Chapters 18-24: Timshel

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Chapters 18-24: Timshel

Post by Mr. Goodrich on Sat Jul 22, 2017 3:17 pm

In this section the story takes two directions, one following Adam and the other Kate. We see the depths of Kate's wickedness more fully revealed. Abandoning her two, newborn sons and shooting the husband for whom she is the center of everything is about as low as she can get. The premeditation, manipulation, and unwavering patience and devotion she has in this section, however, reveals aspects of her we have not yet seen in this way. On the other side, we see what Kate's abandonment does to Adam. The confrontation in chapter 22 always causes me to tear up.

Adam stood panting. He felt his throat where the blacksmith's hands had been. “What is it you want of me?”
“You have no love.”
“I had—enough to kill me.”
“No one ever had enough. The stone orchard celebrates too little, not too much.”
“Stay away from me. I can fight back. Don’t think I can’t defend myself.”
“You have two weapons, and they not named.”
“I’ll fight you, old man. You are an old man.”
Samuel  said,  “I  can’t  think  in  my  mind  of a  dull  man  picking  up  a  rock,  who  before  evening  would  not  put  a  name  to  it—like  Peter. And you—for a year you’ve lived with your heart’s draining and you’ve not even laid a number to the boys.”
Adam said, “What I do is my own business.”
Samuel struck him with a work-heavy fist, and Adam sprawled out in the dust. Samuel asked him to rise, and when Adam accepted struck him again, and this time Adam did not get up. He looked stonily at the menacing old man.
The fire went out of Samuel’s eyes and he said quietly, “Your sons have no names.”
Adam replied, “Their mother left them motherless.”
“And  you  have  left  them  fatherless.  Can’t  you feel  the  cold  at  night  of  a  lone  child? What  warm  is  there,  what  bird  song,  what  possible  morning  can  be  good?  Don’t  you remember, Adam, how it was, even a little?”
“I didn’t do it,” Adam said.
“Have you undone it? Your boys have no names.”



I'm focusing these questions on Adam's story but I think there are just as many things to explore in Kate's.


  • Why does Adam respond to Kate's actions in the way he does? Dig deep. Don't settle for an immediate answer. Why? Why? Why?



  • Why is it the fact that the twins have not been named that sets Samuel and Liza off?


The greatest terror a child can have  is  that  he  is  not  loved,  and  rejection  is  the  hell  he  fears.  I  think  everyone  in  the  world  to  a  large  or  small  extent  has  felt  rejection.  And  with  rejection  comes  anger,  and  with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there  is  the  story  of  mankind.  I  think  that  if  rejection  could  be  amputated,  the  human  would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails. It is all there—the start, the beginning. One child, refused the  love  he  craves,  kicks  the  cat  and  hides  his  secret  guilt;  and  another  steals  so  that  money  will  make  him  loved;  and  a  third  conquers  the  world—and  always  the  guilt  and  revenge  and  more  guilt.


  • When Lee says that the story of Cain and Abel is the story of us all, Adam says, “'I didn’t kill my brother—,'” but, "suddenly he stopped and his mind went reeling back in time." What does he remember? Can we compare the story of Cain and Abel to the story of Adam and Charles? What does this say about their relationship with the father? about the effect of their father on who they are?


Una’s  death  struck  Samuel  like  a  silent  earthquake.  He  said  no  brave  and  reassuring  words, he simply sat alone and rocked himself.
He felt that it was his neglect had done it. And now his tissue, which had fought joyously against time, gave up a little. His young skin turned old, his clear eyes dulled, and a little stoop came to his great shoulders. Liza with her acceptance could take care of tragedy; she had no real hope this side of Heaven. But  Samuel  had  put  up  a  laughing  wall  against  natural  laws,  and  Una’s  death  breached  
his battlements. He became an old man.



  • Is this "laughing wall" the difference between Samuel and Tom? The narrator often compares them. Samuel seems to be a deep thinker but doesn't like to get his feet too wet. Think of his playful frustration toward Lee in the conversation at the end of chapter 22. Tom seems to get in over his head too often. What is this "laughing wall against natural laws" and why does he have it? Did he construct it or was it always there?



  • What is the significance to this story so far of the word timshel translated "thou mayest" instead of "thou shalt"? Think of Adam, Charles, Kate, Samuel, Lee. Think of this especially as you get to know Aron and Cal better.

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Re: Chapters 18-24: Timshel

Post by JordanRaum on Mon Jul 24, 2017 11:40 am

Wow this reminds me of the arguments we had on the Socratic dialogues about whether you can do something you don't think is good. There definitely seems to be a lot in here about why we do what we do and whether it is possible to overcome our character deficiencies.

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