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The Twelve-Mile Straight


An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the...
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Discuss The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson:
How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

Created: 07/11/18

Replies: 6

Posted Jul. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

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How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time? How is their relationship informed by the power imbalance between the two? In what ways is Elma able to protect Nan and in what ways does she fail?


Posted Jul. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyh

Join Date: 01/23/15

Posts: 124

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RE: How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

They both move on but not as dependent on one another.


Posted Jul. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 125

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RE: How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

Nan matures and becomes more self-sufficient as a result of Wilson’s condition and her love for him.


Posted Jul. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

Their sisterly bond (ironically they didn't know they actually were sisters) and their need of each other for support and protection required each of them to ignore unpalatable truths about the other-- Elma's white privilege, for Nan; Nan's loving relationship with Genus, for Elma. This created an undercurrent of tension. Elma's realization that her father had sexually abused Nan added to this; she felt guilt at not being able to protect her. And it was her sense of responsibility for Nan, even while jealous of her, that led her to marry a man she didn't really know or love, though she wisely judged his basic decency. At the same time, her protection, especially keeping it a secret that Nan could read and write, added to Nan's bondage to the family, something Nan fantasized about escaping (and saved her money to do so). It was a complicated emotional situation.

Once they were free of Juke, in Oliver's home, this started to change. Elma disrupted their old bond with her decision not to nurse Winafred or Wilson any longer, a move away from their past intimacy, a disruption of their mutual support system. Nan insisted on taking Wilson to Warm Springs, where she stood on her own and managed to get him help without Elma's protection, and finally, to learn that indeed he was Genus's son freed her from any feeling that the Jesup family "owned" her on some level, other than her real fondness for Elma. I feel that was her turning point, realizing she did not need Elma. That freed them both to just be friends. Each was finally able to settle into their own families and homes, Elma with Oliver and her daughter, Nan with Frank and her son.


Posted Jul. 23, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annl

Join Date: 04/03/17

Posts: 25

RE: How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

I believe it changes as motherhood changes any relationship. Complicated by the differences in color and situation, but they each appreciate the assistance and value for each other.


Posted Jul. 25, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
renem

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 185

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RE: How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

The sisters endured many hardships and heartache both together and separately. As they matured they lost their childhood survival needs and discovered they could be a strong person individually.


Posted Aug. 28, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
taking.mytime's Gravatar
taking.mytime

Join Date: 03/29/16

Posts: 97

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RE: How do you think the relationship between Elma and Nan changes over time?

They became more independent. Their separation also lessened the dependence of Nan on Elma. They grew as most sisters do, apart, but forever linked. They were able to maintain separate lives with their own individual families with Nan not being as dependent on Elma as she had always been.


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