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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Ordinary Wolves  >  Discussion Questions
Chapter 11

Chapter Summary:  Abe and Cutuk head out spring camping in the mountains. Abe paints while Cutuk explores and hunts. He comes across the wolf in the canyon and some rope that might have belonged to Enuk. Spooked by the wolf, he leaves before he can investigate further. Iris returns from college and announces that she will be teaching in the village. Cutuk is worried for her safety over the coming year. On the way home Cutuk takes a risk on the thin ice and the sled carrying Iris crashes through. Cutuk manages to save her.

Discussion Questions:

What conflict does this chapter show between Abe and Cutuk?

Points to Consider:

  • Cutuk is reacting openly in defiance of Abe. He swears out loud and reacts to Abe's admonishments about buying plastics and needing to catch more lynx to get more money.
  • Abe tries to explain to Cutuk that he's always going to feel like he's "across the river" from others, but Cutuk listens but only responds by flattening his nose. (p. 128)
  • Abe is also Cutuk's best friend, but Cutuk has difficulty expressing himself around Abe.

How is Cutuk's version of the wolf encounter in the canyon different from the earlier chapter through the wolf's point of view?

Points to Consider:

  • Cutuk backs away, but the fear is not as marked as in the previous chapter. Cutuk says nothing of hurrying away.
  • There is also a spiritual element to Cutuk's story, as he feels for Enuk and instead sees the wolf.

What concerns Cutuk about Iris's new teaching job in the village?

Points to Consider:

  • He is afraid for her safety in the village with all the drinking and the violence that can occur during the long dark winters.

Janet and Iris joke that Cutuk has become Abe Junior. How is he like Abe and how is he different? (p. 138)

Points to Consider:

  • Cutuk has Abe's values ingrained in him. He loves the land and is more comfortable there, but at the same time he is curious about the outside world. He also wants companionship, someone to love and be loved by.
  • Abe has seen the outside world, and is content where he is now. His life experience outside has shaped him, where Cutuk has been shaped by Abe and his own experiences on the land.

How do you think Iris's near death will impact Cutuk?

Points to Consider:

  • Although Iris will be fine, Cutuk will never forgive himself for showing off and risking his sister's life. He let his pride in knowing how to read the signs of the land get to him. He'll carry guilt for nearly losing her, and will become more careful when the lives of others are in his hands. In essence, he will become even more like Abe when it comes to helping others.

Discuss what losing Iris would have done to Cutuk.

Points to Consider:

  • Cutuk's love for his sister is pure and powerful. Losing her probably would have destroyed him. While it's somewhat ridiculous to wonder how a fictional character might have reacted to such a loss, the fact is that Cutuk will carry her near loss with him as a reminder. This ice scene is relevant for many rural Alaskans because losing a loved one through the ice is an all too common occurrence. In many ways Cutuk is extremely lucky that he didn't lose his sister.

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