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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Chang and Eng

1. Chang and Eng were given no say in the decision that resulted in two of them leaving Siam. How would their lives have been different had Abel Coffin never removed them from their homeland?

2. The story of this novel is told in the voice of Eng. How would it have been different if told in the voice of Chang?

3. As children, Chang and Eng saw their mother shaping the action of their lives and their father responding to her direction. Is this reflected in their adult lives with their own marriages and families?

4. Why does the King of Siam act in the manner he does to the twins? In what ways are their circumstances similar?

5. Essentially beginning their lives as slaves or at the very least, prisoners, how incongruous is it that Chang and Eng became slaveholders?

6. In the context of the novel, discuss the actions of P.T. Barnum towards Chang and Eng. What were his motives?

7. In the novel, much is made by some "Americans" regarding the "savage" nature of the Siamese. Given the experiences of the twins, both in their homeland and in America, where, if anywhere, does the "savagery" lie?

8. Ostensibly, Chang and Eng were baptized and became Christians. Did faith, Christian, Buddhist, or otherwise shape the lives of either Chang or Eng?

9. As the Civil War/War Between the States looms, what parallels are drawn between the fractious union of the nation and of Chang and Eng?

10. If Doctor Cottard had been summoned in time, do you suppose he could have saved the life of Eng after the death of Chang, or was Eng’s subsequent passing inevitable?

Chang and Eng
by Darin Strauss

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2000
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525945121
  • ISBN-13: 9780525945123