Study Questions: “Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy?”
English 9 – Mr. Dawursk
1. Describe the setting of the story, discussing where and when it is taking place.
2. Identify the main character and describe him.
3. Examine the passage in which Paul daydreams about a campfire chat with his father. Infer and discuss what kind of relationship Paul must have with his father. Explain what has happened that causes Paul to focus on his father and what Paul’s father symbolizes to him.
4. Examine the dialogue at the bottom of p. 64. Analyze the passage to identify the speakers and their relationship to each other.
5. Summarize the action from p. 64, making clear where the soldiers are, where they are going, and why. Infer and explain why the soldiers are marching toward the ocean.
6. O’Brien describes one of the soldiers in the platoon as a “soldier-shadow” (64). Later Paul follows “the shadow of the man in front of him” (64). Discuss the significance of the word shadow. Then, discuss the idiom (saying) “a shadow of one’s former self” and explain what this reveals about Paul and his experience of fighting in a war.
7. Based on what you have read about Paul, make inferences about his character and choose adjectives to describe him, using evidence from the text to support your ideas.
8. Paul has a fantasy about his relationship with the men in his platoon (66). Discuss what he believes will be true about this group after the war. Then explain why this will not be.
9. Paul keeps hearing in his mind the song, “Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy?” Discuss the lyrics of the song and what they indicate about the character in the song. Then, explain the irony in relation to Paul’s fellow soldier.
10. Discuss what has happened to the real Billy from Paul’s platoon. Discuss the events leading up to this event. Discuss Billy’s reaction (as reported by Paul). Explain why Billy giggles in remembering this event.
11. Explain the cause of Billy’s death. Relate this to Paul’s inability to stop laughing.
12. The horror of what happens to Billy does not stop with his injury. Explain what happens after he is injured.
13. There is a reason Paul has kept remembering the lyrics to “Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy?” Explain the significance of the song in relation this.
14. Water symbolizes purification or cleansing. While considering this, explain what Paul means when he says “(h)e would do better once he reached the sea” (70).