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Paul_Hochman
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Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

[ Edited ]
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM

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LuvReading
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



PaulH wrote:
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM







This is where I would reflect on "What would I do?" I can actually see, depending on her frame of mind, why she would choose suicide over living in hell. She was at a particular disadvantage being blind. However, the other side of the coin is leaving her child. Although, she may have known the father would look after the child and she would possibly hinder their chance for survival.

If I had to go one way or another, I would conclude she did it because she couldn't bear to live in such conditions. She didn't hold the same hope as the father in the story.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



LuvReading wrote:


PaulH wrote:
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM







This is where I would reflect on "What would I do?" I can actually see, depending on her frame of mind, why she would choose suicide over living in hell. She was at a particular disadvantage being blind. However, the other side of the coin is leaving her child. Although, she may have known the father would look after the child and she would possibly hinder their chance for survival.

If I had to go one way or another, I would conclude she did it because she couldn't bear to live in such conditions. She didn't hold the same hope as the father in the story.




I must have missed the reference to her being blind. Was this a result of the catastrophe?
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LuvReading
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

I must have missed the reference to her being blind. Was this a result of the catastrophe?





This wasn't made clear, but I believe so. Could be another allusion to the kind of disaster this was, which I'm being to believe a nuclear holocaust.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

There was flash of light, but I think the man saw it as well, so this probably wasn't the wife's cause of blindness.
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bentley
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)


PaulH wrote:
There was flash of light, but I think the man saw it as well, so this probably wasn't the wife's cause of blindness.




PaulH..I think in America we are living in a bubble..in trying to figure out what happened to the wife's eyesight I came across this newsarticle about radiation sickness in modern day Iraq as a result of some of the practices of Saddam. It really unnerved me reading about these poor people and what they are going through. It is about radiation sickness and what happened to a little boy as well as a woman who has lost her eyesight with chronic radiation sickness.

http://www.capitalnews9.com/content/headlines/?ArID=26200&;SecID=33

If you missed where McCarthy talks about the wife being blind..the episode began in the paperback version on page 55 with the paragraph starting with "We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp." It continued for another three pages. The man said to the wife.."Where are you going to go? You cant even see. I dont have to."

I think the catastrophe was the beginning of the wife having problems with her eyesight. And may have happened similarly to the way the Iraqi woman had her eyesight affected.

This news article (2003)is about the here and now; not a future world..chilling to say the least.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

Yikes!. Thanks, Bentley.
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bentley
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)


PaulH wrote:
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM






Despite the episode described starting on page 55 of the paperback version and even in spite of that description of the wife, I still feel much sympathy towards her. I feel that there is a huge possibility that she was not blind to begin with and this was the aftermath of the catastrophe. I am not sure how others feel about this...McCarthy does not give us much to deal with regarding the wife. She does not really play a pivotal thematic role in the relationship between the father and son either. Anybody living through those fictional times described has my sympathy. In terms of what she did to her son by not even waiting to say goodbye..I have less sympathy for her in terms of that specific action; but even so she might have found it too painful to do this and may have felt like others stated before that she might impact their ability to survive with her in tow...and did not want to be deterred from what she considered her fate as horrible as that decision might have been. For her, she may have considered it a "mercy killing". It is easier to judge when you are not walking in their shoes..so I am still very sympathetic to her and every character in the book.
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)


PaulH wrote:
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM






On page 58 as the wife has just left, the following is revealed in this observation.....

"The hundred nights they'd sat up arguing the pros and cons of self destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall."
What a chilling and vibrant image!

This was no spur of the moment decision; she'd given up all hope long ago and now wanted to be true to her "own whorish heart." She lacked the "faith" of the man and son. There was no carrying of any fire in her heart. She even said that her heart had been ripped out of her the night the son was born.

I think that she makes it perfectly clear why she intends to commit suicide.
It is she, she believes, who has the greater vision or clarity. She sees them as "the walking dead in a horror film"......she's entirely given up hope (the faith).

When he tells her "You can't even see", it is true literally because of the unnatural dark, but it is also a metaphor for not being able to "see" the man's viewpoint.

Her only desire is for the "eternal nothingness" through her new lover death!
She could be deemed blind in many ways except the most familiar one as she says "I don't need to"(see) and then goes off into the dark to seek her new lover in death.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



Erato wrote:

PaulH wrote:
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM






On page 58 as the wife has just left, the following is revealed in this observation.....

"The hundred nights they'd sat up arguing the pros and cons of self destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall."
What a chilling and vibrant image!

This was no spur of the moment decision; she'd given up all hope long ago and now wanted to be true to her "own whorish heart." She lacked the "faith" of the man and son. There was no carrying of any fire in her heart. She even said that her heart had been ripped out of her the night the son was born.

I think that she makes it perfectly clear why she intends to commit suicide.
It is she, she believes, who has the greater vision or clarity. She sees them as "the walking dead in a horror film"......she's entirely given up hope (the faith).

When he tells her "You can't even see", it is true literally because of the unnatural dark, but it is also a metaphor for not being able to "see" the man's viewpoint.

Her only desire is for the "eternal nothingness" through her new lover death!
She could be deemed blind in many ways except the most familiar one as she says "I don't need to"(see) and then goes off into the dark to seek her new lover in death.




Terrific post, Erato! This helps me to further understand our discussion earlier regarding the wife's blindness. I don't think she physically lost her sight. She simply can't "see" any hope in the future. Right. She has no faith, which is a disturbing play on the idea of Blind Faith.
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)


PaulH wrote:


Erato wrote:

PaulH wrote:
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM






On page 58 as the wife has just left, the following is revealed in this observation.....

"The hundred nights they'd sat up arguing the pros and cons of self destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall."
What a chilling and vibrant image!

This was no spur of the moment decision; she'd given up all hope long ago and now wanted to be true to her "own whorish heart." She lacked the "faith" of the man and son. There was no carrying of any fire in her heart. She even said that her heart had been ripped out of her the night the son was born.

I think that she makes it perfectly clear why she intends to commit suicide.
It is she, she believes, who has the greater vision or clarity. She sees them as "the walking dead in a horror film"......she's entirely given up hope (the faith).

When he tells her "You can't even see", it is true literally because of the unnatural dark, but it is also a metaphor for not being able to "see" the man's viewpoint.

Her only desire is for the "eternal nothingness" through her new lover death!
She could be deemed blind in many ways except the most familiar one as she says "I don't need to"(see) and then goes off into the dark to seek her new lover in death.




Terrific post, Erato! This helps me to further understand our discussion earlier regarding the wife's blindness. I don't think she physically lost her sight. She simply can't "see" any hope in the future. Right. She has no faith, which is a disturbing play on the idea of Blind Faith.




PaulH,

The wife was blind literally (she physically lost her sight - it was clear from the text); she was also as Erato inferred figuratively blind in that she did not carry the fire and cannot see the hope in the future that the father and/or son had. She did not have any faith (the literal third eye) and the two eyes that she did have had been effected I believe from the catastrophe. I think it is also perfectly clear that she is blind.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



bentley wrote:

PaulH wrote:


Erato wrote:

PaulH wrote:
How do we feel about the wife’s reaction to the catastrophe and her ultimate decision? Is she a sympathetic character?

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-05-200704:41 PM






On page 58 as the wife has just left, the following is revealed in this observation.....

"The hundred nights they'd sat up arguing the pros and cons of self destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall."
What a chilling and vibrant image!

This was no spur of the moment decision; she'd given up all hope long ago and now wanted to be true to her "own whorish heart." She lacked the "faith" of the man and son. There was no carrying of any fire in her heart. She even said that her heart had been ripped out of her the night the son was born.

I think that she makes it perfectly clear why she intends to commit suicide.
It is she, she believes, who has the greater vision or clarity. She sees them as "the walking dead in a horror film"......she's entirely given up hope (the faith).

When he tells her "You can't even see", it is true literally because of the unnatural dark, but it is also a metaphor for not being able to "see" the man's viewpoint.

Her only desire is for the "eternal nothingness" through her new lover death!
She could be deemed blind in many ways except the most familiar one as she says "I don't need to"(see) and then goes off into the dark to seek her new lover in death.




Terrific post, Erato! This helps me to further understand our discussion earlier regarding the wife's blindness. I don't think she physically lost her sight. She simply can't "see" any hope in the future. Right. She has no faith, which is a disturbing play on the idea of Blind Faith.




PaulH,

The wife was blind literally (she physically lost her sight - it was clear from the text); she was also as Erato inferred figuratively blind in that she did not carry the fire and cannot see the hope in the future that the father and/or son had. She did not have any faith (the literal third eye) and the two eyes that she did have had been effected I believe from the catastrophe. I think it is also perfectly clear that she is blind.




I've re-read that passage a couple of times now, Bentley, and I'm still not convinced that she's physically blind, but as with all great works of literature, it's all up for interpretation!
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

To PaulH:

The direct quote from the novel was:

"Where are you going to go? You cant even see. I dont have to."

The quotes were to the point and literal and factual. It definately meant that she had lost her eyesight. Because that is what the words say. We are not interpreting here what was not said outright or trying to hunt for clues or nuances.

I thought Erato's interpretation of both the real and the implied language was also interesting (he saw the real meaning of the words (her actual physical blindness) as well as the figurative meaning that she did not only not see physically; she also did not understand the bigger picture.

I respect everyone's interpretation and especially your thoughts Paul..but here the words are actually clear and were spoken ones.

And I agree isn't the discussion fun and the journey. And of course we can agree to disagree which is also fun as part of the friendly and thought provoking discussion.
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

Yes, we can agree to disagree. This is what makes for a stimulating discussion!!!

At first reading, I took it quite literally as well, but upon a re-read, I felt McCarthy was taking us a bit deeper.

On page 15 in the paperback we read: "The blackness he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable. A blackness to hurt your ears with listening."

Of course, literally, she wouldn't be able to see because of the extreme darkness of their nights. We know it's night as they talk across the flame of a lamp, and she is gone the next morning.
There are other passages in the book where the man has to call out to the boy and use his returning voice to guide him back to their camp.

Have you ever been somewhere pitch black at night, starless, no electricity or fire? Now imagine that darkness super intensified by the 'nuclear winter'.

I maintain that it was how she 'saw' the situation; not actual blindness.

So she declares 'I don't have to'; and indeed she doesn't have to as she goes down into the dark.
And the man's view reminds me of the Dylan Thomas famous villanelle;

"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

But her "light" has already burned out, she has given up the "faith" for any hope for them.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



bentley wrote:
To PaulH:

The direct quote from the novel was:

"Where are you going to go? You cant even see. I dont have to."

The quotes were to the point and literal and factual. It definately meant that she had lost her eyesight. Because that is what the words say. We are not interpreting here what was not said outright or trying to hunt for clues or nuances.

I thought Erato's interpretation of both the real and the implied language was also interesting (he saw the real meaning of the words (her actual physical blindness) as well as the figurative meaning that she did not only not see physically; she also did not understand the bigger picture.

I respect everyone's interpretation and especially your thoughts Paul..but here the words are actually clear and were spoken ones.

And I agree isn't the discussion fun and the journey. And of course we can agree to disagree which is also fun as part of the friendly and thought provoking discussion.




Remember They're sitting outdoors in the dark of night in this scene:

"We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp".

Later in that scene:

"She watched him across the small flame".

And finally she gets up to leave the campsite and venture out into the dark to kill herself:

"Where are you going to go? You cant even see".

It's literally to dark to see aside from the candle light or at least that's how I read it.
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bentley
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:
To PaulH:

The direct quote from the novel was:

"Where are you going to go? You cant even see. I dont have to."

The quotes were to the point and literal and factual. It definately meant that she had lost her eyesight. Because that is what the words say. We are not interpreting here what was not said outright or trying to hunt for clues or nuances.

I thought Erato's interpretation of both the real and the implied language was also interesting (he saw the real meaning of the words (her actual physical blindness) as well as the figurative meaning that she did not only not see physically; she also did not understand the bigger picture.

I respect everyone's interpretation and especially your thoughts Paul..but here the words are actually clear and were spoken ones.

And I agree isn't the discussion fun and the journey. And of course we can agree to disagree which is also fun as part of the friendly and thought provoking discussion.




Remember They're sitting outdoors in the dark of night in this scene:

"We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp".

Later in that scene:

"She watched him across the small flame".

And finally she gets up to leave the campsite and venture out into the dark to kill herself:

"Where are you going to go? You cant even see".

It's literally to dark to see aside from the candle light or at least that's how I read it.




It is ok guy..I can appreciate your interpretation. I feel that the father had radiation sickness and her eyesight loss was the result of that as well. Sorry..but again we can agree to disagree and your interpretation is thought provoking as well.
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bentley
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:
To PaulH:

The direct quote from the novel was:

"Where are you going to go? You cant even see. I dont have to."

The quotes were to the point and literal and factual. It definately meant that she had lost her eyesight. Because that is what the words say. We are not interpreting here what was not said outright or trying to hunt for clues or nuances.

I thought Erato's interpretation of both the real and the implied language was also interesting (he saw the real meaning of the words (her actual physical blindness) as well as the figurative meaning that she did not only not see physically; she also did not understand the bigger picture.

I respect everyone's interpretation and especially your thoughts Paul..but here the words are actually clear and were spoken ones.

And I agree isn't the discussion fun and the journey. And of course we can agree to disagree which is also fun as part of the friendly and thought provoking discussion.




Remember They're sitting outdoors in the dark of night in this scene:

"We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp".

Later in that scene:

"She watched him across the small flame".

And finally she gets up to leave the campsite and venture out into the dark to kill herself:

"Where are you going to go? You cant even see".

It's literally to dark to see aside from the candle light or at least that's how I read it.




It is ok guys..I can appreciate your interpretation. I feel that the father had radiation sickness and her eyesight loss was the result of that as well. Sorry..but again we can agree to disagree and your interpretation is thought provoking as well.
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

Paul wrote:

"Remember They're sitting outdoors in the dark of night in this scene:

"We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp".

Later in that scene:

"She watched him across the small flame".
************************************************************
Excellent catch Paul! Yes, how could she 'watch him' if she was actually blind?

The rest of that passage:
"She sat there smoking a slender length of grapevine as if it were some rare cheroot. Holding it with a certain elegance, her other hand across her knees where she'd drawn them up. She watched him across the small flame. We used to talk about death, she said. We don't anymore. Why is that?
I don't know.
It's because it's here. There's nothing left to talk about."


Erato; The Muse of lyric poetry and mime.
aka Susanne
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bentley
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)



Erato wrote:
Paul wrote:

"Remember They're sitting outdoors in the dark of night in this scene:

"We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp".

Later in that scene:

"She watched him across the small flame".
************************************************************
Excellent catch Paul! Yes, how could she 'watch him' if she was actually blind?

The rest of that passage:
"She sat there smoking a slender length of grapevine as if it were some rare cheroot. Holding it with a certain elegance, her other hand across her knees where she'd drawn them up. She watched him across the small flame. We used to talk about death, she said. We don't anymore. Why is that?
I don't know.
It's because it's here. There's nothing left to talk about."


Erato; The Muse of lyric poetry and mime.
aka Susanne




Yes, I saw that incident as well. Remember, the boy was born right after the catastrophe and he is about 8-10 years old I believe (I think there was some comment about this somewhere in the novel but I forget where). So, at the time she could have still had her eyesight. The posting that I made about radiation sickness affecting eyesight concerning the Iraqi woman is what I think happened to the wife. Additionally, the wife could potentially have seen shadows in light and still have been legally blind much like the Iraqi woman. By the time at the end when she finally had enough or felt possibly that she could not go on with them because she would be a detriment, I think her eyesight had become permanently damaged. It did not happen at the time of the catastrophe itself because she was asking him why he was running the bath, etc..my feelings were that it happened later. On a personal note, a legally blind person that I am friends with cannot see anything at night or dusk but during the daylight she can make out shadows etc. It is fun to speculate and the differences of opinion are interesting. Maybe Cormac McCarthy in his Oprah interview may shed some "light" on what he was imagining when he wrote the book and/or illuminate for all of us a way to reconcile these varying interpretations.

I imagine that the interview may shed some light on some and maybe not on others. And that is why to me reading a novel doesn't have to be about one right answer but of course it will be nice to get some answers from McCarthy. The segments about the wife to me are snapshots in time (varying moments in their life from before the son was born until she left over a span of years). Things could have changed for her and did change for the father (he became increasingly ill at some point and died from whatever was ailing him).

Time will tell...I personally can't wait until the McCarthy interview.
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Mariposa
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Re: Early Reading: The Wife’s Decision (SPOILER WARNING)

Erato writes:
So she declares 'I don't have to'; and indeed she doesn't have to as she goes down into the dark.
And the man's view reminds me of the Dylan Thomas famous villanelle;

"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

But her "light" has already burned out, she has given up the "faith" for any hope for them.
04-12-2007 03:28 PM

What a beautiful connection. That is exactly what the father and son are doing. They are raging against the dying of the light, while for her, the mother, there is no light, only darkness.

I thought she was physically blind too at the beginning, but now I understand that the darkness of the night blinded her and she had no light, no faith, to guide her through it. Without faith, there is fear and that fear can be so overwhelming that all hope is lost. Once hope is lost, there is nothing left.

Lizabeth
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