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2012 Book Discussions > The Sisters Brothers - PART 3 – Herman Kermit Warm, Spoilers Allowed (June 2012)

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message 1: by Mikela (last edited Jun 01, 2012 09:56AM) (new)

Mikela We'll use this section to discuss part 3.


message 2: by Mikela (last edited Jun 03, 2012 10:13AM) (new)

Mikela In chapter 38 They find Morris' diary and discover the reason The Commodore wants Warm killed. This does tend to upset them but Charlie is determined to continue on with the job.

In chapter 41 Eli tells Charlie that with the money stolen from Mayfair they now have all the money they need and he wants to quit and open up a store. Charlie wants to continue with the job as hired and agrees that after this job is completed Eli need not do another but that he will find another partner and continue working for the Commodore.


message 3: by Mikela (new)

Mikela In chapter 42 Eli says “...my feelings were so deeply injured that morning, looking at my brother on his fine, tall horse, and knowing he did not love me the way I had always loved and admired him and looked up to him…’

“I very much wanted to simply quit then, to stop and walk away from Tub, and from the job, and Charlie, to return on a new horse for my pile in Mayfield and construct a separate life, with the pale bookkeeper or without, just as long as everything was restful and easy and completely different from my present position in the world. This was my dream, and it was a powerful, vivid one, but I did nothing to enact it…”


message 4: by Mikela (new)

Mikela I see more clearly now that Eli is losing some of the worship of Charlie and seeing the situation in a more realistic manner but is not yet ready to become his own man. Do you think Charlie realizes this?


message 5: by Mikela (new)

Mikela In chapter 43 we learn that the brothers have decided to change their plans, to now steal Warm’s formula for themselves, to kill Morris and Warm then return to Oregon and kill the Commodore. Do you think, based on their personalities shown to date that this decision was to be expected?


message 6: by Mikela (new)

Mikela I found it difficult not to cheer when Charlie, in his typical fashion burned his hand by ignoring everyone when they told him not to add the third barrel of formula to the river. This really was when the relationship between the brothers took a giant step towards changing.


message 7: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments Mikela wrote: "I found it difficult not to cheer when Charlie, in his typical fashion burned his hand by ignoring everyone when they told him not to add the third barrel of formula to the river. This really was w..."

I certainly felt something of a guilty satisfaction when it happened to him.

That being said....one thing I can't shake is that deWitt made it so easy to dislike Charlie that I'm starting to wonder if I missed something by deciding early on that I disliked him and not really trying to find anything redeemable about him.

On the other hand....I may have only had 3 hours of sleep last night and am just reading too much into deWitt's handling of the character. : )


message 8: by Mikela (new)

Mikela You aren't the only one that couldn't find anything redeemable about Charlie. If DeWitt meant us to see anything he hid it too well for me. It appeared that the reader was to see the change in Eli and Charlie was only there as a foil for him. (Am I using the correct term)?


message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments Foil would be the correct term.

Now that I've had a good night's rest I have to agree with you. There really isn't anything redeeming about Charlie.


message 10: by Allen (new)

Allen | 23 comments Jason wrote: "Foil would be the correct term.

Now that I've had a good night's rest I have to agree with you. There really isn't anything redeeming about Charlie."


I wonder if that's the point, that some people are just not redeemable as humans, and Charlie is one of those souls. I wonder if DeWitt is asking the question of what it means when one brother is beyond redemption. However, I wonder if Eli is even capable of redemption while Charlie is around?


message 11: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
My impression was that after Charlie shot their horrible father, he sort of took his place as the horrible alpha dog. Eli was the intensely loyal little brother who tried to please Charlie.


message 12: by John (new)

John (johnnyfartpants) I read the book in a day and a half while commuting. I was not terribly impressed but I still kept reading (Why???). I suppose the final third was reasonably entertaining but perhaps it would have worked better as a graphic novel.


message 13: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments John wrote: "I read the book in a day and a half while commuting. I was not terribly impressed but I still kept reading (Why???). I suppose the final third was reasonably entertaining but perhaps it would have ..."

That's an interesting suggestion.


message 14: by Allen (new)

Allen | 23 comments I can definitely see The Sister Brothers as a graphic novel. I wondered myself while reading it the first time if a graphic format wouldn't have served the narrative better.


message 15: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Now that is a good idea. Excellent in fact!


message 16: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments I wonder though if we would lose some of our understanding of Eli in a graphic format.

I for one love the graphic novel format and do think The Sisters Brothers could transfer well with the exception of what I mentioned above.

A lot of the reason we are sympathetic to Eli is because he is the narrator. Once we transfer over to a graphic format we still have the thought boxes/bubbles to include some of Eli's narration but much of it would be lost because we would have the visual in its place.


message 17: by Mikela (new)

Mikela I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read any graphic novels since I gave up comics. I understand there are some really good ones out there that I really should explore.


message 18: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Like Jason, I think we would lose a lot, particularly with regard to Eli, if this were transferred to graphic novel format. Graphic novels tell a story, and if the story is the main or only point of a novel, graphic novel format can be a good vehicle. But you lose a lot of the author's viewpoint, and voice, and well-written prose. There is a graphic novel out there of Pride and Prejudice. There is also "Pride & Prejudice and Zombies." My husband and I met a book store employee who had read "Zombies" and recommended it. He enjoyed it, partly because Zombies" had made it possible for him to discuss Pride and Prejudice (which he had not read), with his English-major girlfriend. Graphic novels have a place, and certainly a strong fan-base, but they offer something substantially different from novels. Like movies based on books, they have to be selective about what parts of the original are preserved. They can reach an audience that will never read the book. They can be wonderful in their own way. But they don't give you everything the book gives you. The Sisters Brothers might make a very good graphic novel, because there is a strong story. But I would still rather read the novel.


message 19: by Thing Two (new)

Thing Two (thingtwo) Mikela wrote: "You aren't the only one that couldn't find anything redeemable about Charlie. If DeWitt meant us to see anything he hid it too well for me. It appeared that the reader was to see the change in Eli ..."

Charlie shot his father, thereby protecting his mother and his brother. He drove his mother in to town to find a doctor, and returned to care for his little brother. Charlie found a job - albeit a lousy one - and lugged this little brother around with him for the rest of their lives. What's not to like about a protecting, care-giving brother? Charlie did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. If Eli doesn't like it, he should stop blaming Charlie for all of his problems and leave! What's stopping him?


message 20: by Mikela (new)

Mikela I hadn't looked it from that perspective but what you said about Charlie has a lot of merit. Perhaps because the story was told as Eli saw it not as much credit, particularly in the early years, was given to Charlie. Yes, he did shoot his father to protect his mother, brother and himself and drove his mother to the doctor, but he also chose a life that suited him. He enjoyed being feared by others and knew exactly how to manipulate Eli into helping and protecting him (Charlie). I'm not sure I would agree, however, with your characterization of Charlie being a protecting, care-giving brother.


message 21: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Charlie is very much a take-charge kind of guy. I thought the book raised interesting questions about whether and when family loyalty is a virtue. Eli is intensely loyal to Charlie. When he hears Charlie in a discussion outside their hotel that might lead to violence, Eli is ready to charge outside if it sounds like Charlie needs help. But when everything is ok and Charlie returns to the room, Eli pretends to be asleep so he does not have to actually talk to Charlie. Normally this kind of loyalty and protectiveness toward a brother is viewed as a virtue and a good quality. But Eli also believes he became a killer because he was just shooting at people who were shooting at Charlie. Killing out of family loyalty starts to sound like the Mafia. And Eli clearly moves on to killing people even when they aren't shooting at Charlie. Is he just following in Charlie's footsteps, or living up to Charlie's expectations? Do Eli and Charlie both just have a really skewed set of values?


message 22: by Mikela (last edited Jun 18, 2012 10:39AM) (new)

Mikela Do you think what we saw in this book was the passing of the torch on dominance. First we had the father of the brothers being the dominant force exerting power and fear over the family until Charlie shot him and took that mantle for himself. That position was wrested from Charlie with the acid damage to his hand and Eli picked it up and proceeded to kill the commodore to ensure the safety of both brothers. Eli did not seem to want to continue with the pattern once they were safe but chose instead the quiet life living with his mother. Casceil raised a valid question as whether Eli was following Charlie's footsteps or living up to Charlie's expectations. I tend to think both are correct.


message 23: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I found the previous discussions on the novel being better served as a graphic novel quite intriguing. Taken only in terms of the plot, I could perhaps agree. What won me over with this book, however, was the pacing of the language. It took me some time to adjust to the unusual rhythm of the prose. It seemed to clip sharply where it should drift, and langour where it should snap. Once I settled into the idiosyncracies of the writing, however, I became completely and immediately immersed in the book the second the page opened. Using an analogy suited to the genre, it was like riding a new horse. At first it's all saddle sores and jarring bumps, but soon the movements of the animal become a part of you. Eventually, the world doesn't seem right for the few minutes after you dismount and find your own legs. That, to me, was the genius of this novel, and one which I can't see a graphic novel being able to replicate.


message 24: by Jeremy C. Brown (new)

Jeremy C. Brown | 12 comments Mikela wrote: "Do you think what we saw in this book was the passing of the torch on dominance. First we had the father of the brothers being the dominant force exerting power and fear over the family until Charl..."
I think this is an interesting observation, and I wonder if that passing of the torch actually happened in the very moment that Eli spoke up out of turn upon their second time returning to Morris' camp when he asked again about wanting to join in with them and encouraged them to trust Charlie and himself. Charlie got frustrated with him because he had a different initial plan, but Eli seized the moment and completely altered their lives because of it.

It's interesting to think we have moments like this all the time in our own lives. Moments where we choose a path that could have lead to a drastically different destination if we chose differently.


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