MC Taras Westover Educated Silence in The Churches Case Study
Chapter 13, “Silence in the Churches”
5. For me, ch. 13 is one of the most complex in the book thus far. In it, Tara details her growing sense of womanhood (she’s about 15 now). How do Tara’s dad and esp. her brother Shawn react to Tara’s growing womanhood, trying on make-up, etc.? As a reader, what is your reaction to the way the men in her life treat her?
6. There are several frightening scenes in this chapter detailing Shawn’s behaviors toward women. After Shawn dumps Sadie and realizes that Charles has asked Sadie out on a date, Shawn drags Tara around in his truck looking for Charles’ car. What does Shawn have in the front seat of his car? Tara then describes a horrifying scene of being awoken “with needles in my brain.” What is happening to her & what is your reaction to this scene?
7. After this scene Shawn tries to make up with Tara, giving her pearls. Why do you think Shawn treats Tara with such a range of behaviors? Do you think Shawn is simply a bad apple, or do you think Shawn is conditioned by male role models (and patriarchy more generally) to act so demeaning toward women?
8. There is another powerful scene toward the end of ch. 13 in which Tara’s sensitive brother Tyler tells her “I think this is the worst possible place for you,” and encourage her to leave. What was your reaction to this? Chapter 14, “My Feet No Longer Touch Earth”
9. In this chapter, Tara starts to study for the ACT at the urging of her brother Tyler, and then Shawn has a bad accident (a fall) at his work site. As you were reading, which was the more engaging story-line? (For me, there was some genuine comedy [& relatability] at Tara describing her confusion at seeing algebra and trigonometry for the first time; when it came to Shawn’s fall, my reaction was like OMG not again!)
Chapter 15, “My Feet No Longer Touch Earth”
10. At the very beginning of this chapter (p. 133, if you have the same edition as I do), Tara’s dad gives her his reaction at her going to college, and then Tara’s mom gives Tara hers. What does the dad tell Tara, & the mom? Which reaction were you more surprised by – Tara’s dad or her mom’s?
11. During the rest of the chapter, Tarta takes the ACT (she’s never seen a scantron before!), Tara’s mom literally doesn’t know Tara’s age (she thinks she’s 20, when she’s actually 16), & there’s the scene of the “death machine.” Which scene was the most interesting for you?
Chapter 16, “Disloyal Man, Disobedient Heaven”
12. In chapter 16, Tara and Shawn watch a movie & have brownies at grandma’s in town, then Shawn gets into (OMG!) another accident, and Tara takes him to the hospital. After she takes him to the hospital, Tara has a realization: “After that night, there was never any question of whether I would go or stay” (147). Why was taking her brother Shawn to the hospital such a turning point moment for her, after which she calls herself a “traitor, a wolf among sheep” (147)?
Chapter 17, “To Keep It Holy”
2. In chapter 17, we’ve entered a slightly more comedic, lighter, section of the Tara’s memoir. It like the the fish out of water section of the coming-of-age movie, in which Tara finds herself in a place she feels she doesn’t belong (college), and comedy ensues. What are some of the funny mishaps that happen to Tara in her first semester at BYU? The funniest (or, perhaps, cringiest) moment in chapter 17 is the moment when Tara raises her hand in class to ask what The Holocaust was, and afterward she feels humiliated and never asks another question. Whenever we raise our hand in class, we all fear asking the “dumb” question. Have you ever had a situation like this, where you asked a question in class, and then promptly never raised your hand again for the rest of the semester? What do you think Tara feels in that situation?
Chapter 18, “Blood and Feathers”
3. Through chapter 18, more bad stuff happens to Tara at BYU: her roommates stop talking to her, she doesn’t know what a blue book is when a professor asks the class to get it out, she copies her classmate Vanessa’s answers to exam q’s in Western Civilization. There’s a wonderful moment in which Tara realizes, with the help of her classmate Vanessa, that she didn’t understand that she had a textbook for her Western Civilization class, and she didn’t realize that the “syllabus said to read the textbook.” Have you ever had a moment in high school or college, in which you had a moment like this, where weeks go by and you realized you weren’t doing something so elemental like reading the syllabus?
Chapter 19, “In the Beginning”
4. In chapter 19, Tara’s first semester at BYU ends and she goes back home. Some things have changed but others have not: Tara goes back to scrapping with her dad (against her desires), but Shawn changes and tells Tara he wants to go to a community college. Tara goes on a date with Charles, and then goes to Wallmart ot buy a few items of clothing. What does Tara buy for herself at Wallmart and how does she feel about it? (This is almost like the make-over scene in all rom-com movies!)
5. After going on many, many dates with Charles, Tara describes a scene of Charles trying to touch her hand in a caring way but Tara “jerk[s] away as if I’d been burned” (173). Tara writes, “I couldn’t let him near me—not that night, and not any night for months—without shuddering as that word, my word, ripped its way into remembrance. Whore” (173). This moment hit me as a reader like a ton of bricks. What was your reaction?
Chapter 20, “Recitals of the Fathers”
6. Throughout chapter 20, Tara is back home and receives a lot of “ribbing” (that’s the polite way of putting it; verbal abuse is another way to put it) from her dad and brother Shawn. Tara’s dad said she was becoming “uppity.” Shawn taunts Tara with words like “wench,” “Wilbur,” and the “n-word.” Think about why, as a writer, Tara makes the choice to write out that word, one of the most abhorrent in the English language; it’s as if Tara doesn’t want to sugarcoat that word, as if she wants you as a reader to viscerally feel the disgust she felt at hearing her brother use that word. What was your reaction to Shawn using this word? Do you think that Shawn is a racist, simply ignorant or immature, a little bit of all of the above? How do you process him using such an abhorrent word?
7. Turning Point Moment—Toward the end of this chapter, in one of the most powerful moments in the book, Tara uses her brother’s ignorant use of the “n-word” in order to launch into an extended digression of everything that she had been learning at BYU in her classes, esp. in her History class. Tara writes, every time Shawn calls her that slur, she recalls her history professor Dr. Kimble lecturing on slavery, the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Tara writes, “But something had shifted nonetheless. I had started on a path of awareness, had perceived something elemental about my brother, my father, myself. I had discerned the ways in which we had been sculpted by a tradition given to us by others, a tradition of which we were either willfully or accidentally ignorant. I had begun to understand that we had lent our voices to a discourse whose sole purpose was to dehumanize and brutalize others—because nurturing that discourse was easier, because retaining power always feels like the way forward” (180). Have you ever had a turning point moment like this, a moment where you realized you understood the world in a way that your parents, grandparents, siblings did not or could not?
Chapter 21, “Skullcap”
8. In ch. 21, Tara has just failed her College Algebra midterm and she is at a loss for what to do. She calls Charles, who tells her “Then go talk to your algebra professor…You’re failing. Ask for help.” Tara thinks to herself, “It had never occurred to me to talk to a professor—I didn’t realize we were allowed to talk to them” (185). When you aren’t doing well in a classroom situation (or even a workplace situation), is it easy for you to talk to her teacher/superior, or is it difficult, like it’s difficult for Tara? Be honest! Why?
Chapter 22, “What We Whispered and What We Screamed”
9. Traumatic Scene Alert—When Tara goes home for Thanksgiving, there is a shocking moment of violence when Shawn attacks Tara, pinning her down and pulling her like a ragdoll. With Charles attending dinner, Tara starts laughing loudly to play off what Shawn did to her as a joke. Why do you think Tara so desperately wants to protect Charles from the truth of how she is treated by her brother Shawn?
10. As a result of this Thanksgiving scene, Charles stops talking to Tara, reasoning with her that he loved her “but this was over his head. He couldn’t save me. Only I could” (190). As a reader, are you on Charles’ side here? Do you think he made the right decision to stop talking to Tara?
11. Turning Point Moment—At the end of the chapter, Tara has a realization about who has controlled her story. Reread the last paragraph of the chapter and summarize in your own words this realization Tara has?
Chapter 23, “I’m From Idaho”
12. Throughout this chapter, Tara talks to a Bishop at BYU and she is incredibly conflicted about filling out the paperwork to accept a government grant to give her financial aid for college. Why is she so conflicted about accepting a government grant? When she finally accepts it, how does her mindset change? Would you have any issues accepting money/financial aid from the federal government?
educated a memoir- by TARA WESTOVER