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Book Club Discussion Questions: Zorro by Isabel Allende

For those of you that haven't or couldn't attend book club lately, we're publishing this months' discussion questions here. All previous book club selections have been posted, complete with summary, discussion questions and, when necessary or appropriate, additional resources to better understand the topic or context. Here are the questions from our current title, Zorro. We hope these questions spark discussions of your own.



by Isabel Allende


A child of two worlds—the son of an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner and a Shoshone warrior woman—young Diego de la Vega cannot silently bear the brutal injustices visited upon the helpless in late-eighteenth-century California. And so a great hero is born—skilled in athleticism and dazzling swordplay, his persona formed between the Old World and the New—the legend known as Zorro. -- Publisher Description


Discussion Questions Questions

  1. Allende reshapes the legend of Zorro, creating a back story to explain his action-hero life. Talk about the ways in which Zorro's history—family lineage and upbringing—lead to his strong sense of justice. Who and/or what played the most important role in his development?

  2. Do a little research into the various incarnations of Zorro— from the original story by Johnston McCulley in the early 20th century to the film and tv versions played by Douglas Fairbanks, Guy Williams, Anthony Hopkins, and most recently Antonio Banderas. How is Allende's version different from—or similar to—the earlier Zorros?

  3. In what way is Zorro an archetype of a romantic champion for the oppressed? What other figures in history, literature and film, religion, or mythology does Zorro resemble? What makes this such an enduring character in our culture and psyche?

  4. How do you see Allende's creation of Zorro? Is her Zorro a one dimensional, swashbuckling hero? Or is he more complex, containing the human contradictions of passion vs. rationality, darkness vs. light?

  5. What role does Bernardo play in this novel? Is he a typical sidekick...or something more important? How would you describe him?

  6. What about the two sisters, Julia and Isabel? In what ways are they different from one another. Who was your favorite/ least favorite?

  7. How does Allende represent women in this work? In what way does she insert 21st-century feminism into an a narrative set in the late 18th century?

  8. Talk about the injustices, as portrayed by Allende, in 18th-century California—particularly the treatment of native Americans at the hands of the European settlers.

  9. Were you surprised by the narrator's identity at the end...or had you figured it out? How trustworthy is the narrator as a teller of truth? Why might Allende have chosen this particular character to tell Zorro's story?

  10. As the Bookmarks review (see above) suggests: some critics see this book as both an entertaining adventure/action story and serious literature. Other reviewers have dismissed this work as an over-the-top melodrama—even the narrator wryly observes at one point that a story like this needs a formidable villain like Rafael Moncada. What's your opinion?

Book Browse Questions

  1. How would you characterize Diego's relationship with Bernardo, his "milk brother," and why does their connection persist despite prevailing social attitudes about class and race?

  2. How do the five basic virtues of okahué and the spiritual guidance of White Owl inform the development of Bernardo and Diego as adolescents?

  3. Where does Diego's sense of justice come from, and how would you characterize his methods of meting out justice over the course of the novel?

  4. To what extent does Bernardo's "loss of voice" diminish or augment his influence in the novel?

  5. How does Diego's indoctrination into La Justicia enact his transformation from a boy into a man?

  6. How does Diego react when achieving justice requires the death of another, and what do his reactions reveal about his character?

  7. What accounts for Juliana's attraction to Jean Lafitte instead of Diego or Rafael Moncada?

  8. From what source does Bernardo, whom Diego perceives as wise, derive his wisdom, and how does he demonstrate it at the novel's end?

  9. How does the narrator portray class and race divisions in Zorro, and in what ways are these divisions related to the novel's theme of justice?

  10. How did the revelation of the narrator's identity at the end of the book affect your appreciation of the novel?

Original Questions

  1. Seeing as this book is purporting to be a biography by a contemporary of Zorro, how accurate do you think they were, either to the narrator’s voice or the events as they unfolded? How believable for the narrator reveal? For the role of minorities and women?

  2. Are there any other Zorro books you’ve read? TV or movie representations? Compare

  3. For those who have read the original books starting with The Curse of Capistrano, how well do you think Allende set up the characters for their eventual roles in a traditional Zorro narrative?

  4. As stated in the narrative, the word zorro translates from the Spanish as “fox.” Why do you think Allende, and Johnston McCulley before her, chose this animal to represent the swashbuckling vigilante? Do any other animals come to mind? What would you have called him?

  5. The original Zorro was written as a pulp serialization. Do you see any elements of this in Allende’s interpretation? How so?

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