1. As the novel opens, where is Maria Wyeth and why is it significant?
Maria Wyeth is in the hospital and it is significant because it is unclear what she is being treated for, a question that much of the novel will attempt to address.
2. What is the coral snake Maria thinks about as the novel opens a metaphor of?
Maria compares the coral snake, which needs poison to survive, to another similarly marked snake that does not, to point out the Darwinian world in which she lives by alluding to herself as the coral snake that needs poison to survive.
3. Where did Maria grow up and why is it significant?
Maria grew up in Silver Wells, Nevada, which has the population of zero because it is in the middle of a missile range. The desolate landscape as a military-industrial complex alludes to the desolation Maria feels in her life, which is a metaphorical minefield.
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