This Senior Book Group Grapples with Race Relations, the Horror of War

By Haskell, Meg | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), April 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

This Senior Book Group Grapples with Race Relations, the Horror of War


Haskell, Meg, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


BANGOR, Maine -- Birds sang sweetly and warm spring sunshine filtered through the trees outside the Eastern Area Agency on Aging one recent afternoon when a dozen women in their 60s and older gathered in a conference room to discuss race relations, the American transcendentalist movement and the horrors of war.

Members of the Novel Seniors Book Club meet at the Bangor agency on the second Monday of each month to discuss the title they've all read over the past weeks. The book under review at the April meeting was the novel "March," by Geraldine Brooks, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006. The novel retells the 1868 classic "Little Women," by Louisa May Alcott, through the eyes of the March girls' abolitionist father, absent from the original narrative because he has gone south to serve as a chaplain for Union troops fighting in the Civil War.

Brooks' novel includes graphic depictions of battlefield violence and the entrenched cruelties of slavery and racism. These brutalities are contrasted with the high-minded, intellectual environment of Concord, Massachusetts, where Alcott's family -- the model for the March family -- lived alongside Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and other important figures of the philosophical movement known as transcendentalism. Transcendentalism holds that humans and nature are inherently good and that society and institutions ultimately corrupt that goodness by undermining self-reliance and intuition. The movement is rooted in Europe and has strong links to Unitarianism. Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, also was a central figure in the movement and serves as a model for Brooks' character of Mr. March.

The Pulitzer notwithstanding, "March" got mixed reviews, first when it was published, and again at the Novel Seniors meeting. All the women in the book group admired the author's skill, originality and research, but several found her descriptions of violence and suffering disturbing. For a few, the visceral writing was too much to take.

"I just decided not to read all those horrors of war," group member Chris Dirmeir said, explaining why she had not finished the book. But she still showed for the discussion, eager to enjoy the camaraderie of the group and hear what the others had thought.

Claudette O'Connell agreed the writing was "gory" in places, and she had been tempted to put the book down. But she persevered and was glad she did. For one thing, the book reminded her that the suffering of the slaves did not end with the defeat of the Confederacy or the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

"I had forgotten that they became sharecroppers," she said. As such, many freed slaves and their families remained essentially powerless and continued living in poverty and ignorance for generations. "Education is what they needed," O'Connell said.

Dottie England, who leads the monthly book discussions, said she comes from "a long line of slave-owners." She read aloud from the will of a long-ago relative, a wealthy southern cotton grower who bequeathed his slaves and their descendents to his children and their descendents "forever."

"If this was legal today, I would own slaves now," England said somberly. Her mother believed that slavery was endorsed in the Bible and felt that the system offered benefits to slaves and slave-owners. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

This Senior Book Group Grapples with Race Relations, the Horror of War
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.