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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 Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

Created: 07/11/18

Replies: 13

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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1584

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Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

Why do you think Oliver married Elma? Why did she marry him? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?


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 Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

They needed each other. Oliver gave both Emma and by association, Nan respectability. Emma gave Oliver more trustworthiness as a married man with a family, as a newcomer to the town. He may have felt her presence would help establish his practice. He gave the twins a father, some normalcy. And of course there is the obvious - both were expected to marry and neither had other prospects. Also, it helped that he knew the truth about the twins and he wasn't appalled, he accepted both Emma and the babies.


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

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 169

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

I think Oliver saw a woman of strength in Elma, and strength was something hw needed. Elma wanted to get off the farm and wanted to be respected. Oliver could give her that. for Elma, moving to town also was a way to protect Nan from her father.


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

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 235

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

I wasn‘t surprised as they both wanted some security and support. The bigger question is what may happen in the future. I wondered about the polio element. It did lend the element of time to the story and a connection about other diseases just being understood.


Posted Jul. 17, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annl

Join Date: 04/03/17

Posts: 25

RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

Not at all. They had complementary flaws.


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

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 215

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

I agree with annl. They also had complementary strengths. Oliver was respectable, and he was a way off the farm for both Elma and Nan (and Elma cared a lot about getting Nan and Wilson away from Juke). Elma was strong and beautiful and gave Oliver confidence and cover. Also, as elyseg pointed out, he knew about the babies and was willing to accept Elma and Nan in spite of their story.


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 Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

I wasn’t surprised Oliver and Nan married. They were both needy in complimentary ways and were able to build a life together as a result. Oliver wanted a wife and children and Elma wanted stability.


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

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 229

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

Oliver was attracted to Elma's beauty and her strength, I agree, and he was lonely, not in a position to court women who didn't have "strings attached." But he was also motivated by his idealism. He wanted to do real good in the world as a doctor, he wanted to help black people -- going back to his childhood, the death of Daisy, and his own experience with physical suffering. He came to realize that he could do real good by protecting Elma and Nan. He genuinely wanted them to be a family; it seems he wasn't sure if he would ever be able to have children of his own.

For her part, Elma was desperate to protect Nan and to escape her father and her mixed feelings, her anger at what he had done, and the lie he had forced her into to cover up for him. She longed for respectability too. She naively thought she would be accepted by townspeople as his wife. She was wise enough to recognize Oliver as a decent man, one she expected she would learn to love. She didn't realize the extent of his disability, and that upset her, but she was kind about it. She felt trapped, but not that Oliver had deliberately trapped her; she was honest enough to admit their mutual need.

I wasn't surprised because they were both good people, wanting a loving relationship, and capable of developing a more mature love over time, though there were certainly obstacles to overcome -- Elma would certainly continue to speak her mind and have her way in small things, as when she opened a piece of mail that wasn't hers, or expressed her frustration by shopping. Oliver was willing to listen to her fiddle music on the radio instead of his jazz and he didn't get angry over her spending, rather he was frustrated by uncovering his father's financial mess, and his own inability to be a better provider.It seems they did not take their frustrations out on one another. They respected one another's freedom to act as they needed to act: his trip to Warm Springs, her decision not to go with him. Because they had both suffered a lot in their lives, I think they appreciated the value of kindness and honesty and they shared a contempt for the racial and gender stereotypes of their community. That is a good basis for a lasting relationship.


Posted Jul. 22, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyh

Join Date: 05/08/11

Posts: 78

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

They both had needs the other provided. Both were grateful for the respectability and stability the other provided and were able to translate that gratefulness into, if not romantic love, mutual respect and caring. Their marriage reminded of friends who are part of arranged marriages - they do not expect to love immediately, but to build respect and caring into love over time. So, NO, I was not surprised.


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

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 172

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

I agree with all the previous posts. They needed each other and marriage was the best solution to their problems. No surprise there.


Posted Jul. 24, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 193

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

Pretty much all has been said about Oliver and Elma and their respective reasons for marrying. Respect and trust--the backbone of any real, lasting relationship.


Posted Jul. 24, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyh

Join Date: 01/23/15

Posts: 107

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RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

Not surprised, they needed one another.


Posted Jul. 26, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marymargaretf

Join Date: 09/05/11

Posts: 39

RE: Why do you think Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

It was not surprising that Oliver and Elma married because as so many readers have expressed, they complemented each other. Oliver admired her strength and was able to find comfort in it. Elma was brought to a respectable life by a man who understood her and accepted all that she brought to their union.


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 Oliver and Elma married? Were you surprised that they ended up building a life together?

I believe they needed each other. They were able to get what they didn't have from the other one.
Once Elma married she was committed - she had no other choice but to build a life with the man she married. That was the times they were in, and the societal belief of that time.


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