Reading Group Guide for The Limits of Enchantment
1. How do the broad cultural changes of the 60's (the backdrop of this story) inform your reading of Fern's life and the changes that she undergoes? Compare the life that Mammy led with the life led by people of the next generation, like Judith. What attitudes do they share, and what cultural mores have changed? In what way does Fern bridge this generation gap? Does she change over the course of the novel?
2. Although best known as midwives, Mammy and Fern offer a wide range of services including wart removal, baking wedding cakes, and herbal remedies. What brings the villagers to seek help from them, even though there are professionals that specialize in all these services? Why do women with access to free, state licensed midwives still call on them?
3. Describing MMM and Biddy, Fern says, "They shouldn't even have been put in the same lifetime together" (135). Why can't these two women see eye to eye on midwifery? The modern technology and terminology and MMM's authoritarian attitude irritate Fern, too, but she doesn't leave the course like Biddy does. Why not? Is it just because she wants to be licensed? Or does she appreciate the course for other reasons?
4. When Greta comes to Fern for an abortion, she says, "It was a woman's right to choose" (209). Fern agrees with her on this. Does this novel take a firm position on this issue, or is the question left open? Did this story change your op