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The Invention of Wings
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Archive 08-19 GR Discussions > Part One-November 1803-February 1805-about 90 pages

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Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments We can comment on our findings for Part 1. I will set up threads for the other parts so we don't spoil it for each other.
It's seems like such a long time since we have had a discussion. Enjoy.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Do you believe the possibility of an 11year old girl during this time period to be conscious about the inhumanity of owning people? This type of behavior had been going on for centuries. For example, King's families owned people and rich families owned people. Unless Sarah has heard protesters expressing the inhumanity about it, how can she be thinking this way? It's all around them.


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Daniale Lynch | 148 comments I think that it is a difficult thing for children to grasp, and certainly less likely when one is submerged in the culture, but not impossible. I think the author, from the very beginning, sets up Sarah as a girl who is a little out of her time. She is a girl who is seriously empathetic, intelligent, and passionate. She is not as jaded as her mother, so still carries some hope for the world. Even when she's literally unable to speak about the horrors she sees, she still maintains the hope for change.


Petra I've just started but this struck me a bit, too.

Sarah witnessed a horrible whipping scene at age 4, which would have made her sensitive towards hurting people. She's very observant and it wouldn't have been hard for her to realize that only people who are owned can be hit & whipped. Perhaps she went from the mind set of "we shouldn't hurt people" to " we shouldn't own people".


message 5: by Petra (last edited May 06, 2015 05:38PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Petra I finished Part One today.
I agree with Irene in that it seems that Sarah is overly conscious of the slave issue for her age and circumstances.
I think the event of seeing the whipping when she was 4 caused her to feel that people should not be hurt and that may lead to her noticing over the years (from 4-10) that only slaves get hurt, which may lead to her belief that in order not to be hurt slaves should be freed.
This would have made her think & feel differently than the rest of her family but it almost seems that she is too liberal for her time & station.
On the other hand, her father is acting the same way. He believes that women should be in their place and rather uneducated, yet he allowed Sarah access to his library and allowed her to debate at the dinner table with her brothers. These actions seem too liberal for his time & station as well.
Perhaps the author is setting us up for these discrepancies within the Southern society of slavery and genteel life.

I felt so sorry for Heddy and Sarah when it was found out that Heddy was learning to read.


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Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
I also agree that Sarah seems overly concerned and conscious of the slave issue. But maybe that is how abolitionists got started?


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Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments I love the part when mauma talks to Hetty about her past. We must know about our past to know where we are going. It's so important to know our history. It's important for our children to know the struggles we experienced to get where we are.


Petra I remembered something else that I found a bit out of place for the story: the practice of slavery is referred to as "that peculiar institution". Why would the South, who endorse & believe in slavery, call the practice "peculiar"? That seems like something the North would say.


Petra Irene wrote: "I love the part when mauma talks to Hetty about her past. We must know about our past to know where we are going. It's so important to know our history. It's important for our children to know the..."

I like those parts, too, Irene. Stories from our history are always interesting and they connect us to our family.


Irene | 3966 comments I think both Sarah and Handful talk a bit like literary figures, not like the children they are supposed to be. Despite that, I do believe that an 11 year old is old enough to begin to question social norms. It would have been helpful had we not met Sarah at age 11, but had seen and heard the emerging discomfort with the way things are. She has access to her father's books; what did she read? She attends social gatherings with her parents; what did she over hear? What did the preacher say at church, how did she internalize a piece of religious teaching that seemed in conflict with the world she inhabited?

I was glad that the author did not project Sarah's own dreams onto Handful. I was waiting for her to make the connection that another 11 year old child might also have personal ambitions. That would have been a leap too far for me to accept.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4843 comments I think we have to consider the time period the book is written in. Sarah seems to be more empathetic towards slavery. She didn't want to own Hetty. She even tried to free her. We would consider an eleven year old to be a child but back then an eleven year old girl would be seen as becoming an adult. She wouldn't be seen as a child anymore. She even says she should have left the nursery earlier than eleven.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Petra wrote: "I remembered something else that I found a bit out of place for the story: the practice of slavery is referred to as "that peculiar institution". Why would the South, who endorse & believe in slave..."

I agree with you, Petra. The south needed to keep free labor to get richer. That's why the civil war came about. The Southern land owners were getting too rich for the Northern city dwellers.


message 13: by Irene Del (last edited May 08, 2015 07:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments What do you think about mauma's issue?
I believe they displaced her hip or broke something when punishing her. Why are the others upset with her? What do you think is the deeper issue?


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Daniale Lynch | 148 comments I think the others are upset with Mauma because they could also be punished for her actions and the fact that because of her lies, she is getting rewarded. She is dangerous because of her bravery and the other slaves see that.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4843 comments I think she(Mauma) tries to push and see how much she can get away with before the Grimkes (?) do anything. Like with stealing the green silk cloth and sneaking out. She is rebelling in her own way.


Irene | 3966 comments I suspect that her rebellion could be dangerous for the other slaves. It is pretty common to punish an entire group for the transgressions of a single individual. If her violations causes the master to distrust the slaves, their lives could be more restricted or corporal punishment could be used to disuade others from protecting her, etc.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4843 comments I agree with you Irene. It isn't fair, however that was the norm for the time period. I am worried for what is going to happen to Hetty because of her mother's actions.


Irene | 3966 comments It is still the norm in any situation where a large group of people needs to be managed in unfavorable conditions by a small number of athority figures, think prison or JV detention or even boot camp.


Petra I agree. Mauma's actions put the entire group in jeopardy because it brings the whole group under suspicion and upsets the balance between slaves & masters. Any change in that balance is likely to be detrimental to the slaves.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments The phrase "actions speak louder than words" certainly does not apply the Sarah's dad. What would you say to Sarah after the conversation with her father? What advice would you give her?


Irene | 3966 comments What was the point of Handful wetting herself? That seemed so odd given all we know of Handful, her age, self possession, etc.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4843 comments Irene wrote: "The phrase "actions speak louder than words" certainly does not apply the Sarah's dad. What would you say to Sarah after the conversation with her father? What advice would you give her?"

If you mean that whole speech about taking away her books for teaching Hetty how to read and laughing at her for wanting to be a lawyer. I thought that was outright mean and cruel. She thought he was encouraging her when he was just mocking her. I think she should find some way to follow her dream. I know it is unheard of her the time but she needs to find some happiness because she doesn't sound very happy with her life.


Irene | 3966 comments This is a transitional time. In prior centuries, the idea of picking a career to fulfill some personal dream would have been ridiculous for a man as well as a woman. Remember that the father was no easier on Thomas when he expressed a desire to become a minister. Men are just starting to think about career in terms of individual desires. Women are just beginning to think about marriage as an opportunity for fulfillment in terms of romantic love. The parents are of the older generation and embody the older attitudes. I think a modern reader has to be careful not to project our attitudes onto an earlier period.

As a 10 year old girl, I wanted to be a Catholic priest. I was good naturedly teased about becoming the first female pope. As a teen with the same desire, I knew enough not to speak it out loud. It was not a possibility. Had I talked seriously about it at the age of 16, my mother would have told me to stop my nonsense. She would not have told me to fight the system. Allowing Sarah to indulge her dreams could have been seen as cruel in its own way at a time when it was not seen as a possibility. I wanted to drive when I turned 16, but as a blind teen, were my parents cruel because they taught my younger sister to drive but not me? By the standards of the time, Sarah was old enough to understand and accept social rules. This may seem outrageous to us, but this would have been as scandelous in that era as if she had wanted to become a nudist.


Petra Sarah may have been considered more adult at 12 than she would be today but throughout her young life, she's been encouraged by her father & brothers to think, debate, read "heavy" topics books, etc. and was told that she'd make a great jurist. She's a child who was led to believe she could do this. Even if it was a mocking from her father, she didn't know that.
Sarah may have been old enough to accept social rules but she was also raised to believe that she could overcome at least this one rule and become a jurist.
It would have been cruel to allow Sarah to continue to dream when/if it wasn't possible for her to fulfill that dream, but wasn't it crueler to instill that dream in the first place and then dash the dream?


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4843 comments I agree with you Petra that Sarah was led to think she could become a jurist and then oh by the way, that's not going to happen because you are a female. So basically the only dreams and ambitions women are allowed to have is to become a wife and mother. If women want that, great, if they don't, then they are just going to be miserable.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Irene wrote: "What was the point of Handful wetting herself? That seemed so odd given all we know of Handful, her age, self possession, etc."

Any comments on this?


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Well, I'm glad there were girls,young women, and women who didn't conform to society's norms or we wouldn't have the opportunities we have today and our daughters will have tomorrow.


Petra Irene wrote: "Irene wrote: "What was the point of Handful wetting herself? That seemed so odd given all we know of Handful, her age, self possession, etc."

Any comments on this?"


I can't think of a point other than showing that she was scared, Irene.
At the time of reading this, I waited for the punishment since she wet the rug (there would have been no concern for the poor child's fear) and caused an "embarrassment" in front of company but there were no consequences and I kind of forgot the incident.


Petra Irene wrote: "Well, I'm glad there were girls,young women, and women who didn't conform to society's norms or we wouldn't have the opportunities we have today and our daughters will have tomorrow."

Amen.


Irene | 3966 comments I am also glad that there were women who broke through and continue to break through ceilings. I didn't think that the father and brothers were being cruel when they allowed Sarah to read and debate. I read those passages differently. I thought that the author was showing us how established the social norms were that they could allow her to play this role without any dream that she would come to see herself filling that role. A well read and articulate woman could be at a social advantage as she assumed her role as wife, mother, manager of her household, and hostess. She could support her husband in his professional role. She would also be at an advantage should she find herself widowed young, left to care for a husband incapacitated by injury or illness or, God forbid, endangered by her husband's actions. But, I really don't think that anyone expected her to continue to hold such aspirations into adolescents anymore than allowing the children of the plantation family to play with thechildren of the slaves would cause them to grow up to expect to be allowed to marry.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Petra wrote: "Irene wrote: "Irene wrote: "What was the point of Handful wetting herself? That seemed so odd given all we know of Handful, her age, self possession, etc."

Any comments on this?"

I can't think o..."


This is an unstabled and unpredictable life to live because you never know what's coming for your actions.


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Daniale Lynch | 148 comments Petra wrote: "Irene wrote: "Well, I'm glad there were girls,young women, and women who didn't conform to society's norms or we wouldn't have the opportunities we have today and our daughters will have tomorrow."..."

Yes. Double Amen.

Subversion has to start somewhere--why not with a couple of eleven-year-old girls?


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Daniale Lynch | 148 comments Irene wrote: "Petra wrote: "Irene wrote: "Irene wrote: "What was the point of Handful wetting herself? That seemed so odd given all we know of Handful, her age, self possession, etc."

Any comments on this?"

I..."


Super unstable and unpredictable. For both a slave and a young girl. Handful wetting herself highlights that: as a slave, you have literally no control over your body. Handful is told not to go because there are things to be done, but then loses control of her bladder. It's a physical representation of what's happened to her soul and will: totally at the whim of another.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Daniale wrote: "Irene wrote: "Petra wrote: "Irene wrote: "Irene wrote: "What was the point of Handful wetting herself? That seemed so odd given all we know of Handful, her age, self possession, etc."

Great metaphor!



Irene | 3966 comments Contrast that image of total loss of control with the sceen a bit later when Mama knocks Handful to the ground with a blow to the head with her cane. Handful immediately gets up despite the physical pain and psycological oppression and stares Mama in the eye communicating the confidence and courage that no one, no matter what, can keep her down. That is a dramatic transformation in a little girl.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Irene wrote: "Contrast that image of total loss of control with the sceen a bit later when Mama knocks Handful to the ground with a blow to the head with her cane. Handful immediately gets up despite the physic..."

Another great metaphor!


Rebecca I have just completed the first section. Meg like you said I am enjoying the interwoven bits of historical events. The big picture seems to be the abolitionist movement yet within there is so much going on. The author's construction of keeping the story and events continuous is amazing. I love the spirit tree and what it represented.


Rebecca I was curious and the end of this section also and was thinking about others thoughts on who actions hurt Sarah more Mother/Father? both in different ways?


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments I think it was what Father did to her that hurt her most because he build her up and then teared her down. Mom was transparent in her intentions. She was always trying to mold her into what society expected.


Petra I agree. There's a sense of betrayal in her father's actions. He didn't mean it that way but the build-up, then let-down would feel like that.


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Daniale Lynch | 148 comments Yes, I totally agree. Father's actions are more if a betrayal, whereas Mother's actions are very in line with her actions and words throughout.

(I love the spirit tree, too! And the quilting is wonderful too. It makes me want to research those quilts.)


Irene | 3966 comments My vote is for "both in different ways". Although father's seeming withdrawl of support for her intellectual ambitions felt like a betrayal that dashed her dreams,mother's emotional distance made her question her value as an inherently good or lovable person.


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Daniale Lynch | 148 comments Totally true, Irene. Mother's actions are just more constant; Sarah can anticipate her continual displeasure, but Father's actions came as a surprise. Sara thought she had full support from both her father and Thomas, and when they both disregard her intelligence, passion, and desires, she seems more shattered. BOTH parents severely "screwed her up"--she has little self-worth and always feels like an outcast-- but from two different angles.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Meanwhile, what about Hetty. Can we compare their circumstances? Is it compatible?


Irene | 3966 comments Much later in the book, Handful tells Sarah that Sarah is unfree in her head and she, Handful, is unfree in her body. )not an exact quote since I no longer have a copy of the book) I think this is an insightful contrast. Sarah is enslaved, subject to horrible conditions, inhuman punishments, etc, but through the stories, self-image and inner strength given by her mother, Handful is aware of a dignity that Sarah does not have. Sarah, on the other hand, has a sense of some basic rights and responsibilities conferred on her by society. They may not be as extensive as her male white counterparts, but they are much greater than that of blacks of either gender. She can move as she pleases, live in far better conditions, even have access to the leasure that makes an education possible. I think, in the long run, as a white woman of privilege, it is easier for Sarah to fight for her full status than it is for the average slave. Sarah may be considered excentric, even crazy, but she will never be hung or tortured to death for her efforts.


message 46: by Petra (last edited May 24, 2015 10:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Petra Perhaps Sarah won't be hung or tortured in a physical sense but what about the emotional sense?
Sarah seems to have been an anomaly for her times and was willing to live outside of convention (to a point), which means that she could fight for some sort of status (I'm not sure whether a woman's status was defined in those times, so Sarah would have been "fighting" a nebulous cloud, perhaps).....but if a woman was more conventional in the sense that she "needed" to live within society, then the repercussions of fighting the system would have been equivalent (in an emotional/mental way) to being hung and tortured to death. She would have been shunned by society.....a torture and a death to someone who wanted and/or needed to be accepted.
Sarah was a true anomaly of her time. It would be interesting to know more of her life and how she thought. Did she make these decisions in awareness or was her independent nature so new to society that she was in unmarked waters and didn't know the repercussions? Would she have made other choices had she known?


Irene | 3966 comments I don't want to minimize the crushing weight of the oppression women faced at that time. However, I don't think the emotional ramifications, the frustration, depression, social shunning, etc is as horrible as out and out slavery, as being bought and sold, having your children sold away from you, seeing them raped with impunity by the master, branded, scurged, subjected to inhuman living conditions. As much as the Grimke home did not embody the most horrific of the slave treatment, we see in Mama's case that they were always one step away from landing in that situation. Although I do not condone the laws governing women at the time, many women found a comfortable life under those conditions. Women were the most vocal opponents to the women's rights efforts. So, although it would have been soul crushing for Sarah, it was not for every woman. However, I am not aware of a single slave, then or now, who does not long for and welcome freedom. I do think Handfuls conditions were worse than Sarah's plight.'


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Irene, I totally agree. As I read, I keep thinking about the lives and conditions slaves had to ensure. Regardless of the coping strategies they had, it doesn't measure up to any one group of people's difficulties. It was horrible and inhumane.
Do you think the novel has equal or more focus on other issues than slavery?


Irene | 3966 comments I do think this novel is trying to make a comparison between the oppression of women and slavery. I can't say what is in the head of Kidd, but I think that this novel is putting Sarah's and Handful's situation on a parallel plain.


Petra I think so, too. The author seems to be looking at the slavery of people as well as the slavery of women. Both situations rely on someone (either Owner or father/husband/brother) to be rational and humane. Either way, as a slave or a woman, you're owned in some way and under the rule of another; the quality of your life, in every way, depends on someone else's compassion.

I find that these two issues are a lot for one author to pull off in one story. Although related in terms of oppression, they are very different issues and they rather fight together in this book. Sarah can't be fighting for her own independence while fighting for Handful's. The two issues require different efforts and both are all-consuming in time & effort.


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