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The Gravity of Birds
"A complex web of jealousy and heartache." - O, The Oprah Magazine
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Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

Created: 08/18/13

Replies: 18

Posted Aug. 18, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

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Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?


Posted Sep. 08, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
bonnieb

Join Date: 09/11/11

Posts: 89

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RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

The rheumatoid arthritis made Alice dependent on others. She could also use it as an emotional crutch to prevent herself from facing the world. In Orion, she stayed in the house and rarely ventured outside, using her RA as the reason. She was also ashamed of her physical appearance due to her disease. She both hated having it and used it as a reason to hide from the world.


Posted Sep. 09, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
shelbyl

Join Date: 05/19/11

Posts: 22

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

Alice allowed her RA to rule her life. Her shame over her physical deformaties caused by the disease as well as the perceived inability to partake in life's activities caused her to be reclusive and dependent on Natalie. She missed out on her own life and was a burden to Natalie who resented her dependence.


Posted Sep. 09, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Violetta

Join Date: 06/10/11

Posts: 7

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

In the author interview, she says that the character of Alice has as "quiet determination"...I would tend to agree more with Shelby's comment that she missed out a lot by letting her disease be a constant shame. Having said that, I don't know what I would do in that situation, having never had a deformity.


Posted Sep. 09, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
jeffs

Join Date: 06/18/12

Posts: 47

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

i think she used the disease to hide from the world. At least that seemed to be the case after she lost the baby, or thought she did. From that point on she really had no life and was controlled and manipulated by Natalie. I'd really like to understand Natalies character better.


Posted Sep. 09, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
kathrynk

Join Date: 05/21/11

Posts: 31

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

It has been very interesting for me to read the above comments. I come at the question from a very different perspective. My daughter was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RH) as a teenager. Some call it a hidden disease as the deformative nature of RH doesn't happen right away. But the terrible pain is present for a long time as it develops. Alice did miss out on a lot of life -- but in our family's experience it isn't an excuse to hide from the world. It may be a reason--but it also is a reason for not being able to participate in activity that everyone around you expects. I don't believe she let her disease be her shame but rather the embarrassment of those around her made her feel shame. How much shame did her sister lay on her? Did her jealousy and her need for control Alice more feelings shame? When Phinneaus and Frankie entered Alice's life we begin to see positive growth with love and positive support.


Posted Sep. 09, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

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RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I like the point you make, Kathryn, that things start changing for Alice once she starts getting encouragement and support from Phinneaus. I wonder about the shame aspect. Was it shame, or was it Natalie simply telling her she was incapable of doing anything for herself, and Alice believing her?


Posted Sep. 09, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
sallyh

Join Date: 09/07/12

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RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

Alice did use her RA as an excuse to be a recluse, but I wonder how much of that was due to depression at what she thought was the loss of her baby. She seemed to have more of that quiet determination when she was in college and graduate school. I think she let her RA take over her life.


Posted Sep. 10, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
mariannes

Join Date: 12/17/12

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RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I agree with kathrynk. My aunt suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and my mother and husband had/have osteoarthritis. Both are very painful. I think being in pain all or most of the time would affect one's outlook on life and would certainly make a person depressed and not want to do things that would cause more pain. RA restricted her choice of a career. She definitely didn't make a practical choice with ornithology, but I guess it was what she loved. Maybe a good career counselor could have helped her find a practical way to use her knowledge.


Posted Sep. 11, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
darylb

Join Date: 06/23/13

Posts: 17

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I think she used the RA as an excuse to become a recluse, but no one was encouraging her to do otherwise. Untill Phinneaus and Frankie came into her life, she really had no one but Natalie and Saisee. It was to Natalie's advantage to keep her as a recluse. The loss of her baby was a big contributor too. Having a child to live for could have given her the motivation to make the best of her situation.


Posted Sep. 11, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Navy Mom

Join Date: 04/12/12

Posts: 93

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RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I think the RA allowed her to continue on after the loss of her baby and the loss of the love she thought she had found. It gave her an excuse for the bad things happening to her. It was the scapegoat for the WHY? these things had happened.


Posted Sep. 12, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Beth350

Join Date: 04/15/11

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RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

It seems that anytime a young person develops a physical deformity, it cannot help but change their personal outlook on life. The fact that the deformity is also painful contributes to Alice's feeling that she needs to stay away from others - she doesn't want their pity or the shame that might ensue if she succumbed to pain in front of others.

Kathryn's remarks above seem right on target.


Posted Sep. 12, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
kathrynk

Join Date: 05/21/11

Posts: 31

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I think good questions to ask in this discussion are: What impact did the treatment of Alice by Natalie have on her physical and emotional health? How did Natalie enhance her feeling of worthlessness? How did yanking her away from the life she knew change her? How did the environment Natalie created for Alice change her?

What is the difference between a reason for one's behavior and an excuse for one's behavior?


Posted Sep. 12, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
ilyseb

Join Date: 08/17/11

Posts: 3

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I think the RA made Alice very dependent on other people and also made her feel like she couldn't take care of herself or that she was somehow less than other people. I also thought it was significant that the only time the RA was better was when she was pregnant, and then she lost the baby which made the loss devastating on more than one level.


Posted Sep. 12, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
marciac

Join Date: 09/04/13

Posts: 4

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I think that the questions that Kathryn proposes are right on. I think that Natalie, even though you don't see much of her directly in this book, plays an important role in Alice's attitude toward her RA and her life. How cruel can one person be? Natalie through her own bitterness and disappointments seems hell bent on making sure that Alice's life is going to be just as miserable as her own. She takes her baby, tells her her baby is dead, then tears her away from all that is familiar to her. She lied to her constantly, criticized her daily and made her life a living hell. How could Alice begin to face a world that hasn't been kind to her by a long shot without some kind of supportive encouragement? Once she gets to Tennessee and meets Phinneaus, Saisee and Frankie, she begins to step out of the cocoon she had woven for herself.


Posted Sep. 13, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Violetta

Join Date: 06/10/11

Posts: 7

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I totally agree with mirciac. Good analysis.


Posted Sep. 17, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
JulieAB

Join Date: 07/16/13

Posts: 22

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I also agree with marciac. I really believe that Alice's attitude and her recluse lifestyle was parcipitated by Natalie. If you are told something long enough, you start to believe it. Alice believed she couldn't do anything and she never ventured out because of Natalie's treatment towards her. I know I'm not the first person to say it, but I really didn't like Natalie all that well, but because the author did not give Natalie a voice we don't know her thoughts and feelings. That might change my attitude towards her, but I highly doubt it. She was just plain mean. And, lets not forget their parents' role in how things turned out. They seemed to shower Alice with all kinds of attention, maybe because of her RA, but they seemed to alienate Natalie after her abortion.


Posted Sep. 18, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Lea Ann

Join Date: 04/20/11

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RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

The RA from which Alice suffered confused me a bit. My adult son also has severe RA, but with lots of medical help, he is able to keep it quite well under control. However, Alice may not, probably did not, have the kind of health insurance that would allow her the weekly expensive shots and others means of semi-controlling the condition that my son has. That said, the condition kept Alice isolated from the world and completely dependent upon Natalie. She and Natalie must have come to resent each other in some ways ways possibly not even recognized, let alone acknowledged, by either of them. One for being "a burden"; the other for being an unwilling caregiver. One for being without power; the other for having too much power and responsibility. I cheered for Alice when she found the fortitude to go via train to look for her daughter. She learned she was more able and braver than she thought she was. Interesting.


Posted Sep. 20, 2013 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
marganna

Join Date: 10/14/11

Posts: 23

RE: Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?

I agree with most of what Kathrynk & Marciac have stated. We never know what a person is going through so it's difficult to judge. Yes, Alice became a recluse; she did have a painful debilitating disease; she thought her child was dead; she had been programmed from early years to see Natalie as the strong one who was in control. What chance did she have? So she adopted her role in life well. Her parents played a role in making her believe Natalie was the gifted one. With another person in her life early on she might have led a completely different life as she was beginning to when Phinneaus & Frankie came into the picture. As long as Natalie was in control there would be little change for Alice.
I'm not following the "shame" thought: I don't see shame, but pain, inability, lack of support & encouragement, fear...if I missed the shame part, all I can say is that must have come from Natalie heaping more of her control over Alice.


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