House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

by Woody Guthrie

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House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby Liz » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:25 pm

Ella May repeatedly brought up the bump her breast. Why? Was there some significance or did Woody just not develop it?
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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:31 am

I'm assuming the pain in her breast was significent maybe for some future chapter that never got written as its been suggested that maybe the book was not finished. If not then I guess that it would have ended in some future tragedy somewhere down the line, off camera so to speak.

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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby Buster » Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:15 am

Not to get too obscure, but perhaps it is a metaphor for the growing cancer of greed - ignored when it is small, with disastrous results.
You know how when you're watching a horror movie, you want to yell "Don't go in the cellar!" ? Ella ignoring the lump has the same effect on me: I want to tell her to pay attention, to get her act together, to think of her coming child.
Of course that is exactly the same message I want to pound into the short-sighted politicians and get-rich-quick schemers.
Is it too far a reach to think that this is really the message Woody wants us all to hear? That our own willfulness and ignorance will destroy us if we don't look at the effects they have on our children's children"s future?

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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby ladylinn » Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:03 pm

I couldn't think why Ella May ignored the bump in her breast. She seemed to be always on top of things and going forward in life. Also couldn't figure why Woody left this unsolved. Maybe because at that time - breast cancer was nearly always a death sentence. Guess only Woodyi could answer this question.

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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:00 pm

I was surprised that part of the story never went further. Maybe it was meant to be another obstacle they would have to face along with everything else that held them down. I'm going with the theory that perhaps the story was just never fully developed.
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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby Liz » Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:27 pm

I didn't even know if women got breast cancer back then. That was my first thought. But she talked about it as being related to his punching her (in play, I think it was).

But then Blanche asked her if there was any pain she had of any sort that she was dealing with, and that it should be told to her. I think Blanche wanted to know this because she wanted Ella May to be free of any other pain so that she could focus on the birthing process. But Ella May chose to keep quiet about it. And I expected the problem to go in that direction, but it didn't.

I was relieved, I have to say, that nothing came of it. But I'm still confused.
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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:14 am

They do say though that breast cancer certainly at an early stage isn't painful anyway so not really quite sure what pain she was feeling unless it was very far advanced cancer.
Btw Breast cancer has been around forever its not a new disease.

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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:43 pm

My thought was that Tike had bruised her or hurt her in some way -- not on purpose, but during one of his playful little fooling around sessions. At times he could be rather childish with his ideas of fun. If that was the case, Ella May might not have said anything in an effort to spare his feelings, which could also be rather immature at times. She may just have been trying to avoid a scene.

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Re: House of Earth Question #21 - The Bump

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:31 pm

Yeah, I found the introduction of the bump compelling and worrisome, and then unresolved. It could just be a matter of writing craft. His introduction of the bump is too pointed for him to drop it without explanation, but only an editor is going to point that out.

Having reread several sections that feature the bump, I've come to the conclusion that Ella May probably had an infection. Could be because of the dust, who knows? I think Blanche sensed there was an issue, and she tried to encourage Ella to talk about it. I think Ella was afraid of anything that would get in the way of a good birth. As was Blanche, but she was looking at it from a medical standpoint whereas Ella was indulging in wish fulfillment.

Blanche notices that Ella is warm, senses that something is hurting her:

"Hush, I thought so. You're feverish. Two points above. Hmmm." Blanche tapped her fingernails against the iron vines and flowers at the head of the bed. "Anything else hurting you besides your baby? Is there? Any other pains anywhere? I have to know. Is there?"

and

Blanche knew that if the pains were causing so much delirium and fever at this early hour, she could expect things get several times worse before the child saw the lamplight. She had seen other cases where old forgotten sore spots, bone and ligament bruises, sprains and fractures, had flashed back into the mind of the woman again to hurt her and frighten her to the degree that her muscles were tight, nerves tense, and the birth was delayed for several hours and became twice as painful and far more dangerous. She could treat such a thing now if only Ella May would point out to her any such places of pain caused by old hurts. There was pressure on one or more of her nerves, there was feverish worries in her brain. These caused all the earlier pains to magnify and, already, to run into rambles of unconscious speech. Possibly she could trace it down as the night wore on.


If there is any symbolic value to the bump at all, I would go with Ella's deep concern that she and Tike wouldn't be able to provide what their child needed -- a safe place. It pokes her, stabs at her. It's a realistic fear.
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