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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Two Old Women  >  Discussion Questions
Chapter 5 - Saving a Cache of Fish

 Chapter Summary: In this chapter the two women begin their spring and summer season, which means serious work to catch and preserve enough game and fish to survive the coming winter. They catch fish and muskrats and Sa’ misses an opportunity to kill a moose. They survive the summer and have a vast store of food, but as winter approaches, they fear the darkness and solitude.

Discussion Questions for Chapter Five:

Explain how the old women caught muskrats and beavers. (p. 78)

Points to consider:

  • The women make a net with willows and moosehide.
  • They find muskrat and beaver houses and use the net to capture the little critters.
  • Here Wallis describes in detail the methods used to catch beavers and muskrats.

Why do you think the two old women smoke-dried the muskrats and beavers? (p. 79)

Points to consider:

  • Smoke-drying will allow the meat to keep all summer and into the winter.
  • This is the only preservation method at their disposal.

How do the old women practice sustainability, where The People did not? (p. 79)

Points to consider:

  • Sustainability is an important theme throughout this novel. The women can capture more muskrat and fish, but they have a vast supply, so they stop, thus ensuring future harvests.
  • The People would fish and hunt an area until nothing was left.

Why do the women still feel vulnerable, even though they have food and a safe camp? (p. 79)

Points to consider:

  • They fear someone taking their cache of food and furs.
  • They fear reliving their first experience of being left with nothing.

Was the paranoia of the women justified? (p. 80)

Points to consider:

  • A starving band that happened upon them probably would kill the two old women and take their food. (Or, at the very least, take their food cache.)
  • The women probably have a strange sense that The People might come looking for them, and since they left them once, what would keep them from doing this again.

Why did Ch’idzigyaak disapprove of Sa’ and her plans for exploration? (p. 84)

Points to consider:

  • This land can be dangerous and she knows that something could happen to Sa’.
  • Without Sa’, she knows that she couldn’t survive. Plus, she probably fears being left alone.

Why do you think Sa’ felt so full of energy when she went out for a walk? (p. 89)

Points to consider:

  • This was one of the first times Sa’ allowed herself some free time to just go out and hunt and explore.
  • She gets to relive her youth in a way.

Why do you think Sa’ felt ashamed for leaving Ch’idzigyaak for so long? (p. 89)

Points to consider:

  • Sa’ feels a sense of responsibility for her friend.
  • She senses the fear her friend felt.

Why did the women spend so much time collecting wood? (p. 90)

Points to consider:

  • This activity gave the women something to do.
  • They needed to gather as much wood as they could to prepare for the frigid winter.

Now that winter set in, why did the women talk less and think more about being left behind? (p. 90)

Points to consider:

  • With fears of survival diminished, the women had more time to think of other things and as Sa’ warned before, those thoughts have a certain power.
  • The women talk less because they are lost in their own thoughts.

Why was it taboo for the women to think of those who abandoned them? Why did those thoughts continue to haunt them? (p. 91)

Points to consider:

  • The power of thoughts is continually reiterated, and here the women fear thinking about The People who left them behind because they know those thoughts will make them weak and vulnerable.
  • These thoughts haunt them anyway, and one might argue the power of their thoughts might have led The People back to the place where they left the two old women.

Loneliness and the need for others set in on the women. Do people need others to survive? (p. 91)

Points to consider:

  • In the case of the two old women, their need for others begins to cripple them again.
  • Humans, for the most part, are not solitary creatures. We need others to help us survive, but we also need companionship, love, and someone to care for.


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