1. In the afterword, the writer’s husband, who is also the model for “Joe” in the story, calls this story a “parable” (53). This term is usually applied to a story used to teach a moral or religious lesson. Discuss the pathos appeal. What values does the story appeal to? What emotions does it stir up?
2. The afterword also explains the extent to which this “parable” is based on fact, and the extent to which it is fiction. Why do you think they decided to alter and shape the story a bit, rather than just stick to the facts? Would you have preferred a straight, factual story instead of the semi-fictional “parable”? Why or why not?
3. Discuss the logos appeal. What information is given about the two different methods of growing coffee (organic, shade grown vs. the chemical-dependent monoculture style), the effects of each method, the economic system of “free” trade versus “fair” trade, etc. Is there enough information to make the case, or would you have preferred more hard data? If so, what would you have liked more information about?
4. This story holds two systems of coffee production up for evaluation, using a comparison/contrast structure. Discuss how the aesthetic, ethical, and pragmatic criteria all come into play in showing the reader which is better. (In other words, how does the story try to convince us that its preferred style of coffee-growing produces coffee that is better-tasting, fairer for the growers, and better for the planet and the people living on it? Another pragmatic consideration is how each production method affects the bottom line—the growers’ profits.) Note: the story doesn’t show one method of coffee to be superior in all ways.
Also: You don’t have to write about this theme, but consider as you read how this story relates to our class discussion about different notions of utopia and dystopia (which is the opposite of a “good place.”) How does Joe’s search for a good place to live and his efforts to make the world a better place come into the story?