All Men of Genius Discussion Questions

These questions are a great place to start for any Book Clubs or Reading Groups that are reading All Men of Genius.  Feel free to suggest more questions by contacting me!

1.  Throughout the book, themes of nature and science are brought up – when Ernest discusses flowers with Violet, or when Violet looks out the carriage window and views the natural world as a large, well crafted machine.  What are some other ways that nature and science interact in the book?  Do you think they conflict with each other, or work together?

2.  Although the word ‘feminist’ was not in use until the 20th century, Violet can be viewed as a feminist of her time.  Do you think feminism is shaped by time and place?  What would be considered feminist today that Violet wouldn’t have considered?  What would Violet have considered feminism?  Would that still be feminism today?

3.  Violet has to change her identity and learn to fit in with the male students of Illyria.  Miriam uses her fluid identity to escape social constrictions.  Ashton has to hide part of his identity.  Ernest learns what the difference between his father’s public and private identities were.  Why is the theme of identity so important in the book?  What does the way each of the characters interact with identity say about them?  What does the book teach you about identity?

4.  Algernon, Ernest’s father, seems to have been involved in a society that felt the intelligent should rule over the rest of mankind, as opposed to a king or queen.  Do you agree with this idea?  How should society be governed?  Is the way your society is governed better or worse than Algernon’s idea?  Is it better or worse than the way Victorian England was governed?  Why?