Questions for Discussion

Panther in the Basement is a useful text for students because it explores themes of growth and the quest for truth amid a historical backdrop of uncertainty and change. Students can use the questions below to discuss and explore the deeper meanings behind Proffy’s story and the characters with whom he interacts. It would be helpful to have historical context into this interesting and unprecedented time in Middle-Eastern history in order to more accurately discuss the questions below. 


Themes and Symbols


Proffy is an extremely observant character, but he is also just beginning his journey of growing up. How does Proffy see the world before he meets Sargent Dunlap? How does Proffy’s relationship with Sargent Dunlap not only change his outlook on the world, but change how he views his place in society? 


Can you think of what Proffy and Sargent Dunlap might represent and symbolize in this story being in such juxtaposing places in their lives? What do you think the purpose is behind their large age gap? 


Proffy’s parents have conflicting temperaments, but both  have an immense influence on who he is and how he has grown up. What parts of Proffy do you think are shaped by his mother versus his father? What purpose do you think his parents serve in the text?


Think about the way the novel is physically structured and organized. How does Amos Oz’s use of carefully chosen language and narrative form serve to explore and develop Proffy’s character? How does the structure of the novel parallel the themes of the novel? 


How is this novel narrated? What perspective are we seeing? How does the narration of this novel support the identity journey that Proffy explores throughout, and why do you think Amos Oz decided to explore Proffy’s character this way?



This story is told with the backdrop of an unprecedented transitional period in history. How does the backdrop of 1947 Israel serve to shape Proffy’s story? How does the setting both limit, and encourage Proffy’s decisions and choices?


Are there moments in the novel that reflect how proximate this time is to the Holocaust? In what places can you see the lasting effects of this international tragedy on the world, and how does it impact the scenes that are taking place? 

In addition to these questions, check out this source for more information about the setting of this novel:



Trust is an overarching theme in this novel. How does Proffy navigate this environment and who does he choose to place his trust in? What do these choices say about who he is becoming? Do you think he regrets placing his trust in certain people?


In the novel, Proffy tells a story about a blue window shade being thrown into a moving river. This blue shade is a prevalent symbol throughout the text. What significance do you think this symbol has? How does it connect to the broader themes in Proffy’s story? 


Panther in the Basement’s Homepage

Rachel Milberg ’20

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