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Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950 
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Post Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
Chapters 6 and 7 of Part I



Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:51 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
I like the style Oates uses in this book of having the action happen immediately and then we fall back to the buildup, almost as if we get the punchline and then the rest of the joke comes later, something that I think takes a lot of skill as an author to pull off successfully.

It was interesting that Dirk gathered wild flowers and brought champagne to a woman who was so recently a widow. The champagne, especially, because of the role that champagne had played in Arial's terrible honeymoon night. For Dirk and Arial the champagne makes everything more beautiful and their relationship is just about the exact opposite of Arial and Gilbert's. Where Arial and Gilbert feel no love or desire and go about everything in a cordial, slow-moving courtship that is more about what society (family included) want than what the couple wants, where up until the wedding they have not even properly kissed, Dirk and Arial are full of love and desire and their world becomes only about each other and nothing else matters but being together.

Arial finds what she did not even know existed and she begins to live. But, underneath she still has the taint of being 'damned', she is still running from something she cannot face. Arial does not feel like she deserves what she is now finding and 'knows' that someday it will be taken away.



Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:48 am
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
A big cloud of damnation, of foreboding seems to follow Ariah about, it pervades her thoughts and how she sees herself and her future. The style of this novel, the punchline before the joke, reinforces this feeling that the reader gets about Ariah. When Dirk proposes his 'winning' line is "Ariah, why would I leave you? I adore you. You are my soul." (authors italics) .... I suspect that deep down inside Ariah has felt troubled, troubled about herself, a troubled soul I guess, and now this man is saying this to her and she sees the opportunity to be 'his soul', rather than her troubled self/soul .. really running away from herself. These feelings about herself make her vulnerable. I think we see more of this in the Marriage chapter as another 'soul' comes onto the scene.

I think Claudine Burnaby is an interesting character. Dirk clearly loves and is attached to his rather neurotic mother and I'm wondering if she will play a part in their lives later in the story. At this point, I think she may be a sign of hidden skeletons, either past or present, that somehow Dirk or the Burnaby family are mixed up in. Claudine may be neurotic/paranoid due to mental illness or she may be afraid for a reason, ie that she knows something or is afraid something will be disclosed. I tend to think the latter because Oates allocates a significant part of the chapter to Dirk's visit with his mother and the details about the nature of their relationship when he was younger seem to be leading somewhere. Of course, this may all be a sidebar to the main narrative and not mean much at all.



Fri Sep 16, 2011 3:46 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
I haven't decided if Ariah is a victim or has indeed sold her soul for a marriage proposal (the first one) and now must count on someone else to guide her through life. Dirk did note that she seemed to be playing a "role" as the Widow Bride of The Falls. Some how, I don't quite trust her.

It's possible that Claudine is the cause of Dirk's underlying romanticism and willingness to care for a woman, despite her attempts to control him. Before meeting Ariah he had been quite the man-about-town, carefree and unattached. He seems to have needed someone who required a lot of care.



Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:12 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
I agree ... I have trouble trusting Ariah, there is something fishy about her motives, the 'vigil' thing and her insistence on being there when they found the body just seemed way over the top even given the traumatic events.

I think she is needy, clearly she sees marriage as a way to meet those needs and that is understandable, but by marrying two men, the first she did not love and married only for social acceptance and the second she does love (or at last she is infatuated with him) but she does not know him in any depth ... this is 'high-risk' behavior, choosing the devil or the deep blue sea.



Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:34 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
Giselle,
Exactly. Also, the repeated mention of souls has to be leading us to take a close look at the behavior and possible motives of the characters. Ariah appears to be duplicitous while Dirk seems honest.



Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:47 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
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but she does not know him in any depth ... this is 'high-risk' behavior, choosing the devil or the deep blue sea.


Very true, but he swoops in and offers to be her knight in shining armour and offers her an escape, like you mentioned, he offered her his soul. Her honeymoon experience pushed her out of the safe sedate world she had always known (and perhaps wanted to escape?) and she can't go back. I get the impression that in some way she feels empowered despite being damned which has given her the courage for this 'high-risk' behavior.



Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:20 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
Actually, I think he offered Ariah a role in his life .. to be his soul ... and she jumped at the opportunity. I agree that she has experienced empowerment, she is actually 'living' more, getting more out of life but she has blindspots and naivety likely caused by so many years of living in a shell and thinking that she would always be there. As the book progresses I feel really sorry for Ariah, like the fear she feels when she thinks her first child was fathered by Gilbert and when she falls into the clutches of Claudine Burnaby (nasty person). I felt she dealt with Claudine quite well, all things considered, but her insecurity and fears were palpable. Her life may be more empowered but it is a difficult life.



Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:39 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
Yes, her insecurity and fears come out as time goes on, but when I said empowered I was thinking mostly of the proposal and that first chapter of marital bliss...They were married. I think there were 20 paragraphs started this way. Oates does a good job here conveying that wonderful, new love high, nobody matters but us, feeling that these newlyweds felt.

There are only a few hints of those fears and insecurities that surface more as the initial euphoria wanes. Ariah's wish to block out the rest of the world and forget her past and the thought, I don't deserve this, hint at what is to come.



Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:53 am
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
That's and interesting comment, "she feels empowered despite being damned". Is her damnation what empowers her? She certainly wasn't empowered before she was willing to give up her soul for an engagement ring. Has she become a succubus who will devour Dirk?



Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:15 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
No, I thought her accepting the engagement ring from Gilbert was part of her still under her parents rules and the rules of society. Her empowerment came first from finding the body, which gave her an escape from the marriage and from the honeymoon night, and then even more so when she was introduced by Dirk to the magic of love and sexual enjoyment. She, at this point, felt free to defy her parents and the world and follow her heart. Underneath she did not feel like she deserved this and felt that one day she would pay for her sins.

Maybe you are right...her damnation in a sense freed her of following convention, at least in her mind. I don't know if she is capable of devouring anyone.



Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:57 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
lindad_amato wrote:
That's and interesting comment, "she feels empowered despite being damned". Is her damnation what empowers her? She certainly wasn't empowered before she was willing to give up her soul for an engagement ring. Has she become a succubus who will devour Dirk?

Ariah seems like an unlikely succubus, on the surface, but I'm convinced that there is more to Ariah than meets the eye. She clearly has seductive power.

Her attitude toward marriage is baffling. She treats it as a prize, as if she has crossed the finish line first, when really she has just crossed the starting line and now has to deal with the day to day reality and take the good with the bad. Marriage has significance to Ariah, as a ceremonial rite connected to the soul in the sight of God, although she doesn't seem religious in a conventional sense. In this way, marriage is more of a 'finish line'.



Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:50 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
Dirk's mother was some piece of work. The way she hid herself from the world, but wanted Dirk to be there for her. She wouldn't even reveal herself to her son. They had a slightly inappropriate relationship that I think his mother wanted to sustain. He pulled away from her, but was still in her clutches when he went to visit her. I loved it when he snatched her veil away. He was sick of her crap and ready to show her.

She refused to acknowledge that he had feelings for a girl from Troy. She kept mentioning that they didn't know anyone from Troy. I wonder how Mom will feel when Dirk marries Ariah.

Dirk had fallen hard to take the risk of seeing Ariah without any encouragement from her. In fact she had barely noticed him. What was it about her that drew him so?

I think Dirk was a little out of his mind. The way he gathered the flowers was out of control. He was bleeding and hardly even knew it. He was stepping near the edge with no safety net. Then when he saw her he was so unsure of himself.

She had to be shocked to see him. She seemed to take it into stride when he professed his love for her and asked her to marry him. She drank her champagne and took it all in. She agreed so fast to marry him, to take him, that it was hard to believe this was the same Ariah who had married Gilbert. Doing the right thing. Marrying the right person whether she loved him or not. She sees marriage as a salvation and is too eager to enter into marriage with Dirk.



Fri Sep 23, 2011 4:34 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
Good comment and you're right, Claudine Burnaby is a real witch. I think pulling off her veil was a metaphor for revealing the person inside and, strangely, the one who really cannot live with this 'inside'person is Claudine. But Dirk has a problem - he loves his mother and this makes him vulnerable .. and he has another problem .. he loves Ariah, which is great at first and then not so great and this makes him vulnerable again. And as the story proceeds there is another woman as well ... Dirk's in big trouble.

'Witches' got me thinking about gothic fiction and realizing that maybe this novel could be classified as gothic, like some of Oates other work. The dangers of love, the setting, the symbolism of the falls as it eats up these souls (beginning with Dirk's great grandfather who walked the proverbial tightrope .. what's that about?) possibly a curse? All this is feeling gothic.



Fri Sep 23, 2011 6:02 pm
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Post Re: Part I: The Proposal, 7 July 1950
So is Dirk walking a symbolic tightrope? His life doesn't seem as physically threatening as his great grandfather's, but is it?



Fri Sep 23, 2011 7:17 pm
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