Not Logged in.
Book Jacket

The Twelve-Mile Straight


An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the...
Summary and Reviews
Excerpt
Reading Guide

Discuss The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson:
Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

Created: 07/11/18

Replies: 8

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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

Expert

Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

Which characters in the novel did you believe to be truly innocent, and which were unequivocally evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?


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

Join Date: 02/14/18

Posts: 13

all were flawed

I found it hard to think of any of the characters in terms of innocence and evil. Each one's actions seemed to be determined by circumstances beyond their control. George Wilson might be considered evil, but his behavior was not out of the norm for his time and position. If I had to name a truly amoral character, it would be Juke because he considered only himself in every situation. For the most innocent character, I would choose Nan because she truly had no control. Oliver was also innocent, but not as sympathetic because he was smart and should have known better in many cases.


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

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 125

Expert

RE: Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

I think Nan is a hero. She manages to overcome her functional limitations and raises a child and moves away from her negative past to a more positive future.


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

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

Expert

RE: Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

I'm not sure what you meant, teacher reader, by saying Oliver "should have known better" -- what did he do that was wrong? He may have been naive in thinking he could take Nan and Wilson into his home along with Elma and her daughter, without a backlash -- although his own parents had a black housekeeper and her daughter in their home when he was growing up, so I think his expectation was reasonable. Perhaps he should have been more explicit with Elma about his disability, but even he did not know whether he might be able to be intimate with her in the right conditions. But maybe that isn't what you meant?

I agree it is hard to think of the characters in this novel in terms of good and evil; the author in my opinion went out of her way NOT to encourage us to do that, in order to show how the whole society was evil, in its racism and in its economic and social hierarchy, with the monopoly of one rich man, George Wilson,literally above the law, with his payoff to the local sheriff, and the elder Dr. Rawls as his private abortionist on demand. Even the most despicable characters, in terms of their actions, Juke and the Wilsons, show some shreds of human feeling. Nan is the most powerless and innocent, but she has some minor flaws as well (the theft, for example) -- perhaps it would be more accurate to say that through her black characters, Henderson tries hard not to make them take the blame for a system they didn't create, or for not standing up to it more forcefully, but to show they too are "only human" and struggle with the question of what is the right thing to do, as well.

If by "redemption" we mean, do any characters overcome their obstacles -- whether of personal character or of a corrupt society -- I would say yes. Sterling is an example of the former, seeking to rebuild a relationship with Nan (his daughter, in both of their minds) and acknowledging he let her down. He refuses to kill Juke at George's bidding at the end. Elma certainly tries for redemption when she confronts her father about being forced to lie for him, speaking up finally against the wrong. Nan overcomes her understandable fear of using her voice -- on paper-- to get Wilson help, refusing to allow her needs to be dismissed once again, even if it disrupts a white man's peace. Some may feel Juke stabbing Freddie Wilson as he raped Elma was an acknowledgment of the evil of rape on his own part, but I think he was just protecting what he felt to be his own... Although he did nod at Elma when she left him to be shot, as if to express some sort of apology to her, or acknowledgment of her rightful anger. So perhaps...


Posted Jul. 21, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
teacher reader

Join Date: 02/14/18

Posts: 13

RE: Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

Perhaps saying that Oliver "should have known better" was an inaccurate choice of words. I felt that his character was very intelligent but incredibly naïve. The situation with Nan was not comparable to that of having a black maid, and he should have anticipated the backlash. He should have had some handle on his finances. He seemed to live in his head without any understanding of the outside world.


Posted Jul. 21, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

Expert

RE: Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

Thanks for responding and explaining !
Perhaps Oliver, returning to his small town from a career in a bigger city, was bringing with him some of broader perspective he would have experienced there. That might have been naive, and certainly it affected his practice as he lost patients. I don’t think he can fairly be blamed for not knowing that his father, in offering to hand over his practice, was leaving him a house with a double mortgage. Seems to me his father was the one to make a mess of the finances.


Posted Aug. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
shannonl

Join Date: 12/04/17

Posts: 9

RE: Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

I did not think any of them were really evil! I am not even sure any of them were completely innocent....They were all flawed. Oliver took advantage of his travels and Nan was someone whom we could respect.


Posted Aug. 09, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
vickic

Join Date: 09/15/14

Posts: 35

RE: Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

If only it were so easy to be able to say who is evil and who is not. I do believe that there exist people who are evil but for most people it seems important to look at the culture and the time in order to understand the why of behavior. What is considered evil in 2018 might not have been considered so a hundred years ago.


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

Expert

RE: Which characters in the novel did you believe to be innocent and which evil? Do you think any of them achieve redemption? Are there any heroes? Did each get what he or she deserved in the end?

I was not reading for the purpose of good and evil. I think both resides in every person, and may even rear its' head as the situation decides. I think the period of time may have been more evil than the actual people. It was the period of time that allowed people to act in various ways, such as the hanging of Genus.


Reply

Please login to post a response.