Marjorie Morningstar

Doubleday  1955

Marjorie Morningstar is a love story. It presents one of the greatest characters in modern fiction: Marjorie, the pretty seventeen-year-old who left the respectability of New York's Central Park West to join the theater, live in the teeming streets of Greenwich Village, and seek love in the arms of a brilliant, enigmatic writer. In this memorable novel, Herman Wouk, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has created a story as universal, as sensitive, and as unmistakably authentic as any ever told. JBC Book Clubs 

JBC Book Clubs Discussion Questions

  1. On a paperback edition of Marjorie Morningstar, a blurb given by Sidney Field of Sunday Mirror reads, “Its locale is Central Park West, Hunter College, and West End Avenue; its characters are almost all Jewish; its appeal universal.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Do you think this could be considered “The Great American Novel”?

  2. Marjorie Morningstar was written in the 1950s and set in the 1930s. Is the novel now out of date or does it remain relevant as more than a work of historical fiction? What would change if it were to be set in the current year; what would stay the same?

  3. What is Wouk saying about being a Shirley? Is it a respectable, contented life to which all women should aspire or is it the epitome of dullness, deserving of all the condescension that Noel (and Marjorie) heap upon it? Do you think there is truth to the stereotype? Is Marjorie really a Shirley?

  4. Literary critics have questioned why this book continues to be so popular among modern, liberal women, despite its conservative bent (e.g. this article). Why do you think readers, who may or may not agree with the moral and social judgements espoused, continue to identify so strongly with this book? What do you think Wouk’s message is? Do you think of Marjorie as a feminist? Do you see this novel as for or against independent, thinking women? If there are opinions with which you disagree, did that affect your reading of the novel?

  5. Despite his death less than halfway through the novel, the Uncle’s presence continues to be felt through most of the story. What is the role of Samson-Aaron in Marjorie’s life? What is his role in the novel?

  6. How would you characterize Marjorie’s relationship with Judaism? What is it that she struggles with and what does she accept? What do Marjorie’s ritual observances represent?

  7. Why do you think there is a full chapter devoted to the Morgensterns’ Passover seder? Do you see this as a turning point in the novel? Why do you think Wouk specifically chose the setting of a seder?

  8. How does Marjorie’s short relationship with Mike Eden affect her? Does it shift the way you, as the reader, see her?

  9. When Marjorie finds Noel in Paris, he tells her “You have changed, Margie. Quite radically.”, to which she replies, “Well, maybe. I don’t think so. I’m just getting on, Noel.” (page 533). This conversation mirrors that one that Marjorie had years before at South Wind with her father (page 195). Do you think Marjorie changes over the course of the novel, or has she just matured?

  10. Why do you think Marjorie turns down Noel’s proposal?

  11. Why do you think Wouk chose to end the novel viewing Marjorie through Wally’s eyes, rather than in the first person narrative that characterizes the rest of the book? Do you recognize Marjorie in Mrs. Schwartz? Does the fact that Marjorie’s fate is predicted—repeatedly—throughout the novel prepare you for the outcome? Do you think the ending is an abrupt departure from the course of the narrative or do you think it reflects a natural journey of growing older?

  12. Is this your first time reading this novel, or have you read it previously? If you have read it before, how did this reading compare to earlier ones? Has your perspective or the characters with whom you identify shifted? If this is your first time reading the book, do you feel that you would have enjoyed it more or less if you read it at a younger stage of life?

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