House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

by Woody Guthrie

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House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby Liz » Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:19 pm

Pg. 166: Blanche had been the one to carry healthy feelings between wife and husband many times before, in her hospital training and in a dozen or so actual births that she had been on. Just how she came to be at the Hamlin shack is a long story that runs through the births of several babies for a hundred miles around. She had all of the papers that a trained nurse needs, yet she was not an actual medical doctor. She could stand in for a doctor but could not replace him. She could perform most of the things that a doctor could perform, yet she was not called a doctor. There was only one expert baby doctor in this entire county, only one who had all of the most modern tools, equipment, and knowledge……Blanch did not charge a fee of any kind. She heard of a pregnant woman by word of mouth, and simply paid her a visit, had an all-day talk, and as a general rule she stayed a few days or weeks, received her room, board, and whatever sum of money the people paid her. She was very well known and warmly welcomed into any ranch or farmhouse door, yet at the same time, being so pretty, she had many kinds of passionate skirmishes with men. As to her love life, nobody seemed to know anything for certain, and many tales traveled the country both pro and con.

What did you think of Blanche?

You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:16 pm

Blanche's character didn't really make very much of an impression on me. She seemed like a vehicle to further Tike and Ella May's story, someone to illustrate their personalities a bit more, a necessary piece of the story to get the baby born, but that was about all. I wonder if that was Woody's intention or if I simply missed something.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:09 pm

I rather enjoyed her inclusion to the part of the book, it made it alittle more interesting to have three people rather than two. She seems to be someone that goes and gets what she wants , she seems to be more of a free spirit in some ways moving from one place to the next. I'd have to read the book again to comment further.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:07 pm

I think she was needed to facilitate the birth but also to spice it up a bit. She created some sexual tension. But she was also needed to move the story along.

I liked her. I liked her spunk. Another strong woman. :eyebrow: I found myself wanting to know more about her.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:33 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:I rather enjoyed her inclusion to the part of the book, it made it alittle more interesting to have three people rather than two. She seems to be someone that goes and gets what she wants , she seems to be more of a free spirit in some ways moving from one place to the next. I'd have to read the book again to comment further.


I agree. I liked her as a character. Guthrie sketches great characters very quickly, which demonstrates his abilities as a writer. One small description that sticks with me: She turned moanful and dreary, heavy and sad, when she had been over the room a hundred, two hundred times with fingers and eyes, and there was nothing left to work at. Her white skin, blond hair, pale blue eyes, and full lips shook like shadows on the cliffs of the Cap Rock. Strikingly pale woman -- you know, I've seen women like that. There's a freshness to them. Guthrie really brings her alive.

At the same time, because he introduced her -- in particular, because he took us into her head, her thoughts --I was expecting more. It really does set up a nice dynamic to have three instead of two, so much more you can do with moving a story forward. But if you get someone out there, all fully formed and all, you set up your readers to look for you to dance her around a bit, if you know what I mean. And conversely, if you don't want us wondering about Blanche, you have to be careful what you show us.

The question is: did Guthrie want us wondering about Blanche?

On to other topics. I really liked Blanche's insight into both Tike and Ella - both distanced and compassionate. Guthrie very accurately captured the midwife's total focus on making sure the delivery was successful. She noticed so many little signs -- the sound of Ella's voice, the heat of her skin. She also saw the hard life this couple was leading, and did her best not to show her distaste for the dirt, the dust and the smell of oil and rot. You get a clear sense that Blanche was doubtful that the Hamlins' life was going to improve much.

I think Guthrie did an excellent job of drawing us into the drama of the birth by steadily turning up the tension, using Blanche's growing concern that there might be trouble ahead for Ella. Had me wondering what was going to happen next.

Finally, there's a scene with Tike and Blanche near the end of the 3rd chapter. Tike is being his usual impulsive, slightly crude self and Blanche takes him on, really reduces him to a pulp. It was a funny scene, but also one that made me wonder why Guthrie wanted to show her ability to really overwhelm the guy. Tike seemed very small, downright foolish actually. It surprised me. Hero upended in the dust. It sort of transformed Blanche for me from this minor character that dances us from A to B, to someone with a unique, stranger's viewpoint on this little family. I haven't finished thinking about it.

But then, the goal of the writer is to make the reader think, isn't it?
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:44 pm

fireflydances wrote:
Finally, there's a scene with Tike and Blanche near the end of the 3rd chapter. Tike is being his usual impulsive, slightly crude self and Blanche takes him on, really reduces him to a pulp. It was a funny scene, but also one that made me wonder why Guthrie wanted to show her ability to really overwhelm the guy. Tike seemed very small, downright foolish actually. It surprised me. Hero upended in the dust. It sort of transformed Blanche for me from this minor character that dances us from A to B, to someone with a unique, stranger's viewpoint on this little family. I haven't finished thinking about it.


As we get into this discussion more and I’m thinking more about these characters, it hits me that Woody really made the women the heroes of this story. He started off the novel describing love making from a man’s point of view. But the remainder of the story painted the women as the strong, confident ones. I salute Woody for this. :hatsoff:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby ladylinn » Tue Apr 09, 2013 12:54 pm

I enjoyed Blanche's character. She spiced up the story line and showed another strong woman in the story. I believe Blance had delt with other men such as Tike and knew how to handle a tense and a could be explosive situation. I think she went far in her life.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby Buster » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:12 pm

It sort of transformed Blanche for me from this minor character that dances us from A to B, to someone with a unique, stranger's viewpoint on this little family.

I think you are on to something, firefly. Blanche adds perspective. We see Tike and Ella May through a different lens, though Blanche faces some of the same "under-dog" issues they do. She is "merely" a mid-wife, not a doctor, and no amount of wishing or skill is going to change that. She is a sharecropper in the medical world, as it were.
Woody's characterization of her makes her seem somewhat "other" - bolstered both by his description of her and by the local speculation on her private life. People tend to gossip about things they don't quite understand, trying to make collective sense out of something unfamiliar.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:28 pm

Blanche: Calm, cool and collected. Ready and able to handle anything that life throws at her, whether it’s unwanted advances from men, complications during a birth, or a nasty storm. An educated woman with tremendous poise who can take control of a situation without an emotional explosion, or an emotional breakdown. The kind of a woman that most men find intimidating, due to both her beauty and her intellect. The kind of a woman that people might start rumors about because they don’t know what to make of her. I sort of see her as one third ob/gyn, one third psychologist, and one third independent woman whose private life remains private (we are not privy to her letters or back story). In my mind, a true professional - though the times did not allow for that. As firefly said, both "distanced and compassionate", but as a good doctor or counselor should be! I kept wishing that she’d be able to open her own practice and be well-paid for her services, maybe once times were a little better. To me, she’s a very modern woman in a very un-modern situation. I think she’d be a highly successful professional if she were alive today.

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Re: House of Earth Question #10 - Blanche

Unread postby Liz » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:46 am

Well said, RR. :ok:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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