01-08-2011 08:00 AM
Very interesting questions.
First, I think the changes in appearance are because of their discontent and the change in appearance is more of a first step in coming into their own.
Since this is a coming of age tale, I don't really think they are changing themselves as much as becoming their own person.
Freedom is the freedom to be what you want to be, not what society expects of you. The characters live in a time where race and financial status were on the forefront of how you were perceived by others. Gloria is definitely fighting for freedom. Lorraine, she's fighting to get out from under Gloria's shadow. Clara, at this point, is being who she has to be to get over her past mistakes and move on with her life. At this point, none of the characters really have freedom.
I have to say I was a little skeptical when I first started reading this book as to how it would be as far as a good/bad read, but I couldn't put the book down. I can't post predictions because I read the whole book, I actually read it before the discussions started.
Note: Sorry about the late post, we've been dealing with many family illnesses this fall/winter.
01-15-2011 08:44 PM
Great questions. Here are my answers:
1. I think a lot of the characters' desire to change has to do with two things. First, human nature. Many of us have the desire or need to explore other personas, believing that it will make us happier or improve our lives in some way--the "grass is always greener" school of thought. Throughout the first part of the book, I found Lorraine to be the most relatable to this philosophy, mostly because she fell between Gloria and Clara in struggling to solve her own problems and the problems of others. She was neither definitively privileged nor harboring dark secrets, yet found herself somehow in the middle. In this middle place, it can be easy for someone like Lorraine to develop a vulnerable self-image and begin to question her role. I attribute her changes, for better or worse, to these circumstances.
Secondly, the book states that the 1920s was a time for fitting in--women were expected to follow social norms, laws, dress codes, and gender roles. And as most of us know, when rules are applied (a.k.a. Prohibition) somehow society finds a way to break them (a.k.a. speakeasys). All three girls reinforce this theory by bobbing their hair, kohling their eyes, and shortening their skirts, all while attending underground bars and jazz clubs into the early hours of the morning.
2. Freedom means the ability to choose one's life path independent of outside influences or opinions. In this book, none of the characters are really free--Bastian is marrying Gloria because of financial reasons, Clara is trapped by her own dark past and the lies she is covering it up with, and Jerome is racially confined by societal laws. Lurking behind the limitations is Prohibition, which forces everyone in this book, even the powerful gangsters, to lead secret lives in the underground speakeasys.