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Rachel-K
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August

Is August simply "gracious, charming, and mischievous" as Jacob, at one point, describes him? What do you make of his character? Which scenes really show his true character?
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IBIS
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Re: August

Yes, August is "gracious, charming and mischievous" when we first meet him. He had to have some obvious charming traits to sweep Marlena off her feet. And his physical descriptions does make him seem dashing and handsome, especially to a young girl.

There are moments when he comes across as kind, and polished with excellent taste. I almost fell for him when he made Jacob feel welcome, and invited him for private dinners, lending him clean clothes, etc. etc. Even encouraging Uncle Al to hire Jacob as their very own vet.

Marlena puts up a good front as the loving wife of a kind and caring husband.
It's appropriate that he works in a circus which is all about smoke and mirrors... putting on a "show" for the public. August's public charming persona masks a privately cruel and emotionally damaged monster.

The first time we see how "off" his character is, is when he makes Jacob feed the old lion, and puts the unsuspecting Jacob in grave danger. Eventually, his cruelties pile up, and our worst fears about him are confirmed by Walter and the other workers. Only then do we see the psychopath that he really is.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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fordmg
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Re: August

August is not gracious. He can be charming. He is not mischievous either, he is mean. He puts on a good front to Jacob in the beginning. Then when he "grows" some confidence, his true character shows. As he became aware of the feelings between Marlena and Jacob, he got worse. He likes to "own" his friends, when Jacob became his own man, he did what he could to break him, which didn't really happen. Anyone who could justify throwing people off the train is not mischieveous, that is sadistic.

MG
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Wrighty
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Re: August

August presents himself as "gracious, charming and mischievous" but that is only the mask he wears. I think he has a very hard time maintaining control over his emotions. He is brilliant yet paranoid, cruel and power hungry. He wants ultimate control over everyone and everything. There are several scenes that show his true character. Any time he gets a certain look on his face or when his eyes become cold and hard anyone nearby knows there is trouble ahead. He has an explosive, unpredictable temper and he's not afraid to strike out and cause pain. As Uncle Al tells Jacob on pg 265 "He's paragon schnitzophonic....mad as a hatter" (paranoid schizophrenic)
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kiakar
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Re: August



IBIS wrote:
Yes, August is "gracious, charming and mischievous" when we first meet him. He had to have some obvious charming traits to sweep Marlena off her feet. And his physical descriptions does make him seem dashing and handsome, especially to a young girl.

There are moments when he comes across as kind, and polished with excellent taste. I almost fell for him when he made Jacob feel welcome, and invited him for private dinners, lending him clean clothes, etc. etc. Even encouraging Uncle Al to hire Jacob as their very own vet.

Marlena puts up a good front as the loving wife of a kind and caring husband.
It's appropriate that he works in a circus which is all about smoke and mirrors... putting on a "show" for the public. August's public charming persona masks a privately cruel and emotionally damaged monster.

The first time we see how "off" his character is, is when he makes Jacob feed the old lion, and puts the unsuspecting Jacob in grave danger. Eventually, his cruelties pile up, and our worst fears about him are confirmed by Walter and the other workers. Only then do we see the psychopath that he really is.

IBIS




I don't know why, but I was weary of August from the first part of the introduction to him. And too, it seemed he pushed himself on Marlena and held domination over her through out the story. I did not like him at all. It was like a dark place in him was hiding to seek vengence.
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kiakar
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Re: August



fordmg wrote:
August is not gracious. He can be charming. He is not mischievous either, he is mean. He puts on a good front to Jacob in the beginning. Then when he "grows" some confidence, his true character shows. As he became aware of the feelings between Marlena and Jacob, he got worse. He likes to "own" his friends, when Jacob became his own man, he did what he could to break him, which didn't really happen. Anyone who could justify throwing people off the train is not mischieveous, that is sadistic.

MG





Yes I definitely call it meanness also! He seemed to be getting thrills in harming people.
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kiakar
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Re: August



Wrighty wrote:
August presents himself as "gracious, charming and mischievous" but that is only the mask he wears. I think he has a very hard time maintaining control over his emotions. He is brilliant yet paranoid, cruel and power hungry. He wants ultimate control over everyone and everything. There are several scenes that show his true character. Any time he gets a certain look on his face or when his eyes become cold and hard anyone nearby knows there is trouble ahead. He has an explosive, unpredictable temper and he's not afraid to strike out and cause pain. As Uncle Al tells Jacob on pg 265 "He's paragon schnitzophonic....mad as a hatter" (paranoid schizophrenic)




Wrighty, don't you think August was maybe abused at a younger age that made him grow so mean and hard?
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ELee
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Re: August possible SPOILER



kiakar wrote:


Wrighty wrote:
August presents himself as "gracious, charming and mischievous" but that is only the mask he wears. I think he has a very hard time maintaining control over his emotions. He is brilliant yet paranoid, cruel and power hungry. He wants ultimate control over everyone and everything. There are several scenes that show his true character. Any time he gets a certain look on his face or when his eyes become cold and hard anyone nearby knows there is trouble ahead. He has an explosive, unpredictable temper and he's not afraid to strike out and cause pain. As Uncle Al tells Jacob on pg 265 "He's paragon schnitzophonic....mad as a hatter" (paranoid schizophrenic)




Wrighty, don't you think August was maybe abused at a younger age that made him grow so mean and hard?




I think there is much more than meets the eye to August. He doesn't really fit the symptoms of "paragon schnitzophonic" but he definitely has problems. One thing I noticed is that Marlena got pregnant after only a few "meetings" with Jacob - do you think that August was either infertile or impotent? His impotence might be a factor in wanting to "own" and control her as much as he did...
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vivico1
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Re: August possible SPOILER


ELee wrote:


kiakar wrote:


Wrighty wrote:
August presents himself as "gracious, charming and mischievous" but that is only the mask he wears. I think he has a very hard time maintaining control over his emotions. He is brilliant yet paranoid, cruel and power hungry. He wants ultimate control over everyone and everything. There are several scenes that show his true character. Any time he gets a certain look on his face or when his eyes become cold and hard anyone nearby knows there is trouble ahead. He has an explosive, unpredictable temper and he's not afraid to strike out and cause pain. As Uncle Al tells Jacob on pg 265 "He's paragon schnitzophonic....mad as a hatter" (paranoid schizophrenic)




Wrighty, don't you think August was maybe abused at a younger age that made him grow so mean and hard?




I think there is much more than meets the eye to August. He doesn't really fit the symptoms of "paragon schnitzophonic" but he definitely has problems. One thing I noticed is that Marlena got pregnant after only a few "meetings" with Jacob - do you think that August was either infertile or impotent? His impotence might be a factor in wanting to "own" and control her as much as he did...


Actually August's actions fit those of a severely schizophrenic with bipolar affect. I don't mean that bipolars per say are schizophrenic ok, I know a couple of people who are bipolar and that really varies in degrees. Some may be more depressed most of the time, then on the hyper side, and visa versa, but for those having both, or severely bi polar with both manic and depressed sides showing, he does fit. He (anyone with it to this extent) can be very jovial, cordial, great to be around type of person for awhile, and that could be some time, and then he can go off the deep end the other way and be very depressed, untrusting and if paranoid too, even dangerous. I noticed this about August early on, that he was both and you really had to watch out. You know where they are all together and he gets quiet for a moment and Marlena sees that "glazed over" look in his eye and knows trouble is coming? This lady I know, when she gets into her manic side, she will wear you out but you can tell just by her looks when she comes towards you. Her eyes get big and stay that way and she just has this wild look.

I know who August reminds me of, and I would like to ask the author if she ever read the book or saw the movie Sophie's Choice. Have any of you seen it or read it? Parts of the story itself reminded me of this story, when its about Jacob, Marlena and August.In the book, Nathan (played by Kevin Cline in the movie)and Sophie (Meryl Streep) take this young man under their wing who has come alone to New York from the south to try to be a writer. They become great friends, even tho the young Stingo falls in love with Sophie and do lots together, including having "dress up" diners in their room together - sound familiar? But there are times that Nathan, even tho he loves Sophia and even saved her life when he first met her, becomes really really cruel to her, mostly verbal, saying why did you survive the camps (Nazi concentration camps, she was Polish and had been in one) and all the others are dead! Things like that, he calls her really horrible names and when Stingo tries to step in, she send him away, to his room, just out of theirs, saying just go Stingo - sound familiar? He can't understand why Nathan is this way, he even loves this man who is just incredible when he is on his high, but he doesn't understand the cruel side or why Sophie stays with him that way. Later on you find out Nathan is Schizophrenic and hides it by staying away all day pretending to be working on some Drug cure in a lab that doesnt even exist. He gets his money from his brother, who thinks he is taking his meds and doing ok until he hears all this from Stingo, and explains to him. Actually this story takes place in the mid 1900's just barely after the war. Stingo knows Nathan is becoming more and more dangerous and wants Sophie to run away with him and she nearly does, but she goes back. You find out why and also what "Sophie's Choice" actually was that made this whole tragedy come about. It is one of my all time favorite movies and Meryl Streep's very best acting.

Also in college, when I was studying for my degree, one of my professors said that when he was in school, he hooked up with this guy that was really charming and fun and energetic and you just really wanted to hang out with him. He said this guy talked him into taking a road trip to Vegas with him on a spur of the moment thing, everything was spur of the moment and also part of the allure of this guy. So he just dropped everything and took off with him for what he thought was going to be a great guy road trip and fun time in Vegas. He said until they hit the desert. He came out of a gas station restroom and the guy was just sitting in the car crying. He wouldnt even talk to my Professor or tell him what was wrong, scared the heck out of him. He just sat and cried. They just parked there and stayed over night. The next day the guy had stopped crying but was just depressed and lost in his own thoughts. My prof. said all he could figure out to do was to drive them back. When he got back he found out from the guys family, he had this problem and could go months on the manic side and then just fall. And that sometimes they would see him almost even out and think he was going to be ok but a month or two or even one year later and he was in the cycle again. They said he was diagnosed as a schizophrenic with bi-polar disorder.

Both of these things made me see it in August, especially the dress up dinner scenes, these were usually his real highs with Jacob and then down into his abyss of cruel paranoia. Scary guy to be around. I really thought he would wind up killing Marlena yet.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Wrighty
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Re: August possible SPOILER


ELee wrote:


kiakar wrote:
Wrighty, don't you think August was maybe abused at a younger age that made him grow so mean and hard?




I think there is much more than meets the eye to August. He doesn't really fit the symptoms of "paragon schnitzophonic" but he definitely has problems. One thing I noticed is that Marlena got pregnant after only a few "meetings" with Jacob - do you think that August was either infertile or impotent? His impotence might be a factor in wanting to "own" and control her as much as he did...



I think August probably had many problems in his past and didn't cope well with any of them. He wasn't one of those people who chose to rise above it and learn from it. He is selfish and downright cruel. He finds pleasure in harming others. I did think of him as manic depressive because he had so many highs and lows but not because he was so mean. In another story I could see his character as a serial killer. In some ways he already was one in this story.
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Rachel-K
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Re: August possible SPOILER



Wrighty wrote:

ELee wrote:


kiakar wrote:
Wrighty, don't you think August was maybe abused at a younger age that made him grow so mean and hard?




I think there is much more than meets the eye to August. He doesn't really fit the symptoms of "paragon schnitzophonic" but he definitely has problems. One thing I noticed is that Marlena got pregnant after only a few "meetings" with Jacob - do you think that August was either infertile or impotent? His impotence might be a factor in wanting to "own" and control her as much as he did...



I think August probably had many problems in his past and didn't cope well with any of them. He wasn't one of those people who chose to rise above it and learn from it. He is selfish and downright cruel. He finds pleasure in harming others. I did think of him as manic depressive because he had so many highs and lows but not because he was so mean. In another story I could see his character as a serial killer. In some ways he already was one in this story.





Yes, I guess it really is a matter of chance that Jacob survived Rex's attack, and we don't get the full story of the last man who August tried the same prank on who died. And if you include his cruelty to animals! Wow.
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Fozzie
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Re: August



kiakar wrote:


I don't know why, but I was weary of August from the first part of the introduction to him. And too, it seemed he pushed himself on Marlena and held domination over her through out the story. I did not like him at all. It was like a dark place in him was hiding to seek vengeance.



I thought August was too polished. He didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the circus people in that regard. I think the prologue also helped taint my thinking about him a bit. I couldn't help but wonder why Marlena would want to kill him.
Laura

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kiakar
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Re: August possible SPOILER



Wrighty wrote:

ELee wrote:


kiakar wrote:
Wrighty, don't you think August was maybe abused at a younger age that made him grow so mean and hard?




I think there is much more than meets the eye to August. He doesn't really fit the symptoms of "paragon schnitzophonic" but he definitely has problems. One thing I noticed is that Marlena got pregnant after only a few "meetings" with Jacob - do you think that August was either infertile or impotent? His impotence might be a factor in wanting to "own" and control her as much as he did...



I think August probably had many problems in his past and didn't cope well with any of them. He wasn't one of those people who chose to rise above it and learn from it. He is selfish and downright cruel. He finds pleasure in harming others. I did think of him as manic depressive because he had so many highs and lows but not because he was so mean. In another story I could see his character as a serial killer. In some ways he already was one in this story.





That is so true! How many men was he responsible for killing? That is by Redlighting.
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Wrighty
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Re: August


Fozzie wrote:


kiakar wrote:


I don't know why, but I was weary of August from the first part of the introduction to him. And too, it seemed he pushed himself on Marlena and held domination over her through out the story. I did not like him at all. It was like a dark place in him was hiding to seek vengeance.



I thought August was too polished. He didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the circus people in that regard. I think the prologue also helped taint my thinking about him a bit. I couldn't help but wonder why Marlena would want to kill him.




That's a good point that he's too polished. Do you think August and Uncle Al's circus personas fit their personalities - hair that's dark and shiny with pomade, waxed mustaches, bright coats, jodhpurs, top hats, booming voices and steely smiles? They remind me of sharks.
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vivico1
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Re: August


Wrighty wrote:

Fozzie wrote:


kiakar wrote:


I don't know why, but I was weary of August from the first part of the introduction to him. And too, it seemed he pushed himself on Marlena and held domination over her through out the story. I did not like him at all. It was like a dark place in him was hiding to seek vengeance.



I thought August was too polished. He didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the circus people in that regard. I think the prologue also helped taint my thinking about him a bit. I couldn't help but wonder why Marlena would want to kill him.




That's a good point that he's too polished. Do you think August and Uncle Al's circus personas fit their personalities - hair that's dark and shiny with pomade, waxed mustaches, bright coats, jodhpurs, top hats, booming voices and steely smiles? They remind me of sharks.


When they were described physically in their garb, it just reminded me of those old circuses and the waxed up ringmaster and horse ringmasters, like I saw in movies as a kid. They are all dressed up to dazzle the audiences after all, but see, just more illusions, more smoke and mirrors about the type of men they really are......more water for elephants!
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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IBIS
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Re: August

I've always wondered about the literary merit of psycho-analyzing complex characters, like August, to explain their motives.

We get to know a character by his actions, by how he behaves in the novel. Unless Sara Gruen tells us what motivated August, or what his intentions were, readers are pretty much on their own.

Since the "omniscient" narrator in the novel focuses on Jacob, we don't get August's point of view. His behavior is open to interpretations.

For example, in Shakespeare's time, August's behavior would be explained by humors, or physical chemicals that dictated someone's personality. If he were moody, his "humor" would have been from his bile; if he were charming, his "humor" would have been controlled by his heart.

If August was created by John Milton, we would have discussed the topic of EVIL, of August's moral deficiency. We'd probably think of August as possessed by the devil; and explained his cruelty as consistent of a character without ethical standards of behavior.

In our contemporary society, psychology and biology are the current lingua franca.
We try to explain why August behaved the way he did... was it physical: was he born that way? was it lack of chemical in his brain, or maybe too many chemicals?

Or was it psychological: did he suffer an abusive childhood? did he have nasty memories and nightmares? emotional trauma?

Discussing Jacob and August, two characters on opposite sides of the moral spectrum,
is very revealing. I find it more revealing of the reader, who brings these revelations to the table, than of the character himself.

What do you think?
IBIS
IBIS

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KathyS
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The pros and cons of character analysis

Ilse, I haven't been following/reading the discussion on this thread. I've stayed pretty much away from all of the details of this discussion, generally speaking. But your question brings up an entirely different discussion, nothing specifically to do with August, or to the book, itself. So, I'll try to go about answering your detailed summation, and your one question, with my thoughts.

In almost every book discussion, you'll have the good vs bad/evil, or the moral vs the immoral discussion about the persons who inhabit these novels. You've brought in history, with authors who approach these subjects from their points of view, revolving around their own periods in history. History does play a major roll in all of these discussions. In contemporary novels, there may be other issues that are brought into them by the author, as well.

The novelist, of course, certainly has the option to disclose, either in detail, or not, a character's moral stance. When it's vague, not giving the psychological background, or motivation of this character, it certainly does make for a lively discussion; bringing out everyone's 'ideas, thoughts, and specifically, guesses' as to what motivates these characters - how they either relate, or don't relate to the surrounding structure of the story, and other characters, themselves.

It's sometimes the intent of the author to do this. To keep it vague, or to keep it detailed. I say sometimes, because there are times when the author, themselves, never give it a thought, how a reader will view some of these circumstances, until their book comes up for discussion. And then readers do start to expose themselves as to their histories, and backgrounds, as they relate themselves to these characters. Readers start to open themselves up to these characters, and either identify with them, or not. That's when the author stands back, and is simply amazed!

One book I recall, in particular, was Once Upon A Day, by Lisa Tucker. We came across a dilemma. One of the major secondary characters did things in this story, that most of us would consider immoral, or bad, or unjust, and the discussion of the board was all against this person's character. I ended up being the only one who took a stance, and fought for this man, as a character.

I felt like a lawyer, defending a client who had just committed murder. He wasn't a murderer, but he killed the lives, and spirit of the rest of these characters. I won't tell you the story, but suffice it to say, I found the wrong that had been done to this man, at an early age, which caused the problems that led him to do the things that he had done in the present. It took a lot of work to uncover the little nuances of his character flaws that started to reveal themselves to me. I may not have convinced everyone in that discussion, to not send him to the reaper, even when I pointed out the sentences to prove my points....that he wasn't totally responsible for his actions - but I did convince these readers to take another look at what he had done, and what had been done to him - showing more than one side to this character's motivations.

So, in answer to your question, novelists who are forthcoming, giving us the answers, in black and white, aren't always aware of what the alternative to this can be to a reader. Some people will never see the two sides to a situation, some will see more than two sides, and some will only see their own side. My feelings, in any book discussion, is to view all of these sides, and weigh them to the best advantage that fits your own personal moral code, with hopefully eyes wide open.

Kathy S.
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vivico1
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Re: August


IBIS wrote:
I've always wondered about the literary merit of psycho-analyzing complex characters, like August, to explain their motives.

We get to know a character by his actions, by how he behaves in the novel. Unless Sara Gruen tells us what motivated August, or what his intentions were, readers are pretty much on their own.

Since the "omniscient" narrator in the novel focuses on Jacob, we don't get August's point of view. His behavior is open to interpretations.

Discussing Jacob and August, two characters on opposite sides of the moral spectrum,
is very revealing. I find it more revealing of the reader, who brings these revelations to the table, than of the character himself.

What do you think?
IBIS


I think Sara did let us know what she wanted us to understand about August when she had Uncle Al talk about him being, crazy, schizophrenic and also through Marlena talking about his mood swings and how he is. To me this is that "outside" verification of something being wrong mentally with August, other than just seeing it through Jacob's eyes. I didn't get caught up in why he was this way, was he abused, was he born with something, was it drugs, a hit to the head or any of that stuff because for me, I only needed to know what Sara gave and that is that this is who he is and why he is dangerous. So I dont really feel it was left for us to figure out.

As to seeing these two men as representative of the opposite ends of the moral spectrum, thats true in some ways but then good vs evil, right vs wrong are part of most good books. You have to have an antagonist to do battle with your protagonist. Sometimes its not even a person, it may be nature or something but its part of the story and Jacob's background is the real crux of the story and who he is now, not what August's was. The evil one or bad one in a book, often seems even more so when we don't what made him that way, when we just know that he is. We know theres something wrong with August and we see the evil in him, that might be diminished in our minds of looking at the differences between them if we have say a chapter explaining the troubles that got him that way. The intent to me in this one is not to make August seem more sympathetic in why he does what he does, but to just let us know he really is this dangerous but also to say, this is not just one man in a story but an evil done in many real circuses, the redlighting anyway.

And if you delve too deep into whats wrong with him, what caused this in him, then do we have to cut him some slack on what he does because maybe he is mentally messed up and therefore not as morally responsible as someone else? I think that would be a whole different story. I think in the good versus evil side of this story, he and Uncle Al are the bad to Jacob and Marlena's good that keeps the story going. Gotta have good villains in stories where they really exist too, to pit up again the good guys, the moral ones. I think they were good characters to do that, be that, and for me, I didnt need to delve further into the "whys" of August OR Uncle Al. It was enough in Jacob's story to know that they just were.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Rachel-K
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Re: August

Ibis,

I agree with other posts here that your question asks us to consider so much more than this particular story! If we do get a sense of understanding for August, if it does lead to some sympathy for him, then do we still condemn him? I'd like to think of myself as a sensitive person, but I certainly didn't cry for him. His cruelties are so very real to us, and I occasionally had to step back from his behavior in the story to guess at what Marlena once saw in him.

Certainly, she was pressed for time and felt trapped in her situation with her parents. He (and Uncle Al) gave the impression she was putting the whole circus at stake by trying to take time to think about August's proposal. He was "dashing" and exciting, and she probably thought that his role with the circus animals meant he loved and cared for animals, not that he used them and tortured them! (How much more appropriate to fall in love with a vet!)

I imagine August himself never wondered about his own behavior--he assumes he is justified in whatever he does. So, certainly, it makes it very interesting that we go over his actions and motiviations so carefully! But maybe that's one lovely aspect of reading deeply--that it gives us the practice and the penchant to evaluate our own actions and motivations as we go along!

Rachel
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IBIS
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Re: The pros and cons of character analysis

Thanks Kathy, Vivian and Rachel for your amazingly insightful comments about August. What marvelous, reactive readers you are. I know from chatting with guest authors that they absolutely love hearing what responses their characters evoke from readers.

As I mentioned in my post, your comments explained how you've come to understand August; but more interestingly, they also revealed so much more about yourselves!

It's such a pleasure to hear about everyone's ideas. Thank you.
IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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