Reading Group Questions and Discussion Topics
for The Water is Wide

  • How might Pat Conroy have handled the conflict with Bennington and Piedmont differently? In what ways was the outcome a foregone conclusion?
  • If Mrs. Brown was ashamed to be black, why did she teach on Yamacraw? Were there any instances when you thought Pat should have listened to her?
  • To what extent have we moved beyond the racism and segregation of the 1960s, in society and in our schools? How far do we still have to go?
  • Would today’s litigation-obsessed society allow teachers to do the things that Pat does for his students? Why or why not?
  • How has modernization affected other rural or remote places like Yamacraw?
  • Conroy uses some unorthodox teaching methods with his students. Are they effective? Why or why not? How would they work today in our educational culture of testing and accountability?
  • Why is it so important to Conroy that the children see and experience the outside world? If you were to design a field trip for them, where would you take them and why?
  • Trace the evolution of Conroy’s racial views and attitudes throughout the book. What are key events in that evolution?
  • While he could and did have an impact on the children’s lives, what might he or others have done to improve the lives of the adults on Yamacraw?
  • Politicians and the press often like to blame the ills of public education on teachers. To what extent is poor teaching responsible for those ills? What other factors are involved, and how might those be remedied?