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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Ordinary Wolves  >  Discussion Questions
Chapter 9

Chapter Summary:  An eighteen-year-old Cutuk buys a used Arctic Cat with his Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check and news of his purchase spreads through Takunak. Dawna makes him a Valentine's card but the card gets ripped and she throws it out. Cutuk retrieves it from the slop bucket and goes hunting with Stevie.  Cutuk shoots his first wolf and feels terrible about it. He trades it for a bottle of rum and they have a party in Newt's old cabin. Stoned, he loses his virginity to Dollie, imagining he's with Dawna.

Discussion Questions:

How does Cutuk's Arctic Cat purchase conflict with the ideals that Abe has instilled in him?

Points to Consider:

  • The machine requires gas and oil, so in Abe's eyes it will be wasteful and harmful to the environment.
  • Cutuk has a team of dogs, so he doesn't really need the machine. He's "wasting" his money.
  • The machine represents an acceptance of the very lifestyle that both Abe and Cutuk dislike, but Cutuk also wants to fit in and be admired by his peers and having a snowmachine is one way he thinks this will happen.

Why is Cutuk's purchase of the machine big news in the village, especially to the adults?

Points to Consider:

  • Cutuk, although he is white, represents the "old ways" by still using a dogteam and living out in "camp" (p. 107). He's the "last Eskimo camp boy," according to Nippy, Sr., and with this purchase that camp boy disappears.

Why do you think the village life in Takunak revolves around television and basketball?

Points to Consider:

  • With their traditional ways of living disintegrating, people don't have much to do in their everyday lives. Time that was once spent hunting and preparing for the coming winter or summer is free time. Boredom and alcohol and drug abuse prevail. Television and time in the gym playing basketball are a welcome distraction.

Why do you think Dawna's Valentine's card matters so much to Cutuk?

Points to Consider:

  • Dawna represents his first true love. The card is physical proof that she cares about him, too. He has to hide it to keep Melt from knowing about their feelings, and he has to hide it from others to protect himself from being teased.

The snowmachine makes Cutuk feel like a god. Why?

Points to Consider:

  • He can move across the tundra at high speeds, covering ground that took hours or days on dogteam. The machine power makes him feel strong, which sets him up for the wolf kill.

Why do you think Cutuk reacts the way he does after killing the wolf?

Points to Consider:

  • He realizes that killing the wolf wasn't what he expected it to be. He tells the dying wolf he won't kill wolves again and he swears at the outcome, in a way apologizing to the dying creature.

How is the white musher, Ted Brown, disrespectful in Cutuk's eyes? (p. 117-118)

Points to Consider:

  • Ted Brown brags about hunting, has too many guns and dogs, and turns his village English on and off.

Why do you think people in the village are willing to pay $300 for a single bottle of alcohol?

Points to Consider:

  • Alcohol in many rural Alaskan communities is prohibited through local option laws. This means a community can vote to allow the sale or importation of liquor. In places where alcohol is illegal, bootleggers will import and sell the liquor at extremely inflated prices.
  • People in the village are willing to pay the price because they don't have other options for obtaining booze, and boredom and dependency create a high level of demand, and when added to the legal risk of selling, the prices become inflated.

Why is the party scene in Newt's old cabin significant?

Points to Consider:

  • Cutuk kills his first wolf and loses his virginity in the same night. He also realizes that he wants to be loved, have a girlfriend, and be Eskimo -- all things that he doesn't think will ever happen.

Why does Cutuk "pretend" to drink?

Points to Consider:

  • He's never drunk alcohol before and is content with just getting a little. Perhaps, too, he has seen all the destruction that alcohol has brought the village and doesn't have the stomach to be a part of it.

What might Cutuk mean when he speaks of Newt's blood and "the debt" that might have something to do with him?

Points to Consider:

  • This is a reference to Stevie telling him that Abe had helped Newt purchase the store. News that Abe helped Newt leaves Cutuk wondering if that transaction with a white man had anything to do with Newt shooting himself.


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