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KxBurns
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Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

[ Edited ]

Right off the bat, I will admit that while the story of the monster caterpillar was riveting, I also thought it was pretty horrific. Are we intended to see the caterpillar’s being eaten alive from the inside out by maggots as a metaphor for something?

 

Once again, we see Ginny as a passive participant in her own life, with her career being chosen for her by Maud: “From that day on everyone seemed to know that that’s what I was going to do. Maud, having said it, had cast the future in stone” (p. 51). Curiously, Ginny is aware of her own passivity, but views it in a more positive light; she thinks her fate unfolded as it was meant to, and she simply did not need to make any decisions (see the last paragraph on page 53). What do you make of this interpretation?

 

I thought the whole issue of Vivi’s expulsion was really unclear and it left me thinking that Ginny is not privy to the truth of the situation.

 

Finally, I really enjoyed that we learn more about Clive and his professional endeavors in this chapter. I found it significant that Clive is most interested in studying nature’s imperfections and that, to do so, he “concentrated on breeding the perfect freak” (p. 55). Do you think Clive’s obsession with making a scientific discovery of his own blinds him to the cruelty of his methods? Or do you agree that the moth’s lack of individuality and awareness (which lead to an absence of conscious choice…) make it the perfect specimen for such studies?

 

Karen



Message Edited by KxBurns on 03-03-2008 07:51 PM
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Charlottesweb1
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

I think Clive's study of the imperfections in the moth world helps him to understand the imperfections going on with his own family.
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carriele
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

The story about the caterpillar was really difficult for me to get through.  It's interesting to me that the doctor and Maud are so bothered by Ginny's lack of emotion all the time.  Clive seems to view much of life in a scientific manner with little emotion.  Perhaps it's not all that surprising that Ginny behaves this way as well? 
 
Carrie E. 
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tapestry100
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

I have to agree with the idea that there was more the expulsion than Ginny knows. I still think that since we are only seeing these things from Ginny's point of view right now, we are getting a self-edited version of her own life. She clearly sees things differently than how they really are. The line about her knowing that the town knows of her fame because she is called "The Moth Woman" to me shows that she only takes in what she wants to take in; that what can be thought of as an insult or derogatory description, in her mind she turns it into a glowing compliment.
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GMorrison
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

I'm very intrigued by Ginny's positive evaluation of her own passivity on page 52 versus her patronizing (if not outright negative) evaluation of the passivity of moths which directly follows on pgs. 54-5. Ginny has "never resisted anything that life's thrown at [her] or even thought to steer it in a particular direction," and credits this as the key to her success. Yet "a moth will direct itself towards [a] scent, evin if...in doing so it goes headlong into a wall and kills itself." These two behaviors don't strike me as qualitatively different; I wonder if Ginny isn't as helplessly dependent on her situation as moths are on theirs.
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vivico1
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup


KxBurns wrote:

Finally, I really enjoyed that we learn more about Clive and his professional endeavors in this chapter. I found it significant that Clive is most interested in studying nature’s imperfections and that, to do so, he “concentrated on breeding the perfect freak” (p. 55). Do you think Clive’s obsession with making a scientific discovery of his own blinds him to the cruelty of his methods? Or do you agree that the moth’s lack of individuality and awareness (which lead to an absence of conscious choice…) make it the perfect specimen for such studies?



Karen



Message Edited by KxBurns on 03-03-2008 07:51 PM


Karen, when you put in parenthesis, that line - he “concentrated on breeding the perfect freak”-, I didn't think about it this way when I read it, but reading that alone gave me the sick feeling of, is that a metaphor for what he has breed in his own family, in Ginny. I would hope thats a push of description, cause I dont want to think of her or anyone that way, no matter their problems but it stood out here. I think how he can do things in his scientific field like he does here, emotionless, almost as robotish as he sees the moths, is what we are seeing in Ginny and how she handles life. That could get scary. That could be scary already if they are having her checked by a doctor for proper emotions and things. Maybe its not the moth's lives so much that compare to the girls, as much as what we are starting to see here, as to why the talk about them, and thats more about how clive approaches them, the study of them. His, methodology may be Ginny's way of life.

Also, I don't know if a moth makes choices based on anything but biological urges, I doubt it. To go beyond that, almost to me implies a soul. Aside from that, I had a college psych professor once, who said he would never do research, he said, do you know why we do so much to rats, put them through so much? Someone said, because of the physioligical similarities in reactions. He said WRONG, its because a rat can't scream OH GOD HELP ME, STOP! That totally gave me the shivers.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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JAZ
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

The section on the monster caterpillar is something that will always stick in my mind.  I even caught myself wanting to karate chop a fly when it buzzed by me this weekend.  I don't want anything laying their maggoty eggs in me!  I thought it was interesting how the event had entranced Ginny and sealed the deal for her following in her father's footsteps.  It also shows unemotional Ginny is.
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

[ Edited ]
I felt the same way about the catapillar- how could one watch the destruction from within by maggots and not show a reaction . Ginny seemed stiff and not in touch with her emotions. I wonder if this part of the book, doesn't have more of a meaning- as it relates to the dysfunctional family. And why would a father encourage a young child to watch a horrific thing like that.


Message Edited by bichonlover1 on 03-03-2008 07:53 PM
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Everyman
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

Are we intended to see the caterpillar’s being eaten alive from the inside out by maggots as a metaphor for something?

If we aren't, it seems a weird thing to put into a novel. I think it has to have some major significance.

Somebody earlier mentioned Vivian as butterfly and Ginny as moth, and I think that's got some real sense to it. Are they still in the caterpillar stage, will they be entering the pupae soup together over the next few days, and emerging as newly formed people ready to fly off into the skies of a new life? Or did that happen to them in the past, and will the way it happened be revealed to us over the course of the book?

One speculation I have is that Ginny will see herself as the infested pupae being eaten alive by other forces we haven't come across yet. Maybe those are the counterparts of the mental illness, which many of us agree she has though we don't agree on a diagnosis yet, which it seems has been destroying her mind as the maggots destroyed the caterpillar?

This chapter has to fit into the story in some way, but I don't yet see just how.
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

It seems as if the calling found Ginny (the next generation of lepidopterists), than Ginny found her calling to be a lepidopterist.  It's as if Clive's passion transferred itself to Ginny as a human torch of interest in the science.  Clive says that "(she'd) make a great lepidopterist.  It's in (her) veins..Nobody can take that away from (her)."  Then we see Ginny realizing the passion on her own and admitting,  "It turned out he was right."  She even takes hers and Vivi's expulsion from Lady Mary's in stride as "(she'd) become (her) father's apprentice".  She gets further confirmation from Miss Randal when she tells her that her and Vivi had "come as a package...so (they'd) have to go as one".   I agree that the first-person narrative is allowing for the real story or an explanation of the real story to be lost to the storytelling.  (It would have been interesting to know the full reason(s) for the sister's expulsion as just "stealing" some bananas seems a little weak as a reason.)
 
I am not sure if the story of the Privet Hawk moth caterpillar was meant to be a metaphor or just a means of discovery.  I, too, was in awe of the occurrence, and consequently in revulsion of what happened.  I certainly didn't acquire an interest in studying lepidoptery from this story, but I did find their studies of the moths very interesting/engaging afterward...and that sometimes the smallest things can have a very large effect on the whole.
 
But then, we also gain some insight on page 52 when Ginny divulges that "I haven't made many active choices in (her) life, I'm not that sort of a person--and I've never resisted anything that life's thrown at me or even thought to steer it in a particular direction."  She continues on to say of her choice in careers, "I'm one of the lucky ones who are carried along and life falls into place by itself.  It was as if my eventual success was printed at the beginning of time in the universe's voluminous manuscript, a very small part of the wider big-bang/collapsing star theory.  I was always going to be famous, even if I'd tried to resist it."  I guess that is to say that it was written in the stars or that she was a natural for the study of lepidoptery.  Better her than me as all bugs skeeve me out.
 
We finally get a better view of Clive and his passion (that he transferrs to Ginny).  We find out that "(he) wasnted to find out how nature worked."  He enjoyed "(finding) out more about the machine when the machine goes wrong..."  I found it interesting that they were trying to crack the genetic code, of sorts, for moths and find a way to "build" their own.  It seems the passion was shared by Clive and Ginny, but does the shared passion bring anything into fruition?  Clive is convinced that "it wouldn't be long before (they'd) be able to predict all their equations of cause and effect, then perhaps even map out each and every cell and configure them in their entirety as robots, in terms of molecules, chemicals, and electrical signals."  Do they achieve this pursuit?  I find myself reading on to find out...
 
In this time period, I believe Ginny is a teenager, about 17 or so, doesn't she also want to date or meet new people, or was this just something Vivi did?  Is she ever interested in anyone of the opposite sex?  We cannot tell from what is said.  I wonder if each sister was brought up in a different pattern according to each of their personalities and nuances.  But why not at least do what little may have been possible to make Ginny less socially awkward and Vivi more interested in what her father did for a living so that at least she, along with Maud, could understand the reason behind the passion?  I know I was painfully shy growing up, buy my father at least tried to get me to be more social and interested in things outside "my little world".  Why didn't Clive and Maud try to do something like this as their parents?
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

Everyman wrote:
Are we intended to see the caterpillar’s being eaten alive from the inside out by maggots as a metaphor for something?


I think yes.  But I belive that Ginny is the maggot in this case and she devours the caterpiller (the family).   However, in the matter of fact like way as her father looks at the maggots as part of life, Ginny is just that a part of life and she has no clue of the world around her only the isolated and protected life her family has arranged for her.

1.Her mother and father's marriage is different after she is born.

2. Viv falls and cannot have children it is a mystery if Ginny was a cause.  And Viv cannot have children so family line dies as we are not aware that Ginny had any children.  And based on perception is not of the mind or social scale to marry.

3. Her mother is unemotional towards Ginny, treats her like a distant relative rather than daughter.  Someone to be dealt with, not enjoyed.

4. Her father works on his research and is hardly involved with family. 

5. Viv can't wait to leave the house - 

just some food for thought.  (no pun of course)

 

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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

Something I found curious about the school expulsion, on page 52,Ginny said Maud accused Miss Randal of trying to find any excuse to get rid of them. She said the school was prejudice. Prejudice?? about what? what an odd choice of words, or deliberate. Just very interesting term to use.
Vivian
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renhair
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

I wondered the same thing....it seemed rather out of place in the story (and to be honest, while I was riveted, I was also revolted).  I'm not sure how it relates, but it seems like it will come back around later in the book.

KxBurns wrote:

Right off the bat, I will admit that while the story of the monster caterpillar was riveting, I also thought it was pretty horrific. Are we intended to see the caterpillar’s being eaten alive from the inside out by maggots as a metaphor for something?

 



Message Edited by KxBurns on 03-03-2008 07:51 PM


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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

AnnieS wrote;

3. Her mother is unemotional towards Ginny, treats her like a distant relative rather than daughter.  Someone to be dealt with, not enjoyed.

I have to disagree with you on that. I don't think that Maude was unemotional towards Ginny. If anything she was far to overprotective of her. I think she felt a terrible guilt about her and tried to overcompensate. As Ginny has stated her parents were always telling her how smart she was how beautiful she was and yet she never heard them say those things to Vivi. Maude felt she had to either protect her daughter Ginny from the world or possibly protect the world from Ginny.

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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup


KxBurns wrote:


Once again, we see Ginny as a passive participant in her own life, with her career being chosen for her by Maud: “From that day on everyone seemed to know that that’s what I was going to do. Maud, having said it, had cast the future in stone” (p. 51). Curiously, Ginny is aware of her own passivity, but views it in a more positive light; she thinks her fate unfolded as it was meant to, and she simply did not need to make any decisions (see the last paragraph on page 53). What do you make of this interpretation?



Finally, I really enjoyed that we learn more about Clive and his professional endeavors in this chapter. I found it significant that Clive is most interested in studying nature’s imperfections and that, to do so, he “concentrated on breeding the perfect freak” (p. 55). Do you think Clive’s obsession with making a scientific discovery of his own blinds him to the cruelty of his methods? Or do you agree that the moth’s lack of individuality and awareness (which lead to an absence of conscious choice…) make it the perfect specimen for such studies?



Karen



Message Edited by KxBurns on 03-03-2008 07:51 PM




I think that Ginny realizes that making a decision involves as much, if not more, emotion than logic; and that Ginny is just not suited to taking the task on. She is please to have Maud fill that gap for her.

As for Clive's methods, I think that Clive's view of nature is colored by his evolutionary world view. In his mind it is decision to place the value on the lives of the creatures that he studies since there is no higher accountability.
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Peppermill
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Re: Chapter 5: Moths -- p. 54

Hopefully we will soon have a thread for links, but in the meantime, I am going to post these here for any of you that are as curious as I was about the appearance of the various types of moths named on page 54. I think of moths as those grayish, brownish winged creatures that lay eggs in my woolens that then eat them as those eggs "hatch." Some of these approach butterflies in beauty.

Six Spot Burnet
http://ukmoths.org.uk/keywordsearch.php?keyword1=six+spot+burnet

Lobster Moth
http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=284

Thumbnails for Oak Eggar
http://ukmoths.org.uk/search.php?entry=oak%20eggar&thumbnail=true

Also, three of the thumbnails in closeups (adult moths):
http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=250
http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=975
http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3077

Thumbnails of Convolvulus hawk
http://tinyurl.com/ywphaz

Thumbnails of Lime hawk
http://tinyurl.com/yrh97a

Clicking on the thumbnails produces larger images.

Note that all of these are UK moths. While some may exist in the US, where I started searching, those I looked for did not. I don't know the migratory patterns or dispersion of these animals.

Incidentally, so far I am unimpressed with the science as presented. The algebraic expression/equation on p. 54 seems worse than useless -- there is absolutely no discussion of the meanings assigned to the variables (beyond being constituents of the moth). I am going to need further discussion before some of the descriptions become plausible -- I haven't been able to verify them with short, limited web searches.
"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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nmccarthy
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

I have a different take on Ginny after reading the first five chapters. I think she's a bit eccentric now, but quite content and centered in her life. Here's my theory: Ginny was born an introvert; an analytical one at that, similar to her father's personality. Maud and Vivian are both extroverts and comfortable expressing their emotions. Ginny definitely has feelings; she talks about them throughout the first five chapters. When she thought her sister died in the bell tower, she "felt my own future reduced to a dead and eventless vacuum, a mere biological process." Ginny just doesn't display her emotions; she's not the type of person you'll find screaming and yelling at a football game.
 
As 75% of the human population are extroverts, it would be easy to see how some introvert personalities may be considered abnormal, especially 60 years ago. My hunch is that Maud saw Ginny from birth as abnormal and treated her as such because she was so different than Maud; she didn't understand Ginny. To her detriment, Clive was too involved in his work to show an interest in Ginny at an early age. Ginny needed him to reassure her that she was okay and to allay Maud's and the Doctor's concerns. If there is anything wrong with Ginny, which may prove out in later chapters, then I can't help but feel it's due in large part to her parent's treatment. Again, we only have her perceptions as narrator to go on at this point.
 
Karen, with regards to your quote about why Clive "concentrated on breeding the perfect freak", and the quote "While most lepidopterists concentrated on breeding the perfect insect..." (also found in the same paragraph on pg. 55), I think Clive was looking for the "different", the "introvert", the "abnormal", a speciman much like himself. 
 
Someone suggested that Ginny represented the moth and Vivan the butterfly; that makes sense to me - at least through chapter five.
 
KxBurns wrote:


Finally, I really enjoyed that we learn more about Clive and his professional endeavors in this chapter. I found it significant that Clive is most interested in studying nature’s imperfections and that, to do so, he “concentrated on breeding the perfect freak” (p. 55). Do you think Clive’s obsession with making a scientific discovery of his own blinds him to the cruelty of his methods? Or do you agree that the moth’s lack of individuality and awareness (which lead to an absence of conscious choice…) make it the perfect specimen for such studies?



Karen



Message Edited by KxBurns on 03-03-2008 07:51 PM





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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

"Vivi was supposed to be the one to make something of the life she nearly lost when she was eight, not me. I just fell into it, and now my name will be heard for many years to come, whispered through the corridors of one eminent institution or other, citing my papers or my expertise..."

Delusions of grandeur??
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup



KxBurns wrote:

 

I thought the whole issue of Vivi’s expulsion was really unclear and it left me thinking that Ginny is not privy to the truth of the situation.

 

 

Karen



What I can't help wondering about was why they were a package deal, both when they were brought into the school and with the expulsion.  I wasn't sure if Ginny really did something and her sister took the heat for it,  maybe Ginny doesn't remember or that Ginny's problems are bigger than we know and that's why it was a package deal.
 
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kmensing
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Re: Chapter 5: The Monster, the Thief and Pupal Soup

[ Edited ]
I loved the whole moth theme.  But Maud "having said it, had cast the future into stone"...it seemed to me that Ginny took and interest to her fathers profession on her own --- "that momentous event at six years old thrilled and disgusted me so much that I have been fasinate by these creatures ever since"....so why the bitter tone towards Maud speaking it out loud?
 
Vivi being expelled for eating a banana---there has to be more to the story than that.
 
We also learn that Ginny must have made an impressive reputation for herself, as she is labeled The Moth Woman.  So has she been resigned to her house ever since Vivi left, or not until later in life???
 
I'm wondering what part Clives trying to create the perfect inperfection will play in the rest of the story.  And has he always had an interest in inperfections---or was Ginny his insperation?
 
And in the end, Clive's obsession in Pupal Soup......well let's just say it'll be quite some time before I eat any soup at all.....hehehe!


Message Edited by kmensing on 03-04-2008 08:17 AM
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