Discussion questions for The Sunset Limited
1) What are you thinking about as The Sunset Limited ends? First impressions are what we’re after here, not considered opinions. Spit out what’s on your mind without pausing too long to consider why it’s there.
2) One of the first images in TSL is the locked door of Black’s apartment. It’s an image that the director returns to more than once during the play. Why? What idea or feeling is reinforced by its repetition?
3) Early in their discussion Black tells White, “Belief ain’t like unbelief. If you’re a believer and you finally got to come to the well of belief itself, then you ain’t got to look no further. There ain’t no further. But the unbeliever’s got a problem. He’s set out to unravel the world. For everything he can point to that ain’t true, he leaves two false things laying there.” Discuss this quote. What is Black arguing here? Do you agree with him?
4) White saves one of his best points for late in the play, when he tells Black, “And brotherhood, justice, eternal life? Good God man… Show me a religion that prepares one for nothingness, for death. That’s a church I might enter. Yours prepares one only for more life, for dreams and illusions and lies. Banish the fear of death from men’s hearts and they wouldn’t live a day. Who would want this nightmare but for fear of the next. The shadow of the axe hangs over every joy. Every road ends in death, every friendship, every love. Torment, lost, betrayal, pain, suffering, age, indignity, hideous lingering illness… and all of it with a single conclusion. For you and everyone and everything you have ever chosen to care for.” Discuss this quote. What makes this this perspective attractive? In your opinion why does White want to persuade Black that this is so?
5) If you were in Black’s position, how might you have handled the encounter with White differently? At what points in the conversation would you have tried to take it in a different direction than Back did? Why?
6) Same questions as #5, but from White’s perspective. How might you have argued his case better than he did?
7) In several recent interviews Tommy Lee Jones said that The Sunset Limited reminds him of a Flannery O’Connor quote: “Faith is what someone knows to be true whether they believe it or not.” Discuss this quote and why in your opinion Mr. Jones ties it to The Sunset Limited
8 ) In your opinion who wins the argument between Black and White? Justify your answer.
9) The last image in TSL is, quite conspicuously and deliberately, a sunrise. What did it signify to you? Why do you think the director calls our attention to it?