The Color of Fire
By Ann Rinaldi
Mr. Ury says that a mob is like a caterpillar. “It had so many legs and arms, but only one head.” What does he mean by this? How do people in a mob act differently than individuals? What types of emotions are often related to mob behavior? Why?
Phoebe aids Cuffee so that he does not feel the pain of the flame by bringing him poison. What do you think of her decision? Would you have felt, like Phoebe did at first, that she was playing God? Or, would you feel like Mr. Ury that it was simply an act of mercy?
What did you think of Phoebe’s choice to tell what she had seen between her teacher, Mr. Ury, and the Arnold’s baby? Did she betray him for her freedom? Would you have made the same choices? Does this make her as guilty as Mary? Are there different levels of betrayal?
Why did Mr. Philipse’s testimony for Cuffee focus on his qualities as a slave and not his character? What did he gain by giving this testimony? How did this make Phoebe feel? What did she learn?
Mary Burton tells Phoebe the reason that she turned on the others is that she is envious of the slave’s free time: “I’m white and indentured and I didn’t have it by half.” What does she gain by her testimony? Do you think it a fair practice to grant favors for testimony? Is that policy still practiced in our judicial system today? How?
The city is described as “a tinderbox of hate and blame and suspicion.” What can cause an environment like this? Does it still happen today? When? What can overcome it? How are cities healed by such violence and fear?
Phoebe risks her freedom to help a girl escape and to aid Cuffee before his execution. But, in the end she decides to forfeit her freedom to live with the Indians. Why does she make this decision? Would you? What will she gain by leaving New York? What will she lose?
Read the author’s note at the end of the novel. Write a short essay considering some of the following questions: Why do you think this incident has been ignored through history? Why has the Salem Witch Trials gotten so much more attention?
Research one of the following details that will be needed to produce the movie version of The Color of Fire: typical attire of the period, common objects and furniture that would be used during the time, or architecture of residential and commercial buildings. Make detailed drawings based on your findings and be sure to label objects with their appropriate vocabulary. Share your discoveries with the class.
Write a letter from Mr. Ury to Phoebe after his escape.
Phoebe is struggling in The Color of Fire with truth, freedom and betrayal. Think of another book that you’ve read in which the main character struggles with one or more of these same issues, but in a contemporary setting. Create a venn diagram comparing these two characters and the issues they face.