1. What is the setting for the story?
Located fifty miles inland from the sea, Empire Falls is a small town in Maine on the Knox River.
2. Explain the economic dynamics of the town as the story begins.
Empire Falls is in an economic tailspin. All the Whiting factories are closed and boarded up. Francine--apparently the last remaining descendant of both the Whiting family she married into and her native Robideaux clan--is nearing the end of her life. The citizens of Empire Falls eagerly anticipate this event since it is not clear to whom she will leave the vast holdings of the Whiting family. Essentially, the citizens are waiting to see who will inherit their town.
3. What does Father Mark represent in the story?
Father Mark represents the intrusion of modern mores, customs and values into the stayed and rigid format of the town of Empire Falls. After all, a priest who attacks nuclear submarines with a ball peen hammer and counsels homosexuals to live in loving monogamy is hardly a stereotype of the taciturn Maine rustic.
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