In Innocence, #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.
Questions for Discussion:
1. What do you make of the epigraph by Petrarch, “Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together?” Would you agree with this statement? How does it play out in the novel? What other juxtaposed qualities figure into the story—for example, arrogance versus humility—and what do these themes imply about human nature and our world at large? How did the epigraph inform your idea of the story at the onset, and did that idea take on new meaning by the end?
2. What does Addison mean when he says to Gwyneth: “We hold each other hostage to our eccentricities.”? Do you find this applicable to your own relationships?
3. Gwyneth wears a nose ring fashioned as a snake devouring its own tail, which is a commonly recognized symbol of recurrence, recreation and renewal, or the emergence of an inextinguishable primordial force. In what ways do we see that meaning manifest in the story?
4. Both Addison and Gwyneth cloak themselves in an attempt to go largely unnoticed. While Addison perceives Gwyneth’s Goth look more as a type of courage than a costume, his own cover is necessary to ensure his very survival. But as Addison notes, there are others who hide their “corruption and pitiless cruelty” behind masks of their own creation. Discuss the importance of veils and how they are applied throughout the novel. Does this seem to imply that everyone has something to hide from the outside world? What qualities do you feel are most reviled (and thus concealed) and most celebrated in our contemporary world and how is this reflected in the novel?
5. Addison says of Gwyneth that “although she led a severely circumscribed life…she had vastly more experience than I.” Why is it that Gwyneth seems not only more in tune with the workings of the world, but primed to confront the evils within it, when both she and Addison have been exposed to its horrors in equal amounts? How are their attitudes toward the world both similar and different, and what influences have shaped them to that end?
6. Do you agree with Father’s theory that “there is no chance” in the universe, “only choice, no luck, but only consequences,” that what happens to us is of “our own election”? How does this belief change Addison’s perspective and guide his decisions from then on? Do you feel that Father is less innocent than Addison?
7. Addison describes Father’s sacrifice and says “knowing how the sight of his face and eyes would consume their attention, he offered his life for mine, and when he said ‘Endure,’ he meant many things.” What things did Father mean? What enables Addison to go on in the wake of such a loss, and do you think he would have continued to endure indefinitely on his own?
8. Addison says that “although this story is of the Modern Age, I have not written it for the Modern Age.” What does he mean by this and who is his intended audience?
9. Throughout the book, Addison mentions his “terrible difference” and when asked what he is, Addison calls himself “a miscreation, freak, abomination.” What did you think this “terrible difference” was and why? Were you surprised by what it was revealed to be?
10. Discuss the marionettes and Father’s theory about the Princess and Frog music box and similar objects. Do you feel that the creative spirit behind works of art—whether transcendent or transgressive—manifests itself in the wider world?
11. The interconnectedness of all things is a major theme of Innocence. What elements of the story most vividly illustrated that theme for you?
12. Ultimately, do you think this is a cautionary tale or a message of hope?