The Circuit: Study Questions
1. "La frontera" is a word I often heard when I was a child living in El Rancho Blanco, a small village nestled on barren, dry hills several miles north of Guadalajara, Mexico" (1). Analyze "la frontera" as a metaphor that controls the development of Francisco's story.
2. Examine the narrative technique of understatement in the novel as in Roberto's statement at the end of chapter one, "See, it does come from California!" (8). Discuss the way in which this statement is also ironic. How does this technique highlight his transient status?
3. Francisco's lack of understanding of English contributes substantially to his difficulties. Discuss one specific example of this, pointing out not only the misunderstandings and emotional trauma caused, but also the way in which such lack leads Francisco into alternate ways of communication.
4. "I was so proud I felt like bursting out of my skin" (25). Analyze the simile in this passage according to the close reading suggestions.
5. "I wanted to wake up and find it was only a dream" Stories are very important to Francisco, both hearing them and making them up. How do dreams, visions, and illusions alter and affect reality?
6. "The cardboard inside my shoe got soggy and started to fall apart" (47).
7. "I thought they were happy to see me, but when I opened the door to our shack, I saw that everything we owned was neatly packed in cardboard boxes" (83). Examine this sentence in terms of patterns that it repeats about other episodes in the book. Discuss the implications and the meanings of the key words in this sentence. Note, as you do this, that this sentence is the very last one in the chapter.
8.. "Well . . . if you know what was in your librito, then it's not all lost" (112). Discuss thoroughly Francisco's educational development and explain how this episode and this particular sentence suggests a paradigm for his life.
9. Discuss the importance of family in this odyssey, pointing to both the family's growing numbers as well as their increasing strength despite their continuing adversity.
10. Look closely at Mis Ehlis's prompting the class to memorize one section of The Declaration of Independence. Show why this is ironic and why it is so important in creating "hope" for the Jimenez family and for all of us.