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A Simon Pulse Guide for Reading Groups The House of the Scorpion By Nancy Farmer ABOUT THE BOOK Matt is a clone of El Patron, a powerful drug lord of the land of Opium, which is located between the United States and Mexico. For six years, he has lived in a tiny cottage in the poppy fields with Celia, a kind and deeply religious servant woman who is charged with his care and safety. He knows little about his existence until he is discovered by a group of children playing in the fields and wonders why he isn't like them. Though Matt has been spared the fate of most clones, who have their intelligence destroyed at birth, the evil inhabitants of El Patron's empire consider him a "beast" and an "eejit." When El Patron dies at the age of 146, fourteen-year-old Matt escapes Opium with the help of Celia and Tam Lin, his devoted bodyguard who wants to right his own wrongs. After a near misadventure in his escape, Matt makes his way back home and begins to rid the country of its evils.Prereading activityAsk students to write down their definition of science fiction. Then have them discuss the meaning of cloning. Have them debate whether a novel about cloning is by their definition considered science fiction.Discussion questions Matteo Alacran is the clone of El Patron, the lord of the country called Opium, and lives in isolation until children playing in the poppy fields discover him. Why is he so eager to talk to the children, after he is warned against it? Why is Maria especially attracted to Matt? Describe Matt's relationship with Celia. Why is she the servant chosen to care for Matt? Celia snaps at Matt when he calls her mama. Then she says to him, "I love you more than anything in the world. Never forget that. But you were only loaned to me, mi vida." Why doesn't she explain the term loaned to Matt? Celia really believes that she is protecting Matt by keeping him locked in her cottage and ignorant about his identity. Debate whether this type of protection is indeed dangerous for him. How does Celia continue to protect Matt throughout his life on the Alacran Estate? After the children discover Matt, he is taken from Celia and imprisoned in a stall for six months with only straw for a bed. How might prison be considered a metaphor for his entire life? Who is the warden of his prison? Discuss the role of Maria, Celia, and Tam Lin in helping him escape his prison. Rosa describes El Patron as a bandit. How has El Patron stolen the lives of all those living on his estate? Which characters are his partners in evil? Debate whether they support him for the sake of their own survival. Explain what Tam Lin is trying to tell Matt when he says, "If you are kind and decent, you grow into a kind and decent man. If you're like El Patron...just think about it." Considering that Matt is the clone of El Patron, debate whether environment influences evil more than genetics. El Patron celebrates his 143rd birthday with a large party. Though Matt was "harvested," and doesn't really have a birthday, the celebration is for him as well, since he is El Patron's clone. How does Matt imitate El Patron's power when he demands a birthday kiss from Maria? Discuss how El Patron encourages Matt's uncharacteristic behavior. Why is Maria so humiliated by Matt's demand? How does Matt feel the crowd's disapproval? El Viejo, El Patron's grandson and the father of Mr. Alacran, is a senile old man because he refused the fetal brain implants based on religious and moral grounds. Debate his position. Why does El Patron consider Mr. Alacran rude when he mentio