House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

by Woody Guthrie

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House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:45 pm

He saw Ella May's body turn hard, stiff, blue and purple, then pale, then for a moment loose and limber again, then tight. Tight and hardened as the iron in the sledgehammer, as hard and tight as strings on a fiddle. She moved her toes and feet as if she were swimming on her back in rough water and there was all over her this same appearance, like she was floating in waters so high that she was almost sucked under every second. (pg. 191)

Tike is watching Ella May give birth. Guthrie gives us several images to contemplate: the sledgehammer, the violin string and a woman struggling against an overwhelming flood of water. Interesting metaphors. What do you think?
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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:57 pm

I have to admit the birth scene was the one place in the book where I felt some anxiety, a need to know what happens next. I wasn't sure the baby was going to survive -- or Ella May, for that matter. I thought Woody created a very real scene filled with tension and gave us a sense of Tike's fear.

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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:46 am

Obviously written from the male persepctive and I got the impression reading the chapter that he wasn't that familiar with the subject. Some of the things he wrote made me think he hadn't actually witnessed chidbirth first hand as I'm guessing at the time he wouldn't have been present at the birth of his own children. Also he had no idea how things work. What on earth was he describing when he talked about" meaty organs and intestinal tubes" coming out with the baby. I'm guessing he just means that the cord looked like intestinal tubes not that they were, at least I hope not. Usually and in my experience the afterbirth come out a few minutes after the baby not at the same time so not quite sure what he was describing there, but as I say its one reason I got the impression it was something he was not familiar with either that or he was showing Tike to be very ignorant. Also the tying of the cord and refering to the foodstuff in it and it going back inside Ella May :perplexed: clearly he had no idea.
As for the metaphors not quite sure about those, not sure womens bodies do or look like that during childbirth but I guess he had to describe it somehow.

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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:43 pm

I felt, as I read it, that we were seeing this whole thing through Tike's eyes, even though it was written in third person style. Tike would have been familiar with the birthing process since he had milk cows on the place, but seeing his wife going through childbirth would have been a totally different thing. And so I guess, even though it wasn't an accurate description of a woman giving birth, the distortions gave me a sense of what Tike was feeling. Talking about intestines and meaty bits was much more descriptive than an accurate portrayal could have been.

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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:50 pm

nebraska wrote:I felt, as I read it, that we were seeing this whole thing through Tike's eyes, even though it was written in third person style. Tike would have been familiar with the birthing process since he had milk cows on the place, but seeing his wife going through childbirth would have been a totally different thing. And so I guess, even though it wasn't an accurate description of a woman giving birth, the distortions gave me a sense of what Tike was feeling. Talking about intestines and meaty bits was much more descriptive than an accurate portrayal could have been.

I get your point but if he was so familiar then he would know it would just be the same as an animal giving birth and I'm sure they don't give birth to meaty things and intestines either. I just found that whole peice very strange.

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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:16 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:Obviously written from the male perspective and I got the impression reading the chapter that he wasn't that familiar with the subject. Some of the things he wrote made me think he hadn't actually witnessed chidbirth first hand as I'm guessing at the time he wouldn't have been present at the birth of his own children. Also he had no idea how things work. What on earth was he describing when he talked about" meaty organs and intestinal tubes" coming out with the baby. I'm guessing he just means that the cord looked like intestinal tubes not that they were, at least I hope not.


Guthrie was intentionally writing from the perspective of Tike who, according to the facts presented in the story, had no prior experience with childbirth. Tike's uncertainty is what we pick up when we read his description of the afterbirth. We, as readers, were not confused. Every writer strives to create believable characters. If Tike had seemed knowledgeable about childbirth, that would have not been in keeping with the rest of the character Guthrie created.
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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:20 pm

nebraska wrote:I have to admit the birth scene was the one place in the book where I felt some anxiety, a need to know what happens next. I wasn't sure the baby was going to survive -- or Ella May, for that matter. I thought Woody created a very real scene filled with tension and gave us a sense of Tike's fear.


I agree! Guthrie managed to create a real sense of foreboding - the weather, the descriptions of the birthing process and the heightened anxiety level of both Blanche and Tike. Blanche did a great job of covering her nibblings of concern, but Tike was rightly all over the place.
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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:23 pm

fireflydances wrote:Tike is watching Ella May give birth. Guthrie gives us several images to contemplate: the sledgehammer, the violin string and a woman struggling against an overwhelming flood of water. Interesting metaphors. What do you think?


Here is my question again. Why do you think that Guthrie chose to describe Ella May in terms of a sledgehammer or violin. I ask about these in particular because both metaphors appear elsewhere in the book. The choice of describes a woman giving birth to being submerged in flood of water is also interesting. So I am asking for your opinions.
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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:52 pm

fireflydances wrote:
fireflydances wrote:Tike is watching Ella May give birth. Guthrie gives us several images to contemplate: the sledgehammer, the violin string and a woman struggling against an overwhelming flood of water. Interesting metaphors. What do you think?


Here is my question again. Why do you think that Guthrie chose to describe Ella May in terms of a sledgehammer or violin. I ask about these in particular because both metaphors appear elsewhere in the book. The choice of describes a woman giving birth to being submerged in flood of water is also interesting. So I am asking for your opinions.

She is both unbelievably strong and unbelievably beautiful in this process.

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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:55 pm

nebraska wrote:
fireflydances wrote:
fireflydances wrote:Tike is watching Ella May give birth. Guthrie gives us several images to contemplate: the sledgehammer, the violin string and a woman struggling against an overwhelming flood of water. Interesting metaphors. What do you think?


Here is my question again. Why do you think that Guthrie chose to describe Ella May in terms of a sledgehammer or violin. I ask about these in particular because both metaphors appear elsewhere in the book. The choice of describes a woman giving birth to being submerged in flood of water is also interesting. So I am asking for your opinions.

She is both unbelievably strong and unbelievably beautiful in this process.


:highfive: Absolutely! Your comment sent a chill through me nebraska.
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Re: House of Earth Question #18: Ella May Giving Birth

Unread postby Liz » Tue Apr 16, 2013 8:37 pm

I had thought of the sledgehammer and violin metaphors as merely a way of describing how tense and taut Ella May was. But I like Nebraska's theory better. :cool:

I thought this was written through Tike's eyes, also. When Woody used the description "meaty organs and intestinal tubes" this was in character with how I view Tike.....a little ignorant about womenly things. I also think he was describing an exaggerated version of what Tike really saw. And I think Tike viewed it that way because he was afraid....afraid for his wife and afraid for his child.
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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