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Reading and Discussion Questions on Walter Van Tilburg Clark's "The Portable Phonograph"

1. What does the setting of this story tell you about what has happened? What images appear in the opening description and again at the end of the story?

2. Discuss the sound motifs in the story, such as the phonograph records, the wolf's howl, the geese, and the men's conversation.

3. Who are the men, and what is their situation? Can we tell them apart, and if so, how?

4. What is the significance of the books they discuss (Moby-Dick, a volume of Shelley, etc.)?

5. What does the phonograph mean to them? Look closely at the way in which the phonograph and phonograph record are described. Is it fair to say that playing a record is a kind of sacred or ceremonial occasion for them? Why?

6. How is the young musician different from the rest? Why doesn't he want them to play Gershwin's "New York"?

7. What actions does Dr. Jenkins take at the end of the story, and why?

8. How would you summarize the theme or message of this story? What does it say about civilization?