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Rachel-K
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Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

Please use any of the following questions to help dive into our discussion of The Wake of Forgiveness, or post your own thoughts and questions for the group!  

 

What kind of a man is Vaclav? He sees himself as a man who is "bitter and hard" but had been softened only by being close to Klara during their marriage. Are you able to feel any sympathy for his character in the novel so far?

 

Do we see Vaclav and Karel show tenderness, pride, or respect in their relationship to land and horses that they don't seem to expect at all in the human relationships within their family?

 

Is there a relationship between the four brothers?

 

Karel has a dreamed up relationship to his mother. How would you describe his thoughts of her?

 

What effect do the shifts in time between chapters have on your understanding of this family's story?

 

At the end of this first section, Karel expresses some astonishment that Graciela's father would harness fine horses to pull a carriage, but seems to register no irony that his own father has crippled his brothers and himself by making them pull a plow. Do you have any understanding of this? 


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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

 

On another thread, I posted a query, are the men a product of their times or do the times make the men?

 

The lawlessness,cruelty and hardship, that the author described, were palpable and his prose so powerful that it seemed to reach out from the page and suck me into it making me aware of the horrors of the characters lives as if I were actually witnessing what they experienced. I could almost feel the tug of the yoke on the fields, the kicks to the animals, even the labor pains; such was the power of the words on the page that the tension lived inside me too.

 

If you actually live that life, does it therefore suck you into the depravity around you or can you escape it? Most of the characters became as cruel as the cruelest one. It was such a destructive picture of the survival of the fittest since the "fittest' and most successful seemed always to be the one most cruel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rachel-K
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

A lovely way to describe it (as usual)! Who do you find most cruel? Do you find any character so far escaping this inner "hardness" that seems to reflect their environment?

 

 

 


thewanderingjew wrote:

 

On another thread, I posted a query, are the men a product of their times or do the times make the men?

 

The lawlessness,cruelty and hardship, that the author described, were palpable and his prose so powerful that it seemed to reach out from the page and suck me into it making me aware of the horrors of the characters lives as if I were actually witnessing what they experienced. I could almost feel the tug of the yoke on the fields, the kicks to the animals, even the labor pains; such was the power of the words on the page that the tension lived inside me too.

 

If you actually live that life, does it therefore suck you into the depravity around you or can you escape it? Most of the characters became as cruel as the cruelest one. It was such a destructive picture of the survival of the fittest since the "fittest' and most successful seemed always to be the one most cruel.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

 

What kind of a man is Vaclav? He sees himself as a man who is "bitter and hard" but had been softened only by being close to Klara during their marriage. Are you able to feel any sympathy for his character in the novel so far?

 

Is there a relationship between the four brothers?

 

I thought Vaclav was a sadistic, horrible man who used his personal pain to hurt others, rather than attempting to rise above it. When his wife died, love died within him, as well. He had the power to use her memory as a guide with which to raise his children, but instead, he discarded all feelings and emotion and built up a defense mechanism so strong that he could not be hurt but could hurt others, easily and without shame or guilt. He was guided only by his need to win and overpower others who were weaker to prove his strength and show his power. Perhaps he didn't want to be hurt again, or perhaps he wanted to be perceived as impervious to further pain.


The brothers could have banded together and protected each other yet they were loyal and obedient, to their father, learning cruelty from his example, becoming the workhorses of the farm, permanently disfigured by their abuse. Why didn't they defy their father when they saw the torment each was experiencing? If someone is treated like an animal, do they become one in order to survive? Does each abuse the one beneath them because he is weaker? There have been cases in history which show that people will do most anything to survive even if it causes others to suffer needlessly, in order to support their own well being. History has also shown that people on the higher rungs of the ladder, often throw the lower climbers off!


Yet, I wondered, couldn't the brothers have easily outnumbered and overpowered their father, forcing him to stop his cruelty or continue to try and maintain the farm without their help? What makes people so docile in the face of such torment and callousness that they do nothing but inflict their pain on others, in return?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

 

Karel has a dreamed up relationship to his mother. How would you describe his thoughts of her?
Karel is the only son who has never had any relationship with his mother. The other boys may have memories of her warmth and love. He has had no alternative, living with the extreme deprivation and lack of love from his father, but to imagine what his life would have been like with a loving mother.
I think Karel craves a mother's love. He has had little affection from anywhere at all. I felt very sorry for him because the only example he ever witnessed came from a hard, cold, cruel father and brothers who thought it was great fun to torment him. It also must not have been easy to live with the guilt of having caused your mother's death, even though he was really guiltless.
Because he had no other positive examples to follow, I was not surprised that he would be obedient and do cruel things at the suggestion of his father. How could he know it was not the norm? The brothers, however, were older and might have or should have known better. For some reason, in the end, they finally betrayed their demonic father. Why did they use their innocent brother to achieve their freedom and leave him to continue to live a life without mercy? Ultimately, did they learn unshakable cruelty at their father's knee?

 

 

 

 


 

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nfam
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

The characters in this book are not really likeable. Valclav is a sadistic tormentor of his sons. The sons seem to be headed the same way. I found the fight scene between the family very explainable after the way the boys had been treated. 

 

The neighbors also seemed cruel. They enjoyed the fight. It was their way or getting back at the Skala's. Truthfully, everyone seemed bent on revenge of one sort or another, or if not that taking out their incrustation at their poverty on anyone who was slightly better off. 

 

I did find the skipping about in years difficult for the story. I though the author sacrificed a great amount of tension by having us already know what was going to happen. The race was tense and well writter, but we already knew the outcome. 

 

In general, the book is well written. The descriptions bring us into the hardscrabble life of the people. I think the author did a good job with that. 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

 


Rachel-K wrote:

A lovely way to describe it (as usual)! Who do you find most cruel? Do you find any character so far escaping this inner "hardness" that seems to reflect their environment?

 

 Thank you so much for your remarks!  If I had to pick someone who is probably the most cruel, I would choose Villasenor. He is devious and manipulative, as well as cruel. He does not have sons, so he uses henchmen to do his dirtywork so his hands, seemingly, remain clean.

 

At the moment, there is no character I feel I know well enough to determine whether or not they have escaped the effects of their environment, unless we consider the women who often put their families needs above their own and made the necessary sacrifices for their well being and survival, unlike Vaclev. Even some of the women who seemed gentle in some way, somehow seemed bitter and/or stood by without doing anything when they witnessed shameful behavior.

 

I suspect as I read, I will find some with redeeming features, perhaps it will be the widow Vrana who helped with the birth of Sophie's child and who although she was unable to have the child she wanted most, helps bring children into the world for others.

 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

 

What effect do the shifts in time between chapters have on your understanding of this family's story?

At first I found it a bit disturbing because each section raised so many questions for me but then I kind of liked it because it created a kind of tension and need to continue reading to discover the answers I sought.


At the end of this first section, Karel expresses some astonishment that Graciela's father would harness fine horses to pull a carriage, but seems to register no irony that his own father has crippled his brothers and himself by making them pull a plow. Do you have any understanding of this?

I don't think he knows anything else. He accepts that humans should be punished and abused as well as animals and doesn't feel the horses are being worked to their fullest capacity. Abuse is a natural part of his life. He has not seen anything even resembling a loving relationship for an animal or a human, although he must have heard of his father's love for his mother and he must know that maternal love exists because he dreams of it. For his father, all men and animals are like beasts of burden for whom he wields the power. When their purpose is served, he discards them. They don't provide pleasure; animal and human alike provide a service.

 

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maxcat
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

[ Edited ]

I have no love of the character of Vaclav. After his wife's death upon giving birth to Karel, he absolutely lost all feeling for love of his sons. He became a very cruel and bitter man and I have to wonder if the original 3 boys noticed any difference. To make his boys into plow animals to save his horses for races is just beyond thinking. I tend to think the boys didn't interact much, they  did the daily chores and watched Karel when he was young. This is a story of survival as you can see a farmer depends on the weather for his crops and money for the results.

There is no relationship between Vaclav and Karel. I think some of the scenes can tell you that. The fight scene after the horse race between Karel and Graciela. The castrating of an old horse that will never be a stud again. All of these are sadistic and cruel and hard to read.

Karel wishes he knew his mother...he never touched her and he has never known her love. He fantasizes that she is there and he is in her arms. He definitely needs a woman's touch as he grew up.

The shifting in time is a bit confusing as you read one part and Karel is sort of grown up and the next part, he's a child again. It seems confusing to me but well written otherwise.

Karel does mention about the fine horses that drove the carriage but doesn't relate them to what his own father has done to the boys by making them pull a plow. Remember, Vaclav is a cruel character and saves his horses for races or studs. He would rather have the boys pull the plow at the expense or the curvature in their necks and spines.

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

What kind of a man is Vaclav? He sees himself as a man who is "bitter and hard" but had been softened only by being close to Klara during their marriage. Are you able to feel any sympathy for his character in the novel so far?

 

On page 5, I could not but love the passage:  The Townsfolk would assume, from this day forward, that Klara's death had turned a gentle man bitter and hard, but the truth, Valclav knew, was theat her absence only rendered him, again, the man he'd been before he'd met her, one only her proximity had ever softened. 

 

I highlighted that passge and I think that you really picked a great question to ask.  I think that when you struggle so much and lose things that are dear, you lose your anchor...it is easy to not feel like you own anyone anything.  Valclav had a life he owed to the earth and the land and the earth and land is hard to control, but people in his mind were easy to control. 

 

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)


maxcat wrote:

I have no love of the character of Vaclav. After his wife's death upon giving birth to Karel, he absolutely lost all feeling for love of his sons. He became a very cruel and bitter man and I have to wonder if the original 3 boys noticed any difference. To make his boys into plow animals to save his horses for races is just beyond thinking. I tend to think the boys didn't interact much, they  did the daily chores and watched Karel when he was young. This is a story of survival as you can see a farmer depends on the weather for his crops and money for the results.

There is no relationship between Vaclav and Karel. I think some of the scenes can tell you that. The fight scene after the horse race between Karel and Graciela. The castrating of an old horse that will never be a stud again. All of these are sadistic and cruel and hard to read.

Karel wishes he knew his mother...he never touched her and he has never known her love. He fantasizes that she is there and he is in her arms. He definitely needs a woman's touch as he grew up.

The shifting in time is a bit confusing as you read one part and Karel is sort of grown up and the next part, he's a child again. It seems confusing to me but well written otherwise.

Karel does mention about the fine horses that drove the carriage but doesn't relate them to what his own father has done to the boys by making them pull a plow. Remember, Vaclav is a cruel character and saves his horses for races or studs. He would rather have the boys pull the plow at the expense or the curvature in their necks and spines.


But Karel has a moment on page 20: The truth, Karel knew, though he could not have yet put it into words, was thatthe horse wanted the whip, wanted it teh same way karel wanted his pop's strap, the stinging and the unambiguousurgency of its attention, and, for Karel, the closest he got to his father's touch...

 

How does that relate to your feelings about Vaclav?  That is considered a tender moment of reflection?

 

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mommybooknerd
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)


mommybooknerd wrote:

maxcat wrote:

I have no love of the character of Vaclav. After his wife's death upon giving birth to Karel, he absolutely lost all feeling for love of his sons. He became a very cruel and bitter man and I have to wonder if the original 3 boys noticed any difference. To make his boys into plow animals to save his horses for races is just beyond thinking. I tend to think the boys didn't interact much, they  did the daily chores and watched Karel when he was young. This is a story of survival as you can see a farmer depends on the weather for his crops and money for the results.

There is no relationship between Vaclav and Karel. I think some of the scenes can tell you that. The fight scene after the horse race between Karel and Graciela. The castrating of an old horse that will never be a stud again. All of these are sadistic and cruel and hard to read.

Karel wishes he knew his mother...he never touched her and he has never known her love. He fantasizes that she is there and he is in her arms. He definitely needs a woman's touch as he grew up.

The shifting in time is a bit confusing as you read one part and Karel is sort of grown up and the next part, he's a child again. It seems confusing to me but well written otherwise.

Karel does mention about the fine horses that drove the carriage but doesn't relate them to what his own father has done to the boys by making them pull a plow. Remember, Vaclav is a cruel character and saves his horses for races or studs. He would rather have the boys pull the plow at the expense or the curvature in their necks and spines.


But Karel has a moment on page 20: The truth, Karel knew, though he could not have yet put it into words, was thatthe horse wanted the whip, wanted it teh same way karel wanted his pop's strap, the stinging and the unambiguousurgency of its attention, and, for Karel, the closest he got to his father's touch...

 

How does that relate to your feelings about Vaclav?  That is considered a tender moment of reflection?

 


Sorry for the spelling errors...my mind was working faster than my hands...oops :smileyhappy:

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mommybooknerd
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

Pg 127..."My father says that if we look for ourselves in others, we're likely to find someone we don't recognize"

 

What do we think about that quote considering the context???

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

What kind of a man is Vaclav? He sees himself as a man who is "bitter and hard" but had been softened only by being close to Klara during their marriage. Are you able to feel any sympathy for his character in the novel so far?

 

Yes, Vaclav is a bitter and hard man, but I do feel some compassion for him.  He lost his wife (it said she was one of the only people he had ever cared for) during the birth of their son.  He obviously closed himself off from other people after that.  Work and acquisition of property seemed the only important thing to him.  And he was also a product of his time - when people had children to help run their farms.   He may have been doing what many other landowners were doing.

 

Is there a relationship between the four brothers?

 

From what I've read so far, there seems to be little relationship between the brothers.  But I imagine there is a lot of underlying jealosy and animosity for a variety of reasons.

 

What effect do the shifts in time between chapters have on your understanding of this family's story?

 

When I read a book that shifts time, I deal with it but I don't always like it.  I have to honestly say that the first chapter intrigued me, with the loss of Vaclav's wife and his feelings for her, and I was anxious to keep reading, and then when it skipped ahead, I was very disappointed.  It's hard for me to wait!

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)


nfam wrote:

The characters in this book are not really likeable. Valclav is a sadistic tormentor of his sons. The sons seem to be headed the same way. I found the fight scene between the family very explainable after the way the boys had been treated. 

 

The neighbors also seemed cruel. They enjoyed the fight. It was their way or getting back at the Skala's. Truthfully, everyone seemed bent on revenge of one sort or another, or if not that taking out their incrustation at their poverty on anyone who was slightly better off. 

 

I did find the skipping about in years difficult for the story. I though the author sacrificed a great amount of tension by having us already know what was going to happen. The race was tense and well writter, but we already knew the outcome. 

 

In general, the book is well written. The descriptions bring us into the hardscrabble life of the people. I think the author did a good job with that. 


I would have to disagree with you on the point that the skipping about in years difficult for the story. I though the author did a great job allowing us to see how they got to that point and that is what important to the story to tell it that way.  It is important to see how they ended up there by looking back, because are we not always looking back? 

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

Sympathy for Vaclav?  I don't think so.  He did not just turn bitter after his wife died.  This was his personality all the time.   There just was not a mother to blunt the actions for her children anymore.


Relationship between the brothers?  Not much of one.  The three older brothers seem to be separated from Karel.  Karel seems to be the different one.  Maybe the borthers als blame him for the loss of their mother.  They certainly didn't care about Karel when they saw a way to get out from under Vaclav's torture.  It was every man for himself.  That seems to be the whole environmant of the story.

 

Karel dreams of his mother, because he has nothing else.  He doesn't have memories, and he fells responsible for her death.

 

Chapter time shifts -   This is a little difficult.  I understand the use of flash backs, but as I scan forward, I see that the story continues to shift between 1910 and 1924.  I continue to go back and check to see where the story is as I am reading.

 

MG

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

 

I have not read anything so far that would cause me to be sympathetic toward Vaclav. He may have been softened by his marriage to Klara, but at his core he seems to be a man void of emotion. Opportunity and gain seem to be what drives him, regardless of what it costs others. This definitely is evidenced in the way horses and land are held in higher regard than his own sons. So far, I see something different in Karel. The depth of his appreciation for the beauty of both horse and rider during the race, as well as his imagining of his mother make me feel that he has some kind of emotion that isn't in his father.
I think that the time shifts in the chapters add interest, although, I did find myself going back and rereading the dates at the beginning of some.

~Nicole

 

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

Since I've read the whole book, I'll try to formulate my discussion in such a way that I avoid "spoilers".  :smileyhappy:

 

The time shifts were a little disconcerting to me.  I think Machart wrote them that way because each discrete time shift underscores or complements the one before it.  But as I'm more of a linear thinker, I often found myself turning back to the chapter page to remind myself whether it was 1910 or 1924, and then having to convert that year into historical context (OK, so how old was Karel then?  What had and hadn't happened in "real time" by then).  It did keep me from really immersing myself in the story as I went along.

 

Vaclav was really an unsympathetic character to me.  But it's his cruelty and domination of the brothers that creates the fulcrum from which the four brothers' story unfolds.  Like any family, alliances and foes are drawn around these dynamic family members.  I was interested to see who was able to overcome his abusive childhood and who succumbed.  As the main character, I assumed (hoped) that Karel would be one of the former.  But Machart is a canny enough writer to keep his character realistic and Karel's choices weren't always predictable.  And the brothers did not always seem to have an antagonistic relationship with their father, no matter how harsh he was; as children will, they sought his approval and hungered for the few crumbs of decency he extended them.

 

You didn't ask this question, but as a former English literature major in college, I HAVE to mention the absolutely beautiful prose in this book.  What a treat to the ear and mind it was.  Lines like: "These were the communal truths, the recollections the landowners and townsmen shared the way they kept in common a constant worry over rainfall and boll weevils and cotton futures."  or "...on the rare day that Vaclav Skala would gather his boys behind the barn...the very earth would cease, in the boys' minds, its slow, secretive turning, and they'd stand eager and mute, dumbstruck by the anticipation of their father's words."  Wow!  So evocative and so elegant!

 

--Darcy

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

What effect do the shifts in time between chapters have on your understanding of this family's story?

 

After some more thought I realized that the timeline actually confused me at one point and I had to go back and reread to place the characters in the proper time frame.

Finally I figured out that the Knedlich woman was Karel's wet nurse. The birth of her twins had nothing to do with the birth of  Sophie's and Karel's son and occurred years earlier.
Father Carew watches the horse race between Graciella and Karel instead of baptizing the Knedlich twins. Those twins turn out to be the boys Karel hires when his own son is born to Sophie, years later.

If anyone else had the same problem, I hope this clarifies it for you too and if I have made any errors in the interpretation, please clarify it for me! Thanks.


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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Early Chapters until "Meander Scars," (p.132)

What kind of a man is Vaclav? He sees himself as a man who is "bitter and hard" but had been softened only by being close to Klara during their marriage. Are you able to feel any sympathy for his character in the novel so far? I see a man who has probably always been broken. The death of his wife was just the final straw. Truthfully I don't feel any sympathy towards him. Not at this point.

 

Do we see Vaclav and Karel show tenderness, pride, or respect in their relationship to land and horses that they don't seem to expect at all in the human relationships within their family?  I do believe they have a greater respect for the land and animals, well Karel does. I really have a strong dislike for Vaclav.