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H is for Hawk
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How do Helen's views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?

Created: 03/20/16

Replies: 5

Posted Mar. 20, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

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How do Helen's views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?

Helen was eight years old when she first read T.H. White's "The Goshawk" and initially she disliked it. How do her views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?


Posted Apr. 03, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

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RE: How do Helen's views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?

She talks about how as a young person, out of her own experience with other hawks, she was inclined to see him as incompetent as a trainer, and to feel indignant on behalf of his hawk Gos. But when she reread him in her grief, and while coping with the greater challenge that a goshawk presented to her, she dug deeper into his personal life, and came to feel empathy for his personal loneliness and brokenness, respect for his effort to work out some of his inner demons through his relationship with his goshawk. I think she recognized that this was exactly what she was doing, despite her greater experience. Reflecting on his experience not just on technical grounds, as a young person, but in a deeper way as a mature and unhappy woman, I think was critical to her recognition of her own problem in handling her grief. His story becomes part of her story, not just an interesting digression.

She also mentions realizing, through this experience, that White's book was the only one where the beloved wild "significant other" does not die, something she hadn't focused on as a child. She sees him dwelling in hope that Gos is alive and may return, and she sees him, in all his bumbling, still preparing the hawk for freedom as he had his former pupils (and as "Colonel Cully" prepares Wart in The Sword and the Stone) -- details she'd missed as a child, which now seemed admirable to her.

I think she makes an important point here by showing us that our emotional maturity (and our knowledge of the author's world) has a huge impact on how we respond as readers. I have reread many books as an adult that I first read as a child, and it's fascinating to see how much, like Helen, I just didn't pick up on. Like her, I read more on the surface,and tended to identify with the protagonist (in White's book, for her as a child, that was Gos, not White). So for example in Jane Eyre, as a child I just saw the madwoman in the attic as an unfortunate obstacle to her romance. Jane's own horror, as an adult, I realized came out of her empathy with Mrs. Rochester, as well as the shock of seeing her lover in a new light. The nuances of character needed a more sensitive reader than I was as a child, and greater understanding of the narrow world women were forced to inhabit in the early 19th century. Likewise the real context of war and the complexities of emotions in Gone with the Wind went right past me as a young teenager reading it for the romance. Forty years later, and with a great deal of knowledge of the context, I saw it as less of a romance, and I saw Scarlett not simply as selfish and stubborn, but also courageous in learning to adapt to a role she was never prepared for, and as someone who grew emotionally in learning to love the despised Melanie. The book was much less of a cliche than the version I remembered from reading it in high school (or seeing the movie). In all these cases, mine and Helen's, when we reread we come to appreciate how much greater is the author's humanity, and that books are or should be about expanding our humanity, not just entertaining us.


Posted Apr. 04, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
KateB

Join Date: 02/11/16

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RE: How do Helen's views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?

That really makes me want to read Gone With the Wind! And have you read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys? That tells Bertha's story. Like you, when I was younger I didn't want to or couldn't consider Jane Eyre from Mrs Rochester's point of view but I loved Wide Sargasso Sea when I picked it up in my 30s.

My book that I particularly recall picking up when I was just too young is Wuthering Heights. As a young teen I found it too miserable to engage with. Then when I read it in my 20s I loved it. Now I'm not sure what I would think of it. Like you, I think I would have more perspective on the characters now and suspect I would think less of Heathcliff and perhaps more of Edgar. Maybe it's time for me to pick that one up again?

As far as TH White goes, I had no idea about his background and found all of that biographical detail very interesting. I did read The Once and Future King at university, as part of a course in Arthurian Legend, and I was not a fan. I remember I thought it was something of a parody with too much authorial intrusion. I'm not sure I'd enjoy reading his goshawk book as much as I enjoyed reading Helen's journey with it.


Posted Apr. 04, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
BarbMJ

Join Date: 10/10/14

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RE: How do Helen's views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?

As Helen trains her own hawk, she gets a better perspective of what White was doing wrong in his training. I think rereading his book while training Mabel helped her to better train a hawk since she could see what could go horribly wrong.

I just reread Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather and could appreciate the setting of the book much more than when I first read it. Having travelled to the Southwest, the book came alive since the scenery is a significant part of Cather's book.

Currently rereading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and "get" the concepts that Screwtape is outlining than I did in my 20's.


Posted Apr. 04, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joanp

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RE: How do Helen's views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?

I agree with Barb MJ. Helen hadn't trained a Goshawk but had worked with other birds. She profited from the mistakes that White made. They were both in a time of despair and became one with the bird. I think she understood why he made mistakes in his training and tried not to make them. I recently reread The Screwtape Letters. I last read them for a class in college. At that time I was more interested in the message and this time I appreciated the skill of C.S.Lewis as a writer. I also just read " The Red Badge of Courage" to discuss with a group. It was required reading when I first read it and I was a reluctant reader. This time I really got the historical references and the universal theme. Maturity changes your outlook.


Posted Apr. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marganna

Join Date: 10/14/11

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RE: How do Helen's views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?

I think JLPen77 says it pretty well - I like the examples given to support the thoughts.
As joanp says: Maturity changes your outlook. I don't think I can improve on the above statements.
At this moment I cannot recall rereading books & changing my mind but I'll reflect on this question and I appreciate the above examples others have mentioned.


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