Literary Elements


  1. Patrick mentions hubris after helping to orchestrate regime change in Guatemala. HUBRIS, originating from Ancient Greece, was considered a crime and a great sin in the Greek world. A hero possessing hubris is motivated by pride which leads to the hero's downfall. In modern usage, hubris has come to mean self-pride, self-confidence, or reckless arrogance.


    • What connections can you make about hubris within the CIA? The Kennedy White House? The FBI? The mob?
    • How does Kennedy's hubris as president concern Patrick?
    • How does hubris bring about Patrick's downfall?


  1. The author uses Shakespeare as a motif throughout the novel.

·         One of Shakespeare's favorite themes is appearances are deceiving. What are Patrick's illusions and how do they prevent him from seeing the reality of his situation and bring him to disaster?

·         The author makes several references to Shakespeare's plays—Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, and Julius Caesar. How do these references create verbal and dramatic irony in the novel?

·         The criteria for a classical tragic hero are as follows: he must be basically a good man, he must have a tragic flaw, he must act in such a way as to cause his own ruin, and in the moment when all is lost, he must gain wisdom or insight about himself and his life. Additionally, a tragedy occurs when FATE collides with the TRAGIC FLAW of the hero. Is Patrick a tragic hero? What is Patrick's tragic flaw? Were his actions based on free will or fate? Does he gain wisdom or insight about his life?


  1. According to Aristotle's Poetics, the end of a tragedy is katharsis (purgation, cleansing) of tragic emotions. Generally catharsis occurs when the reader understands the moral failure of the hero. The readers or audience experience a "moral uplifting" when they examine their own morals as a result of their reading experience.

·         Is the ending satisfying? 

·         Does the reader experience a moral uplifting—but for the grace of God, go I—by Patrick's story?


  1. According to Aristotle, history simply relates what has happened. Tragedy, on the other hand, is universal and dramatizes what may happen. Historical events may be studied only for their relevance in a particular place and time. Tragedy, however, involves cause and effect and may happen at any time or place in the world. Catharsis occurs because the audience can envision themselves within this cause and effect chain.

·         Is this novel simply an account of an historical event? Or is it a novel which presents a chain of events that call into question the mores and actions of leaders and the consequences for future generations?

·         Why do you think the American public continues to be interested in the Kennedy assassination?  What do you think led to the assassination of JFK?