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"Wicked" by Gregory Maguire 
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Since it's OK with Constance, I'm going to continue the discussion about religion on a different thread.


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Fri Mar 14, 2008 6:49 am
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Post The Elephant.
I'll go back to the main thread as I am still not sure what the more practical way is.

Tammy asked a question about Elphaba a while ago, and i don't know where it is-- anyway, whenI read it I had no answer.

I am now reading the "In the Vinkus" chapter, and I wonder whether I have skipped a few pages.


p 306, the Elephant says to Elphaba: "Daughter of the Dragon, I too am under a spell".

Is Elphaba under a spell?

Elphaba tells the Elephant she is here "To retire from the world after makingf sure of the safety of the survivors of my lover".

Is her lover dead then?


Now here is a quotation I think Tammy could use for parallels with the real world:

p307, the Elephant says: " When the times are a crucible, when the air is full of crisis, those who are the most themselves are the victims".

The text seems to refer to changing one's physical appearance at will, but one could interpret it as being about the dangers of insisting on being yourself in dangerous or difficult times.
I don't know anybody who can change his physical appearance at will, or turn from a human to an Elephant, but I notice that the people who excell at showing different facets of themselves according to their audience or changing times do very well in the world. They survive, and the really good ones always kep on top of things.


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Thu Apr 10, 2008 2:57 pm
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Post Re: The Elephant.
Ophelia wrote:
p307, the Elephant says: " When the times are a crucible, when the air is full of crisis, those who are the most themselves are the victims".

The text seems to refer to changing one's physical appearance at will, but one could interpret it as being about the dangers of insisting on being yourself in dangerous or difficult times.
I don't know anybody who can change his physical appearance at will, or turn from a human to an Elephant, but I notice that the people who excell at showing different facets of themselves according to their audience or changing times do very well in the world. They survive, and the really good ones always kep on top of things.


Ophelia,

You asked some great questions here, and I can't wait to get to them. However, I'm at work now :( so I can't answer them yet, as I want to give my response the time it deserves. Thanks for your thoughts, and I'll get back to you later tonight!



Fri Apr 11, 2008 2:18 pm
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Post Re: The Elephant.
Ophelia, sorry I didn't get back to you last night like I said I would. I came home and vegged in front of the TV like I haven't in a long time. (Rough week at work, you know?) Anyway, let me get to a couple of your question this morning:

Ophelia wrote:
p 306, the Elephant says to Elphaba: "Daughter of the Dragon, I too am under a spell".

Is Elphaba under a spell?

Elphaba tells the Elephant she is here "To retire from the world after making sure of the safety of the survivors of my lover".

Is her lover dead then?


I never got the feeling the whole time I've been reading the book (which I am now up to page 366) that Elphaba was under a spell. However, the author has fashioned (from what I get anyway) Princess Nastoya ("The Elephant") as extremely old and wise, and therefore could see deeper/know more than the reader (or Elphaba for that matter) realizes is going on in the complex lives of Maguire's characters. Perhaps Elphaba is under the spell of the Time Dragon in which she was born? I guess my answer is that we just don't know yet if, indeed, Elphaba is under a spell.

To answer your second question, yes, Elphaba's lover is dead. Do you remember in the book where Fiyero was killed by the Gale Force (I assume it was the Gale Force, anyway...)? There was an entire chapter and then some about how Elphaba and Fiyero became lovers, and then a chapter on how he came to be dead.



Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:53 am
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Post Re: The Elephant.
Ophelia wrote:
p307, the Elephant says: " When the times are a crucible, when the air is full of crisis, those who are the most themselves are the victims".

The text seems to refer to changing one's physical appearance at will, but one could interpret it as being about the dangers of insisting on being yourself in dangerous or difficult times.
I don't know anybody who can change his physical appearance at will, or turn from a human to an Elephant, but I notice that the people who excell at showing different facets of themselves according to their audience or changing times do very well in the world. They survive, and the really good ones always kep on top of things.


First, GREAT quote, Ophelia!? (I, too, highlighted it in my book as something to bring up with you guys later.) I am so glad you brought it up for discussion, though, because I would have if you hadn't :beer2:

As far as applying this observation to real life, I don't Maguire was intending it to actually mean shape-shifting. When times are dangerous, it's not that we can disappear; but, in a sense, we can become something different. Persecuted peoples throughout history have pretended to be something they're not to avoid danger. Homosexuals are one of the first examples that come to mind. Not that being a homosexual is completely acceptable in society today, but before (when the danger of "coming out" was even more real), men (and women) denied their lifestyle --even marrying the opposite sex to maintain that lie. They did so because being openly gay could have cost them their families, livelihood, even their lives.
During the 1800's in America, children who were of mixed race (black and white descent) usually pretended to be "all-white" so that they wouldn't have to endure the stigma and discrimination that went along with being "colored."
I think there are some on this forum who can relate to this next statement: Being atheist in the Bible Belt --although not necessarily dangerous --is quite uncomfortable. During my wild years in college, I owned a beat-up car with tons of bumper stickers on the back (most of them being critiques of religion and politics). Anyway, I can't tell you how many times I came out to my car with some pamphlet or proselytizing material about my soul or damnation. When people would learn through conversation or what have you about my non-belief, they would try to debate with me, invite me to church, give me a bible, etc. to "win" me back. I felt like I was hounded --so much so that I stopped telling people who I was. If they talked about religion, I let them believe my silence was a sign of solidarity.
So, I think Maguire's quote above rings true with every persecuted group throughout history. We do hide when we are being hounded or are in danger. All animals do. It's a defense mechanism --a way to survive.



Sat Apr 12, 2008 10:20 am
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Yes, I quite see your point.
It would require a lot of energy and ceaseless courage to be a militant all your life, come what may.
Some people do that, and ceaselessly claim their rights to be... whatever they are, even in small aspects. A friend of mine is like that, he seems to be unstoppable, he has two main causes but he also manages to shock his fellow teachers by letting it be known that he belongs to a small non-political trade union (the same as I belong to) in schools where everybody does what they should: belong to the large leftist trade unions.
I admire him but I would get overwhelmed.

When I read what you write and what some other BT members I realize how lucky I am with French Catholics. Not that I ever thought much about criticizing them, but I suppose I should be positively grateful for them.
Fancy having to be a militant atheist!

Actually, I sometimes have a feeling that the Catholics in France think that they are the minority who have to keep silent. Not that anybody would try to convert them to being an atheist and hand them leaflets, but it must be tiresome for them to get amazed looks, smiles, and the same old jokes about the Catholic Church.


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Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:40 pm
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Tammy, I'm still thinking about this idea about Wicked I mentioned before.

Notice that almost every time we discuss something about this book, it's a quote that tells us something about life in the real world.

We go directly from the one-line quote to the real world, as if the book was not there.
This is allright, and I enjoy the discussions, but this is still not what novels are about in my opinion.
This may explain why people are sometimes in two minds about whether they think Wicked is a success.

If a writer wants to show something about human nature or human society in a clever way, relying on short key sentences, why write a novel, why not write "Maxims" as La Rochefoucauld did in the seventeenth century, why not write fables for example as La Fontaine and other authors did?



Fyiero's death: Thanks for your answer.

At first I thought I must have skipped a few pages in the reading, but just now I realiezed that I had indeed read them, and classified the occurrence as "Fyiero was attacked", and them promptly forgot about him as he was no longer mentioned.

This again shows something about the book: I actually rather liked Fyiero but I never identify with the characters of "Wicked" just as I didn't identify with their love story-- would the lovers be separated, etc... If Fyiero is here one chapter and gone the next that's fine.
I wonder whether this was intentional on Maguire's part.


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Ophelia wrote:
Notice that almost every time we discuss something about this book, it's a quote that tells us something about life in the real world. We go directly from the one-line quote to the real world, as if the book was not there. This is allright, and I enjoy the discussions, but this is still not what novels are about in my opinion.

If a writer wants to show something about human nature or human society in a clever way, relying on short key sentences, why write a novel, why not write "Maxims" as La Rochefoucauld did in the seventeenth century, why not write fables for example as La Fontaine and other authors did?


Why wouldn't one of purposes of a novel be about relating to/critiquing real life? In fact, there are certain elements that every novel has, and those are plot, setting, developing characters, theme, and style and presentation. There are several themes in Maguire's Wicked, and he could have just as well written a "maxim" for each and every one of those themes. However, he included them all in a brilliantly vivid and cleverly constructed story that really turns the "old" Oz on its head. I think he wrote Wicked because he is a writer and coming up with maxims for each "truth" he intended to touch on was not what he wished to accomplish. It was a novel he intended to write.


Ophelia wrote:
This again shows something about the book: I actually rather liked Fyiero but I never identify with the characters of "Wicked" just as I didn't identify with their love story--


I too found Elphaba and Fiyero's affair hard to comprehend. The whole time that they knew each other in Shiz, the novel never let on that there was any attraction or special friendship between the two. It kind of seemed that their "love" sprung from nowhere. I remember that Fiyero saw a need/longing when he looked into Elphaba's eyes...Maybe the love affair started "just because," you know? Some things in life just do...
Nevertheless, I have to disagree with you about never identifying with the characters. I think you can feel the frustration and isolation that Elphaba has felt all of her life. You could feel her devastation when she became a sort of nun after the murder of her lover. I mean, she didn't speak a word for two years because she was so burt (not to mention under a vow of silence...) As you read about the characters' exploits at Shiz, I could feel my own contempt and disgust at Galinda's self-importance. And, you could feel all the pity and embarrassment for Boq at his pathetic attempts to woo Galinda over and over again.

I find it surprising that you don't connect with the characters on a personal level. Their lives



Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:31 pm
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[quote]I find it surprising that you don't connect with the characters on a personal level. Their lives


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Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:48 am
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Hi ladies,

I had to do some catch-up reading here since I have had computer problems off and on for the past few days :cry:

I have to agree with Tammy that I think novels can be used as commentary on real life. I see that even in books like the Harry Potter novels where the author uses the story to show aspects of society. I think it is maybe a less controversial way to let their opinions be known without coming right out and stating them. When opinions are imbedded in a fictional story they can be passed off as an aspect of the story instead of a critique of society for those people who are easily offended. And it can be a very creative way of critiquing society as well and opening discussion among people who may not watch the news or read the paper every day.

As to the characters themselves, I don't know if I especially identified with any of them but I could empathize with Elphaba and her feelings of isolation and injustice.


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Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:39 am
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Yes, Constance, but don't you see, you say "novels can be used to..."
and in the end, it will be an acceptable form of criticism for those who are likely to take offence, and a help for those who haven't got the time to read the news... and why not, but as I read and discussed those topics here I kept thinking that this sounds like an excuse for a novel, not art.

It leads to interesting discussions, but in the old days when I studied literature, wasn't there more to it than going straight to the discussion of related topics?

You're right to mention Harry Potter. The thing is , HP does say something about society, but it's not the only thing it does, it functions at many levels, and for me it is art.

One other type of novel that comes to mind is the political novel, like 1984.
This seems to be a novel apart from the others.
On the one hand one might think it was politics rather than art. I studied it in...exactly 1984, when it was clear than all those things had not happened to us, and yet I remember it much better than many other books I studied, it really made an impression.
Another thing I remember about it is that, contrary to the other books we were studying that year, there wasn't all that much to write about it, because everything was so crystal clear and simple, and who could argue against any of its points?
The sort of argument I remember is whether the threat of using rats as a threat in the torture chamber to break Winston's resistance was a good idea. I thought it worked, but George Orwell wrote this was a weak part of the book and he wasn't pleased with it! (I give it as an example of the fact that there wasn't all that much to discuss).
Anyway, that was a political novel by a genius.

Now, again I'm not saying I'm annoyed with Wicked, but I'm puzzled.

Gregory Maguire has given a lot of interviews, but none tackles the problem of what he wanted to do. His interviewers ask him about his writing habits ( sort of, what time, in which room...) and a few other polite questions. So the mystery remains.
I remember that Carly (Wild City Woman) read Wicked and her comment was that she din't know whether she liked it or not, and found this strange.

What would be helpful here would be to have a dozen members in the discussion with different input... in the mean time, we'll see how tomorrow may bring me enlightenment.


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I unfortunately cannot comment on 1984 since I have not read it :oops:

I personally really like writing that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. For example I personally may see Wicked as a commentary on the current state of society while my best friend may see it as simply a fairy tale and nothing more. I think that is kind of an art form in itself that it can be cleverly written that way. I don't think I could do it. My writing tends to be "obvious" if that makes sense so I admire this skill in other writers.

In pretty much all of my literature classes in high school and college we paralleled novels to current life and we always had to learn a little about the time period in which a book was written when we studied it. So I tend to look at books this way when I read them - I am a product of my education :D And it's been about 8 months since I've read Wicked so I'm getting a little fuzzy on the details now.


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Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:26 pm
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Here is a sentence that caught my attention in a review:

Quote:
Through a troubled childhood, radical college years and eventual nervous breakdown, the witch Elphaba is an existential heroine with a mean streak and unquenchable moral outrage. One man's freedom fighter, after all, is another man's Witch.


http://www.revish.com/reviews/0755331605/Chinsmith/


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Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:32 pm
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p 353 (Elphaba has been complaining about Sarima's children):

"I was a good child," Elphaba said stoutly. "I took care of my little sister, who was horribly disfigured from birth. I obeyed my father, and my mother until she died. I tramped around as a missionary child child and gave testimonials to the Unnamed God even though I was essentially faithless.
I believed in obedience, and I don't believe it hurt me."

Here are my thoughts about the real world. ;-)

There are two sorts of adults:

a- those who were up to all sorts of pranks and not too worried about being good when they were children.
When they grow up, they have a pretty balanced view of things.

b- those who were good children, and may end up caught in Elphaba's contradictions:
Quote:
I believed in obedience, and I don't believe it hurt me."

They don't know what went wrong. However disgruntled they may feel about the world, they still repeat the right thing to do, the one which doesn't hurt anybody, is to be an obedient child, because this is what ought to work.

Elphaba accumulated so much good behaviour...and where does being a charitable and obedient child take you?

This is the question I think the narrator is asking.

Sarima, perceiving the pitiful lack of logic in Elphaba's conclusion, retorts:

"Then what did hurt you?".


From what I've read in reviews people see this in terms of asking the question whether Elphaba is a witch or not, or what turned her into a bad witch (list of things that happened to her to make her bitter).


I see a heroine who presents this type of experience of the world and reasoning, 150 pages from the end.
From the way the world goes, and the way narrators weave their webs, Elphaba is doomed.


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[quote]As you read about the characters' exploits at Shiz, I could feel my own contempt and disgust at Galinda's self-importance. And, you could feel all the pity and embarrassment for Boq at his pathetic attempts to woo Galinda over and over again.

I find it surprising that you don't connect with the characters on a personal level. Their lives


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