Maestro Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Paul's perception of the cities in the novel reflect his changing perspective?

    Paul takes to the tropical, isolated environment of Darwin much better than his parents do. When he returns to Adelaide for Christmas, he reflects on how much he enjoyed the town's amusements as a child, but as he matures he finds himself bored with these activities, preferring instead to spend time looking for information about Keller in the library. When he returns to Adelaide again for the competitions, he feels contempt for the city that was once magical to him, showing how much his perspective has shifted to making Darwin the new ideal environment. When he returns to the rebuilt Darwin after the cyclone, he finds it odd and unfamiliar, evidencing how much has changed, and how far he has separated from his youth.

  2. 2

    What makes this novel a bildungsroman? How does Paul grow throughout the book?

    The main way Paul matures is in his perspective of Keller. He goes from disliking his strict and unorthodox teaching style and joking that Keller is a war criminal, to loving and idolizing his teacher and having a deep interest in and respect for Keller's past. Paul also undergoes a sexual maturity in the novel, experiencing the effects of puberty, having his first sexual exchanges, and developing a relationship with Rosie. Paul also grapples with moral conflicts in the novel, including when his intellectual and sexual interests come into conflict, and he must learn to navigate them as he moves from youth to adulthood.

  3. 3

    How does the way Paul describes other characters reflect his musical perspective?

    As music is the driving passion in Paul's life, his relationships with other characters all somehow relate to music. Paul exemplifies the disparity in his parents' personalities by describing the difference between their piano playing styles. Bennie is a bad violin player, and Paul is not interested in becoming friends with them. Paul even describes characters without clear musical ties using musical metaphors, such as when Megan opens her mouth, Megan reveals a "wide keyboard of white, perfect teeth."

  4. 4

    Why is Keller so fascinated with newspapers and collecting newspaper clippings?

    Keller searches through the newspapers for examples of the cruel and foolish nature of human society, which he clips out and puts into scrapbooks. He calls them "textbooks" to Paul, showing how he considers them a source of education and knowledge. After experiencing the darkest side of humanity through the Holocaust and the loss of his wife and child, Keller uses the articles as a way of understanding the greed and cruelty of his fellow beings.

  5. 5

    What sort of relationship does he have with his parents? Does it change over time?

    Paul calls himself a "mulatto" or "crossbreed" of his two very different parents. He shares their passion for music and they are financially and emotionally supportive of his musical education and attempts to become a pianist. Paul understands that they expect great musical success from him, but the more Paul trains with Keller the more he sees his training and career as something he possesses and wants to be successful at rather than something his parents want.

  6. 6

    How does the importance of Paul's relationship with Keller reflect the way Paul's other relationships are described?

    Paul devotes significantly more time in the novel to describing his relationship with Keller and his feelings toward him. His interactions with Keller are what form the storyline; meeting Keller and losing Keller are the bookends of the story. His relationship with Rosie, who as his wife would generally be assumed to be the most important person in his life, receives less attention than his relationship with Keller. While Paul describes in detail his observations of Keller and changing perspective on him, he does not devote extensive time to the particulars of his feelings for Rosie and gives little explanation for his passionate feelings for her.

  7. 7

    How does Paul adapt to improve his situation at school?

    When Paul realizes bullies will pick on him on the bus, he decides to bike to school to avoid them. He knows that bullies will go after him if he is around during lunch and before and after school, so he spends these times in the Music Room. Although he is a classical musician, Paul adapts to Rough Stuff's rock and roll style, earning himself a spot in the band and freedom from being tormented by school bullies.

  8. 8

    How do Paul's relationships with girls in the novel reflect his desire for perfection?

    Paul considers the good looking and popular Megan to be the perfect woman, and he remains infatuated with her even after she turns down his advances. He initially dismisses Rosie, who he finds annoying and less attractive. Even after he has taken up with Rosie, he still has sex with Megan, who he considers the ultimate catch. The experience is disappointing and Paul finds Megan not to be as perfect as he thought, leading him to rethink his standards for relationship perfection.

  9. 9

    By the end of the novel, who has a more comprehensive understanding of the other person, Paul or Herr Keller?

    This question could be argued either way based on your understanding of the book. One answer would be that Paul has a better understanding of Keller than Keller does of Paul, since Paul has learned the details of Keller's Holocaust experiences and spent so much time with Keller that he is able to see past his facade and understand his emotions. Another answer would be that Keller has a better understanding of Paul than Paul does of Keller because Paul cannot experience the suffering and loss that Keller did but Keller does understand Paul's drive to become a great musician and the experience of working toward that, as Keller has been through that himself.

  10. 10

    In Maestro, is Paul ultimately a success or a failure?

    It could be argued that Paul is a failure because he does not achieve great success in the piano competitions and ends up as a teacher at minor music school instead of a great pianist. Alternatively, one could argue that Paul is a success, either because he has worked to hone his skill to the best of his ability or because he has developed a respect and appreciation for Keller, his talent, and his role in Paul's life.