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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:
Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

Created: 07/11/18

Replies: 14

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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

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Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?


Posted Jul. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elyseg

Join Date: 11/13/17

Posts: 12

RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I think it was because she loved Nan and wanted to protect her. Emma wasn't one to care to much what people said, she could hold her own against the town.


Posted Jul. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 179

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RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

She wanted to protect Nan. Part of her agreement to the coverup was that her father stay away from Nan and not force himself on her again.


Posted Jul. 16, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
oraj

Join Date: 05/10/18

Posts: 1

RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I think she wanted to protect her father. She indicated she had been raped by Genus Jackson which led to the hanging of Genus, which her father organized.
OKJ


Posted Jul. 16, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 59

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RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I don't think the answer as as simple as we might first think. First of all, I do think Elma was horrified when she realized that her father was raping Nan. The two girls had been raised as sisters. That her father would behave in this way with a "member of the family" was not right at all in Elma's mind, no matter what society was willing to turn a blind eye toward during these times.

Second, Elma wanted to protect her father. His relationship with George, the man who owned the land Elma's family lived on, was not as close as it once had been. As the "Cotton Gin" operator and frequent guest at the juke joint, Juke's reputation was already pretty damaged. I think she feared that fathering a child with Nan would be a transgression the town would not be able to look past.

Finally, Elma was jealous of the relationship developing between Nan and Genus. Elma had watched Genus bath, flirted with him when she brought pie, fantasized about him, AND saw him have sex with Nan. by fingering Genus as the father of one of her babies, he would no longer be in the picture or able to take Nan away from Elma. OR remind Elma that Genus had not chosen her, but rather Nan.


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

Join Date: 08/29/13

Posts: 93

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RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I think she wanted to protect Nan and her father. She was angry about what he did but he was still her dad. Even when you hate the actions of a family member often you still love them. It is hard to not care for family even if they have been morally reprehensible. She didn't care what the town thought of her as long as the people she was closest to were ok.


Posted Jul. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I think she was in shock, due to her mixed feelings, primarily toward her father: how could he treat Nan this way, what might he do to punish her and Nan if she didn’t go along? Or how could she and Nan support themselves and their children without him? Elma had a lot to process. And she and Nan were physically forced into the shed to live in like a prison before they gave birth... she knew what he was capable of and how powerless she and Nan were. Yes there was love but I think more than protecting him out of love she was protecting herself, Nan and their babies out of fear and a sense of helplessness.


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

Join Date: 06/01/11

Posts: 49

RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I think that she had many reasons for doing this, many of which have been discussed in this conversation. In addition to all of this, I think ELmas thought of herself as educated and saw this as a way of being above the fray. THe town saw he one way and she saw herself another way. In some way I think that she thought that this might make a bad situation a little better.


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: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I think Elma suspected Juke was Wilson’s father and she chose to endure this shame rather than have others know Nan’s shame. Elma thought she could at least spare Nan this possible indignity.


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

Join Date: 02/14/18

Posts: 13

RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

Others have had excellent insights on this question, but no one has mentioned Elma's youth. She is just a teenager who has seen very little of the world; and I think she was unable to think through the consequences. She was afraid of her daddy and did what he said.


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: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

Agreed, teacher reader— based on my former students. She was young, inexperienced, scared of the most obvious consequences, and she’d just been through pregnancy/childbirth with all of its hormonal changes. Not the best time to handle such a moral dilemma.


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

Join Date: 01/23/15

Posts: 124

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RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

Elma was young but she wanted to protect Nan. Elma was strong in her own way.


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

Join Date: 04/22/11

Posts: 9

RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I think her motives are twofold: she wanted to protect Nan when she finally found out about her father’s abuse; and I think there was something in the decision for her. She was worried that if Juke’s relationship with Nan became common knowledge, the town would turn on him and the. She would be left alone. I also think in some ways she enjoyed the notoriety of the twins.


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

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 39

RE: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

I agree with everything acstrine said. Her motives were quite complicated - love for Nan and wanting to protect her, love (in spite of everything) for Juke, her feelings for Genus and regret and shame for her silence when questioned about his actions. Later on she is very angry with Juke for making her lie, making her believe it was all for the best.


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: Why do you think Elma agreed to pretend to be Wilson’s mother, even though in the eyes of others it brought increased shame on her?

Elma was protecting Nan, which she felt was the most loving thing she could do for her. And I think she also wanted to protect Wilson. She feared that if people knew the truth they would turn on both Juke and probably also little Wilson, who was the innocent victim in this case.


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