PART II

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March 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm #316

Paola

How have your impressions of the characters and the story changed so far? Who do you sympathize with the most?

Food for thought: (from the official reading group guide)

The idea of escape runs throughout the novel. Ralph thinks, “Some things you escape . . . You don’t escape the things, mostly bad, that just happen to you” (pages 5–6). What circumstances trap characters permanently? How do characters attempt to escape their circumstances? When, if ever, do they succeed? How does the bird imagery that runs through the book relate to the idea of imprisonment and escape?

Ralph and Catherine’s story frequently pauses to give brief, often horrific glimpses into the lives of others. Ralph remarks on the violence that surrounds them in Wisconsin, saying, “They hate their lives. They start to hate each other. They lose their minds, wanting things they can’t have” (page 205). How do these vignettes of madness and violence contribute to the novel’s themes?


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April 11, 2012 at 1:27 am #335

Jinny

Just started part II, so I’m not really far in at all. I got up to the part where Catherine has sex with the son …

I have just two thoughts (since I’m not that far in yet):

1. I’m not sure if the son really is the son?! I think he is, but he was also pretty convincing to me that he wasn’t. But then Catherine is so sure he is, hmm …

2. Catherine having sex with the son was rather unexpected, but when I think about it, makes perfect sense at the same time. She talks about her lover who is not a perfect boyfriend/lover since he has such luxurious tastes and she also hints he’s probably not faithful to her, yet she wants to be with him anyway. I have a feeling Catherine is attracted easily to appearances and this son is just like the lover — good looking, loves luxury, etc.

(I didn’t read the discussion question you posted Paola, just in case there were spoilers, since I’m not done Part II yet!)


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  • This reply was modified 2048 days ago by  Jinny.
April 11, 2012 at 5:59 am #337

Alix

I feel like I can’t answer the first part of the question without spoiling the end. As for the bird imagery, I didn’t think about it at the time but yes, I think the bird in a cage is how Catherine and to an extant Ralph feel like. Catherine though I thinks believes that she will be able to get free while Ralph has made peace with the fact that he is stuck where he is.

I enjoyed discovering more about Catherine’s backstory after learning about Ralph’s in the first. I wasn’t surprised by the fact that she sleeping with Andy/Tony/Ralph’s son. When she first met Tony/Andy, I thought it was odd that she was thinking about him in a sexual way (though considering how hyper sexual this book is, I shouldn’t have been). I think it was a couple of pages later, then it hit me that she had married Ralph because of Tony who is really Andy and by the end that was confirmed. I was very disturbed by her relationship with Tony but again, not surprised. She is clearly someone how craves to be loved and taken care of after having spent years fighting for herself and being rejected by her sister.

Speaking of her sister, I think I missed something in their story: was it every explained why Catherine’s sister hated her so much? I found it heartbreaking for Catherine the story of her and her sister and how she tried to save her from the life she was leading but was turned away. That was the first time in the book I really sympathized with Catherine.

I also liked how throughout the chapter, the author sets up Catherine reluctance at killing Ralph. She’s seen that he can offer her what she wants, except for love and that it might be enough for her. Yet, as in all abusive relationships, Tony still has control over her since he is offering her the thing she wants most of all: love.


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April 26, 2012 at 9:57 am #340

Marjorie

I was shocked after reading part two, because I didn’t see it coming. It did all start making sense.

At this point in the book I felt bad for nearly all of the characters, because they trap themselves and only make themselves miserable. Catherine obviously started off in a greedy place — wanting money, wanting the young, handsome man, and willing to kill an innocent man to have it. At this point I definitely didn’t wish her well… I thought she was naive and foolish to think she could have it all, and seemed desperate when it came to Tony. (Who I liked even less.)

“They hate their lives. They start to hate each other. They lose their minds, wanting things they can’t have” (page 205).
I like this quote and marked it in my book. I think it’s an accurate description of what can happen to any group of people, and is something that plays out every day all around us. Except these days we tend to film it and put it on TV. Even when someone seems to have it all, a comfortable life, it’s not enough. There’s always more to be wanted, which creates tension and hatred with both the people around you and creates an obsession with wanting more. Even if things are going fine with people around you, someone will always start an argument or bring up drama. People need tension or something to strive for. Instead people should be happy with what they already have, or else they’re just going to be miserable. You can’t have it all — it’s impossible.


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April 26, 2012 at 10:30 am #342

Marjorie

In response to Alix: “Speaking of her sister, I think I missed something in their story: was it every explained why Catherine’s sister hated her so much?”

I think the hatred was not explained as well as it should have been. I felt like Catherine’s sister was only there to show that Catherine was strong, and this foreshadowed that she could overcome her selfishness and be happy with the way things are — which I think is the moral of the story along with forgiveness and second chances. Catherine’s sister hated her because she felt as though she never had a choice. She was doomed from the beginning and accepted the way things were for her. She didn’t have the survival skills Catherine did. So mostly I think she was to be seen less as a character and more as a juxtaposition to Catherine, and how she could have ended up.


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April 27, 2012 at 1:48 am #344

Jinny

I thought Alice’s role was to make the reader realize Catherine isn’t all that bad and she’s got people she loves as well. It’s clear Catherine adores her sister and wants to do anything for her, but her sister refuses. This, in turn, makes the reader more sympathetic (or empathetic? I always get the two mixed up) towards Catherine, who, in my opinion, was a little hard to feel sorry for compared to Ralph and Tony.

As for why Alice hates Catherine, I’m not sure. I think Marjorie has the right idea though. Some people just don’t like feeling parented over, I suppose.


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April 27, 2012 at 10:05 am #348

Alix

Jinny:
I thought Alice’s role was to make the reader realize Catherine isn’t all that bad and she’s got people she loves as well. It’s clear Catherine adores her sister and wants to do anything for her, but her sister refuses. This, in turn, makes the reader more sympathetic (or empathetic? I always get the two mixed up) towards Catherine, who, in my opinion, was a little hard to feel sorry for compared to Ralph and Tony.

As for why Alice hates Catherine, I’m not sure. I think Marjorie has the right idea though. Some people just don’t like feeling parented over, I suppose.

I agree with Jinny. I think presenting Alice that way was to make Catherine seem more sympathetic. I know that for me, seeing the contrast between Alice and Catherine was what made me start to feel more sympathetic towards Catherine. You can see how Alice has just resigned herself to her life and become this mean and jaded person whereas Catherine is still hopeful that things will change and that in spite of her life’s hardships, she can still love and feel bad using people.


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