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Rachel-K
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Many wives and other questions

In an interview, Anita said that one challenge in writing historical fiction, is that of trying not to misplace contemporary ideas into characters set in another time, and she mentions polygamy as an example of something accepted in this setting as "a simple fact."

I was surprised at how easily I also accepted some very foreign ideas, such as polygamy, in the novel. I found myself instead wondering more at the mechanics of it--how did these women live and work together, talk with each other, etc.

How did you accept life, customs, manners, and morals that differed significantly from your own?
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shatril
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Re: Many wives and other questions

That is one of the things that always puzzles me about people today. They condemn people from the past for acting in ways that were perfectly acceptable in that age. I have to laugh at how things have changed since the time setting of this book. It is one of those things that we all make our own reality, and it can really be a collective thing also. We accpet things as they are now, but in the future, I'm sure tht we will be condemned for our seeming acceptance of things as they are right now. I like that the book didn't get caught in that crap and told the story as it should have been told.

Shatril
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Anita_Diamant
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Re: Many wives and other questions



rkubie wrote:
In an interview, Anita said that one challenge in writing historical fiction, is that of trying not to misplace contemporary ideas into characters set in another time, and she mentions polygamy as an example of something accepted in this setting as "a simple fact."

I was surprised at how easily I also accepted some very foreign ideas, such as polygamy, in the novel. I found myself instead wondering more at the mechanics of it--how did these women live and work together, talk with each other, etc.

How did you accept life, customs, manners, and morals that differed significantly from your own?




It's a challenge to set aside our own values and expectations. If we don't, however, there is no chance of entering into a world that is profoundly different from our own.
Why not imagine polygamy as a boon to women who had to work so very hard?
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TeriSueT
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I can appreciate that an author might find quite challenging, “trying not to misplace contemporary ideas into characters set in another time.” As the reader, though, I had no problem whatsoever in accepting such “differences.” I think this is probably greatly due to the manner in which the author has introduced us to such concepts. Learning, for instance, about various customs and traditions through Dinah’s eyes ... as she, herself, is learning and maturing ... How could we object to the various aspects of our world ... what we come to know (through Dinah) as our “what is(s)” of life? (Do we judge the oxygen in the air we breathe?)
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Peppermill
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Re: Cultural Mores


rkubie wrote:
In an interview, Anita said that one challenge in writing historical fiction, is that of trying not to misplace contemporary ideas into characters set in another time, and she mentions polygamy as an example of something accepted in this setting as "a simple fact."

I was surprised at how easily I also accepted some very foreign ideas, such as polygamy, in the novel. I found myself instead wondering more at the mechanics of it--how did these women live and work together, talk with each other, etc.

How did you accept life, customs, manners, and morals that differed significantly from your own?

For me, the harder task is to "accept life, customs, manners, and morals" that differ significantly from my own but are contemporaneous. Somehow, it seems easier to "excuse" the past as the past.

I do like Rachel's approach of wondering about the mechanics of a "foreign" idea -- sounds like a good one to try on for size and fit.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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LizzieAnn
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I too found it easy to accept the facts and wondered more about the mechanics. Anita did a wonderful job of bringing it all to light, particularly the undercurrents between Rachel & Leah & their difficulties, as well as the jealousy, favoritism, and competition that must have existed.

The imagery is so vivid and the story so compelling, that I am completely drawn in.
Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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steelmagnolia
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Re: Many wives and other questions

It does make sense, especially in a work of historic fiction, to just accept the past as past vs passing judgement on the characters for being part of it. It isn't so hard to remember that this is the only way of life these women knew, and I liked the way the author accented a certain talent or particular habit or defining feature for each of them. That made the story very personal and real to me.
pll, steel magnolia
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kiakar
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Re: Many wives and other questions



steelmagnolia wrote:
It does make sense, especially in a work of historic fiction, to just accept the past as past vs passing judgement on the characters for being part of it. It isn't so hard to remember that this is the only way of life these women knew, and I liked the way the author accented a certain talent or particular habit or defining feature for each of them. That made the story very personal and real to me.




This is very true. What other life did they have? This was it! They made do with what they had in front of them in that time period.
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opticjunkie
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Re: Many wives and other questions

In my first reading of the book I'll admit that I kind of squirmed at some of their rituals, being so different from anything I'd known. I took into account, however, that this book is work of fiction. Historically correct or not, I put myself into the author's hands. To me, this was her take on filling in the appallingly huge holes in the Old Testament about what life was like for women. I'm not one of those who is outraged at how women seemed to be forgotten in almost all of history. It's just the way it was. I feel it's okay to "write ourselves back in". I do this on my own anyway when I read the scriptures. Thanks to Anita Diamant for doing all the work for me this time, and so well of course.

One other thing this book helped me to understand, was what an idolatrous people they really were. It's all over the Old Testament (between all the "begats") how God always had to humble the people for loving something or someone else more than Him. What were these idols and why did the people hang onto to them so tightly? Thanks again to the author for that.

The many wives thing, no thanks. But I don't live like they had to. I have machines to lighten my domestic workload. Do you think I could get in trouble for worshipping my dishwasher and my fancy new front loader?
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Anita_Diamant
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Re: Many wives and other questions



opticjunkie wrote:
In my first reading of the book I'll admit that I kind of squirmed at some of their rituals, being so different from anything I'd known. I took into account, however, that this book is work of fiction. Historically correct or not, I put myself into the author's hands. To me, this was her take on filling in the appallingly huge holes in the Old Testament about what life was like for women. I'm not one of those who is outraged at how women seemed to be forgotten in almost all of history. It's just the way it was. I feel it's okay to "write ourselves back in". I do this on my own anyway when I read the scriptures. Thanks to Anita Diamant for doing all the work for me this time, and so well of course.

One other thing this book helped me to understand, was what an idolatrous people they really were. It's all over the Old Testament (between all the "begats") how God always had to humble the people for loving something or someone else more than Him. What were these idols and why did the people hang onto to them so tightly? Thanks again to the author for that.

The many wives thing, no thanks. But I don't live like they had to. I have machines to lighten my domestic workload. Do you think I could get in trouble for worshipping my dishwasher and my fancy new front loader?




Idolatry never ends. I fear I have far too spiritual a relationship with my computer.
:smileyhappy:
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DSaff
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I honestly don't think I could live in a polygamous relationship. I like having my husband to myself and having to work out our challenges together. Life was different during the book's time frame, but I still wonder about the jealousy aspect. While it may have been an accepted practice, one that may have even brought status to the man, it is hard to believe that the women didn't want more from their relationships. Cultures and traditions differ, but love usually wants it all.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
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Peppermill
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Re: Many wives and other questions


DSaff wrote:
I honestly don't think I could live in a polygamous relationship. I like having my husband to myself and having to work out our challenges together. Life was different during the book's time frame, but I still wonder about the jealousy aspect. While it may have been an accepted practice, one that may have even brought status to the man, it is hard to believe that the women didn't want more from their relationships. Cultures and traditions differ, but love usually wants it all.
DSaff, as you may have encountered yourself, some writers and speakers draw parallels between the rivalries that exist in today's blended families and those polygamous ones of the Old Testament.

While these practices seem very alien to many of us and undoubtedly most of us prefer our own, I do think Old Testament and other stories where polygamy was practiced can provide insights both for our own lives and life around us and for other cultures still on this planet. For example, if women could figure out how to cooperate and support each other and control jealousy in such environments, perhaps there are ideas here for how we deal with ex-spouses, or the women in our own families and communities with whom our lives co-mingle, or even the women with whom we work in the broader workplace. Likewise, re family and sibling rivalries and pecking orders.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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poimenes
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Re: Many wives and other questions



Peppermill wrote:
For example, if women could figure out how to cooperate and support each other and control jealousy in such environments, perhaps there are ideas here for how we deal with ex-spouses, or the women in our own families and communities with whom our lives co-mingle, or even the women with whom we work in the broader workplace. Likewise, re family and sibling rivalries and pecking orders.




I agree with Peppermill, it's not so much about condemning or lauding the culture of polygamy that was Anita's basis, but the relationship of the women to each other. We need to do more in our modern lives to help and learn from our fellow sister - whoever she may be.

I enjoyed the way Anita used the historical context to help the story come to life. If she hadn't researched and detailed it in that way, it would be just another telling of a Biblical story that we might not have been able to bring to life.

Hazel
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Choisya
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Why not imagine polygamy as a boon to women who had to work so very hard?

I agree. I have a Muslim friend who is in a polygamous marriage and she was very pleased to welcome a new young wife, able to have another baby, into her household. They share the household chores and the baby care as well as the husband and he is duty bound to treat them equally, in and out of bed. As she entered her menapause she was quite pleased to relinquish some of her 'wifely' duties, to have companionship and help around the house and a baby who she could hand back to the mother. Both women had been brought up to accept this state of affairs, so jealousy - perhaps we should call it selfishness? - did not enter into the equation.

(BTW polygamous marriage is not legal in the UK so such marriages are performed according to Islamic procedures, which are considered legal within their communities. Only the first wife can claim tax advantages or other state benefits however, which can be disadvantageous to the other wife/wives.)






Anita_Diamant wrote:


rkubie wrote:
In an interview, Anita said that one challenge in writing historical fiction, is that of trying not to misplace contemporary ideas into characters set in another time, and she mentions polygamy as an example of something accepted in this setting as "a simple fact."

I was surprised at how easily I also accepted some very foreign ideas, such as polygamy, in the novel. I found myself instead wondering more at the mechanics of it--how did these women live and work together, talk with each other, etc.

How did you accept life, customs, manners, and morals that differed significantly from your own?




It's a challenge to set aside our own values and expectations. If we don't, however, there is no chance of entering into a world that is profoundly different from our own.
Why not imagine polygamy as a boon to women who had to work so very hard?


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steelmagnolia
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Re: Many wives and other questions

From a purely personal (and perhaps selfish) perspective, I don't think I would want that sort of arrangement in my own life. My husband and I are equal partners in our relationship: I am not his property (nor is he mine). I do have close female friends and family members and I enjoy their company, but I don't think I would enjoy sharing my home and my very LIFE with them around the clock. I enjoy my privacy, too.

That being said, I do enjoy visiting another time and putting myself into another's shoes, and Ms. Diamant did a good job leading me there. I just appreciate my own culture all the more for having been there.
pll, steel magnolia
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DSaff
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Re: Many wives and other questions



Peppermill wrote:

DSaff wrote:
I honestly don't think I could live in a polygamous relationship. I like having my husband to myself and having to work out our challenges together. Life was different during the book's time frame, but I still wonder about the jealousy aspect. While it may have been an accepted practice, one that may have even brought status to the man, it is hard to believe that the women didn't want more from their relationships. Cultures and traditions differ, but love usually wants it all.
DSaff, as you may have encountered yourself, some writers and speakers draw parallels between the rivalries that exist in today's blended families and those polygamous ones of the Old Testament.

While these practices seem very alien to many of us and undoubtedly most of us prefer our own, I do think Old Testament and other stories where polygamy was practiced can provide insights both for our own lives and life around us and for other cultures still on this planet. For example, if women could figure out how to cooperate and support each other and control jealousy in such environments, perhaps there are ideas here for how we deal with ex-spouses, or the women in our own families and communities with whom our lives co-mingle, or even the women with whom we work in the broader workplace. Likewise, re family and sibling rivalries and pecking orders.




I think you misinterpreted my post. I was simply stating my thoughts on polygamy, not the relevance in writing. This is one of my favorite books. We are given a snapshot from Ms. Diamant, one that causes me to really think about the life and times of these women, one that has encouraged me to do more research. There was a lot to learn from the others in the group, and, there is a lot for us to learn from researching different lifestyles and cultures.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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Rachel-K
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Re: Many wives and other questions

While these practices seem very alien to many of us and undoubtedly most of us prefer our own, I do think Old Testament and other stories where polygamy was practiced can provide insights both for our own lives and life around us and for other cultures still on this planet. For example, if women could figure out how to cooperate and support each other and control jealousy in such environments, perhaps there are ideas here for how we deal with ex-spouses, or the women in our own families and communities with whom our lives co-mingle, or even the women with whom we work in the broader workplace. Likewise, re family and sibling rivalries and pecking orders.




This is a fascinating idea. We live in a society that is largely composed of these blended families, but we don't yet have cultural rituals and practices that embrace and make places for all of family members involved. I was taken by how "functional" the family was, despite how sprawling and troubled it was, too.

Until Dinah's marriage, of course.
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steelmagnolia
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Re: Many wives and other questions

To add my proverbial "two cents' worth" on the subject of jealousy: I have long thought that polygamy was simply a tool men used boost their own egos, status, etc. Someone commented on polygamy being an okay arrangement for women if we could manage to control our own jealousy, sense of competition, whatever. I wonder how often jealousy enters the picture for the husband in such arrangements. Is he ever jealous of the genuine affection the women feel toward each other? Jealous of time they spend together in communion/companionship?...........Just a thought.
pll, steel magnolia
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Peppermill
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Dstaff -- I apologize for seemingly misinterpreting your post. In actually, I couldn't know from your post exactly where you might be coming from on what I added; you simply stimulated another thought from me, which I chose to share as a response -- actually more stream-of-consciousness style than a true response.

If there is any doubt, and it matters to anyone, I very much share the feelings and attitudes you expressed. E.g., for those, and a myriad of other reasons, at this stage in history, I am glad that our US laws support only monogamous marriages. (There may still be a few isolated exceptions -- I am not expert enough to be certain without more research than I am willing to do right now.) However, Rachel (rkubie) does expand, in the post following ours, some of the possibilities we do face relative to helping blended families receive community and broader familial support. Since blended families have become such a broad reality in the US, I do believe supporting practices, customs, courtesies, rituals and rites (and laws, if needed) to be important to develop and provide. (We could undoubtedly profitably revisit and strengthen the same for marriages as well.)

(P.S. I like your quotation -- and how appropriate from Scribner!)

DSaff wrote:

Peppermill wrote:

DSaff wrote:
I honestly don't think I could live in a polygamous relationship. I like having my husband to myself and having to work out our challenges together. Life was different during the book's time frame, but I still wonder about the jealousy aspect. While it may have been an accepted practice, one that may have even brought status to the man, it is hard to believe that the women didn't want more from their relationships. Cultures and traditions differ, but love usually wants it all.
DSaff, as you may have encountered yourself, some writers and speakers draw parallels between the rivalries that exist in today's blended families and those polygamous ones of the Old Testament.

While these practices seem very alien to many of us and undoubtedly most of us prefer our own, I do think Old Testament and other stories where polygamy was practiced can provide insights both for our own lives and life around us and for other cultures still on this planet. For example, if women could figure out how to cooperate and support each other and control jealousy in such environments, perhaps there are ideas here for how we deal with ex-spouses, or the women in our own families and communities with whom our lives co-mingle, or even the women with whom we work in the broader workplace. Likewise, re family and sibling rivalries and pecking orders.

I think you misinterpreted my post. I was simply stating my thoughts on polygamy, not the relevance in writing. This is one of my favorite books. We are given a snapshot from Ms. Diamant, one that causes me to really think about the life and times of these women, one that has encouraged me to do more research. There was a lot to learn from the others in the group, and, there is a lot for us to learn from researching different lifestyles and cultures.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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DSaff
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Re: Many wives and other questions



Peppermill wrote:
Since blended families have become such a broad reality in the US, I do believe supporting practices, customs, courtesies, rituals and rites (and laws, if needed) to be important to develop and provide. (We could undoubtedly profitably revisit and strengthen the same for marriages as well.)

(P.S. I like your quotation -- and how appropriate from Scribner!)



I agree. It is so important to learn about other cultures, etc., so that we can support the various families around us. In doing so, we can grow not only as individuals, but as a whole, supportive community. It is interesting to me that I have learned from the women in this book, and hopefully will continue to do so.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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