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2012 Book Discussions > The Sisters Brothers - PART 2 - California, Spoilers Allowed (June 2012)

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message 1: by Mikela (new)

Mikela As they began their journey, they met a weeping man. What purpose, if any, does telling of this meeting have?


message 2: by Mikela (new)

Mikela At the river they come across a prospector who pokes Eli in his sore leg and continues to do so despite Eli’s entreaties to stop. In response Charlie shoots the prospector and Eli stomps on his head and says “the man’s brain was painted in purple blood, bubbling foam emerging from its folds; I raised up my boot and dropped my heel into the hole with all my weight behind it, caving in what was left…” He then says “I cannot understand the motivation of a bully, is what it is; this is the one thing that makes me unreasonable.” What are your feeling towards Eli at this point?


message 3: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments Great question Mikela.

When I first read this scene it seemed almost out of character for Eli but then I had to remind myself that he makes his living as an assasin and it makes sense that when faced with something that he truly loathes, a bully, he would react in an extreme manner. It actually served as a reminder to me that while I felt sympathy for Eli in the course of the narrative that he was someone I would steer clear of in real life.

This also now has me wondering just where this resentment of bullies comes from? I have a theory on that but I don't have my Nook handy just now and in order to elaborate I need to see where something occured at a point in the novel so I don't spoil anything.


message 4: by Mikela (new)

Mikela I have a theory on that as well. It will be interesting if both of us are pointed in the same direction.


message 5: by Mikela (new)

Mikela In the Intermission Eli meets with a girl who tells him of her dream. What do you think the significance of the girl’s dream is? Do you think Eli is the “protected man” the girl saw in her dream and what does being protected mean?


message 6: by Mikela (new)

Mikela Did Charlie’s revelation of their father’s death surprise you? Did you think it significant that he just left young Eli sitting in the sun while he took their mother to have her broken arm mended?

Jason, here is where my theory of his hatred of bullies lies. We know his father to be a nasty character that brutalized the family and that Eli was like his mother in temperment. I found it interesting that his mother was the one who taught him how to keep his temper under control by relieving himself of sexual tension.


message 7: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments Mikela wrote: "Did Charlie’s revelation of their father’s death surprise you? Did you think it significant that he just left young Eli sitting in the sun while he took their mother to have her broken arm mended?..."

I think we are on the same path here, Mikela. Though Eli was young enough to not fully remember his father from what DeWitt lets us know of the man it is most likely that Eli was affected on at least a subconscious level.

I also think that maybe on some level Charlie has contributed to Eli's feelings as well as I think Charlie has bullied Eli into some situations that he would not have been in on his own.


message 8: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Have you noticed how nothing is ever Charlie's fault, at least in Charlie's view, and Eli often buys into this. Going back to the end of the first chapter:

"Charlie had no complaints with Nimble, who was as good or better than his previous horse, unnamed, but then he had had first pick of the two while I lay in bed recovering from a leg wound received on the job. I did not like Tub but my brother was satisfied with Nimble. This was the trouble with the horses."

deWitt, Patrick (2011-04-26). The Sisters Brothers (p. 6). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

When Charlie goes off to get tools to enlarge the window, he winds up killing five people, mostly by shooting them in the back. But he still doesn't see that any blame should attach to him for it. When Charlie and Eli are looking at the bodies, Charlie tells Eli, "You had a hand in this, let's not forget." This discussion follows:
‘I don’t see how you can say that. I did not want to stay the night in that old woman’s cabin, remember.’
‘But it was your illness that made such a stop necessary.’
‘A spider crawled into my boot, there is the cause of my illness.’
‘You’re saying you wish to blame the spider?’
‘I don’t wish to blame anyone. You’re the one who brought it up.’
Speaking to the assembled dead, Charlie said, ‘My good men, it is a spider to blame for the early demise of your group. A woolly, fat-bottomed spider in search of warmth—here is the cause of your deaths.’

deWitt, Patrick (2011-04-26). The Sisters Brothers (p. 44). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


message 9: by Mikela (new)

Mikela Jason, I think you're right but hadn't looked at it like that. You get more and more signs that Eli wants to rebel against Charlie. Hmm, wonder if he is frightened of him as well.


message 10: by Mikela (last edited Jun 03, 2012 12:54PM) (new)

Mikela Casceil, Charlie does try to mitigate his guilt by putting it on Eli, not only here but also whenever he does kill someone. That was the reason he gave when he killed the man who Eli stomped. If I remember correctly, he killed them because they did not want to part with their axe. This is definitely a pair I would not want to cross my path but would feel less fear with Eli than Charlie who I believe kills because he likes it and gives him meaning for his life.


message 11: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I think killing is a power trip for Charlie. He loves being the fastest shot and proving it.


message 12: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments That seems to be a fair assessment of Charlie especially when one considers how quick he is to kill anyone who won't immediately give him what he wants.


message 13: by Sara (new)

Sara (mewnbeauts) | 21 comments To me, the freckles story was pivotal to understanding the dynamic of their relationship.
Charlie is the older brother, he's young and innocent, but can't do anything to break his feeling of fear and helplessness. After the power of the gun shows him the way, charlie still didn't know the proper way to exercise the "man of the house" role. Leading to the demise of Eli by influencing an overactive amygdala.


message 14: by Sara (new)

Sara (mewnbeauts) | 21 comments To me, the freckles story was pivotal to understanding the dynamic of their relationship.
Charlie is the older brother, he's young and innocent, but can't do anything to break his feeling of fear and helplessness. After the power of the gun shows him the way, charlie still didn't know the proper way to exercise the "man of the house" role. Leading to the demise of Eli by influencing an overactive amygdala.


message 15: by Mikela (new)

Mikela Sara, I'm not sure I quite understand what you mean when you say "leading to the demise of Eli...".
Thank you for pointing out Charlies feeling of fear and helplessness. That might indeed go towards a reason for Charlie's aggression. It also would give us a reason to have a touch of sympathy for him.


message 16: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I pretty much just started this section. I have this impression that's hard to articulate or maybe a train of thought is more accurate than impression.

Eli points out that Charlie is a drunk. Also Charlie is lazy. Eli is more likeable. Yet, Charlie is made lead man. And then with Mayfield the reason starts to solidify. And I don't quite have a point exactly, but you start to feel like there is an important conclusion developing about who and what each brother is.


message 17: by Thing Two (new)

Thing Two (thingtwo) Deborah wrote: Eli points out that Charlie is a drunk. Also Charlie is lazy. Eli is more likeable ..."

Of course, this is Eli telling us he is more likable.


message 18: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments Great point, KJ!

For some reason the fact that Eli may be an unrelaible narrator didn't really cross my mind when I was reading this. That being said though, I can't recall many moments that would have led me to question if he was reliable as a narrator or not.


message 19: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Deborah, I think Charlie is made "lead man" because the Commodore realizes Eli might have some scruples if he understood the true mission, but that doesn't come out until part 3.


message 20: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Yeah, intention became more evident as the book moved on. I think it's more that like calls to like. Men who seek domination and recognition, men who seek power congregate and like Mansfield the Commodore (I thought the author implied) would have enjoyed Charlie's admiration.

I don't think it was a matter of scruples that put the commodore off Eli, but his self contained indifference.


message 21: by Jeremy C. Brown (new)

Jeremy C. Brown | 12 comments One thing I find interesting is that, not just Eli, but even even Charlie never harmed or killed another without a purpose, ie, needed an axe, defending himself or brother, even steeling the medication from the dentist had a purpose, albeit a future unknown. However, the prospector beat Eli with no purpose, and therefore caught Eli's rage. Eli is mostly sympathetic to his brothers violent decisions even if he doesn't quite agree with them, but they didn't ever bring him to rage like the "bully" prospector did.


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