Religion and money again combine to move the country west, often with dramatic results, as it with Mr. Lovejoy. The travails of Donner Party are an object lesson in wanderlust and hubris. While we prepare to watch the documentary about the Donner Party, please keep these questions in mind:
1. What reasons led James Reed and George Donner to take Hastings’ Cutoff? Why was their decision unwise?
2. What other factors contributed to the failure of their venture?
3. Was Lansford Hastings to blame for what happened to the Donner Party? How?
4. What traits did members of the Donner and Reed families possess? Support your answer with examples from the film.
5. How did people in the 1840s view the American West? How did the story of the Donner Party help to strike down the myth of frontier idealism?