Reading Guides

The Big Book of Hell
Matt Groening



A question for longer discussions if you've run out of topics before you run out of food or time and isn't the point to avoid the house, the kids, and/or your parents for a whole night anyhow?

The Huge Book of Hell presents a dazzling panoply of issues, both serious and comic, in a simple yet engaging style. Groening draws on a wealth of sources for his inspiration, both topical and historical, creating a comic cosmos composed of both high and low cultural forms. But, let's face it, what we really have here are a bunch of stupid rabbits and a couple of weirdos in fezzes jabbering at each other. What's so sidesplitting about that? Does this so-called "all-encompassing world view" leave the most important things out, or is it an excuse for a best-selling cartoonist who can't really draw? Doesn't this bother you? If so, why, and if not, why the hell not?



Matt Groening, cartoonist, hero to millions, has three frightening personal secrets:

  3. He can't really draw

Related Titles

Dante's Inferno

Paradise Lost

Li'l Hot Stuff



  1. If, as the old proverb asserts, You can't tell a book by its cover, but you sure as hell can tell it by its title, then what the hell is Groening trying to tell us with The Huge Book of Hell? Consider these other, possibly superior, titles: A Book of Hell So Large As to Be Extremely Large; The Huge Collection of Printed, Folded, Cut, and Bound Sheets Of Hell; and The Huge Book Of Happiness. Would more of you have bought the book if it had one of these other titles? If we change it in the next printing, will you buy another copy?
  2. A one-eared rabbit, a chair, two eyes peering through a slot in a locked door: Groening has utilized this stark composition over the years to:
    A) Exemplify society's lack of compassion for the plight of a questing youth confronting a bewildering universe
    B) Illustrate the dispassionate yet understanding response of authority figures to futile but inevitable adolescent rebellion
    C) Relieve, though as swift as possible, the threat of a looming deadline
  3. In the passionate but bewildered Akbar and the indifferent yet vexatious Jeff, readers have long noted the gamut of ambivalent emotions conveyed in Life in Hell. What do you think Groening himself feels about Akbar and Jeff? How do you feel about Akbar and Jeff? Who do you "like" less, Akbar or Jeff? Who do you "hate" more, Jeff or Akbar? Do you feel strongly about their ambivalence, or are you ambivalent about it? Does anyone actually know what "gamut" means?
  4. How would you characterize Groening's own relationship with society? Does it change as the book progresses? Will it ever? Why does the author refuse to change? Have you read any of his other books? Is it any better there? What the hell is wrong with this guy?


  1. In the Middle Ages, Europeans painted the image of a monster whose gaping jaws marked the entrance to Hell. Which of the following would best mark the entrance to Hell today?
    A) The doorway of any Hard Rock Cafe on the planet
    B) The "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland
    C) The Barbie Doll aisle at Toys-R-Us
    D) The gaping jaws of Jesse Helms
  2. Throughout history, the rabbit has been a potent iconic force. Beginning with such classic childhood characters as Benjamin Bunny, the Velveteen Rabbit, the March Hare, and Jump-Jump the Burgerland Fun Bunny, the literary bunnificence of this powerful symbol insinuates itself into the very fabric of our unconscious mind. What interplay is there between Groening's rabbits and his literary antecedents? Does Bongo celebrate or subvert the leporidary tradition? And which one is Blinky, the one with one ear or two ears?
  3. In many cartoons, an article of clothing, usually a hat, suddenly appears to spring off its owner and shoot upward, denoting astonishment and/or alarm. Do the hats themselves participate in the emotional experience, or are they merely signifiers? Where's the law of gravity? And what happens to all these hats once they're airborne? Is there any connection between flying hats and UFOs? Who is the more likely extra terrestrial, Jeff or Akbar?