Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME FORUMS BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Thu Oct 30, 2014 1:12 pm




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 11 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 
American Gods Question 2: America and Shadow 
Author Message
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
pets endangered by possible book avalanche

Gold Contributor

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 4184
Location: Canberra
Thanks: 1146
Thanked: 1206 times in 905 posts
Gender: Male
Country: Australia (au)

Post American Gods Question 2: America and Shadow
American Gods Reading-group Discussion Question Two

Shadow begins the novel as a convict, and ends it a different man. How does the novel exploit the idea of America as a place where immigrants and exiles, both physical and emotional, can reinvent themselves? What makes Shadow himself so compelling and complex?



Sat May 16, 2009 7:30 pm
Profile Email WWW
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
All Star Member


Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 136
Location: Michigan
Thanks: 1
Thanked: 5 times in 5 posts
Gender: Female
Country: United States (us)

Post 
Well, I have not finished the book yet but I can say that Shadow strikes me as compelling for the reason of Hope. I sat thinking about why his character is so intriguing and comforting...but it comes down to the fact that no matter what happens to him or what bad things he inadvertently or otherwise does...he still maintains this hopeful and innocent nature. Like no matter what is going on at that moment you could still see him settling down in his bath with his pink fluffy robe and not moving from that comfortable life, if only life would let him be. I think this is a state of being that many find themselves in. We want the ultimate comfort and relaxation of our fantasies but life is a struggle and things rarely work out. We do things that we aren't proud of and we stray far from our ideal. Shadow's compass is his american dream of working class folks everywhere and he just can't seem to make it stick. I identify with this highly.



Tue Jun 16, 2009 12:24 am
Profile Email
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Pop up Book Fanatic


Joined: May 2009
Posts: 12
Location: Connecticut
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 0 time in 0 post
Gender: None specified

Post 
poettess wrote:
Well, I have not finished the book yet but I can say that Shadow strikes me as compelling for the reason of Hope. I sat thinking about why his character is so intriguing and comforting...but it comes down to the fact that no matter what happens to him or what bad things he inadvertently or otherwise does...he still maintains this hopeful and innocent nature. Like no matter what is going on at that moment you could still see him settling down in his bath with his pink fluffy robe and not moving from that comfortable life, if only life would let him be. I think this is a state of being that many find themselves in. We want the ultimate comfort and relaxation of our fantasies but life is a struggle and things rarely work out. We do things that we aren't proud of and we stray far from our ideal. Shadow's compass is his american dream of working class folks everywhere and he just can't seem to make it stick. I identify with this highly.


I think that Gaiman is showing how Shadow has will and desire. He wants to live a normal life, relaxed and peaceful, but the fact that he missed time while in prison puts him in a subordinate postion (i.e. to Wednesday) in society. Shadow's optimism also helps him to change from a convict to a newer person.



Wed Jun 17, 2009 5:39 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Intern

Silver Contributor

Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 158
Location: Austin, Texas
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 6 times in 3 posts
Gender: Female

Post 
Shadow is a compelling and complex character because throughout the book, he is reinventing himself. While he was in prison, he was exiled from society. After his return, he begins to rebuild himself under the guidance of Mr. Wednesday. He does not reclaim any of his old personality – his work at body building, his wife, his home. Instead, he abandons them and seeks reinvention on the road as he travels from place to place with Mr. Wednesday. This is complex and compelling because the reader is watching a grown man regrow himself in front of them with the help of the awesome powers of the gods.

However, the gods themselves have become emotional exiles – brought to America and forgotten by many. So, they, too, must reinvent themselves. In order to maintain their meager offerings, they work in slaughterhouses, in funeral parlors, and as prostitutes. However, they have reinvented themselves – found new ways to stay alive in this country.

The book itself exploits the idea of reinvention of self because everyone in the book is allowed to do it. Everyone of the characters, god and human, are allowed the option to become something more than what they were, to rise above themselves, and they take it. [spoiler]Shadow raises himself from a criminal to someone who stops a god war. Laura becomes selfless and sacrifices herself for Shadow and to stop the war. Mulligan was able to kill Heizalman and move on. [/spoiler]

This is all exploitation because it does not happen that way in real life. In real life, people are rarely given the chance to completely reinvent themselves, and if they do, they rarely do it in such a positive manner.



Fri Jun 19, 2009 3:56 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Upper Echelon 1st Class

BookTalk.org Moderator
Silver Contributor

Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 2469
Location: New Jersey
Thanks: 504
Thanked: 414 times in 328 posts
Gender: Female
Country: United States (us)

Post 
Hello Krysondra, welcome!

Krysondra wrote:
Quote:
Everyone of the characters, god and human, are allowed the option to become something more than what they were, to rise above themselves, and they take it.


I don't know if I see it this way. The gods are forced into positions that are demeaning, they become servants, there roles have reversed. I feel a great sense of discrimination, and oppresion. The gods are minorities after all. They are trying to survive, anyway they can.

Krysondra wrote:
Quote:
He does not reclaim any of his old personality – his work at body building, his wife, his home. Instead, he abandons them


Shadow was left without choices. His wife and his work were taken from him. He was left with nothing. I like your observation, Shadow does reinvent himself. But, I get the sense, that once he met Mr. Wedsday, his fate, or destiny was sealed. Maybe his ability to choose was taken from him as well.



Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:35 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Intern

Silver Contributor

Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 158
Location: Austin, Texas
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 6 times in 3 posts
Gender: Female

Post 
Suzanne wrote:
I don't know if I see it this way. The gods are forced into positions that are demeaning, they become servants, there roles have reversed. I feel a great sense of discrimination, and oppresion. The gods are minorities after all. They are trying to survive, anyway they can.


The gods in the book may seem oppressed, but they have still choosen to reinvent themselves as servants - so to speak - rather than to fade away. Thus, they are allowed the option to become more than dead gods, and they take it, even it does demean them. So, they do rise above what they would become, perhaps not far, but they do rise.

Suzanne wrote:
Shadow was left without choices. His wife and his work were taken from him. He was left with nothing. I like your observation, Shadow does reinvent himself. But, I get the sense, that once he met Mr. Wedsday, his fate, or destiny was sealed. Maybe his ability to choose was taken from him as well.


This is a very interesting point, Suzanne. What if his fate is sealed when he meets Mr. Wednesday? If his destiny is sealed, then wouldn't there be less reinventing on his part due to a lack of free will? What does everybody think?



Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:36 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Pop up Book Fanatic


Joined: May 2009
Posts: 12
Location: Connecticut
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 0 time in 0 post
Gender: None specified

Post 
I'm at the part where Shadow has settled into Lakeside, and he certainly is trying to reinvent himself there. He's attempting to have friendly relations to the Chief of Police, and he claims that he's trying to remember everyone's name. The cold, perhaps a symbol for his "ex-con" status, hinders his efforts though.



Fri Jun 19, 2009 5:20 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
pets endangered by possible book avalanche

Gold Contributor

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 4184
Location: Canberra
Thanks: 1146
Thanked: 1206 times in 905 posts
Gender: Male
Country: Australia (au)

Post 
Krysondra wrote:
Shadow is a compelling and complex character because throughout the book, he is reinventing himself. While he was in prison, he was exiled from society. After his return, he begins to rebuild himself under the guidance of Mr. Wednesday. He does not reclaim any of his old personality – his work at body building, his wife, his home. Instead, he abandons them and seeks reinvention on the road as he travels from place to place with Mr. Wednesday. This is complex and compelling because the reader is watching a grown man regrow himself in front of them with the help of the awesome powers of the gods.

However, the gods themselves have become emotional exiles – brought to America and forgotten by many. So, they, too, must reinvent themselves. In order to maintain their meager offerings, they work in slaughterhouses, in funeral parlors, and as prostitutes. However, they have reinvented themselves – found new ways to stay alive in this country.

The book itself exploits the idea of reinvention of self because everyone in the book is allowed to do it. Everyone of the characters, god and human, are allowed the option to become something more than what they were, to rise above themselves, and they take it. [spoiler]Shadow raises himself from a criminal to someone who stops a god war. Laura becomes selfless and sacrifices herself for Shadow and to stop the war. Mulligan was able to kill Heizalman and move on. [/spoiler]

This is all exploitation because it does not happen that way in real life. In real life, people are rarely given the chance to completely reinvent themselves, and if they do, they rarely do it in such a positive manner.


Hello Krysondra, welcome to the discussion of American Gods. I haven’t seen people use the spoiler bracket, so will try it to discuss from the perspective of having read the book. The following explains the conclusion of American Gods. [spoiler]Shadow is Baldr, the son of Odin. The Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, compiled in Iceland in the 13th century, but based on much older Old Norse poetry, contain numerous references to the death of Baldr as both a great tragedy to the Æsir and a harbinger of Ragnarök.

Shadow dies in Wednesday’s place on the world ash tree Yggdrasil, in the eastern USA, as a squirrel whispers Ragnarok in his ear and gives him water in a walnut shell, as a deliberate retelling of the Norse trope. The Norns have made the rope ladders on which Shadow is hung.

Part of this framing of the American story against the Norse mythology is to present an American everyman, who due to bad luck has nothing, who follows his fate towards a confrontation between the real powers represented by the different myths. With the idea of the Gods of new technology as in conflict with the forgotten pagan Gods of mythology, Gaiman is framing an apocalyptic clash between old and new. However, Baldur/Shadow finds himself a reconciling and redeeming contact between old and new, as the Minnesota grifters Odin and Loki are shown up as lacking balance.

The ladders of Yggdrasil made by the Norns have a striking astrophysical parallel. Valhalla has 540 gates. Seeing these gates as years, this image maps to a braid of three ladders up a cosmic tree, with rungs every sixty years. Interweaved like DNA spirals, our solar system has just such a system of three encircling ladders whose rungs are formed every 59.8 years. The conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn, the period also central to Mayan time reckoning in the Katun, are every 19.9 years, and every third conjunction is a third of a sign (10°) further around than the one sixty years before. After three rungs (179 years), Jupiter and Saturn meet up again with Neptune, one sign past their last meeting, an event that never occurred in the twentieth century but will happen on Jupiter's next meeting with Neptune in 14 years. Of course this ‘unknown unknown’ planet Neptune was unknown before its modern discovery, but it adds a neat twist to the old parallels of Jupiter and Saturn with the myths of the structure of time. The three rope ladders of Baldr on Yggdrasil, leading to Valhalla, are actually the cyclic interaction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

Edited to add: The three ladders formed by the twenty year Jupiter Saturn conjunctions have rungs separated by 60 years – eg 1960 to 2020. The ladder can be modelled and has an angle from the vertical of 10° as noted above. Nine of these 60 year Jupiter Saturn rungs = 9 x 60 years = 540 years. In American Gods, the Norns weave three rope ladders, each with nine rungs, around the world tree to string up Shadow/Baldr, matching the model of the solar system’s main two planets. Hence the three nine rung rope ladders of Yggdrasil add to a number of years, 540, in their Jupiter-Saturn incarnation, which matches the number of 540 gates of the Norse Heaven Valhalla. The hanging on the tree is what Wednesday points towards in their mead and spit deal when he says Shadow must do his vigil. [/spoiler]



Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:53 pm
Profile Email WWW
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Intern

Silver Contributor

Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 158
Location: Austin, Texas
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 6 times in 3 posts
Gender: Female

Post 
Hello, Robert, and thank you! I was using the spoiler brackets as I wasn't sure where many people were in the book. I can quit using the tags if a lot of people are through with the book and ready to discuss in full.

[spoiler]I understand that keeping the vigil was one of the many things that Shadow agreed to do with the mead. I agree that it certainly was a large part of what made him so strong and so complex by the end of the book. He had walked with gods, talked with gods, and acted as a god.

What I wonder about it how much self-determination Shadow has in his own reinvention if his deal with Odin sealed his fate, so to speak. I like to think that he reinvented himself as a man doing what he had agreed to do, holding up his end of the bargain whatever it took. However, it could be that holding up his end of the bargain was what actually reinvented him, which, to me, is much less interesting.[/spoiler]



Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:23 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
All Star Member


Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 136
Location: Michigan
Thanks: 1
Thanked: 5 times in 5 posts
Gender: Female
Country: United States (us)

Post 
I personally appreciate the spoiler button since I haven't finished the book yet. I have gotten to the lakeside thing and I agree about the "reinventing" aspect after he had that dream about being born again from the bowels of the earth...totally makes sense.



Sat Jun 20, 2009 8:10 pm
Profile Email
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Almost Comfortable


Joined: May 2009
Posts: 18
Location: Hiram, GA
Thanks: 0
Thanked: 0 time in 0 post
Gender: None specified

Post Shadow's maturation
Quote:
What makes Shadow himself so compelling and complex?


After reading the entire book, I don't think that Shadow's fate was sealed by the Gods. I don't think he realized who Wednesday was when he first took the job that was offered to him. He just went along with it, because that is what he was used to doing. I think he had a very laid-back personality and didn't question other people's actions or motives. Shadow was a follower, not a deep thinker or an individualist. He did not seem to have the strength of character to say no to something illegal. That's what got him into jail in the first place, I think.

As the book continues, I think Shadow is really repulsed by the Gods (as I am), and does not want to be like them. I think he undergoes a psychological maturation, especially at the end of the book when he absolutely has to find out what is in the klunker car on the ice in Lakeside. He could not let it go, as he probably would have at the beginning of the book. I think he really redeems himself at this point in time, and puts an end to the "sacrifices" of Hinzelmann, even though Hinzelmann had been a friend to him and had previously saved his life. By the end of the book, I really liked Shadow for doing the right thing (which appears to be so difficult for so many people).



Sun Jun 28, 2009 10:06 pm
Profile Email
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 11 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:


BookTalk.org Links 
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Info for Authors & Publishers
Featured Book Suggestions
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!
    

Love to talk about books but don't have time for our book discussion forums? For casual book talk join us on Facebook.

Featured Books

Books by New Authors



Booktalk.org on Facebook 



BookTalk.org is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.


Navigation 
MAIN NAVIGATION

HOMEFORUMSBOOKSTRANSCRIPTSOLD FORUMSADVERTISELINKSFAQDONATETERMS OF USEPRIVACY POLICY

BOOK FORUMS FOR ALL BOOKS WE HAVE DISCUSSED
Sense and Goodness Without God - by Richard CarrierFrankenstein - by Mary ShelleyThe Big Questions - by Simon BlackburnScience Was Born of Christianity - by Stacy TrasancosThe Happiness Hypothesis - by Jonathan HaidtA Game of Thrones - by George R. R. MartinTempesta's Dream - by Vincent LoCocoWhy Nations Fail - by Daron Acemoglu and James RobinsonThe Drowning Girl - Caitlin R. KiernanThe Consolations of the Forest - by Sylvain TessonThe Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons - by David FitzgeraldA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - by James JoyceThe Divine Comedy - by Dante AlighieriThe Magic of Reality - by Richard DawkinsDubliners - by James JoyceMy Name Is Red - by Orhan PamukThe World Until Yesterday - by Jared DiamondThe Man Who Was Thursday - by by G. K. ChestertonThe Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven PinkerLord Jim by Joseph ConradThe Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThinking, Fast and Slow - by Daniel KahnemanThe Righteous Mind - by Jonathan HaidtWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksMoby Dick: or, the Whale by Herman MelvilleA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganLost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell BanksThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. KuhnHobbes: Leviathan by Thomas HobbesThe House of the Spirits - by Isabel AllendeArguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensThe Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol OatesChrist in Egypt by D.M. MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

OTHER PAGES WORTH EXPLORING
Banned Book ListOur Amazon.com SalesMassimo Pigliucci Rationally SpeakingOnline Reading GroupTop 10 Atheism BooksFACTS Book Selections

cron
Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2014. All rights reserved.
Website developed by MidnightCoder.ca
Display Pagerank