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The March - Part 1 (pages 1 - 41) 
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Post The March - Part 1 (pages 1 - 41)
The March - Part 1 (pages 1 - 41)




Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:19 pm
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Post The first sentence
The first sentence is quite a doozy, AY? After reading it, I was afraid I had encountered another author, who, enamored of punctuation, the comma, specifically, failed, rarely, to employ one. However reading a little further, that style settled down and I realized the first sentence was a device to communicate a bewildering sense of mounting panic. As long predicted, the war is about to arrive at our doorstep!




Thu Nov 24, 2005 11:43 am
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Post Re: The first sentence
He also doesn't use quotation marks so you're always wondering if what you are reading is his narration or actual dialogue. But the story is gripping and I'm already on page 30. ::44




Thu Nov 24, 2005 8:17 pm
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Post Re: The first sentence
The first sentence worked for me. The chapter wouldn't have, if he would have been foolish enough to continue in that vein, but he didn't. The first two sentences got me up and moving fast, as it turned out.

But, yes, I know what you mean about show off writers with complicated syntax. It looks like this book will not be one of those.

Yes, without the quotations for dialogue, it keeps a bit of mystery you have to work for!

56 is my page, but I'm taking it slowly. Especially since I'm new here.




Fri Nov 25, 2005 12:17 am
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Post Re: The first sentence
Here are a few thoughts I had about the first chapter.

1) Doctorow starts with the presentation of a fairly conventional Civil War-era Southern family -- genteel, materialistic, slave-owning. There are hints that the family's relationships are duplicitous, John having sired a barely recognized child with one of the slaves. I wonder what Doctorow intends to do with this portrait. Does he intend to complexify it? Provide some contrast? Upend our expectations? It would be somewhat disappointing if he let the stereotype stand, I think.

2) The above raises a question that I think we should look at along and along: what sort of audience does the book presuppose? (For that matter, what sort of audience does the dust jacket presuppose? You'd think with a high-prestige author like Doctorow the publisher would have done something to set "The March" apart from the mass of Civil War novels, but there's little aside from the author's name to distinguish it from every other Civil War book ever made.)

3) The description of the approach of the Union army seems like it might be intended to remind some readers of the pillars of smoke and fire which guided the Hebrews out of Egypt in the book of Exodus. For the slaves of fieldstone, the expectation is that this will be the same sort of liberation story, but there are hints early on that their expectations will be betrayed. Clarke indicates that his orders are not geared to the establishment of a civil society. Sherman is blazing a path of destruction, and the slaves will ultimately be left to their own devices.

4) There's an interesting contrast presented in the character of Clarke. On page 11 he compares the order and discipline that he admires to the organic and disorderly will of the army, that sometimes arises and can only be permitted by the generals. This reminds me in some ways of Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer" or Elias Canetti's "Crowds and Power" -- more the latter than the former. The implication seems to be that Sherman's march is more an expression of the group will than any sort of concerted policy, that America or some powerful part of it is rejecting the Old South and that Sherman must merely go along with it and make if official by backing it with orders.

5) On page 12, Clarke thinks to himself: "There was so much wealth to be got from slave labor, it was no wonder these people were fighting to the death." This is obviously the explanation of one of Doctorow's characters, and not necessarily Doctorow's own opinion, but it raises a question that may be worth exploring, that of the motivation behind the civil war. Can it be as simple as greed? Does the material wealth of the Jameson's explain their defiance of the moral opinion of the nation? Does it explain the fact of the war itself, a bitter one which did not conceal from the common person the destruction and bloodshed of war?




Tue Nov 29, 2005 3:57 pm
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Post Re: The first sentence
Excuse me for being out of my leauge here as I am not as articulate as y'all. Pun indended.

YES, to statement 5. Greed and spite I believe were looming motivators in the Civil War, what I know of it.

With the Western Territories opening, the Northerns needed, wanted, to dominate with their free labor and this would be impossible if slavery continued and those vast lands were left slave states.

Certainly, there are more complications and nuances, but greed could describe it. But then, we all want to florish.

Burning the plantations, for instance --- spite and malice and jealousy. And Southerners had plans to attack the North and did invade part of Maryland for a time. (This my college student told me.)

Also, as long as there were slaves, the poor whites in the South would not be on the lower rung.

On your #2, yes, the dust jacket is so medicore and, as you mentioned, looks like it was...who knows...meant to appeal to any old Civil War buff reader? Perhaps it was not thought out well enough. Perhaps Doctorow draws an older reader so artistic elements of trend were eliminated?

With #1, yes I wonder where this will go. One NYT reviewer thought the author painted the free slaves as saints, and so dismissed the book. You can read the review among the ones I contribruted.

Still on this subject, My Mother's heart sunk when I read Pearl was 12 or 13 and Clarke was, more or less, in love. Yes, I know these are the ways of the world sometimes, but I just thought of my daughter.

That's all for now. Except I am engrossed in the book.




Tue Nov 29, 2005 8:59 pm
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Post Re: The first sentence
Based on chapter 2, I'd say we can expect religion to be an ongoing theme. You can see it in the first chapter as well, when the "hag of doom" calls Sherman an apostate, with obvious distaste. It's a little too early to say where Doctorow is going to take this theme.

AnnetteS: Excuse me for being out of my leauge here as I am not as articulate as y'all.

No excuses necessary. I realize that my style can seem a little lofty sometimes, but this isn't a college classroom. We're just looking to discuss the book.

Greed and spite I believe were looming motivators in the Civil War, what I know of it.

I'm sure greed played a large part, but I don't know if I find it satisfying as an ultimate explanation. There probably were some very callous persons who were willing to throw away lives for wealth, but with a family like the Jamesons, I don't know that greed would really override the concerns for home and health. But then, we don't know that much about the Jameson's just yet -- I'm just pointing to the notion that there must have been people who supported the war for reasons that looked like greed but were probably something else.

For example, the Southerner had a daily view of the thin line that seperated freedom from slavery. And not all Southerners were plantation owners, though the vast majority must have profitted directly or indirectly from slavery. What I'm getting at is, that what looks like greed when you're standing inside an opulent plantation house might have looked more life fear when you were standing in the town square. Some Southerners may have been afraid that "Northern Aggression" (some Southerners still call the Civil War by that name) would have displaced them and made them as vulnerable to oppression as the slaves they saw on a daily basis. Yes, that would put poor whites on the lowest rung, but it must have become increasingly clear to the middle-class and rich Southerners that it made them vulnerable as well. Assuming that the divide between the North and South were as sharp as that of industrialist v. slave-owner, different views of life and security must have arisen between the two.

Hmm. I may have to track down a few books on the Civil War. This novel is raising some questions that I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer.




Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:17 pm
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Post Re: The first sentence
Oh, incidentally, another book I'm reading right now seems to have some connection to what we're talking about in this section. The book is C.L.R. James' "The Black Jacobins", a history of the slave revolt in San Domingo which eventually resulted in the formation of Haiti.

In chapter 2, James argues that the abolitionist stance adopted by Britain just prior to the French Revolution was motivated not by humanitarian ideals, but by economic desire and, as you put it Annette, spite. San Domingo was the most profitable colony in the world -- probably the most profitable colony in history -- of which England, with its less profitable West Indies slave colonies, was jealous. But at some point it became clear to the English that most of the slaves in San Domingo were sold to the French by the English themselves, and that if the English were to suddenly cut off that supply, the French would be hard pressed to rebound. There had been a few cries for the abolition of the slave-trade before then, but it wasn't until abolition was recognized as a potential economic weapon that England made an official push for abolition -- though, presumably, England intended to keep the slaves it currently had.

Obviously, this account suggests some parallels to the motivation you mentioned for the North's call for the abolition of slavery. James' account is interesting, but it seems controversial enough to warrant looking a little further. I tend to think he's probably right, but I don't want to short-change anyone who might have actually pushed for and won some positive change on the basis of their ideals. When I finish "The Black Jacobins", I intend to look for another book with which to verify or discredit his version.




Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:27 pm
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Post Re: The first sentence
There's a nice little turn there at the end of the fourth chapter. What was earlier taken to be a procession of captured Union soldiers is actually two escaped Confederates. Nifty little portrait of a society consuming itself and making a parade out of it to boot.

What do you guys think of the characters of Arly and Will so far? They're growing on me. I think they're intended to be taken as a pair, and we're invited to look as some of the contrasts between them. Any thoughts?




Thu Dec 01, 2005 7:56 pm
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Post Slavery/wealth
Quote:
On page 12, Clarke thinks to himself: "There was so much wealth to be got from slave labor, it was no wonder these people were fighting to the death."

This reminds me of the opposite reaction from the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, a freed slave who arrives in the North and is amazed at the relative wealth of the common citizen. He expected to find poor wretches there after being raised to believe slavery created wealth. General Clarke focused on the wealth of the Southern aristocracy; Frederick Douglass was surprised at the existence and wealth of the middle class in the North...




Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:58 pm
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Post Re: Slavery/wealth
"What do you guys think of the characters of Arly and Will so far? They're growing on me. I think they're intended to be taken as a pair, and we're invited to look as some of the contrasts between them. Any thoughts?"

As I read the first few chapters, I'm thinking any commentary on character development or motivation is going to be pure speculation-we're provided generally very little background on any of these characters, and all we know of them is what's expressed in their words and thoughts. Although I think you're correct, the two are designed to be experienced as a pair, we primarily see Arly and the situation the boys find themselves in through the eyes of Will. Arly is a survivor and a realist; Will more hesitant and likely to consider consequences. At this point, though, early in the novel, they almost seem like comic relief, with their singular instinct for survival and wry observations on their plight...

"You gotta eat, boy. They're intending to kill you doesn't mean you have to do it for 'em."

I've been also engaged by the white women, sheltered and snobbish and confident in their own privilege despite the reality of what is going on around them...

"Emily was terribly moved by the surgeon's kindness. At the same time, it confirmed the expectation of what was due her."

One gets the feeling, reading that, that this was may end up being the best thing that ever happens to Emily and the others like her.


















Edited by: ldkrn at: 12/5/05 8:26 am



Mon Dec 05, 2005 8:24 am
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