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Book Discussion Guide: Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara: Discussion questions

Discussion questions

1. What is the basis of Julian English’s anger and self-destructive behavior – a man who has it all? What precipitates his tossing the drink in his benefactor’s face? And when Julian actually tosses the drink, why does O’Hara switch perspectives, telling us about the incident through the eyes of others? Were you surprised by Julian’s action?

2. O’Hara is renowned for nuance and his descriptive powers as a writer. You might talk about how he uses those qualities to describe the era, small-town life, and his characters. Consider, also, his dialogue and use of slang.

3. Some critics have claimed O'Hara to be snobbish – consumed with the life of the upper classes. Do you feel that assessment is on target in Appointment in Samarra? What role does social class play in this work, or perhaps a better question – what do you perceive as O’Hara’s attitude toward class?

4. Discuss the book’s epigraph and title (borrowed from a Somerset Maugham story). What might they suggest about destiny? Is/was Julian in charge of his own fate, or were his actions predestined?