Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 86 - 133)
Chapter XIV was a long one, compared to the 3 and 4 page chapters we've been reading recently. And I've noticed that Doctorow's sentences have started stretching again, like the sentence that started the book. Structurally, though, he's keeping those long sentences simple, so it isn't distracting or too difficult to follow.
He's also drawing nearly all of the characters back together in a rather tight know. In particular, it's interesting that he's finding ways to cross the paths of freed slaves and their former masters -- or their former mistresses, I should say. At this point, I didn't really expect to see the Jameson's waltz back into the narrative. It was actually the name of their plantation, Fieldstone, that rang the bell for me -- until I read that word in this chapter, I didn't connect Mattie and John to the characters that kick-started the novel.
Speaking of mistresses, there appears to be a heavy emphasis on women in the novel. Most of the central characters are women -- certainly the strongest characters are. And Arly's monologue in this chapter on the divine splendors of the female sex (and sex with females) brings us around to a fairly ancient theme, the womb as the most basic of mysteries. In ancient literary and mythic traditions, that connects it to the root of civilization. That's a theme to watch for.
Immediate implications: looks like there's something of a dichotomy between Emily and Wrede. Wrede is skillful and soulful, but he's ultimately mending wounds, and with limited success, as his reservations over John Jameson's chances of recovery show. I'm betting that Emily Thompson will end up pregnant before the end of the novel, in which case she may be made to represent the human facility for starting anew. Another implication is that Arly's theology is as much pagan as it is Protestant Christian -- he's calling on earthier traditions: Sheela-na-Gig, Gaia kinda traditions.