Novel Study Questions: I n The Heat of the Night
by John Ball
1. What descriptive details does the author use to make it clear that the setting of the story is a small town? 2. The character of Sam Wood is developed in several instances in Chapter 1. Discuss and develop his character by referring to: a) his opinion of his job
b) the reference to killing the dog
c) the Delores Purdy incident
d) the conversation with the night worker at the restaurant e) Sam’s ability to cope with a crisis
3. How is the racial issue – a main theme of this book – clearly introduces in Chapter 1?
1. In a well-developed paragraph, describe the character of Chief Gillespie as he is first presented. Use specific references and examples from the text. 2. Give the significance of the following statements by Gillespie: a) “Tourist?” – p. 10
b) “Where is it?” – p. 12
c) “…you don’t have to tell me my job, I’ll tell you.” – p.13 d) “Colored couldn’t make money like that, or keep it if they did, and he knew it.” – p. 19 3. What characteristics stand out during the encounter between Virgil Tibbs and Sam? How does this affect the reader? 4. State your feeling towards each of the following characters at this point in the story; use examples to support your opinions. a) Virgil Tibbs
b) Sam Wood
c) Chief Gillespie
1. In the first two chapters, the racial issue has been hinted at. In Chapter 3, we see a clear indication that this issue will be a major item in the story. Provide specific examples and quotations from the characters that support this. 2. What degree of authority does Gillespie have in his police department? Are the opinions of his men justifies? Why / Why not? Use examples to support your answer. 3. Using a Venn diagram, compare and contrast the efficiency of Tibbs and Gillespie as investigators.
1. Describe and explain the conflict between Sam Woods and Gillespie at the beginning of Chapter 4. Include Sam’s inner conflict regarding Virgil. 2. How does Gillespie treat the prisoner, Harvey Oberst? What is his method of investigation? 3. How does Oberst react to Gillespie’s investigation? Is his explanation for having the wallet believable? Why / Why not. 4. What details does Virgil use to determine Oberst’s innocence? Do you agree with his logic? Why / Why not? 5. How do Virgil’s detective skills make Gillespie look? How does he try to cover this up? 6. Why is it ironic when Virgil reply’s “They call me Mr. Tibbs.” ? 7. How does George Endicott react to meeting Virgil Tibbs? Compare his reaction to Sam and Gillespie’s. What is the significance of this comparison?
1. Explain Gillespie’s hostility towards Virgil at the beginning of this chapter. 2. Which of Virgil’s characteristics or character traits is emphasized by his reaction to Gillespie’s outbursts? 3. Explain the significance of the following”
a) Gillespie’s intense relief that he didn’t smell. b) “If Chief Morris asked me to,” Tibbs replied promptly, “I’d go to England and look for Jack the Ripper.” c) “They had a murder here this morning. They don’t know what to do about it, so they’re using me a fall guy.” d) “I don’t want to be conspicuous.”
4. How does Mrs. Endicott react to meeting Virgil?
5. Have any secondary plots / story lines been added to this chapter? What are they? 6. Explain Sam’s conflict at the end of this chapter. (man vs man? Man vs self? Man vs society?)
1. Explain the irony if the interview between Oberst and Tibbs. Why does Oberst finally accept Tibbs? 2. Briefly outline Oberst’s alibi for the previous night. Include details about his arrest. 3. Delores Purdy has now entered the book in two instances. Explain the purpose the author has for introducing this character.
1. How does...
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