This past week we read chapters 51-60 and I have to admit this section was really hard for me. I was so saddened and horrified and immediately all the careful characterization and time spent with characters made sense. It allowed us to feel the impact of what happened, the wild unpredictability of the West, the fear and terror.
Melissa wrote the questions this week. I hope you'll share you answers as well.
1. Lorena’s situation is hell. How does she endure the suffering? (Or anyone who is put in a position of utter brutality). What are your overall feelings and thoughts about her, Blue Duck, Dog Face, Monkey John and the whole camp scene? Where does such evil come from?
2. The two story lines finally collide when Call meets up with July and his gang – did you have any premonition it would end the way it did? Do you think July is reluctant to set out on his own to find Elmira?
3. Call is obviously distraught that Gus hasn’t returned, do these emotions surprise you? Do they seem out of character for Call? Do you think he is more worried now that Po Campo has shed light on how bad Blue Duck is?
Lorena’s situation is hell. How does she endure the suffering? (Or anyone who is put in a position of utter brutality). What are your overall feelings and thoughts about her, Blue Duck, Dog Face, Monkey John and the whole camp scene? Where does such evil come from?
Amy: I also wondered how Lorena survives such suffering. Her situation is the equivalent, I think, of a modern sex slave without the drugs to help her get through. I felt tremendous sympathy for her. This section also really helped me feel what it was like out there..the unpredictable nature of it, what there was to fear. I felt HORRIBLE for Dog Face as well, what an awful terrible way to die simply for trying to bring a little ease into Lorena's situation. I couldn't stop thinking about this all day after I read it.
Leah: This section was incredibly powerful and disturbing to read. I just kept thinking what kind of people can do this to other human beings? I can only guess that it's people who feel at a complete loss of control maybe? Blue Duck and the Kiowas have essentially lost their people, their way of life, culture and their livelihood. They've essentially lost all sense of humanity because it's been taken away from them. Dog Face and Monkey John are white men living with them, I am still unsure why, and while Dog Face seems to be the only one with some sense of humanity I think Monkey John is one of those weak mean who wants to show that he is just as powerful as the other men he is around by being the most brutal with Lorena. As for Lorena, if she wasn't a lost soul before, my God how would you ever recover from something like that? Gus was saying that most women never really did. I can imagine that yes, it would make you completely untrusting, totally paranoid and well, not really want to go on anymore. And yet she has survived so it will be interesting to see what's to come for her.
Melissa: I don’t think I’ve ever read a single passage in literature as cruel or inhumane as this. I was stunned. I’m glad Lorena chose to become mute – her only form of defiance and the only thing she could control. I guess that was her survivability tool. You usually read in survivor stories that the victim has HOPE and that’s what helps them survive…but at that point, I couldn’t even tell if she had any HOPE that Gus would find her? During this scene, I started to think of them as real people – because my first thought, and I know this sounds crazy, was, “what would their mothers think?!” or, “Where did they learn such vile behavior?!” I wanted to do some kind of psychoanalysis on them…but I’m sure Blue Duck saw his family destroyed by white men in similar fashion. Evil breeds evil. It still gives me shivers.
The two story lines finally collide when Call meets up with July and his gang – did you have any premonition it would end the way it did? Do you think July is reluctant to set out on his own to find Elmira?
Amy: I was so so so sad it ended the way it did, but I suspected Roscoe might not survive. I was also just really sad Janey didn't survive. She was such a fighter and interesting character. I feel badly for July setting out on his own, knowing what happened to his group, his people. I think the quick way they died after spending chapters letting us get to know them was very effective.
Leah: Oh poor July. He can't seem to catch a break can he. He was finally connected with the rest of his group and then had Gus to help him out and bam, everyone is gone in an instant. Elmira's left him, his friend's are dead. For his sake, I kind of hope he starts fresh in a new town and doesn't keep chasing Elmira but I doubt it.
Melissa: I almost feel guilty for treating this gang of misfits so sarcastically in my previous posts! I loved Roscoe’s bumbling and anticipated his antics throughout the remainder of the book. I SO did not see this coming. I was crushed when they all died – and I really wanted to get to know Janey! In fact, after Gus shows up with July to tend to the bodies and relates how he found them, I had to go back and re-read the previous scene, just to wrap my brain around what happened. If I were July, after being a witness to the carnage, there is NO way I would go anywhere by myself. I’d be much like Lorena and stick to Gus like glue. So many what ifs: If July had stayed home, if Roscoe had stayed and tried being “married”, if Joe had signed on to work for Wilbarger…also, as an afterthought, I do think July would have gotten killed had he stayed behind in the camp.
Call is obviously distraught that Gus hasn’t returned, do these emotions surprise you? Do they seem out of character for Call? Do you think he is more worried now that Po Campo has shed light on how bad Blue Duck is?
Amy: I think Call and Gus have a special relationship, the kind forged between two people when they live a lot of life together and see a lot of things. Sure they get on each other's nerves, but they have a kind of deep respect for one another. So it didn't seem out of character to me, Call seems like a man who doesn't really know his own feelings. I do think it would be hard not to be worried after hearing more bad things about Blue Duck!
Leah: I agree with you Amy! I also think Call probably is more of a man's man and maybe he is used to Gus always being around to do the talking for him. They are, for lack of a better term, best friends. Should he have gone with Gus? Probably not because it would have left all of the younger men and cattle in dire straits but should he have let Gus go alone, who is to say. They aren't as young as they used to be and Call already feels guilt for things left undone and unsaid in his past. I don't think he thought this was 'goodbye' when Gus left.
Melissa: I think my original commentary on Gus and Call was to call them an “old married couple” – and I think this really is testament to that statement. I think “old married couples” tend to take for granted their relationship and assume that their partner is always going to be there for them – and when Gus doesn’t return in a timely manner, Call finally has a rude awakening. I really love their dynamic. I also think, and I have no direct basis for this, but I assume that military comrades have much the same relationship – where they are totally dependent on one another, but without being outwardly emotional. I would have thought less of Call if he hadn’t reacted this way. And when Po Campo started telling horror stories – it would have scared the beejeezies out of me and made me worry more! I am assuming, although I haven’t gotten that far, that there is a reunion – I hope I’m not disappointed with their reactions to one another!
Looking forward to your thoughts on this section. Were you devastated like I was?