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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Shopping for Porcupine  >  Discussion Questions
Shopping for Porcupine

Essay Summary:  Alvin takes Kantner porcupine "shopping" in his fancy new boat. They harvest a porcupine, burn the hide to protect scavengers, and Kantner reveals some of the changes modern technology has brought to the area.

Discussion Questions:

What is Kantner saying when he asks if the new store-bought boats can sink? (p. 97)

Points to consider:

  • He's being sarcastic, playing with the idea that the new boat might have features that would in essence make it invincible.

Why does Kantner feel a "pang of disloyalty" for killing the porcupine with the oar? (p. 99)

Points to consider:

  • He suggests a stick, and not a store-bought oar, would have been a more natural and appropriate way to dispatch the animal.

While modern travel has shrunk the distance between Alvin's and Kantner's homes, they have grown further apart. (p. 99) Why do you think this might be?

Points to consider:

  • Perhaps he feels conflicted with the changes between them since they have gotten older.
  • Kantner seems to question the changes that technology has brought to his world and the life of the porcupine and other animals.

What does he mean when he asks how the Eskimos lived before Hefty Bags? (p. 100)

Points to consider:

  • Hefty bags represent the addition of material goods and technology to the Eskimo way of life. He's asking how people made a living back then, but at the same time asking why we do the things we do now.

Why does Kantner have a problem with his friend's response about why they kill porcupines in Pennsylvania? (p. 100)

Points to consider:

  • He sees the killing as wasteful and unnecessary, especially when they aren't going to eat the meat.

"Respect...here on the far edge of America has grown to be a complicated creature that is nearly impossible to comprehend," Kantner says. What does he mean by this?

Points to consider:

  • With the changes he has seen happen in the Arctic, Kantner is suggesting that one level of respect for the land and the animals still exists, but on the other hand, those changes have complicated man's relationship with the land. They respectfully take care of the porcupine carcass but then "roar" back down the river.

Final Questions:

Why is this essay called "Shopping for Porcupine?"

What are the "forces" coming towards them? How does Kantner feel about these changes?

Why does Kantner suggest its debatable whether he is a savage or not?

How is the porcupine's death a symbol of the powerful forces taking over life on the tundra?



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