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The Headmaster's Wife
"Part of a grand literary tradition...Deeply felt and utterly absorbing." -...
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What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

Created: 05/07/15

Replies: 13

Posted May. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1318

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What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

What do you think are the central themes of the book, and how did they resonate with you?


Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 212

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

There were many themes and all well covered. There was love, marriage, family, tragedy, guilt and class


Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jww

Join Date: 05/31/11

Posts: 128

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

I believe the central theme was the complete collapse into mental illness. Arthur's guilt, grief and longing drew him deeper and deeper into insanity. Arthur led a life that other people expected of him and when tragedy hit him, he was unable to cope. He had no personal strength.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joycew

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 75

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

Did anyone consider that Arthur just got dementia??


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 212

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

It is possible that Arthur suffered from dementia. The dementia could have been accelerated by the loss of his son and the sorrow and guilt he felt. Emotions have such a strong hold on our minds and bodies.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lindah

Join Date: 04/17/14

Posts: 90

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

I didn't get a sense that Arthur had dementia. His breakdown seemed to come from realizing how tragic, shallow and pointless his life had become and he was not able to cope. Arthur was truly alone. His only child was dead; his marriage was a failure, he had no real friends on the faculty and was in danger of losing his job and center through his alcohol abuse.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lindah

Join Date: 04/17/14

Posts: 90

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

Love, friendship, honor, trust. The Headmaster's Wife asks the reader to look at what is truly meaningful and important in life.


Posted May. 12, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Retired Reader, NE

Join Date: 09/16/11

Posts: 165

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

IMO, Elizabeth and Russell were students with great potential wanting to go beyond their modest beginnings to something they felt was more exalted. In that setting of great privilege, they were bound to experience failure.


Posted May. 12, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sandeo

Join Date: 04/17/11

Posts: 19

RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

I believe two of the central themes in this novel are: the river that runs through the campus and tradition. I don't believe there is love or hope or even joy, but just a fatalistic adherence to tradition. Arthur does not love Betsy. He wants to possess her like his position as Headmaster. She will help him fulfill that tradition as will his son who he sees as his successor. Arthur drives this theme and in the end is destroyed by it. The second theme is the River, nature, the outlier beyond any character's control yet it plays a powerful role in their lives. Arthur fantasizes about Russell drowning so that he could have a clear field with Betsy. Then again, when he believes he has killed Betsy, he bathes her and takes her down to the river, breaks the ice and lets her go. The river is eternal, uncaring and a place to come and think.


Posted May. 12, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susiej

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 57

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

Mental health - how it is or is not developed over a life-time - is a major theme here. This has been a major issue in my family for many years. I believe when we become adults we have a responsibility to ourselves and those we associate with regardless of how we are raised or what we are exposed to. I did not care for the author 's development of his theme. His protagonist may have been pampered all his life and assured of his future and comfort, but he was also given an excellent education - and he should have used this to deal with issues at various points of stress in his life but chose not to. There's too much of this in my daily life. I didn't want to read a novel about it, too.


Posted May. 18, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbarac

Join Date: 04/14/11

Posts: 8

RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

I agree with susiej. Arthur was a weakling, his wealth and education did not serve him as he crawled through life. He had no resilience with adversity. His life was a sham. The book depressed me, because I would hope he would give up his career as a headmaster and take up yoga or meditation, or something. He was toxic even when it wasn't true. His brain was warped.


Posted May. 19, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
flute4u

Join Date: 08/14/13

Posts: 23

RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

I like sandeo's identification of the river as theme that courses through the entire book. Our 'nature' or character is a strong influence on our lives. Elizabeth is a survivor in the end who holds on to her memories like sea anchors. Arthur may be bright, but he does not know how to truly another human being and so falls into a demented pit where he creates and controls his own reality. The river can either wash clean or consume the characters in this novel, but in the end it flows to the sea that engulfs eternity.


Posted May. 19, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ElenaSpagnolie

Join Date: 10/10/11

Posts: 19

RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

I think one of the major themes was about how the choices we make affect the outcomes of our lives. Whether we choose to pursue power, hold to our integrity, defy our parents and follow our dreams, attempt suicide, or fight for life and a new beginning, whether or not we end up happy depends on knowing ourselves and being true to those selves. I thought it was interesting how Ethan turned out to be one of the happiest characters even though he decided to go to war, whereas Arthur - a man who sought safety and insularity - lives a miserable existence.


Posted May. 21, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 149

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RE: What are the central themes of the book and how did they resonate with you?

I believe the major themes are loss and the grief that occurs after the loss. The author allows the reader to delve into each character's ability to sustain and survive what has transpired. Elizabeth survives and has the fortitude to move on; whereas, Arthur succumbs to the loss and the grief that follows.


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