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Unsheltered


A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.
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Discuss Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver:
Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

Created: 10/16/18

Replies: 8

Posted Oct. 16, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1973

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Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

Mary tells Thatcher she is "astonished at how little most people can manage to see." Specifically, which realities in her century, and ours, do people find it difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?


Posted Oct. 29, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulak

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 92

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RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

I think when we are dealing with change of the magnitude in the 1880's and today, people have a hard time processing how their individual actions correlate. In the case of climate change, for example, we seem to be faced with a shocking disruption in our environmental landscape. It becomes very difficult to know how our "small" actions influence something so large. I also think pundits use the inaccessibility of science to scare people even further away from understanding change and how we can positively influence it. For example, the term "carbon footprint": how many people really understand what it means? It just sounds so scary and complicated.


Posted Oct. 29, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cynthiad

Join Date: 11/25/12

Posts: 34

RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

Zeke's lifestyle - living unmarried with lawyer girlfriend- proved to be a poor choice. Helen died unexpectedly. No insurance money. Unpaid student loans . No home. Baby boy requiring food, shelter, care.


Posted Oct. 31, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Deb

Join Date: 09/17/18

Posts: 5

RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

Charles Landis is the Donald Trump of his time, a real estate developer who wants to control every aspect of the town he's creating, who doesn't really care about what promises he makes (or keeps) to the workers he brings over as long as they come. He's brash and vulgar and unhappy with the alternate newspaper, preferring his own house organ. Yet until the press begins to show what's underneath his facade, many of the townsfolk -- Thatcher included -- don't really understand what's going on. A democracy needs a free press; Vineland was not as democratic as it could have been -- for all of its lofty goals it was ruled by a king -- and the parallels between that situation and our current political times are obvious.


Posted Nov. 01, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 283

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RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

I very much appreciate your responses, Deb, and paulak!

We probably can never be completely objective about our own time -- especially not without the further knowledge that will come from science and philosophy in the future. But I think it is possible to see our own time more objectively if we look at our history, and as a former journalist and retired teacher of literature and history, I'm impressed with the parallels Kingsolver drew between this part of the 19th century and our own time.

Landis is definitely Trump, or the people willing to work with him (whether or not she intended that, the parallel holds): promoting "fake truth," to preserve an "Eden" for "people like us," while allowing a few immigrants in to do the dirty work of creating wealth for their "superiors", people willing to use or encourage violence to silence opposition and truth. This wasn't just true of Landis, either; the late 19th and early 20th century was an era of violent suppression of protests on behalf of labor rights, in an era of great income inequality which we now see in our own time, and not by accident. The people who let Landis get away with murder out of their reluctance to part with the illusion of their superiority and security that he represented, have their counterparts today.

In times of change, such as growing income inequality, the loss of economic mobility known as the American Dream, and global warming, some people want to cling to their comfort zones, their myths about the way things are or were; rather than look at facts and then have to somehow amend their beliefs, they dismiss facts as "fake news." Or, in the case of Darwin's evolutionary science, still being resisted today, as "heresy."

People today still have a hard time accepting that we are one human family, related to other nonhuman forms of life, and part of an intricate web of life on this planet, that we are not inherently entitled to exploit its resources without consequences that can destroy us. For some people, there's still the myth that God gave us dominion, or God gave America dominion, or gave white people dominion, or gave rich people dominion, that wealth is a sign of divine favor (instead of a rigged system).

I agree with paulak that it is hard for us to make the connections between our lifestyle and what's happening on the global scale, but another factor is the Landis problem: petty dictators of the oil and industry with unlimited power to influence Congress and control media to promote fake news, to maintain their billions in revenue. The scale of the problem is beyond individual carbon footprints, unless we can organize as a human community collectively strong enough to restructure society.


Posted Nov. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kkh

Join Date: 11/07/18

Posts: 8

RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

L.P. Hartley said "the past is another country" (I had to look it up). The older I get, the more I see the truth of this statement. We are all products not only of our culture but of our time. There has been a lot of technological change in both time periods, and also a lot of cultural change. And guess what, people don't like change. Evolution was an idea whose impact could be compared to the sun revolving around the earth or the earth not being flat. It takes a while for people to adapt, especially since most Christians had a much more literal interpretation of the Bible back then. What are the costs? If people continue to turn a blind eye, then progress will be impeded. But changing people's thinking does not happen overnight.

I do not think we can see ourselves objectively in the present. With time comes insight and change, but you have to look at things through the science, social mores and morals of the time period. Future societies might very well be disgusted by the fact that we eat meat, or wonder how we put people through surgery or chemotherapy.


Posted Nov. 12, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
RebeccaF

Join Date: 08/24/14

Posts: 24

RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

I've never read The Go-Between, but I wonder to what extent that L.P. Hartley quote (via kkh) is meant to be taken ironically. I think the structure of Kingsolver's novel is intended to emphasize just how little has changed in the last 150 years for Thatcher and Willa to be up against the same kinds of struggles.


Posted Nov. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kkh

Join Date: 11/07/18

Posts: 8

RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

Yes, I think Kingsolver wants to compare those of us who do not see her vision of the future to people in the past who rejected the idea of evolution. But that doesn't mean that I agree with her.

Regarding the quote, " the road to hell is paved with good intentions".


Posted Dec. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
windellh

Join Date: 11/05/17

Posts: 30

RE: Which realities in Mary's century, and ours, do people find difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

That nothing is sacred. Change is inevitable and may not happen the way we would like. We view change differently because of many factors that have shaped our being;i.e. morals, economic status, education, social standing, religious beliefs etc. We seem to be in the same cycle of history repeating itself even over the generations. The real cost of accepting change is we are looked upon differently by our peers who still see things as they were.


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