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Fozzie
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Historical Information

Here is a thread to capture information on the historical facts mentioned in the book.
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Milton

I found it surprising to learn that Cain enjoys reading Milton's poetry. Here is a Wikipedia article on Milton:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Milton

I am wondering if the choice of Milton as the poet Cain reads is significant. This is not really a question yet, but it is something I will be trying to figure out as I read.
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Superstitions

I chuckled while reading the superstitions listed by Little Strofe on page 29. Are the ones listed from a particular ethnic group or region of the country during the time of the novel? Or maybe they are the product of your imagination, Michael.
Laura

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vivico1
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Re: Milton


Fozzie wrote:
I found it surprising to learn that Cain enjoys reading Milton's poetry. Here is a Wikipedia article on Milton:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Milton

I am wondering if the choice of Milton as the poet Cain reads is significant. This is not really a question yet, but it is something I will be trying to figure out as I read.


Laura, I think asking Michael about using Milton as the choice of Cain's reading would be an excellent question. I would love to know the answer too! :smileywink: I am thinking the choice of Milton for Cain to read in this story about slavery, freedom, evil and one's right to chose, is echoed in, or is an echo of, Milton's story, Paradise Lost, a story of the fallen angel, good versus evil, choices and rights to chose. All the elements are there for this story and Paradise Lost. Do we have the right to play God with others lives.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Fozzie
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Re: Milton


vivico1 wrote:

I am thinking the choice of Milton for Cain to read in this story about slavery, freedom, evil and one's right to chose, is echoed in, or is an echo of, Milton's story, Paradise Lost, a story of the fallen angel, good versus evil, choices and rights to chose. All the elements are there for this story and Paradise Lost. Do we have the right to play God with others lives.



Vivian, you may have just answered this! I didn't know the story of Paradise Lost. I have heard of it and was going to look it up. Seems to fit perfectly!
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Paradise Lost Plot

Here is a plot synopsis of Paradise Lost:

http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/paradiselost/summary.html

I do remember reading about it previously now that my memory has been refreshed.

Hmmm...

I can't help but think of the part near where I stopped reading:

"[Cain] felt a silken movement in his chest and then a sudden emptiness, as if his soul had been yanked out of him by the snake and carried off." (pg.50)
Laura

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MichaelCWhite
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Re: Milton

What a wonderful subject, i.e., about Milton and its relevance to Cain's story. First of all, I loved Milton and consider his Paradise Lost an undervalued gem. And as Vivian notes, PL is a story about the nature of evil, the nature of our choice, of free will, and of making moral choices. Cain is actually confronted by this need to choose wisely several times in the novel. I think Cain sees himself in Satan, a once-glorious heroic figure who, by making the wrong moral choices, has fallen from grace. Yes, Milton and Cain's reading of PL, is extremely important, I think, in understanding Cain.

Michael White


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Re: Paradise Lost Plot

Laura,

That passage about the snake brings in both the snake in Paradise Lost, but also the fact that his soul has been stolen, by his being a slave catcher (soul catcher) and by his not wanting to intervene in helping the boy who is being tortured by Preacher.

A wonderful observation.

Michael


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Re: Superstitions

They are fairly general in nature. However, I did live in the western mountains of North Carolina (where my third novel, A DREAM OF WOLVES is set), and I read up on many of the regions superstitions, including, often, about crows, etc.

Michael


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Fozzie
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Re: The Fugitive Slave Act

Here are the higlights of what the act says:

http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/D/1826-1850/slavery/act.htm

Here is a Wikipedia article with some background and effects:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Law_of_1850
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: John Brown

There is lots of information available about John Brown, but this short summary is a nice overview and mentions him being in North Elba, New York. Maybe I will feel the need to go further into depth on him once I read more about his involvement in the story.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1550.html
Laura

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Re: John Brown

I've always been fascinated by John Brown. Was he a nut-case? Or was he a man committed to a moral path? One of the first trips I made in researching Brown (and the freed slave community of Timbuctu)was to travel to his homestead in North Elba (Lake Placid, NY). I'd read about him but I wanted to see where he lived and worked, where he had family. I went to his homestead and wandered about on foot, on a rainy winter day--much like in the novel. After reading lots about him, I came to view Brown as someone who, for all his faults and psychological problems, as the most moral man of his age, someone who thought slavery was a terrible evil and resolved, if necessary, to die to end it.

Michael


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Stephanie
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Re: John Brown

Michael,

I've always thought of John Brown as a fanatic- not necessarily a "nut-case" although, now that you mention it...

But, with Soul Catcher, you've instilled a desire to learn more. I've been reading up on him, and trying to put myself in his place - see things the way he did, in his times. It's an interesting exercise.

No conclusions yet.
Stephanie
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IBIS
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Re: John Brown

I too have become interested in finding out more about John Brown. I remember attending college lectures where he was dismissed as a fanatic. Although he could be loving, compassionate and tender-hearted, he also showed signs of mental abnormality.

Of course, at a time when many Americans accepted slavery as an inevitable part of the social order, some mental abnormality may have been necessary to recognize slavery's evil.

In an earlier post, Michael White describes John Brown ...."who, for all his faults and psychological problems, as the most moral man of his age, someone who thought slavery was a terrible evil and resolved, if necessary, to die to end it."

SOUL CATCHER presented a very sympathetic view of Brown. After catching up with them, Brown believed Cain's promise to help Rosetta escape, and allowed Cain and Rosetta to leave unharmed.

Some current history question Brown's methods. Was he a bloodthirsty zealot, a vigilante, or a terrorist? Or was he a great American hero, a freedom fighter and martyr to the cause of human libery? Was his resorting to violence any different from, for example, John Salvi, who in the mid-1990s, murdered abortion-clinic workers in God's name?

I can't help but wonder, since September 11, 2001, if we shouldn't be more careful about finding some deeper good in terrorist politics of any kind. Does the scale of the slaughter by Osama bin laden make his terrorist acts different in kind from John Bronw's? It leads me to wonder what Brown might have done if he had jet airplanes at his disposal.
IBIS

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vivico1
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Re: John Brown


MichaelCWhite wrote:
I've always been fascinated by John Brown. Was he a nut-case? Or was he a man committed to a moral path? One of the first trips I made in researching Brown (and the freed slave community of Timbuctu)was to travel to his homestead in North Elba (Lake Placid, NY). I'd read about him but I wanted to see where he lived and worked, where he had family. I went to his homestead and wandered about on foot, on a rainy winter day--much like in the novel. After reading lots about him, I came to view Brown as someone who, for all his faults and psychological problems, as the most moral man of his age, someone who thought slavery was a terrible evil and resolved, if necessary, to die to end it.

Michael


Interesting thoughts Michael. What little I have read about John Brown makes me have mixed feelings about the man. I think it goes to the statement you made that John Brown was "the most moral man of his age, someone who thought slavery was a terrible evil and resolved, if necessary, to die to end it." Here lies my problem. He may have been willing to die to end it, but he was too eager to "kill" anyone to end it, be it those who got in his way, those who had slaves, or even by sending those men with him to do the same. If being "moral" applies to both a person's character AND behavior, I don't think I can put him in "the most moral man" category. Gandhi, now HE was the most moral man of his time I think. He was fighting for a nation, but while willing to die for it, he was not willing to become what he was fighting and thus become a killer for it.

I think maybe John Brown had moral ideas but did not use moral means to try to accomplish them. His willingness to kill whomever he deemed necessary or "deserving of killing" is where his moral ideals crossed the line into immoral actions and he became the "fanatic" he was often viewed as, or as some said, the terrorist.
Vivian
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Fozzie
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Re: Misc. Historical Information in Second Half of Part One

There are quite a few interesting tidbits of historical information sprinkled throughout the text in the second half of Part One.

“Northerners who resided above the Mason-Dixon line but who secretly owned slaves in the South and didn’t want anyone to know about it back home.” (pg. 82)

I never thought about Northerners owning slaves, just like I never thought about black people owning slaves until I read The Known World.

Flyblows – “It was when a slave was flogged so hard that the flesh on his back started to rot and draw flies.” (pg. 91)

A horrible thing to imagine!

“When they reached the Vermont side, they headed southeast along a toll road. At the first tollhouse, they had to pay a bald, sleepy-eyed man five cents for each man to pass and two more for each horse, mule, and dog. There was no charge for the Negro.” (pg. 108)

Who knew!? Toll roads back then?

“There was the harsh treatment of the Irish in the ranks, who were ridiculed for their accent and their Catholic religion, so much so that one group finally defected to the Mexican side and became known as the San Patricios brigade --- after St. Patrick --- only to be hanged after the war as traitors. (pg. 120)

Apparently they are still remembered in Mexico:
http://www.vivasancarlos.com/patrick.html

“He incited the men of the village to round up women who’d befriended Americans, like those of the brothel who’d slept with the soldiers, others who’d simply sold them a drink or danced with them in the cantina. They called them ‘gringo whores.’ The priest, a certain Padre Juan, the old man told Cain, had worked the men of the village into a frenzy of vengeance.” (pg. 134)

Is this incident based in fact or fiction?
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: John Brown



IBIS wrote:
Some current history question Brown's methods. Was he a bloodthirsty zealot, a vigilante, or a terrorist? Or was he a great American hero, a freedom fighter and martyr to the cause of human libery? Was his resorting to violence any different from, for example, John Salvi, who in the mid-1990s, murdered abortion-clinic workers in God's name?





I was reminded of your comment, questioning whether or not Brown was a terrorist, when I read this passage:

"Cain would rather fight ten men who preferred living for what they believed in rather than one like Brown, who didn't give a fig for his own neck. He knew him to be the most dangerous sort of adversary, as his own life was but a pawn in the service of his grand vision." (pg. 88)
Laura

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IBIS
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Re: John Brown

Doesn't John Brown reminds you of modern-day terrorists who are willing to commit suicide for their cause?

How do we defeat an enemy who does not value human life, not even their own?
IBIS

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Re: Misc. Historical Information in Second Half of Part One

Laura,

There were a number of "reprisal" incidents in the Mexican war, as their are in all wars (an eye for an eye). For example, there was the killing and multilation of a number of Mexicans in a Catholic chapel (I think it was a brigade from Arkansas that committed the atrocity). Likewise, Santa Ana committed atrocities against American troops as reprisal for supposed American brutality. And I came across villages where those who had befriended Americans were punished as well. The Irish brigade, as you point out, was factual. In fact, they made a movie (a bad one) about it.

Michael

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Fozzie
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Re: John Brown



IBIS wrote:
Doesn't John Brown reminds you of modern-day terrorists who are willing to commit suicide for their cause?

How do we defeat an enemy who does not value human life, not even their own?



Based on the quote I cited, yes. However, I still have one more section of the book to read and then I want to review some of the information available on the web about John Brown before forming a definite opinion.

Of course, I don't know how to defeat such an enemy. I'll have to read about what happened to John Brown, and see if history can't shed some light on a current problem.
Laura

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