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Amanda_R
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Middle Chapters Discussion Topic: The Three Sisters

[ Edited ]


Mayme, Jeanine, and Bea are very different, though they arguably grew up in similar circumstances. What contributes to each girl's character? Does Bea's dreaminess have anything to do with her being the youngest, and Mayme's practical romanticism with her being the eldest?




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 Twenty-Six. Some readers of this thread may not have finished the book. If you are referring to events that occur after Chapter Twenty-Six please use "Spoiler Warning" in the subject line of your post. Thanks!




Message Edited by Amanda_R on 06-06-2007 10:41 AM

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bentley
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion Topic: The Three Sisters


Amanda_R wrote:


Mayme, Jeanine, and Bea are very different, though they arguably grew up in similar circumstances. What contributes to each girl's character? Does
Bea's dreaminess have anything to do with her being the youngest, and Mayme's practical romanticism with her being the eldest?





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 Twenty-Six. Some readers of this thread may not have finished the book. If you are
referring to events that occur after Chapter Twenty-Six please use "Spoiler Warning" in the subject line of your post. Thanks!




Message Edited by Amanda_R on 06-06-2007 10:41 AM





I think talking about the three sisters is a lot for one post; because they were individuals who were very different and each had a certain personality and style. Their tastes and what they wanted out of life were also so different. On top of the three different personalities you also have to look at them collectively as the sister team they were and that unit symbolized other characteristics and other value structures.

One thing that I noticed that though Elizabeth was their mother; the dynamic created by her interactions were almost sisterly and she created a different response with her daughters collectively. I did not think as parents that Elizabeth and Jack were very strong and they both to a certain extent played the kids against each other. Elizabeth was the most responsible parent; but she did create a fair amount of drama. Jack was plain irresponsible and the actions with the underage girl are unspeakable. He not only abandoned them; he tainted their reputation because of what he did.

I think I will start to talk about the the sisters in various posts here and see how I do. I will just post what I see that there is to discuss. I think the characters were so well developed that you feel you know all of them.
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bentley
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Re: Jeanine and her interactions with Jack and Elizabeth

Jeanine is Jack's favorite. The fortunate part was that she got the most attention from him; and the unfortunate part was that all of her sisters and her mother knew this and resented her for it. She was his constant companion and she covered for him. She became the parent and when Jack acted with absolutely no responsibility and was too drunk to function: Jeanine was the one who had to try to drive him home. She protected him and I think really did not do her father any good sometimes by hiding his drinking and gambling from her mother. She accompanied him on all of his manly extracurricular pursuits and thought of herself as being as powerful and competant as a man. On page 3 she could be overheard saying, "Don't mess with me, boys, I'm the one that's got the pants on."

After covering up for his drinking, she told her father early on in the novel she loved him and his response setting the stage for what was to come later was, "You'll be mad at me too someday, Jenny. Before the world is done with me." (page 3)

The fights that these poor sisters were subjected too were violent and things got thrown around a lot. Pictures and photographs of them and their mother and father were thrown out of the house. It was up to their children to pick up the pieces literally and put the photos back in the albums. Jack would bribe Jeanine and let her do things so that she would not tell her mother about the whiskey and everything else he was up to. This lying and hiding the truth from others could not have helped Jeanine grow up intact. The children were moved from place to place and were never given the opportunity to form friendships with others which could last a long time and where they could feel a part of a larger community. Their community became each other and their attachments were the friendships that they could count on. Everyone else left or they left them and moved on to another town where the prospect for settling down always had the same ending.

Her mother Elizabeth had given up a lot for Jack and she was constantly placed into a state of anxiety about what was going to happen next to her and her three girls. She had been uprooted from her family and her community where she did once have roots. Her family was well known and respected in town and they had the Tolliver farm, family and lived in a community where people knew them and they were respected. "They left behind a community where their family names were known and the graveyard under the cedars, whose stones were carved with those same names." (page 5)

I think to keep grounded, Elizabeth (Jeanine's mother) packed up the stuff that meant anything from her family and her heritage and took these things with her (the photograph album, the five Tolliver silver spoons, the buckets and the framed print of a little girl sitting alone in the woods. Jeanine thought that when she looked at that print it seemed to her anyways that 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. Did the print remind her of herself or was the print a reminder of what her mother had become? (page 6)

Jeanine became Jack's sidekick and Elizabeth his wife was left home alone with the other two daughters (Mayme and Bea). Jack even put her into the uncomfortable position of watching for the Texas Rangers when they were playing cards, and about to sell the team of horses. Jeanine had learned how to bargain, salvage and she thought she was the one to fix things. Jack gets drunk, falls asleep in a drunken stupor and she has to be the responsible one saying that her mother is going to get worried, that they don't have any food and she has to go to school. And Jeanine is only nine. All she can think of is how her parents are supposed to love each other but all they do is yell and this kind of stuff keeps happening to her over and over again.

It was symbolic that the blind man who could not see was the one who helped get Jack into the car. And as she is driving she sees their team of horses being led away. All she could feel was that she was being deserted; the only salvation was that she thought that they were going to a better place. Here she is doing the best she can to hold things together and get her father home and all her mother can say is don't lie for him. Jeanine can't win with either of them.
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Re: Jeanine, Mayme and Bea

[ Edited ]
Jeanine and Mayme found themselves having to collect coal at 5 cents a bucket. They hated it. Jeanine said that she wanted to see the salt well and being independant and having some of Jack's qualities as well; she said that she was not afraid of empty spaces and wasn't afraid of skipping school or her mother's fly swatter. By this time she was eleven (square face, firm jaw, gray eyes and blond hair). Poor Mayme and Jeanine even carried flour bags to collect the coal. It must have been heavy for them as well as dirty.

Mayme and Jeanine had each other and they tried to emulate various movie stars in the way they talked and tossed their heads. I never heard of this tip but when their father bought a Reo Speed Wagon flatbed; they had eleven flats! Jack poured Karo syrup into the front tires to make the inner tubes last longer? That was something I never heard of.

Jeanine and Mayme would make poor Bea eat things they were not so sure of and see if it would make Bea die. Bea was very docile and obedient and also the youngest. Nice sisters (lol).

And they were always used as pawns in the discussion that Elizabeth had where she was always threatening to go back to the Tolliver farm. Not a very solid union.

To make it even more difficult for the girls to trust anyone, Uncle Reid ran off and left Aunt Lillian. Nobody heard from him again. Jeanine realized that people you love can disappear. "It opened a hole in her universe, some illusory backdrop had torn away and beyond this an unlit waste and she could not see into it. She had a difficult time putting this into words to herself and so she sat with her fists against her eyes as they drove back to Central Texas, looking at the sparks against the dark of her eyelids."

Jeanine and the girls had to deal with loss all of the time: loss of different homes, loss of the team of horses, loss of friends, and now someone who they loved.

Probably the only peaceful memories available to the girls were the memories of their grandparents and the Tolliver farm. Jeanine and the others felt safe and secure there and this farm became to Jeanine like a "lost kingdom".

By now in the novel each one of the girls is becoming more grown and more distinct. Mayme has her lovely dark red hair, Bea is proud of her schoolbooks and her writing, Jeanine is "unfolding inside, leaf after leaf." (page 31). Then she wanted to marry a banker, live in the country and have horses.

As Jeanine grows up she sees her father differently and more clearly. On page 35 she says, "Whatever her father took up it was bound to go wrong. They would move and leave Smoky Joe behind somewhere. They would lose him. He would die of sleeping sickness, he would break one of his legs. It was the same for everybody. The feeling that things were falling apart and that nothing worked. Nothing was stable or safe."

There was some forgiveness on the part of Jeanine to her father even though he and Elizabeth had put their daughters into a state of feeling that their lives were built on quicksand. She looked at Smokey Joe and told him that he was in store for a very hard life. And the horse seemed to sense what she said and looked frightened like the three Stoddard girls probably were every day of their young lives.

Message Edited by bentley on 06-12-2007 12:08 AM
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Re: Jeanine, Mayme and Bea

Because of her father, Jeanine "was one of the few women in the crowd but she carried herself in this male territory as if she had special privileges. At least her father somehow showed her how to handle herself in a man's world.

Jeanine is starting to see how community may mean something in relationships and how it may affect her. Her boyfriend dumped her for a local girl (who had been part of that community for a long time). And Jeanine could not understand why.

Mayme and Jeanine talk of leaving and going out on their own but are held back by Jack's unfortunate accident. The fear of desertion overcomes younger sister Bea (just like that fear had overcome her other sisters at different times).

Bea felt alone and thought that her two sisters never read her stories. Bea wrote stories of ophaned children and abandoned animals. Pretty much getting her story ideas from her own life and how she must have felt. Nothing good ever happened except in books. Bea lost herself in books. Her real life was where she felt that "they were all in mortal danger and nobody cares and they were alone on the earth." She loved her cat and was very protective of animals when Jack started abusing her cat.

Finally Jack releases all of the three girls after Jeanine says, "I'll be awake all night for the rest of my life, wondering if you are going to set the house on fire."

And then Jeanine hears from her male role model, "I was a man never meant to be married. I'm a rambler and a gambler and a long way from home. Jeanine thinks to herself that "all a child wants to know is if their parents love them and wanted them to come into the world."

Then come the repercussions, everybody blames Jeanine for covering up for him. It is Bea that reminds the Joplin women of the Tollivers and of her grandmother. And finally the girls and their mother are able to pitch in and survive like they have been doing right along in spite of their father's actions.

Mayme wanted a telephone and she was the happy one, a job, smart clothes, husband, a home in Fort Worth, four children.

Bea wanted electricity, books, she wanted a good teacher.

Jeanine wanted the house painted white, an untroubled life, a good mare to run with Smokey, she wanted knowledge about wind mills, soil and hot water heaters. She wanted baths of hot water, an icebox and a pitcher of cool water.

Elizabeth wanted a guide or a book of advice.

They worked together to make it happen and depended on each other.
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bentley
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion Topic: The Three Sisters


Amanda_R wrote:


Mayme, Jeanine, and Bea are very different, though they arguably grew up in similar circumstances. What contributes to each girl's character? Does
Bea's dreaminess have anything to do with her being the youngest, and Mayme's practical romanticism with her being the eldest?





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 Twenty-Six. span>





I think that my previous posts address this. Mayme seemed as the eldest to be the worker and the most traditional in a sense and maybe she was a part of the parent's honeymoon phase and was therefore more romantic. At one time, Jack was bringing Elizabeth jelly beans, etc so they must have been in love at some point in time.

But I think Bea's dreaminess probably stemmed from the fact that she was alone and found solace in her books. The older girls sort of had each other because of their closeness in age. Bea had her books, her writing and Prince Albert.

Previous posts address the differences in the girls, what they wanted out of life, and influences.
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bookluver196
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion Topic: The Three Sisters

Several times, I found myself reminded of "Little Women," except with more gritty realism. It was as if I had found a more grown-up read to replace a favourite childhood novel!
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Fozzie
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Re: Jeanine and her interactions with Jack and Elizabeth-SPOILER



bentley wrote:
Here she is doing the best she can to hold things together and get her father home and all her mother can say is don't lie for him. Jeanine can't win with either of them.



SPOILER
This is so true early in the book. Even in the middle of the book, I still felt Elizabeth resenting Jeanine and her relationship with Jack to a certain extent. However, by the end of the book, I felt like Elizabeth was able to see Jeanine as her own whole person, not as Jack's sidekick.
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion Topic: The Three Sisters



bentley wrote:
On top of the three different personalities you also have to look at them collectively as the sister team they were and that unit symbolized other characteristics and other value structures



Yes, I thought of them all not only as individuals, but also as pieces of the Stoddard family recovery team. Each member had her role. If she did not fulfill her role, the family unit would suffer.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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flynn31
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion Topic: The Three Sisters

I don't think the pecking order has too much to do with the girls' different personalities. I was raised with 6 sisters and we all have our unique characteristics and talents.
Jeanine is good at taking the bull by the horns and farming, repairing,etc.; what ever it takes to get by.
Bea is the philosopher that likes to write.
Mamyme is loves animals and adventure.Her father influenced her gambling trait, but the rest is her personality.
These are God given talents they were born with.
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