Behind the Eyes

Teacher’s Guide
Prepared by Francisco X. Stork




Discussion Questions

  1. Behind the Eyes has been characterized as a “realistic” novel. What do you think is meant by the term “realism” as applied to this novel? Can you point to dialogue or scenes in the novel that you think are “realistic” in nature?
  1. Behind the Eyes is also “regional” in its portrayal of people who live in a particular geographic area of the United States. Can you identify those elements in the novel that are “regional” or belonging to Latino culture such as geographic descriptions, customs or other characteristics that you believe are particular to Latinos?
  1.  Can you describe how Hector feels towards his brother Filiberto? Can you point to events that may have led Hector to feel this way? Is there a point in the novel when Hector’s feelings towards his brother change? When? How do they change?
  1. Describe the different ways that Hector and Aurora deal with the danger posed by their brother Filiberto. Which method do you think is more effective?
  1. Do you think that Hector chose to attack Chava or do you think that Hector was overtaken by emotions he could not control? Point to places in the text that portray Hector either to the deliberate making of decisions or to impulsive behavior.
  1. Describe Hector’s feelings when he is first told that there is a “marker” on him. Can you point to any actions that reveal his internal state? How do Hector’s feelings, in particular his feelings of fear and shame, change during his stay at Furman? What do you think accounts for this change?
  1. Do you think X-Lax and Sansón ever become true friends? At what point in the story do you think Hector accepts X-Lax’s friendship? What is Hector’s first impression of Sansón? Do you think this impression changes over time? When do you think this happens?
  1. At Furman, Hector signs up for the “mind training through dumbbells” course that is taught by Díaz? Why is the lifting of dumbbells called “mind training”? How do you think this course helps Hector?
  1. What is the significance of the memory that Hector has about his father and his brother sitting in the back of the house talking about centaurs? What prompts the memory? What do you think Hector’s father meant when he said that centaur’s were not confused?
  1. During the conversation that Díaz and Hector have at the gym, Díaz tells Hector that “true courage comes from love.” What do you think Díaz means by this? Have you ever experienced a type of courage that comes from love?
  1. Hector suspects that El Topo is at Furman to kill him. What concrete steps does Hector take to deal with El Topo? Do you think that Hector handles the threat posed by El Topo effectively? What would you do if you were in Hector’s shoes?
  1. Describe the effect that the visit to the prison has on Hector, on El Topo? What does Hector discover about Díaz during the visit that he did not know before? During the visit, Díaz talks about the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu religious classic. How is the Bhagavad Gita relevant to Hector’s conflict with El Topo?
  1. Sansón asks Hector if El Topo is “mean” or just “stupid?” Then Sansón goes on to describe the difference between someone who is “mean” and someone who is “stupid.” Do you agree with Sansón’s distinction between these two attitudes? What do you think of Sansón’s suggestion that they pretend to be nice to El Topo? Do you think that Hector’s efforts in this regard are effective or counterproductive?
  1. What do you think of X-Lax’s plan to solve the El Topo problem? Do you agree with X-Lax that “when a kid doesn’t give a shit about pissing the whole world, including other kids, it’s a sign of worse things to come?”
  1. In the end, Hector decides to stay at Furman for an additional year as a Resident Assistant despite a scholarship to SMU. Why do you think Hector does this? Do you think it was the right decision?