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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Two Old Women  >  Discussion Questions
Chapter 2 - Let Us Die Trying

 Chapter Summary: The two old women survive the first night. Sa’ kills a squirrel, and they realize they might have a chance at survival. They also realize why The People chose to leave them behind; they had become helpless and useless to the band.

Discussion Questions for Chapter Two:

What does it mean when the author says Ch’idzigyaak “listened to the silence that The People left behind?” (p. 17)

Points to consider:

  • She is realizing the void that surrounds them.
  • The silence also represents the impending loneliness and the weight of being left behind.

Can you make a rabbit snare, or a model of a snare, based on the directions in the book? Or draw a picture of the snare set-up? (p. 19)

Points to consider:

  • Having students create a model, draw, or build a rabbit snare based on the instructions from the book will enhance the student’s understanding of the many “survival” and/or hunting instructions found in the text.
  • This is also a fun activity that shows how this particular story serves several functions.

How does Sa’ know where the squirrel is going to go when she throws the hatchet? (p. 20)

Points to consider:

  • This scene reveals the power of thoughts and ideas. She knows this is where the squirrel will run and she uses this thought to anticipate where to throw the hatchet.
  • Her hunting skills seem to want to reveal themselves again to her, and the readers.

Why hasn’t Sa’ hunted in many years? (p. 21)

Points to consider:

  • Sa’ hasn’t been active for quite some time. She had become lazy and quit using her skills.
  • Perhaps the men would not have allowed an old woman to be a successful hunter.

Why do the women immediately start conserving food? (p. 21)

Points to consider:

  • The women understand the importance of making their food last as long as possible with the limited resources they have.
  • To waste their food would mean death.

What might the lone wolf howl symbolize or represent? (p. 22)

Points to consider:

  • There are many instances of wolves in this novel. They often only howl in the distance. These wolves represent the possibility of death looming on the horizon.
  • The wolves symbolize the inherent danger that surrounds the women and waits for them to fail in their struggle to survive.
  • Wolves are also referred to periodically with regards to the actions of the people, thus the wolves also, in a way, represent The People.

Ch’idzigyaak wonders how they will survive. How will they survive? What will they need to do in order to live without the younger people? (p. 24)

Points to consider:

  • They will need to call upon all of their old skills.
  • This can also pose an alternative question. How will the young people survive without the two old women, or will they?
  • The women will have to think about how The People survived in the past (and this is knowledge that the young do not possess).

Ch’idzigyaak says, “I fear what lies ahead.” What do you think she fears and why does she tell Sa’ not to “say anything?” (p. 25)

Points to consider:

  • The two women know the difficulties of surviving in this hostile and cold world without others.
  • They both fear the all-too-real possibility of starvation.

Why do the two old women compare themselves to helpless babies? (p. 26)

Points to consider:

  • They realize they have been helpless and dependent for many years.
  • Babies require others to survive and, without The People, the women might not survive.
  • This is an important realization for the two. They now understand they must grow up and take responsibility for themselves.

Why do you think it might be important to their survival that the women realize they have been helpless for so many years? (p. 26)

Points to consider:

  • This realization will allow them to overcome their fears.
  • They have become helpless, and now they understand that in order to survive they will have to empower themselves.

Why is Ch’idzigyaak not as convinced as Sa’ that the two of them can survive? (p. 28)

Points to consider:

  • At many points in the novel, Ch’idzigyaak plays the foil to Sa’ and her positive attitude.
  • Here, she’s just not convinced the two have the physical strength to survive.

Why do you think the phrase “Let us die trying” fills the two old women with strength? (p. 29)

Points to consider:

  • They find strength in the idea that they might actually survive, and, if not, at least they have given it their best shot.
  • Death is inevitable for the two women, and to try means they won’t just quietly accept the inevitable.


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