Friday, January 28, 2011

The Weight of Water - Discussion #4

This is our last discussion on The Weight of Water. Like the other posts, this will probably contain some sort of spoilers. The recap covers the last section, my thoughts are random and the questions encompass the whole book. Any and all are free to comment. Discussion 1 is here and Discussion 2 is here and Discussion 3 is here. Feel free to add thoughts, opinions, questions, or anything else in the comment section.

Random Recap
In the last section, we learn of the difficulties the Hontveldts and Christensens faced being crammed into the cottage all winter together. We learn of what really happened the night of the murders and the time leading up to them. In present time, there is a huge storm and the storm pretty much brings all of their problems to a head and the reader learns what has happened to make Jean like she is.

My thoughts
I was slightly surprised how Maren's account turned out. I kind of felt she had been a part of the murders but was surprised at how it turned out. Obviously, her relationship with Evan was shaky and to find out that Anethe was pregnant was heartbreaking for her. Her sister was a horrid person and if one could slightly put the blame on the victim I could see kind of how she was at fault. Maren was forced into a very uncomfortable position, one that would change her life and shun her from what she knew and who she loved and it was mostly a lie. (If we can believe her account of her Anethe in bed together, cuz I mean deep down it might have felt like a neener neener to Evan..)

The whole storm situation and losing Billie was horrible. But it seemed to be written with such a lack of emotion that I think that was to show Jean's extreme detachment from everything. Normally, the death of any likable character may make me tear up but this was just so calm and detached. I am still convinced that given time Adaline and Thomas were going to have an affair and it is sad that Jean and Thomas's relationship ended, it did need to happen. It was very unhealthy.

Apparently, The Weight of Water is a movie.

Questions from

1. What are the similarities between Jean and Maren? In what ways are they different?

2. Atmosphere - the terribly rough climate and unbearably close living quarters -- plays a significant role in the characters' psychological states. To what extent are these external conditions responsible for the events of the novel?

I think the constant togetherness leads to a lot of aggravation and unspoken frustration. When you are cooped up with the same people day after day it gets irritating, the slight things are enormously annoying. I think Maren having to watch her brother and his wife soo touchy feely when her own relationship was so not like that and because of her odd feelings towards her brother it made it harder to accept the news that Anethe was pregnant.

I also think everyone on the boat being so close made the intimate moments shared between Thomas and Adaline more glaring to Jean and being able to hear Rich and Adaline make love was a little awkward. Being able to see Rich, and see how good a man he was and how not messed up (like Thomas) he was made Jean desire him in a way that was inappropriate and probably wouldn't have happened on land in their own homes.

3. Jean ponders, "What moment was it that I might have altered? What point in time was it that I might have moved one way instead of another, had one thought instead of another?" (p. 192). Are there moments in which Jean could have acted differently and thereby changed the course of the events that followed? If so, identify them. How much control do Jean and Maren have over their respective fates? How much does anyone?

1.) When she shouted at Adaline which caused her to fall overboard. 2.) Making a move on Rich. 3.) Sitting for too long at the house. 4.) Stealing Maren's account of what happened. They each had some control over the situations. Maren, could have pulled down her damn nightgown. Or she could have spoken the truth and have Anethe speak up for her. Jean, I think had a little less control on Billie going overboard but there were moments before the storm that could have altered things. Or making sure Billie never left below, but it's not like Jean threw Billie overboard nor did she really make Adaline fall overboard. Adaline was stupid enough to be out there herself.

4. It is often small resentments and indiscretions that lead to greater misdeeds. What small offenses do Jean and Maren commit? Do you feel these acts should be taken into account when determining their culpability for greater crimes?

5. Jean's story begins with a plea for absolution: "I have to let this story go. It is with me all the time now, a terrible weight." Similarly, Maren's document opens with an appeal for vindication: "If it so please the Lord, I shall, with my soul and heart and sound mind, write the true and actual tale of the incident which continues to haunt my humble footsteps." (p. 39). How do these pleas affect you as a reader? Does it make you more sympathetic to the characters, more willing to believe in their innocence?

For some reason, I feel more sympathetic towards Jean than I do Maren. I feel like Jean was honest and I am still not certain that Maren's account was totally truthful. Maybe if we had more info on the thoughts in her head like we did with Jean I would accept her words at face value but I have a hard time doing that with someone who took an ax and repeatedly hit two people with it.

I really enjoyed the 4 different discussions and hope you did as well! Any suggestions on anything to make it better for next month?