House of Earth Question #27 - The Point

by Woody Guthrie

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House of Earth Question #27 - The Point

Unread postby Liz » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:08 am

What do you think Woody was striving for in writing House of Earth?

Was he successful?
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Re: House of Earth Question #26 - The Point

Unread postby nebraska » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:07 am

I think he wanted to illustrate the hardships faced by common people who were affected by the Dust Bowl and the land owners greed. I think he succeeded very well.

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Re: House of Earth Question #26 - The Point

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:20 pm

I agree nebraska. Showing how his bit of the world had been affected while at the same time trying to get the word out about the virtues of adobe. He succeeded in telling the story but he didn't make the popular impact he had hoped for.
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Re: House of Earth Question #26 - The Point

Unread postby Liz » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:09 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I agree nebraska. Showing how his bit of the world had been affected while at the same time trying to get the word out about the virtues of adobe. He succeeded in telling the story but he didn't make the popular impact he had hoped for.

Well, this is true.....as he did not publish it at the time.
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 #27 - The Point

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:19 am

I agree with what you all have said, but I'm still mulling this one over. Seems there's something more...

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Re: House of Earth Question #27 - The Point

Unread postby ladylinn » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:53 pm

I think that Woody wanted to get the story of his youth and the people of the dust bowl era. Wanted to show the hardships they faced daily while other parts of the country had no idea about it. He was successful in telling the story of the people - but why didn't he publish the book after he was successful and had the contacts and means to do this. This is a lingering question for me.

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Re: House of Earth Question #27 - The Point

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:58 pm

ladylinn wrote:I think that Woody wanted to get the story of his youth and the people of the dust bowl era. Wanted to show the hardships they faced daily while other parts of the country had no idea about it. He was successful in telling the story of the people - but why didn't he publish the book after he was successful and had the contacts and means to do this. This is a lingering question for me.

Maybe he thought he might add more to it. Maybe he thought it wouldn't get published ,some scenes in it would raise eyebrows at the time no doubt and would have made it hard to publish in the form its in without heavy editing. Guess we won't know for sure, maybe a question for Nora Guthrie.

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Re: House of Earth Question #27 - The Point

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:54 pm

I never responded to this one. It's a prose accompaniment to his music, I think. He didn't think that ordinary people were getting a fair shake, and that a fuller portrait of both the problems facing them could only help. I also think he put his soul into his characters -- both Tike and Ella May are very real, full of strengths and weaknesses.

The environment plays a very large role in this book. And perhaps his intention was also to create a sense of place for us. One of the strongest memories I will keep of the book is the opening pages about Cap Rock.
"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 #27 - The Point

Unread postby Buster » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:03 pm

firefly wrote:
He didn't think that ordinary people were getting a fair shake, and that a fuller portrait of both the problems facing them could only help.


I think that he wrote the book for the same reasons I believe he wrote songs - to get the word out, to shine a light on what is real, to tell the stories that he'd heard, to share his experience, to give hope, to connect...

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Re: House of Earth Question #27 - The Point

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:35 pm

I forgot to answer the other half -- was Guthrie successful?

If his goal was to reach out to Americans during the 1950s and expand their understanding of the problems faced by farmer tenants like Tike and Ella, then he did not achieve this nor his wish that the manuscript be taken on by some director and turned into a movie.

If his goal was to present in prose form a snapshot into the life of a 1930s Texas Panhandle tenant family struggling to overcome great odds, I believe he did. His portrait is very specific -- lots of descriptive details, the dialect, the compelling issues for people during the Dust Bowl days. The characters are fully sketched so that we instinctively "know" them. And the overall feel of what happened to the family is very believable. Everyone of us can see and feel that wallpaper that insulated the shacks walls. We can imagine the panic of Ella, the concern of Blanche and the rangy anxiety of Tike during labor.

The third goal is probably one he wouldn't have cared much about - commercial success. One thing's for sure, no publisher would have undertaken this book today if the author hadn't already had a substantive and credible reputation as an artist on many fronts -- and even then it would have been the rare exception. Which is why the fact that the book was published is such a blessing.

No, it doesn't fit today's model of "successful novel." Too little action, too many descriptive and lovely words, and a focus that concentrates very narrowly on the inner dynamics of a young couple birthing their first child. Publishers today give a writer maybe 5 pages at best to grab them. If not, it's tossed. So, we are developing a publishing industry that demands the reader be entertained above all else -- as in a movie. "Make them feel it's happening to them." I think that's a shame. The novel is an art form and as such should not be limited or confined in a way that throttles the creative imagination of the writer. Manuscripts are equal to paintings or songs -- we shouldn't ever know what to expect when we open a book. And we shouldn't require all fiction to perform the same function.

I am very glad that House of Earth was found and brought into this world, which is so different from Tike and Ella's. It's another piece in the puzzle of the American past -- a whole capture of a what it felt like to live as a tenant farmer. It's also a very hopeful testament to the will of people to endure. :)
"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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