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Amanda_R
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Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

[ Edited ]


It's easy to want to write off Jack Stoddard as an irresponsible, unlikable figure. Does he have any redeeming qualities?




Reply to this message to discuss any of these topics. Or start your own new topic by clicking "New Message."


Note: This topic refers to events through Chapter Seven. Some readers of this thread may not have finished the book. If you are referring to events that occur after Chapter Seven please use "Spoiler Warning" in the subject line of your post. Thanks!




Message Edited by Amanda_R on 06-06-2007 10:40 AM

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LetitiaP
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

I have to say that I tended to see Jack as a highly flawed, but basically well-meaning man.

In a way, his leaving was possibly the only thing left that he could have done for the women in his life -- if he had stayed, he most likely would have only dragged them down with him. His love for them was real, but he had serious demons to deal with. So, in the end, I think that his exit from their lives was possibly the only redeeming act he had left in him -- does that make sense?

LetitiaP

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Fozzie
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

One redeeming quality I noticed in Jack is his love for Jeanine. I realize that readers could argue that his actions which caused her to be alone where she shouldn't be, which caused her to move from town to town, and which caused her to face adult situations too early would be detrimental. However, I also remember reading that he loved her best. Of that I can be sure, but not much else. He is irresponsible and unlikeable.
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard



LetitiaP wrote:

In a way, his leaving was possibly the only thing left that he could have done for the women in his life -- if he had stayed, he most likely would have only dragged them down with him.





I agree that when Jack left he felt like he was doing the best thing for his family that he could do at that time, given the circumstances. I don't think it was a decision that he took lightly.
Laura

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jd
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

Jack was a selfish man. He could not settle down for any reason and could not stop drinking or gambling for any length of time. It seems his purpose in life was to satisfy his own wants and wishes and his families needs therefore must come second. Catch-22 for which came first, the guilty feelings for drinking, gambling etc or the moving and starting over and over and over and the stress that caused on finances and security.
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pkjiles
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

This is from Paulette ---

Remember that Jack had been knocked into a coma by sour gas --- hydrogen sulphide --- and it had the effect, more or less, of a stroke.

This affected his brain --- he fell into a fairly infantile way of thinking, of completely giving way to impulses he had once been able to hold in check. He had always had a dark side but with the effect of H2S the dark side took over.
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bookluver196
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

Through personal experiences (my father died of brain cancer), I can relate to the changes that took place in Jack after his coma. But, he was an irresponsible "bum" long before that happened - spending money on drinking and gambling, and taking Jeanine on his gambling trips (and encouraging her to lie). His stroke just accentuated his bad behaviour. We shouldn't blame his behaviours on the time in which he lived - back then, just as now, people knew right from wrong - and not looking after your kids and family is wrong, in any era.
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bentley
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

Jack was totally irresponsible. He would like things for a time; but did not have any commitment for doing the right thing. When Jeanine was with Jack, it was anarchy. And the child was the parent.

Everyone has to have some truths by which they live by; no matter how few, and no matter how free spirited they might be. There should always be something that they value, and do not want to hurt in themselves and in others.

Jack had talents which he dissipated. Right at the beginning of the novel, Jeanine said..."When her father was young, he was known to be a hand with horses. They said he could get any wage he asked for..." So making money and taking care of his family should have been something that he could have done fairly well and easily. But he turned to other things to waste his money on, even though he really did truly care for Jeanine. But Jeanine's love and the love of his wife wasn't enough.

Jeanine loved him and saw power in his hands, "The reins were telegraph lines through which he spoke to his horses in a silent code, and it seemed to Jeanine that her father's battered hands held great powers in charge." But given how much she looked up to him; he couldn't even roll his cigarettes in the morning because of the type of alcohol that he drank. And like any other alcoholic, he hid what he was drinking from his spouse and made Jeanine, his daughter, his conspirator. Even when his daughter said, "I love you." All that Jack could muster was, "You'll be mad at me too someday, Jenny," he said. "Before the world is done with me."

He bribed her with letting her do things that she shouldn't, and so she would not tell her mother Elizabeth about the whiskey. Elizabeth and Jack had a violent relationship as well right from the start of the novel; and there was constant fighting and throwing objects around and out the door; it was up to the children Jeanine and Mayme to pick up the pieces and salvage what they could after the parents.

Jack took a lot away from everyone he came in contact with (he dissipated them like he dissipated himself), including his wife Elizabeth. You would have thought he would have treated her better; she left her family, was uprooted from her farm life and brought to the oil fields and then he saddled her down with three children. She left behind her family farm (Tolliver farm), the community which was her support system, her family and even the local doctor. Everything that she knew (the community where they knew her name) were left behind for the love of Jack. And this man who made his wife and his family give up everything would leave them right from the get go. When he came back after the weekends, he had been drinking, wasting his money away and Jeanine was deluded into thinking that her father, in that state, was as funny as folks on the radio.

Elizabeth, his wife, was probably taken in by him initially because he was tall, dark and handsome; and even his daughter Jeanine believed everything he said. And he jeopardized the love of his daughter and his wife, and put poor Jeanine in the position of trying to drive him home. Everyone lied for him including Ross and his daughter; everybody lied to cover up what Jack was and/or could never be.

As far as Elizabeth and the world she found herself in because of "Jack", it seemed that the print she packed away of a little girl sitting alone in the woods could have been one of herself. Jeanine described it as, "The little girl was listening to a bird that sang some unheard melody from the branch of a white tree and it seemed to Jeanine that the girl was dangerously alone in an alien, watery forest." Elizabeth had married someone who lacked commitment and a backbone and was wishy washy like the watery forest. Jack had left them alone continuously so before he walked out for good, he had already abandoned them all in so many ways and had left them alone in a world that was like that alien, watery forest that was in Elizabeth's pictures.

I guess so far I do not care for Jack. It is early on in the novel for me and possibly I might change my mind, but I doubt it.
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jd
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

H2S only heightened the misery he was spreading around to begin with. I like the character Jack in the book because he adds the big Texan in one big personality and we can watch him self-destruct in a very destructive time - but as a human being Jack is difficult to forgive.
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bentley
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

[ Edited ]

jd wrote:
H2S only heightened the misery he was spreading around to begin with. I like the character Jack in the book because he adds the big Texan in one big personality and we can watch him self-destruct in a very destructive time - but as a human being Jack is difficult to forgive.




As I read further I think to myself maybe I will find some redeeming qualities in Jack, maybe he will be a funny friend and sympathetic to other folks in the novel. Maybe he will redeem himself with his family (though I doubt it). He did like fun and Jeanine thought he was great fun and she loved him; so through her eyes he was her likable, fun and capable Dad. But I have already noted what I thought the true impact of this trickster had on his family. And a good parent, husband and provider he was not. There are always excuses that people make for others..and I am sympathetic to his lifestyle, possible alcoholism, the rough and tumble life he endured and the accident which only further removed any vestiges of self control he might muster. But the core of Jack was not that solid to begin with so it is hard to excuse the final outcome. I wish I could be more genteel in my outlook of Jack; but I keep turning away from him and looking at the damage he caused in his wake for his family and the needless suffering they put up with. Should I be seeing something else? Why should I like him? I have to agree with jd that Jack is difficult to forgive...although forgive him we must.

Message Edited by bentley on 06-10-2007 12:28 PM
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Fozzie
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

[ Edited ]

bentley wrote:

Should I be seeing something else? Why should I like him? I have to agree with jd that Jack is difficult to forgive...although forgive him we must.




I did not try to like Jack. I have tried to understand him and his motivations. Do we have to forgive him? I don't think so. Forgiveness is up to his family. I'll follow their lead.


Message Edited by Fozzie on 06-10-2007 01:00 PM
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Fozzie
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard



pkjiles wrote:
This is from Paulette ---

Remember that Jack had been knocked into a coma by sour gas --- hydrogen sulphide --- and it had the effect, more or less, of a stroke.

This affected his brain --- he fell into a fairly infantile way of thinking, of completely giving way to impulses he had once been able to hold in check. He had always had a dark side but with the effect of H2S the dark side took over.



Here is a web site with some information on hydrogen sulfide:
http://www.earthworksaction.org/HydrogenSulfide.cfm
Laura

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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard


Fozzie wrote:

bentley wrote:

Should I be seeing something else? Why should I like him? I have to agree with jd that Jack is difficult to forgive...although forgive him we must.




I did not try to like Jack. I have tried to understand him and his motivations. Do we have to forgive him? I don't think so. Forgiveness is up to his family. I'll follow their lead.


Message Edited by Fozzie on 06-10-2007 01:00 PM




Me thinks that I have not read as far as you have in the novel with your last two sentences. I never said I liked him; just the opposite. I even looked at that angle as well; "trying to understand his motivations or him" and I still came up with an empty tank. The best that I could do was to try to look at him through the eyes and lens of Jeanine. I really haven't gotten to know his family as well yet; but I will. I guess it is my own personal philosophy to forgive before it eats away at you; but I never said forget. Jack was certainly not forgettable but I think he was forgiveable. Because he hurt himself the most and the situation got worse with his accident. I was more sympathetic then. I can understand where you are coming from. I was looking at reasons that maybe I could personally relate to as a reason to like him..and I didn't find many.

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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard



bentley wrote:

Fozzie wrote:

bentley wrote:

Should I be seeing something else? Why should I like him? I have to agree with jd that Jack is difficult to forgive...although forgive him we must.




I did not try to like Jack. I have tried to understand him and his motivations. Do we have to forgive him? I don't think so. Forgiveness is up to his family. I'll follow their lead.


Message Edited by Fozzie on 06-10-2007 01:00 PM




Me thinks that I have not read as far as you have in the novel with your last two sentences. I never said I liked him; just the opposite. I even looked at that angle as well; "trying to understand his motivations or him" and I still came up with an empty tank. The best that I could do was to try to look at him through the eyes and lens of Jeanine. I really haven't gotten to know his family as well yet; but I will. I guess it is my own personal philosophy to forgive before it eats away at you; but I never said forget. Jack was certainly not forgettable but I think he was forgiveable. Because he hurt himself the most and the situation got worse with his accident. I was more sympathetic then. I can understand where you are coming from. I was looking at reasons that maybe I could personally relate to as a reason to like him..and I didn't find many.

Bentley



I wonder if we are misunderstanding each other. I am only commenting through Chapter 7 here. I know you don't like Jack. I don't either. Hmmm...Let's revisit this during the middle section of reading.
Laura

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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard


Fozzie wrote:

bentley wrote:

Should I be seeing something else? Why should I like him? I have to agree with jd that Jack is difficult to forgive...although forgive him we must.




I did not try to like Jack. I have tried to understand him and his motivations. Do we have to forgive him? I don't think so. Forgiveness is up to his family. I'll follow their lead.


Message Edited by Fozzie on 06-10-2007 01:00 PM




Me thinks that I have not read as far as you have in the novel with your last two sentences. I never said I liked him; just the opposite. I even looked at that angle as well; "trying to understand his motivations or him" and I still came up with an empty tank. The best that I could do was to try to look at him through the eyes and lens of Jeanine. I really haven't gotten to know his family as well yet; but I will. I guess it is my own personal philosophy to forgive before it eats away at you; but I never said forget. Jack was certainly not forgettable but I think he was forgiveable. Because he hurt himself the most and the situation got worse with his accident. I was more sympathetic then. I can understand where you are coming from. I was looking at reasons that maybe I could personally relate to as a reason to like him..and I didn't find many.

Bentley



I wonder if we are misunderstanding each other. I am only commenting through Chapter 7 here. I know you don't like Jack. I don't either. Hmmm...Let's revisit this during the middle section of reading.




Fozzie,

I thought you might have read further because in the beginning chapters that I have read there was nothing in there about forgiveness from his family (the intent or otherwise). I mentioned forgiveness based upon my own philosophy not that of the characters or Ms. Jiles content. Thought you knew something that I hadn't read yet. I really looked long and hard to look at Jack from both points of view and could not come up with much positive except through the lens of Jeanine. My response was to your response. As far as Jack, unless he leaves Elizabeth some plot of useless land which becomes useful or some hidden inheritance, I do not see how he has helped them now or potentially in the later chapters of the book. My comments are only though the early chapters as well. I have not yet read further. I still have my fingers crossed that some good comes out of what Jack had put them through...sort of like every dark cloud has a silver lining. And as far as my last line, "forgive him we must,"... I certainly was speaking hypothetically for myself and any other readers so inclined. Not to confuse you or imply that you or any other reader must be sympathetic to Jack; maybe suggesting it. I think the male image in 1933 and the things that men did and were allowed to do (just because of their gender) may have been much in line with Jack in terms of his station in life and his occupation. Maybe a lot of women found themselves in the same boat with husbands very much Jack's ilk. Women were at home and the child bearers and men were off on their own escapades and outlets. I do not have personal knowledge of that era except through historical references and essays...but that is what I have gathered. So maybe Jack was irresponsible like many other irresponsible males of his generation, age and occupation. Maybe? My post was just a simple musing and thinking aloud as I offered some hypothetical observations based purely on my own outlook.
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Fozzie
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard



bentley wrote:
I thought you might have read further because in the beginning chapters that I have read there was nothing in there about forgiveness from his family (the intent or otherwise). I mentioned forgiveness based upon my own philosophy not that of the characters or Ms. Jiles content. Thought you knew something that I hadn't read yet. I really looked long and hard to look at Jack from both points of view and could not come up with much positive except through the lens of Jeanine. My response was to your response. As far as Jack, unless he leaves Elizabeth some plot of useless land which becomes useful or some hidden inheritance, I do not see how he has helped them now or potentially in the later chapters of the book. My comments are only though the early chapters as well. I have not yet read further. I still have my fingers crossed that some good comes out of what Jack had put them through...sort of like every dark cloud has a silver lining. And as far as my last line, "forgive him we must,"... I certainly was speaking hypothetically for myself and any other readers so inclined. Not to confuse you or imply that you or any other reader must be sympathetic to Jack; maybe suggesting it. I think the male image in 1933 and the things that men did and were allowed to do (just because of their gender) may have been much in line with Jack in terms of his station in life and his occupation. Maybe a lot of women found themselves in the same boat with husbands very much Jack's ilk. Women were at home and the child bearers and men were off on their own escapades and outlets. I do not have personal knowledge of that era except through historical references and essays...but that is what I have gathered. So maybe Jack was irresponsible like many other irresponsible males of his generation, age and occupation. Maybe? My post was just a simple musing and thinking aloud as I offered some hypothetical observations based purely on my own outlook.




Ah ha! I am with you now! And I understand my confusion. I thought you were speaking of forgiveness based on your own philosophy, as you state. I replied, based on my own philosophy. However, you assumed that I knew somehting from the book. Then I was confused. So, we were both speaking from our own philosophy.

Does my comment make sense to you now? I can't forgive Jack because he has done nothing to me. I will let the family decide whether or not to forgive him. Maybe we will have more information later in the book to be able to determine whether or not his family should forgive him. That's why I'd like to revisit this question later in the discussion.
Laura

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bentley
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard


Fozzie wrote:


bentley wrote:
I thought you might have read further because in the beginning chapters that I have read there was nothing in there about forgiveness from his family (the intent or otherwise). I mentioned forgiveness based upon my own philosophy not that of the characters or Ms. Jiles content. Thought you knew something that I hadn't read yet. I really looked long and hard to look at Jack from both points of view and could not come up with much positive except through the lens of Jeanine. My response was to your response. As far as Jack, unless he leaves Elizabeth some plot of useless land which becomes useful or some hidden inheritance, I do not see how he has helped them now or potentially in the later chapters of the book. My comments are only though the early chapters as well. I have not yet read further. I still have my fingers crossed that some good comes out of what Jack had put them through...sort of like every dark cloud has a silver lining. And as far as my last line, "forgive him we must,"... I certainly was speaking hypothetically for myself and any other readers so inclined. Not to confuse you or imply that you or any other reader must be sympathetic to Jack; maybe suggesting it. I think the male image in 1933 and the things that men did and were allowed to do (just because of their gender) may have been much in line with Jack in terms of his station in life and his occupation. Maybe a lot of women found themselves in the same boat with husbands very much Jack's ilk. Women were at home and the child bearers and men were off on their own escapades and outlets. I do not have personal knowledge of that era except through historical references and essays...but that is what I have gathered. So maybe Jack was irresponsible like many other irresponsible males of his generation, age and occupation. Maybe? My post was just a simple musing and thinking aloud as I offered some hypothetical observations based purely on my own outlook.




Ah ha! I am with you now! And I understand my confusion. I thought you were speaking of forgiveness based on your own philosophy, as you state. I replied, based on my own philosophy. However, you assumed that I knew somehting from the book. Then I was confused. So, we were both speaking from our own philosophy.

Does my comment make sense to you now? I can't forgive Jack because he has done nothing to me. I will let the family decide whether or not to forgive him. Maybe we will have more information later in the book to be able to determine whether or not his family should forgive him. That's why I'd like to revisit this question later in the discussion.




Fozzie you made me laugh...I think we both confused ourselves. But yes that is great and we can revisit it later. I am still reading and aside from a few debts that are owed Jack where Elizabeth had collected from..nothing yet. But I am still pursuing the "every dark cloud has a silver lining" thought. Yes, thank goodness Jack is just a character in the book and not a spouse, brother or son! And of course, let us see what develops.
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pkjiles
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard

This is certainly a hot discussion on Jack.

Look at it this way: is he a believable literary character?
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bentley
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard


pkjiles wrote:
This is certainly a hot discussion on Jack.

Look at it this way: is he a believable literary character?




Ms. Jiles, you bet he is. Your development of characters is superb. Jack is fun to dissect; trying to understand his motivations even prior to his accident is hard to fathom but given the Texas "wild west" image..maybe men were expected to have these extracurricular activities to be viewed as "real men" in that era and maybe they felt they needed to play to put up with their hard lives (a release valve). Loved the discussion so far regarding Jack; the book is terrific.
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion Topic: Jack Stoddard



pkjiles wrote:
This is certainly a hot discussion on Jack.

Look at it this way: is he a believable literary character?



Absolutely! Would we be having such a discussion about him if he weren't? No way. He is a real person, faults and all.
Laura

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