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Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld 
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Post Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
Chapters 4,5,6 of Part II



Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:41 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
I was taken by surprise when Dirk went into the river. I did not see that on coming (the comment made by Chris about expecting this I did not read until just recently), though perhaps I should have. I kept thinking that it was going to be one of her children that was taken by the falls.

Ariah seems to have a perverse pleasure in turning her back on all the was Dirk and playing out her life the way she had forseen it would be. She expects to be left, she expects to struggle and she's going to do it and make her kids do it with her.

The scene where Royall meets the Lady in Black is strange. It does seemed emphasize how much their was between her and Dirk, that the feelings were there on both sides...but having sex with his son?? Is this lady destined to be the downfall of both father and son, or is she the savior?

I wonder which one of Ariah's children is doomed to end up in the falls?



Mon Sep 26, 2011 11:56 am
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
Realiz,
I was also shocked by Dirk's death. We had some slim warning of possible "underworld" characters when he talks about the possibility of bribing the judge, but this was a surprise. I hoped that he would be able to help both Ariah and the Love Canal plaintiffs. Guess I'm too much of a romantic.
I wonder what Oates is saying about doing good for others here. Ariah continuously says that The Family should stay closed and separate from others. Is it possible that her way of living a secluded life is the better way?



Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:26 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
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Is it possible that her way of living a secluded life is the better way?


Good question. I think that we have here the two extremes, neither of which is healthy. Good, healthy families need a balance of closeness and loyalty coupled with being a part of the greater world, having friends and experiences, both shared and separate. It is a fine balance. I think Oates is showing us what does not work very successfully.



Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:05 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
In The Underworld Oates uses references to the River Styx and calls Dirk's car Charon's barge. I'm beginning to feel as if Dirk's life represents a pilgrimage of sorts. As in the Pilgrim's Progress he travels along, is tempted, and learns many new things about himself and the forces of good and evil.



Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:16 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
Dirk finds himself sucked into another relationship, not yet a sexual one. But he is drawn to this woman in much the same way he was drawn to Ariah. The woman in black triggered this want. He tried to push her away, but fate pulled them together. He let himself get pulled down to the detriment of his entire life. He ends up losing most of his clients, all his friends, even his wife over this woman and her plight.

Dirk lets himself be led by his emotions. He has lost all sense of self preservation. He is ready to risk it all.



Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:45 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
After reading these three chapters, does anyone think that perhaps Dirk was making up for his earlier life of luxury and self-involvement? I think he was initially mesmerized by the Woman, but his obsession seems to have become more than just her as he becomes more involved in the case. He seems to have some type of awakening.



Sat Oct 01, 2011 5:03 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
He does have an awakening. He becomes totally involved in this cause. He finally sees how other people live and becomes much more sympathetic towards the lower class.



Sun Oct 02, 2011 10:43 am
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
lindad_amato wrote:
After reading these three chapters, does anyone think that perhaps Dirk was making up for his earlier life of luxury and self-involvement? I think he was initially mesmerized by the Woman, but his obsession seems to have become more than just her as he becomes more involved in the case. He seems to have some type of awakening.

I think Dirk comes to life, first through his role in supporting Ariah through the vigil at the Falls and then through his role as legal counsel and his relationship with the Woman in Black. Prior to these events, I think he was coasting through life on the coattails of family money and his reputation as a brilliant lawyer and enjoyable but shallow personal realtionships but through Ariah and Nina he discovered real inner passion, perhaps linked to his 'soul', as if his soul moved and he came to life. Ariah says of Royall 'at least you are alive' and he has trouble understanding this but I wonder of this is an oblique reference to his father, both in terms of Dirk as a very much 'alive' factor in her life and then Dirk as betrayer, dead and forgotten.

Another reflection on Oates characters (including Dirk, Ariah, Royall, Nina and Claudine Burnaby at least) is that they all need and seek 'refuge' of sorts. Ariah is the clearest refuge seeker with her way of cutting herself and her family off, even remaining isolated at her house. Royall has his 'captain' role on the tour boat. On this refuge idea, I was listening to an 'Eagles' song the other day and one line jumped out at me ... 'every form of refuge has its price' ... and this made me think of how these characters seek refuge and that this refuge has a price, a price that is evident in the characters lives and struggles.



Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:48 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
Giselle,
Do you think that they might have been better off if they had chosen religion as their refuge?



Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:22 am
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
Here is an excerpt from an interview with J.Oates I found on the internet:

Families have their own unique characteristics, like the Burnabys in this story, but are there certain universal truths that apply to every family?Where there is intense love, whether erotic or parental, it is likely to become possessive and stifling, provoking rebellion. Upsets may occur, even painful misunderstandings and separations, yet the essential love remains, and might again flourish, more temperately.



Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:38 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
It appears that Oates has expressed her views on relationships with children very well through The Falls, obviously a matter she has given a lot of thought. It's interesting that by the end of the book the children are adults, or close in Juliet's case, and I think Oates manages this transition to adult-children really well in how she characterizes their evolving relationship with their mother and each other. I also think that Ariah evolved and outdistanced her past and I was happy to see this. There were many times when the children were younger that I did not like the way she talked to them, her favourtism and negativism. I would have difficulty saying she was good mother, but I sympathize with the trauma in her life so I make allowances for this.
lindad_amato wrote:
Giselle,
Do you think that they might have been better off if they had chosen religion as their refuge?

Such an interesting question-the refuge of religion. There is so much discussion about religion/athiesm on Booktalk that I hesitate to venture an opinion on this because others obviously know so much more than I do about this. I can only comment that Oates imbues her characters with a certain spirituality and I think they find strength in this. Whether or not you draw a line between spirituality and religion is a matter of personal opinion I think. I'm not a fan of organized religion but I believe we all have a spiritual existence and that is what I see in this novel and in these characters.



Sat Oct 15, 2011 7:41 pm
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Post Re: Part II: Before..., ...And After, The Underworld
Giselle,
Personally, I agree with you. From my perspective Ariah and her first husband did not handle life very well despite, or because of their participation in an organized religion. Ariah's children did much better finding their own way in life and they did appear to have a certain sense of spirituality.



Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:41 pm
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