Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Reuben and Jeremiah's relationship evolve over the course of the story?

    In the beginning of the novel, Reuben makes it clear that Jeremiah is a hero in his eyes. His father brings him to life and cares for him. As the novel progresses, Reuben grows up quite a bit; he takes care of Jeremiah when he falls ill and brings in some money for the family. At the end of the narrative, Jeremiah makes the ultimate sacrifice for Reuben, allowing his son to live and continue to grow up.

  2. 2

    Which character(s) can be considered a hero?

    Jeremiah works miracles that save his family numerous times while they are searching for Davy and he is responsible for brining Reuben to life as a newborn and saving his life from Waltzer. Both Reuben and Davy are protective of their family and each other. Davy avenges Swede's kidnapping and Reuben keeps Davy's whereabouts a secret. Swede also has heroic qualities and saved her family from Andreeson by sabotaging his car.

  3. 3

    To what extent does Reuben believe in miracles?

    Reuben makes it very clear at the beginning of the novel that he has a narrow definition of the word miracle and adds Swede's input that miracles only happen when someone witnesses them. He recounts his own birth and Jeremiah's levitation as miracles, but has a harder time recognizing the family's ability to drive for hours without gas and numerous other instances later in the novel as miracles.

  4. 4

    How does Reuben's loyalty to his family interfere with his loyalty to the law?

    While searching for Davy, Reuben begins to wonder if he truly wants to find his brother. If his brother is found, he will see him again but it is likely that Davy will return to jail. His perception of his own loyalties becomes clearer when he talks to Jeremiah and Reuben decides that he wants Davy to be safe, regardless if that means turning over his brother to the police.

  5. 5

    Jeremiah expresses several times that he wishes he could take Reuben's place. To what extent is he able to do so?

    Jeremiah says that he wishes he could take Reuben's place when he has to testify in court as the only witness to the shooting as well as when Reuben suffers from severe lung problems. When Waltzer shoots both Reuben and Jeremiah in Roofing, Reuben goes to the afterlife and sees his father. Jeremiah sacrifices himself for Reuben so that he son can live, finally being able to take Reuben's place in the afterlife.

  6. 6

    Reuben and Swede are only a couple of years a part in age. In what ways is Reuben more mature than Swede? In what ways is Swede more mature than Reuben?

    The dynamic between Reuben and Swede changes throughout the novel; they go from innocent children trying to break their brother out of jail to mature individuals. One example of Reuben being more mature than Swede is during the hunting trip; he is able to shoot down and skin the bird later, but Swede shrieks and runs away when the bird chases after her. An example of Swede being more mature than Reuben comes from Reuben wanting to spend his hard earned money on Christmas toys, but Swede insists that they use it to buy much needed groceries.

  7. 7

    How is Waltzer a foil for Jeremiah?

    Both characters are grown men who are in charge of a household, but their beliefs and methods for running their households are dramatically different. Whereas Jeremiah is deeply religious and has faith in God, Waltzer does not believe in the existence of God and becomes angry when Reuben prays before eating. Jeremiah also cares for his children differently; he is a kind and nurturing father who is patient with Reuben when he has trouble breathing while Waltzer treats Sara like a servant and he only exacerbates Reuben's breathing problem.

  8. 8

    Which character(s) can be considered enemies of the Land family? Waltzer? Andreeson? Davy?

    A case can be made for all three of the above listed characters. Waltzer, while initially helpful to Davy, turns on the Land family by being cruel to Reuben and killing Jeremiah. Andreeson is described as the enemy when he first appears in the story, but Jeremiah agrees to help him find Davy and Reuben eventually sees that Andreeson was merely doing his job and trying to find Davy. Davy can also be considered an enemy to the Land family because he dramatically alters their lives, even if it is the result of self-defense.

  9. 9

    In what ways do Jeremiah and Reuben differ in their views of Andreeson? What accounts for these differences?

    When Andreeson first comes to Roofing, all of the Lands are wary of the investigator. Perhaps following his father's lead in disliking Andreeson, Reuben stubbornly insists on calling Andreeson the "putrid fed" up until he realizes that Waltzer is going to kill him. Jeremiah on the other hand, has a change of heart and begins to help Andreeson look for Davy. Reuben feels betrayed by his father, but Jeremiah explains their difference of opinions by telling Reuben that he must do things differently because he is the father of Davy rather than his friend of brother.