Crewel Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Discuss the rationale and benefits of keeping boys separate from girls in Arras.

    The Guild keeps boys and girls separate so that each of them may maintain their "purity." Boys also eventually grow to be men and the men of Arras hold a generally disdainful attitude toward women. By keeping the genders separate, the Guild avoids the chance that men will grow up and attempt to defend their sisters or girlfriends from the Guild's sexist practices.

  2. 2

    Throughout the novel, Adelice recounts several memories of her family. Analyze the role of memories in the story.

    Before sending her into the escape tunnel, Adelice's father places an image of an hourglass on her wrist and tells her that it will help her to remember who she is. Throughout her time at the Coventry, Adelice relies on her memories of family members ain order to stay motivated to fight against the Guild. The hourglass is a symbol both of Adelice's past and also of the limited amount of time she has to ensure her future survival and that of those she loves.

  3. 3

    Though there are many powerful women characters in the novel, the ruling body in Arras is composed entirely of men. Explain the role of order and hierarchy in the novel, particularly as it relates to gender roles.

    According to Loricel, men destroyed Earth and subsequently built Arras with the idea that they'd be able to exert complete control over its population. Since, as Loricel explains, women are easier to control than men, the Guild exclusively tests and chooses sixteen year old girls for Spinster training. This is a huge grant of power as Spinsters are responsible for controlling much of the activities in Arras; they manage the weather, food delivery, removal of weak threads, and birth of new life. Order and hierarchy operate to neutralize this potential power source for women, particularly Spinsters. Promoting the Spinster life as the pinnacle of female success and otherwise subjugating women to service positions, the Guild strives to avert the chance that young women will ever aspire to be more than a wife or secretary or otherwise challenge the male monopoly on power.

  4. 4

    Loricel devoted over sixty years of her life to sustaining Arras. Nevertheless, she tells Adelice the truth so that Adelice will be fully informed before deciding whether to accept her role as Creweler. Explain why Loricel does this.

    Although Loricel's predecessor also told her about Earth, neither she nor anybody else warned Loricel about the challenges of being Creweler Loricel primarily wants Arras to survive and she recognizes that its survival requires Adelice to serve as Creweler, but she doesn't want to leave Adelice as misinformed and unprepared as she once was. Loricel thus decides to give Adelice what so few receive in Arras: a choice. She can either work as Creweler and accept the Guild's corruption or escape Arras and allow the land and all its people to fade away.

  5. 5

    Adelice did not have any friends her age in Arras, and was often bulled and ridiculed. Describe how she overcomes this challenge.

    Adelice is most motivated to stand up to bullies hwen doing so is required to protect others. She only musters the strength to stand up to her neighbor it is required to rescue baby birds. Similarly, she stands up to Maela and Ambassador Patton to avenge the murder of her father and the people of Cypress and also to protect her living family members. Adelice becomes most combative and bold after the Guild's medical experimentation driver her mentor, Enora, to commit suicide. Adelice grows stronger with each loss she endures as does her desire to escape the Guild's influence.

  6. 6

    At the end of the novel, it is revealed that Jost and Erik are brothers. However, they behave very differently and, at times, appear to greatly dislike one another. The other sibling relationships featured in the novel are nothing like that between Jost and Erik. Why do you think Jost and Erik are represented in this way?

    Jost and Erik embody two main, yet unsatisfying, approaches to life as a man in Arras. Erik recognizes the corruption of the Guild but instead of fighting it, he chooses to follow suit in order to get ahead. Jost, on the other hand, resists the Guild as much as he can without getting into trouble. His purpose is not to gain status but rather to exact revenge for the murder of his village's women, particularly that of his wife and daughter. Their vastly different approaches land them both in the same place in the end: trapped. That is, until Adelice arrives and with her brings the hope that both of them can escape the prison the Coventry and Arras itself has become.

  7. 7

    Explain the significance of food in the larger context of the novel.

    The Lewys family, like all middle class families in Arrys, receives a set amount of food each week. The amount is never excessive but it is always enough to keep them nourished. When Adelice reaches the Coventry she learns that those with status receive an overabundance of food. She also learns that in some places, like Jost's home village Saxun, people don't receive enogh food. Yet, hunger is a forbidden word in Arras because the idea of an unequal system threatens the legitimacy of the Guild's 'total control' approach. Food--both its excess and its lack--mirror the disparities in Arras as well as the tendency to pretend as though they don't exist.

  8. 8

    How do contemporary uses of the word 'spinster' compare to the definition of the term in the novel?

    In modern-day, the word spinster is typically a pejorative term used to describe a woman (typically middle-aged or older) who is unmarried, unattractive, and surrounded by cats and/or knitting needles.

    On the other hand, Spinsters in Arras are considered the most glamorous and privileged women in the land. They, too, remain perpetually single; but through the use of renewal patches, they keep their youthful beauty forever.

  9. 9

    Why does the Guild require all citizens to be married by age eighteen?

    The Guild thrives on control and mandating that all its citizens marry by a certain age is yet another way for them to exert that control. However, the Guild is also deeply suspicious of unsupervised women. Requiring marriage by a certain age allows the Guild to exert control over all its citizens while ensuring that women maintain a lower status to their husbands. In requiring heterosexual marriage at such a young age the Guild guarantees that a woman will be loyal to her husband and to Arras but never only to herself.

  10. 10

    Is Maela an antagonist? Explain.

    From the start Maela treats Adelice harshly. She orders her to spend several nights in a dungeon-like cell, forces her to wave with razor wire, and more than once, urges Ambassador Patton to rip Adelice's thread. Yet, as Adelice discovers, as much as Maela mistreats her, she is often herself the target of the Guild's disrespect and abuse. She is a woman seeking power among men who refuse to relinquish any. She is in love with a man who will never return her affection. And each year she is forced to train a group of younger, prettier, girls who may one day supersede her. As loathsome as some of Maela's actions are, there is also a degree to which she is one of the more pitiable characters in the novel.