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KxBurns
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The River

[ Edited ]
"The river was low, rocks sitting high and white in midstream. In the big hole below the falls Nina and Hinch floated in yellow tubes, splashing each other. Elise and Sam sat farther down on a giant boulder with their backs turned, conferring seriously (Elise had told Nina she was breaking up with him, but that was weeks ago). She had just enough time to get wet and then dry off on the ledge, lying beside J.P., her head resting on her crossed arms. The smell reminded her of her mother taking her to the town pool when she was little, the wet mark her body left on the hot concrete slowly evaporating. The stone was warm on her front, the sun beating against her back, reaching deep into her skin. She could sleep like this all day, just listening to the rush of water" (p. 12).
 
Discuss the symbolic meaning of the river in this story. In what ways can the river specifically, but also the water in general, be viewed as a symbol of both innocence and escape in the novel? Who takes to the water in Songs, and why?


Message Edited by KxBurns on 06-09-2008 10:40 AM
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mwinasu
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Re: The River

If it is meant to be a symbol, I did not get it.  I  see that it can be interpreted as the journey between childhood and adulthood ; however,  I did not feel like the book was written with a message  This question makes me think that I should reevaluate my perceptions and look a little closer at this book.
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the_mad_chatter
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Re: The River

Any time I see water mentioned in a book I hear the bells go off in my head.  Something's bound to happen.  Water can be used to symbolize a journey (childhood to adulthood) or a cleansing or rebirth (Nina's plunging into the waterscene-it felt like her baptism). 


KxBurns wrote:
"The river was low, rocks sitting high and white in midstream. In the big hole below the falls Nina and Hinch floated in yellow tubes, splashing each other. Elise and Sam sat farther down on a giant boulder with their backs turned, conferring seriously (Elise had told Nina she was breaking up with him, but that was weeks ago). She had just enough time to get wet and then dry off on the ledge, lying beside J.P., her head resting on her crossed arms. The smell reminded her of her mother taking her to the town pool when she was little, the wet mark her body left on the hot concrete slowly evaporating. The stone was warm on her front, the sun beating against her back, reaching deep into her skin. She could sleep like this all day, just listening to the rush of water" (p. 12).
 
Discuss the symbolic meaning of the river in this story. In what ways can the river specifically, but also the water in general, be viewed as a symbol of both innocence and escape in the novel? Who takes to the water in Songs, and why?


Message Edited by KxBurns on 06-09-2008 10:40 AM


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paula_02912
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Re: The River

Karen wrote:"Discuss the symbolic meaning of the river in this story. In what ways can the river specifically, but also the water in general, be viewed as a symbol of both innocence and escape in the novel? Who takes to the water in Songs, and why?"
 
I am going to take a stab at this...
 
The symbolic nature of the river is that it can both cleanse you and "take" you away, so to speak...it was a symbol of freedom for the friends, but it was especially to Kim...I feel that being at the river enabled her to really look into herself and see "herself" the person she is on the inside, not the one she shows her friends...it gives her a chance to be introspective...it is a symbol of escape because it wends its way for a long distance, which means it can take you away from Kingsville, which is essentially what Kim wanted; escape from her public life and the person she was while there...it enabled her think of the possibilities...just my thoughts...
Peace and love,
Paula R.

"Adversity causes some people to break, but causes others to break records."

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paula_02912
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Re: The River

the_mad_chatter wrote: "...a cleansing or rebirth (Nina's plunging into the waterscene-it felt like her baptism)."
 
You always find the nice tidbits of information...
 
I could see this scene as a form of baptism for Nina...while she was away at school she became a totally different person, but as soon as she returned to Kingsville for the championship game, Nina found herself becoming the person she was before she left for college...it's as if she was still hiding beneath Kim's shadow...when she finally got over her fears of jumping in from the tracks, and stopped thinking about Kim, she felt free...she even wondered why she was so scared to begin with, if I remember correctly...
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Paula R.

"Adversity causes some people to break, but causes others to break records."

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the_mad_chatter
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Re: The River

Yes, the water's reflective power (Nina's looking in the mirror before jumping from the bridge) is another great symbol.
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bentley
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Re: The River


KxBurns wrote:




"The river was low, rocks sitting high and white in midstream. In the big hole below the falls Nina and Hinch floated in yellow tubes, splashing each other. Elise and Sam sat farther down on a giant boulder with their backs turned, conferring seriously (Elise had told Nina she was breaking up with him, but that was weeks ago). She had just enough time to get wet and then dry off on the ledge, lying beside J.P., her head resting on her crossed arms. The smell reminded her of her mother taking her to the town pool when she was little, the wet mark her body left on the hot concrete slowly evaporating. The stone was warm on her front, the sun beating against her back, reaching deep into her skin. She could sleep like this all day, just listening to the rush of water" (p. 12).

 

Discuss the symbolic meaning of the river in this story. In what ways can the river specifically, but also the water in general, be viewed as a symbol of both innocence and escape in the novel? Who takes to the water in Songs, and why?


Message Edited by KxBurns on 06-09-2008 10:40 AM




I have to admit that I did not take too much stock in the river. But water is a very powerful force. The river was flowing as does life and life can pass you by much like the river does.

I think that the characters who grew the most forgave themselves and looked inward discovering what they wanted for themselves and why. They released their emotional blockages and let the grief and the forgiveness and the recriminations escape and float away. The characters who had a more difficult time were more like the earth or stone and walled themselves in and could not feel any sort of release. Water can symbolize cleansing, purity, life, release from inhibitions. It was like Nina and Elise released themselves from further blockages associated with Kim when they left the football game and basically admitted they did not want to go back in and didn't need readmittance. I think then the next and most pivotal release came in the river. They were finally rid of guilt and sorrow and could move on with their lives. Kim was not holding them back.
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the_mad_chatter
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Re: The River

How about comparing and contrasting the appearance of water in Fran's homage to Kim during the football game-it was snowing! and Nina's last homage to Kim-jumping in the river!  Interesting that water would appear in both scenes in some form.  During the football game p 208 the snow was coming down in stray flakes making the roads slushy-a metaphor of Fran's efforts!?!?!  HMMMMM....
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BookSavage
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Re: The River

I think the ideas of baptism and the constant flow of life are significant metaphors in the novel.  I also believe that the river is a great symbol of what small town life is like.  The river often represents the place that the youth turn to for freedom.  There is this sense in many small towns that the river or lake is the place that judgement and often times law enforcement don't enter.  People feel as though they can do things at the river that they cannot do other places.
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paula_02912
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Re: The River

bentley wrote: "I have to admit that I did not take too much stock in the river. But water is a very powerful force. The river was flowing as does life and life can pass you by much like the river does.

I think that the characters who grew the most forgave themselves and looked inward discovering what they wanted for themselves and why. They released their emotional blockages and let the grief and the forgiveness and the recriminations escape and float away. The characters who had a more difficult time were more like the earth or stone and walled themselves in and could not feel any sort of release. Water can symbolize cleansing, purity, life, release from inhibitions. It was like Nina and Elise released themselves from further blockages associated with Kim when they left the football game and basically admitted they did not want to go back in and didn't need readmittance. I think then the next and most pivotal release came in the river. They were finally rid of guilt and sorrow and could move on with their lives. Kim was not holding them back. "
 
Very well-said bentley...the last two sentences sum it up nicely...the felt a sense of release when they jumped in together...especially, Nina...
Peace and love,
Paula R.

"Adversity causes some people to break, but causes others to break records."

Author Unknown
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paula_02912
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Re: The River

Booksavage wrote: "
I think the ideas of baptism and the constant flow of life are significant metaphors in the novel.  I also believe that the river is a great symbol of what small town life is like.  The river often represents the place that the youth turn to for freedom.  There is this sense in many small towns that the river or lake is the place that judgement and often times law enforcement don't enter.  People feel as though they can do things at the river that they cannot do other places."
 
Booksavage you taught me something today about small town life...I didn't realize that the river played such and important part in growing up for many young adults...now I see why movies use the river or beach as a place where anything goes for children and teens...

Peace and love,
Paula R.

"Adversity causes some people to break, but causes others to break records."

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bentley
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Re: The River



paula_02912 wrote:
bentley wrote: "I have to admit that I did not take too much stock in the river. But water is a very powerful force. The river was flowing as does life and life can pass you by much like the river does.

I think that the characters who grew the most forgave themselves and looked inward discovering what they wanted for themselves and why. They released their emotional blockages and let the grief and the forgiveness and the recriminations escape and float away. The characters who had a more difficult time were more like the earth or stone and walled themselves in and could not feel any sort of release. Water can symbolize cleansing, purity, life, release from inhibitions. It was like Nina and Elise released themselves from further blockages associated with Kim when they left the football game and basically admitted they did not want to go back in and didn't need readmittance. I think then the next and most pivotal release came in the river. They were finally rid of guilt and sorrow and could move on with their lives. Kim was not holding them back. "
 
Very well-said bentley...the last two sentences sum it up nicely...the felt a sense of release when they jumped in together...especially, Nina...





Yes, it was almost as if they had broken off their chains to the past.
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kiakar
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Re: The River



paula_02912 wrote:
bentley wrote: "I have to admit that I did not take too much stock in the river. But water is a very powerful force. The river was flowing as does life and life can pass you by much like the river does.

I think that the characters who grew the most forgave themselves and looked inward discovering what they wanted for themselves and why. They released their emotional blockages and let the grief and the forgiveness and the recriminations escape and float away. The characters who had a more difficult time were more like the earth or stone and walled themselves in and could not feel any sort of release. Water can symbolize cleansing, purity, life, release from inhibitions. It was like Nina and Elise released themselves from further blockages associated with Kim when they left the football game and basically admitted they did not want to go back in and didn't need readmittance. I think then the next and most pivotal release came in the river. They were finally rid of guilt and sorrow and could move on with their lives. Kim was not holding them back. "
 
Very well-said bentley...the last two sentences sum it up nicely...the felt a sense of release when they jumped in together...especially, Nina...


Yes, Paula, The river flows through  all things.  The river is the life of a town or city. The river is a source of living life. Of life that lives. It can be a friend and it can be an enemy. It is a savior and it can be a downfall. It is so much a part of our life and is like life.
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Jennd1
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Re: The River

I agree with all the images that have been evoked about the water the connections to life, to changes and cleansing, to washing away and escaping as well as that of the river as a pathway. I think the river meant different things to different characters. We know that Kim loved the river so for her it was an escape and a happy place. For Nina it is a cleansing place at the end of the novel and a way to put things behind her and move on.
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the_mad_chatter
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Re: The River

KxBurns mentioned an interesting point related to water in another thread...the boat and Ed and Fran's "Catch and Release" chapter.  This was a disappointing chapter for me because I felt this would be the pivotal chapter for them and it left me feeling flat, like much wouldn't change in their relationship.   I know many disagree with me and see this chapter as proof of Ed and Fran being alright in the future.  It's interesting to see how many people "took to the water" in this book.  Thanks for the mention Kxburns!
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KxBurns
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Re: The River

You guys have hit the nail on the head -- the river is a place of freedom for the teens, a place where they are out from under the watchful eyes of their parents, which is probably sorely needed in this small town. They also seem to head to the beach quite a bit, for similar reasons. But the river, especially, is a powerful symbol since it flows right out of town. And I think we can see in the photos that O'Nan has kindly shared with us just how prominently bodies of water figure in the life of this town.
 
So let's talk about Ed and his fishing (Paula, was it you who brought this up over on the Ed board?) on the lake. Is it significant that Ed's destination is a standing body of water while Kim's is a moving one? Maybe I'm reading too much into it :smileyhappy:
 
I like this little snippet, from Chapter 18 (The Long Weekend) when the family returns home from visiting Ed's mother:
"He imagined the crowd down by the harbor, their faces tipped towards the sky, mouths open in anticipation, each new explosion tinting the surface of the water, and he wished they were there and part of it. Impossible." (p. 161-162)
 
What exactly has the family been cut off from by their tragedy, as exemplified by this imagined scene at the harbor?
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booser
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Re: The River

I liked your statement about  "the river being a great symbol of what small town life is like." Every small town has a river, creek or swimming hole where teens get together. It's some place for them to go away from the watchful eyes of adults. It's a place where teens first experiment with independence as young adults. When Kim reflected back to her childhood and her mom taking her to the pool, it reminded her of being a kid and now hanging out with her friends give her a sense of being grown.
 
I really liked Stewart O'Nan description in this statement "the wet mark her body left on the hot concrete slowly evaporating. The stone was warm on her front, the sun beating against her back, reaching deep into her skin."
 
It brought me back to my teenage years and our swimming hole called "Oscar's pond". I can remember that exact moment in my youth.
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bmbrennan
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Re: The River

The family is cut off from resuming a normal life, they will aways be the family who lost a daughter.  After Kim goes missing most of their family memories are in the past, they are not making any new memories.  The sad fact is that with Kim missing all the Larsens will experience is a bunch of firsts, their first Thanksgiving with the empty chair, their first Christmas without her, their first New Years etc.
 
Initially we are told that Kim is eager to go to school and leave this town behind her and become somebody else, hence the reference to the river and the moving motion.  Ed's life is here, in Kingsville, he isn't going anywhere.

KxBurns wrote:
You guys have hit the nail on the head -- the river is a place of freedom for the teens, a place where they are out from under the watchful eyes of their parents, which is probably sorely needed in this small town. They also seem to head to the beach quite a bit, for similar reasons. But the river, especially, is a powerful symbol since it flows right out of town. And I think we can see in the photos that O'Nan has kindly shared with us just how prominently bodies of water figure in the life of this town.
 
So let's talk about Ed and his fishing (Paula, was it you who brought this up over on the Ed board?) on the lake. Is it significant that Ed's destination is a standing body of water while Kim's is a moving one? Maybe I'm reading too much into it :smileyhappy:
 
I like this little snippet, from Chapter 18 (The Long Weekend) when the family returns home from visiting Ed's mother:
"He imagined the crowd down by the harbor, their faces tipped towards the sky, mouths open in anticipation, each new explosion tinting the surface of the water, and he wished they were there and part of it. Impossible." (p. 161-162)
 
What exactly has the family been cut off from by their tragedy, as exemplified by this imagined scene at the harbor?



bmbrennan
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Everyman
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Re: The River



KxBurns wrote:
So let's talk about Ed and his fishing (Paula, was it you who brought this up over on the Ed board?) on the lake. Is it significant that Ed's destination is a standing body of water while Kim's is a moving one? Maybe I'm reading too much into it :smileyhappy:

I think you are. We had a swimming hole near my house when I was growing up, and my grandmother's farm where we went on vacation each summer was on a large lake. So I've had the experience of both. Swimming in a stream or small river is a whole different experience from swimming in a lake. Much safer, for a start -- you're always within a few strokes of the shore. More intimate. Generally much better protected from cold winds. And much more of a living room feel rather than an amphitheater feel. Swimming holes encourage intimacy and closeness; beaches less so.

At least that was my experience at that age.
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Peppermill
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Re: The River


Everyman wrote:


KxBurns wrote:
So let's talk about Ed and his fishing (Paula, was it you who brought this up over on the Ed board?) on the lake. Is it significant that Ed's destination is a standing body of water while Kim's is a moving one? Maybe I'm reading too much into it :smileyhappy:

I think you are. We had a swimming hole near my house when I was growing up, and my grandmother's farm where we went on vacation each summer was on a large lake. So I've had the experience of both. Swimming in a stream or small river is a whole different experience from swimming in a lake. Much safer, for a start -- you're always within a few strokes of the shore. More intimate. Generally much better protected from cold winds. And much more of a living room feel rather than an amphitheater feel. Swimming holes encourage intimacy and closeness; beaches less so.

At least that was my experience at that age.



Depends very much on the watering hole. I remember a delightful lunch at a spot in Vermont a couple of years ago watching the young guys (and a few girls) diving and swimming in the falls just below us. The sense was much more of the challenge and thrill of the gals diving off the trestle than of a safe, protected swimming hole.
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