The reality of the story's timeframe hit my students hard in last week's discussion of Part II of Cold Mountain...while some parts were hilariously unbelievable to them:
Junior agreed that the roving life had been a fine one for him, and said that his troubles all began when he settled down and took a wife, for it came to pass that three years after the wedding she bore him a negro baby. And further, she refused to name the father, denying Junior his just revenge. He set about instead to divorce her, but the judge had declined to grant one on the grounds that Junior knew she was a slut when he married her.
...other places were grimacingly horrific to them:
It was war in its most antique form, as if hundreds of men were put into a cave, shoulder to shoulder, and told to kill each other. There was no room for firing and loading muskets, so they mainly used them as clubs. Inman saw one little drummer boy beating a man's head in with an ammunition box. The Federals hardly even bothered to fight back. All underfoot were bodies and pieces of bodies, and so many men had come apart in the blowup and the shelling that the ground was slick and threw a terrible stink from their wet internalments. The raw diret walls of the crater loomed all around with just a circle of sky above, as if this was all the world there was and fighting was all there was to it. They killed everybody that didn't run away.
Their discussions this week seemed to morph past the obvious and into more in depth thinking...several of them (Ch, A, T, H, and R) discussed at length Ruby's intelligence. It was difficult for them to put into words exactly what they were trying to say because the character Ruby seems so primitive. She had no book learning, but she was actually more equipped to stay alive....and not just in comparison to Ada...actually in comparison to a lot of people, men and women alike. Ruby called a spade a spade...even questioning the invention of Thanksgiving...Ruby found it "a mark of a tainted culture. To be thankful on just one day."
Ruby, for the most part, outshone Ada in this section...most of the students wanted to know more of Ruby's story. Did her father really hate her mother? Was he so grieved by his wife's death in childbirth that he dealt with it by hating her, his daughter and drinking?
Al questioned the theme of death..."Was there so much death?" she asked me.
Her question led into a long discussion of no antibiotics, no doctors, women dying of childbirth being commonplace, children not living past three years old, hard life, short lifespan, living far away from others...essentially survival of the fittest. There was law, but not as we know it today...there was no long discussion about why somebody stole your cow. If a thief stole your cow, you shot him.
Al and M have also noticed a theme of astronomy in the story by now...both Inman and Ruby look to the skies for signs and messages...and both are survivors...from barefoot toddler Ruby walking to the neighbor's house for food and surviving to adulthood and able to take care of another human being to Inman's almost superhuman power to stay alive despite what must be one mortal wound after another.
Al messaged me this morning and said, "I just finished Cold Mountain and can't believe how it ended!!"
I was beside myself with joy that she felt compelled to read ahead and actually wanted to know what was going to happen next :):):)
We're on Thanksgiving break next week and I'm curious to see how many others will finish it.