The Weight of All ThingsStudy GuideName: ______

By Sandra BenitezPeriod: ______Points_____/50

To aid in your reading and understanding of Sandra Benitez’ novel, complete the attached study guide. Expect random reading check quizzes. This study guide is also worth points that are based on completeness and complexity of thought.

Chapter One:

  1. Why were thousands of people gathered around the Metropolitan Cathedral in El Salvador in the spring of 1980?
  1. What literary device is Benitez using when she says, “When the pakpakpak! of pistols started up, the brrrttt! of automatic weapons began . . .”?

Is it Personification, Metaphor, Simile, Onomatopoeia, Alliteration, or Irony? Explain your answer.

  1. Describe how Nicolas’ mother protected him, both by her physical positioning and by what she says to him.
  1. When Nicolas matures, he describes his mother’s death when he says, “Like water pouring over stone, that is how she slipped away from me.” Interpret this comparison.

Chapter Two:

  1. Describe how Nicolas’ mother was removed from him and what item of hers was left behind.
  1. Why does Nicolas still feel that “she [his dead mother] would be grateful” if he found that missing item in a pile and returned it to her? (Remember, he’s nine years old.)
  1. What literacy device/s is/are used for: “bloodied bodies lying on the floor, one against the other like fallen logs”?
  1. Where does Nicolas now think his mother is?

Chapter Three:

  1. Who was Nicolas named after? Why?
  1. What did Nicolas have to eat, and what foods were thought to be really special?
  1. Why does the grandmotherly woman call Nicolas “Chele”? What’s the story behind this word?
  1. What literary device is used as Benitez describes this woman propping “her large shelf of a bosom on the table . . .? Is it personification, metaphor, simile, irony, alliteration? Explain.
  1. Who were Nicolas’ mother’s employers?
  1. Who/What in the church comforts Nicolas? Explain how?

Chapter Four:

  1. What literary device is used here: “He sat on a narrow banquette covered with cracked green vinyl”? Personification, metaphor, imagery, irony? Explain.
  1. The ordinary people (the ones who haven’t chosen a side) are said to be the ones to end up dying the most, but what are two different sides fighting for? (18)
  2. What does the acronym FPL represent, and are they the army or guerrillas?
  1. What’s Nicolas’ grandfather’s formal name and nickname?
  1. What was Blanca, and how did it get its name?
  1. On the bus-ride, a toothless, old woman shared her heartfelt story, which detailed the murder of her son. Why was her son murdered and grossly displayed for the community?
  1. What story did the old woman give to the soldier about Nicolas’ identity? Why do you think she did that?

Chapter Five:

  1. Why does Nicolas find beauty in El Retorno’s humble, bleak appearance?
  1. What does Nicolas soon discover about El Retorno?
  1. What does Nicolas find and put in his backpack?

Chapter Six:

  1. Because of the rocky terrain, what clothing item was Nicolas wearing that he was grateful that his mother had earlier gotten for him?
  1. What was the river’s name where Nicolas thought Tata was likely fishing?
  1. Where did Nicolas eventually find Blanca?

Chapter Seven:

1.What two countries does the river divide?

2.Nicolas loved the river, but what reoccurring fear did he have about it?

3.What makes Nicolas cry when he wades in the river?

4.Where did Nicolas end up spending the night?

5.Whose voice did Nicolas wake up to during the night? For Nicolas, was it a dream or reality? Explain.

Chapter Eight

  1. What items did Nicolas find that prompted him to go back to San Salvador to find his mother?
  1. Who did Nicolas encounter when he made it up the hill to the yard?

Chapter Nine:

  1. Who/What is Capitan?
  1. Who did Nicolas find that brought him to tears?
  1. What literary device is used here: “ . . . his faded blue shirt as soft as an old sheet”? ______Explain.
  1. Describe the demeanor, the behavior of the people with rifles? Were they rude and ruthless? Who did they represent?

Chapter Ten:

  1. What side does Tata favor: the Army/Guardia or the guerrilleros/Popular Liberation Forces? Explain.
  1. What is it that the guerrilleros ultimately want from Tata and Nicolas?
  1. What is Tata referring to when he tells Dolores, “It’s not right to do it here? The floors are dirt; there are insects and vermin . . .”
  1. When Tata asked the whereabouts of Nicolas’ mother (his daughter), what did Nicolas tell him?

Chapter Eleven:

  1. Briefly describe Dolores’ army and some of the items that they carried.
  1. Benitez uses a simile to describe eighteen-year-old Lidia’s pregnancy (60). Write that literary device here.
  1. Who is Mario? Describe him.
  1. Tata tells Nicolas he should go back to find his mother, but why does Nicolas have to stop in Tejutla?
  1. Interpret what la Virgen means when she speaks to Nicolas and says: “Adopt the nature of the lamb and go forward unafraid.”

Chapter Twelve:

  1. Gerado, Elias, and Nicolas met with Alvardo, an anesthesia technician (consider the occupation). What was, however, Doctor Eddy’s purpose?
  1. The three came upon a putrid smell from the river that they thought were dead opossums. What, in fact, created that smell?
  1. So far, readers know Gerardo as a macho rifle and machete-carrying guerrillos, but what is he compared to, and how does he act once he sees his mother?

Chapter Thirteen:

  1. Reread the second paragraph on page 75, and identify the onomatopoeia and the simile. Write them here: ______
  1. Why couldn’t the group go to San Salvador the night they had planned?
  1. What do the scent of tangerines illicit for Nicolas? Why?

Chapter Fourteen:

  1. What items now filled the Coca-Cola chest?
  1. How did a tangerine come into the story again and demonstrate something positive?

Chapter Fifteen:

  1. Describe how Nicolas is now physically feeling?
  1. What job was Tata assigned to doing?
  1. What did Nicolas reminisce about when he returned to the cave?
  1. How does the symbolic “lamb” arise again, and how does it connect with Nicolas?
  1. Name the literary device used here, “Time was a long river” (96).

Chapter Sixteen:

  1. What did Nicolas have to “fetch” in El Retorno and why did Dr. Eddy need it?
  1. Where did Tata and Nicolas decide to meet in the event they would be separated?
  1. Identify the literary device used here: “ . . . the huge conacaste that was split down the trunk looked sadder now” (102).
  1. What did Elias do to the Guardia, and what’s your reaction to it?
  1. Explain the irony of Nicolas returning the saw to the camp?

Chapter Seventeen:

  1. In this chapter, Nicolas continues his mourning, but for whom, in particular?
  1. On the other hand, why are the people celebrating at the end of the chapter?

3.Think about Gerardo’s mother grieving the loss of her children/grandson. Had she had been at the celebration, what do you think she would have thought or said?

Chapter Eighteen:

  1. Where do the guerrilleros get the cans of sardines, filtered cigarettes, and refined sugar?
  1. Elias and Carmen describe a time when the enemy drove them out of their home. During a three-day march and experiencing great hunger, what did they roast over a fire and eat?
  2. The guerrilleros mandate they are “an act of revolution.” How does Tata feel about that theory?

Chapter Nineteen:

  1. Why were the guerrilleros packing up and leaving?
  1. Where did Nicolas and Tata stay?

Chapter Twenty:

  1. Who arrived at the rancho, and what did they proceed to do?

Chapter Twenty-one:

  1. What happened to the guerrilleros that left the camp?
  1. The statue of la Virgin continues to comfort Nicolas in the midst of his strife. What animal does Nicolas now connect himself to and why?

Chapter Twenty-two:

  1. Why does the lieutenant choose to take Nicolas with them?
  1. When the soldiers “torch” the rancho, what goes through Nicolas’ mind?

Chapter Twenty-three:

1.When the Capitan (Captain) questioned Nicolas, describe how Nicolas delivered the information. In other words, was he brave, calm, and precise, or was he erratic, sobbing for Tata, and confused about the details. Explain why you think Nicolas behaved in the way that he did

2.When did Nicolas say his mother died?

3.What does the Capitan offer Nicolas?

4.What does Nicolas tell himself he’ll do?

5.Who is Ofelia?

6.Who are Principe and Princesa?

Chapter Twenty-four:

1.What unusual thing did Nicolas notice inside the pantry?

2.Where did Nicolas stash his little carved lion, Swiss army knife, and his money?

3.What caused the commotion across the courtyard?

Chapter Twenty-five:

1.What is Nicolas determined to discover?

2.What conflicting feelings does Nicolas have for Ofelia (156)?

3.Why does Benitez write, “The store was good for morale”?

4.Just when Nicolas thought he could escape, what did he realize was missing that he needed?

5.What did Chabela say and do after Nicolas questioned her about her son?

Chapter Twenty-six:

1.What kind of job did Sergeant Molina have Nicolas do?

2.Nobody mocked Vidal when he played his guitar and sang a song. What did he sing about?

3.What were the soldiers doing in this chapter?

4.What did Nicolas finally come to realize at the end of this chapter, and why is this the climax of the story?

Chapter Twenty-seven:

1.What two “stunning announcements” did Tata receive when he went to la nina Flor’s door?

2.Like Elie Weisel, Tata questions God when he says: “Where are you, God, in all of this?” Explain what Tata and Weisel have in common.

Chapter Twenty-eight:

1.What was Nicolas working on in the pantry?

2.Who does he have a dialogue with when he’s working?

Chapter Twenty-nine:

1.Rather than become a soldier, what does Nicolas want to do in his future? (182)

2.What other signs does Nicolas feel the Virgen provided for him that assured him he’d escape?

3.What chaos happened during lunch?

Chapter Thirty:

1.Why does Nicolas go to Alvardos house; what happened to him?

2.When Nicolas overhears Alvardado speaking to Basilio Fermin, what drastic decision does Nicolas make?

3.Who encouraged Nicolas to take food with him on his journey?

Chapter Thirty-one:

1.Speculate Benitez’ use of foreshadowing as she describes Tata’s memory of the Sumpul river?

2.Who does Tata rejoice at seeing on the riverbank?

Chapter Thirty-two:

1.Why does Nicolas feel that “he might float up off the dusty floor of the church and vanish over its tumbledown remains” when he admits to Tata that his mother is dead?

2.What is surprising and tragic about all the people from various communities finding refuge at El Retorno?

Chapter Thirty-three:

1.Where was the destination that the majority of the displaced people headed toward? Explain why.

Chapter Thirty-four:

1.Why did these innocent El Salvadorans feel they had no choice but to seek refuge by crossing the Sumpul River to safety?

2.Why does Nicolas still carry his mother’s shoe?

Chapter Thirty-five:

1.Consider Tata’s flashback he had while he was fishing (chap 31). What connection is made about the Honduran’s government and its feelings toward the El Salvadoran people?

2.What specific instruction did the Virgen (Our Lady) give Nicolas about crossing the river?

3.Similar to Moshe the Beadle in Night, Nicolas attempts to warn the others to leave, but they do not listen. Why?

4.What’s ironic when Benitez writes, “They watched the river bury them” (229)?

Chapter Thirty-six:

1.Why is Nicolas confident when he raises his machete to the buzzards?

2.Rather than using the M16 for protection, why does Nicolas take it apart and throw it into the river?

3.Explain why Benitez writes that Nicolas has both the might of the lion and the heart of the lamb?