9 Questions Raised By a First Reading of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

This essay was written by Brandon Monk.
Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding: a Novel. New York: Little, Brown and, 2011. Print.

Bare bones synopsis that leaves out all the important details: A baseball player with all the requisite natural talent meets a player that helps him put in the work he needs to become a professional. A psychological hiccup makes routine throws from shortstop to first base mental impossible. This threatens his career prospects and eventually the circle of relationships around him. Meanwhile, a male school president falls in love with a much younger male student and must juggle his responsibilities to his school, his daughter, and his new love. Five major characters: Henry, Schwartz, Pella, Affenlight, and Owen bounce in and out of each others presence to create the action.

1. Is love blind to age or must age always play a role in a relationship? p. 363

2. Is there an acceptable or healthy level of co-dependence? In some cases can it help you get through the day a happier person? pp. 203, 241, 293, 302, 408, 421, 509.

3. Psychological problems manifest themselves in physical ways. Can the physical association ever be truly controlled? p. 326

4. How do you handle your birth into privilege when so much value is placed on hard work?

5. What is “The Human Condition” as referenced on p. 257?

6. How do human beings define comfort? p. 290

7. What is the meaning of the powerful scene involving the earring on p. 297?

8. What does it mean when you name a condition? Does that give you power over it? p. 328

9. How should we deal with death? p. 503

Have you read it? Any thoughts of your own?

Photo: Some rights reserved by yomanimus.

2 comments

  1. Rachel

    Somehow, this comment from Madison got potesd on the wrong story:Let me begin by saying that I loved this novel and have recommended it to everyone I know. It was like stepping into the locker room with the dudes for a while. But not with the dumb jocks; we get men like Owen. Unfortunately, all of these interesting male characters left me with a bad taste in my mouth when it came to the central (and really only) female character, Pella. Femme Fatal? Poison damsel? That’s all we get? She seemed static and her need for affirmation from men through sex unoriginal. Or is she to be Henry’s angel savior? It stood in stark contrast to the multiple dimensions of, say, Schwartz.I would love the reviwers’ thoughts on this issue.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      I think I looked at Pella as a way for Harbach to explore different angles of the relationship between Henry and Schwartz. For that reason she couldn’t be a fully developed character that we liked too much because we might rebel as readers when what happens, happens.

      Maybe that’s unfair to Harbach, though. Maybe he did intend to fully develop Pella so that he could bring home the true nature of the friendship. If he did intend to fully develop her as a character then I think you’re spot on.

      Great point, either way.

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