House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

by Woody Guthrie

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House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Liz » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:42 pm

This is our final question, Noodlemantras. Thank you for joining us for this discussion of House of Earth. We surely enjoyed discussing Woody's novel with you.

Keep a sharp eye for information on how to get your questions for Nora to us. An announcement will go up within the week, as will the announcement of our next book selection.

Now for our final question.....


Did House of Earth change your opinion about anything or enlighten you in any regard?

Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss that we missed?
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 #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Wed May 01, 2013 2:20 am

I would have to say no. I think the tidbits were very interesting and enlightning but not the book itself. I think my main problem I was expecting it to be more than it was. I think from reading about the book that it would show more about the day to day grind of working the land and tales of that, and them actually building their dream house. I suppose I was just expeciting it to be a proper story like any other book but it just wasn't written that way.
I don't think I've read too much American Literature, I read Of Mice and Men when I was at school and I studied American History, we all had to read and review a book. But I can't remember it I'm afriad. I guess I've been to imersed in English Literature.
Maybe I was expecting it to be an American version of a Thomas Hardy or somthing :lol:
The synopsis made it sound more interesting than it was for me. Its been an interesting discussion though :ok:

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Charlene » Wed May 01, 2013 8:37 am

I don't think there is a book written that we don't learn something from. This book came at a good time because PBS had just aired the Dust Bowl, so it was another look from the author's eyes. I think the only thing that really stayed with me, was the insistent "wallpapering" to keep out the dust; that brought the problem home. Kudos to our moderators for making the tidbits and discussion interesting.

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby nebraska » Wed May 01, 2013 11:40 am

House of Earth can be added to the long list of books I never would have read if it were not for my participation here at ONBC. I certainly learned a lot about that period of time but I am not sure how much came from the book itself - the tid bits and the spirited discussion here probably enlightened me more than the book.

For my own opinion, I wanted a more clearly-defined story. To me, the book was like a character study more than an actual story, though I did get caught up for a while in wondering if "little Tike" would be born safely. The characters were very well developed and the scenery passages were lovely and descriptive. Some of the daily detail -- like the wall papering bit -- painted a graphic picture of the situation, but in general the story didn't go anywhere, and that was hard to take after a while. I think the same impact could have been delivered in a short story or novella format (similar to the long-ish short stories some magazines like Redbook used to publish). I really had to work to force myself to finish it.

I think Johnny chose to have this book published because it is important from a historical and artistic viewpoint, and if I remember correctly he is donating his share of profits to the Guthrie Foundation. Not that I think he ever published it expecting it to be a blockbuster best-selling success. It gives me a boost of understanding and respect for him at a time in my journey as a fan when I could use something positive! :cool:

Woody's illustrations were wonderful! and I am glad those are being seen by readers. He certainly was a multi-talented man!

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed May 01, 2013 12:07 pm

Being a Texan I knew something of this period of our history but not in detail. I could relate to the dust storm having lived in West Texas as a child. :fear: I did enjoy learning more about what the times were like for the people who lived through it. I agree the characters and setting were well drawn and I did feel like I got to know them during a snapshot in time. I do think it is a very important piece of literature as an historical document. Not only as an addition to the historical understanding of Texas and the people of that time and place but also as a previously unknown piece of Woody Guthrie's history.

As always it was a great discussion, Noodlematras. :cool: Looking forward to the interview with Nora!
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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Buster » Wed May 01, 2013 5:41 pm

Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss that we missed?

How was the book influenced by communist philosophy?

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Liz » Wed May 01, 2013 10:32 pm

nebraska wrote:
I think Johnny chose to have this book published because it is important from a historical and artistic viewpoint, and if I remember correctly he is donating his share of profits to the Guthrie Foundation.

This is why I valued the book.

And I think it is OK to be a "snapshot in time," as DITHOT put it. That, to me, makes it unique and artistic.

Charlene, the wallpapering will stay with me, too. But so will Chapter 1. :shocked:

Nebraska, I too, was worried about the birth. I was on the edge of my seat during half of that chapter.

GG, thanks for your kind comments about our tidbits.

Buster, enlighten us.
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 #31 - Final Question

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu May 02, 2013 12:30 pm

I don’t know if ‘enlightened’ is quite the right word, but I definitely learned a lot through the discussion, tidbits and novel. And I certainly enjoyed the book, but I talked about that in the “takeaways” question so I won’t repeat myself here.

I just want to add my thanks once again to our wonderful moderators. :thankyou: It was another fascinating discussion. Can’t wait for the Q&A with Nora!! :ok:

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Buster » Thu May 02, 2013 4:43 pm

Though Guthrie never officially joined the communist party, he wrote a column for a communist newspaper, and was a known supporter of the cause. He certainly wrote about the plight of the worker in House of Earth. Didn't Tike say something about how every man should be able to have a piece of land to build a house? That's actually a fairly radical thought in a democracy, but maybe not so much in terms of communist ideals.
I'm an ignoramus when it comes to politics - maybe someone else can shed some light...

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Thu May 02, 2013 5:14 pm

Buster wrote:Though Guthrie never officially joined the communist party, he wrote a column for a communist newspaper, and was a known supporter of the cause. He certainly wrote about the plight of the worker in House of Earth. Didn't Tike say something about how every man should be able to have a piece of land to build a house? That's actually a fairly radical thought in a democracy, but maybe not so much in terms of communist ideals.
I'm an ignoramus when it comes to politics - maybe someone else can shed some light...

I thought the ideal of communism was everybody lived communinally and the land belonged to everyone, and everyone shared . But I may be wrong.

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby shadowydog » Thu May 02, 2013 5:21 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:
Buster wrote:Though Guthrie never officially joined the communist party, he wrote a column for a communist newspaper, and was a known supporter of the cause. He certainly wrote about the plight of the worker in House of Earth. Didn't Tike say something about how every man should be able to have a piece of land to build a house? That's actually a fairly radical thought in a democracy, but maybe not so much in terms of communist ideals.
I'm an ignoramus when it comes to politics - maybe someone else can shed some light...

I thought the ideal of communism was everybody lived communinally and the land belonged to everyone, and everyone shared . But I may be wrong.



That is the idealized version of communism which has only ever existed in some communes.
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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu May 02, 2013 10:07 pm

I think we need to distinguish between "private" property and land access. These are two wholly different concepts.

In Russia when the land was taken away from the estate owners, it was commonly bestowed on the people. In actuality that meant it was owned by the state - as the state is the representative of the people. After the revolution, farmers small and large lost control over their land and what they could plant on this land, how much could be privately versus publicly managed. It was even hard to sell produce locally, what we would call truck farming.

In a sense, the land had been "freed" for the common use of the people. So, yes, better than during the time of the serf, but definitely not everyone getting their own stake.

Now the idea of ordinary people having the right to control their land is, very roughly, what we call 'private ownership'. Actually, it was a pretty new and important concept in the early American colonies, as many people came from places where land titles could only be inherited OR where the majority of the land was owned by a select group of families - royalty etc. Sometimes your religion determined if you could or could not claim land as your own.

The idea of parceling out land to people on an 'as needed' basis calls to mind the period post Civil War when freedmen were supposed to be given 40 acres and a mule.

Then, during the Western expansion, we have periods where the government, eager to usefully organize land, would open it for settlement at extremely low prices. For example, The Homestead Act of 1862 offered settlers 160 acres of land for a registration fee of $10 and five years living and working the land. There was also the period in Oklahoma where the US decided that the Indians didn't own their reservations after all, and opened those lands for non-Indian settlement. That is in fact how Guthrie's ancestors first arrived in Oklahoma.

Some additional information from Sparknotes Westward Expansion: By 1872, under the Pacific Railroad Act, Congress awarded the railroads over 170 million acres in land grants. The railroads created bureaus and sent agents to the East and to Europe to attract potential settlers on these lands. Portraying the West as a land of limitless opportunity, the bureaus offered long-term loans and free transportation to the West. Between 1870 and 1900, not only did the railroads attract settlers from nearby states, but also brought 2.2 million foreign immigrants to the trans-Mississippi West. Desiring quick payment of loans, railroads encouraged these settlers to grow and sell cash crops.

We are back to the roots of the Dust Bowl, folks.

I guess what we could say is that land is always something controlled by someone -- usually the state. It is freely given when such works for the entity giving the land. It may also be taken away in the same manner. In the US eminent domain laws allow the government to claim land it needs for a new road or other strategic reason. Many conservative thinkers hold that the government's rights to privately owned lands should be severely restricted.

I would think the notion of 'rights to the land' was a complicated one in the West. You know, one guy arrives early and scores 160 acres or the railroad brings his family out and they get a wonderful deal. The next guy arrives late on the scene and can bid on only terrible land or must become a tenant farmer because no one is doing $10 registration fees anymore. I think there would be a strong and lingering belief in free land or the right to land solely by settling it.

So, I don't think Woody's idea was particularly communist. It was very idealistic. Which is good. It's always worth looking beyond how things are done to how they might be better done.
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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby nebraska » Thu May 02, 2013 11:23 pm

I am not real clear on the difference between Communism and Socialism.........I think Woody believed in the latter more so than the former. I may need to do some research on this, but I don't believe they are the same. :perplexed: :dunce:

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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Liz » Thu May 02, 2013 11:46 pm

From Encyclopedia Britannica - not a big difference between the two:

socialism, social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members.


communism, the political and economic doctrine that aims to replace private property and a profit-based economy with public ownership and communal control of at least the major means of production (e.g., mines, mills, and factories) and the natural resources of a society. Communism is thus a form of socialism—a higher and more advanced form, according to its advocates. Exactly how communism differs from socialism has long been a matter of debate, but the distinction rests largely on the communists’ adherence to the revolutionary socialism of Karl Marx.


My view has always been that communism is the corrupt version of socialism (not that this is true). I believe that there is an element of control and power at the top. Whereas, socialism is the idealistic version of communism. Geez, we must have done a tidbit on this at some point? :lol: I'll have to take a look.
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Re: House of Earth Question #31 - Final Question

Unread postby Theresa » Fri May 03, 2013 12:04 am

I found in wiki.answers an example of the economic (not political) structure of the groups.

    Both Socialism and Communism oppose the private ownership of the means of production and the products produced from that capital, ie. Capitalism. Instead Socialism advocates ownership by the workers who use the capital and Communism advocates ownership of capital by the entire community.

    So in Capitalism an individual or group of individuals would own a factory, all the machines that produce, let's say a car, and all the cars produced. They then hire workers to make the cars and pay them wages that they compete with each other for. Afterwards they sell the cars and keep what they make above their expenses as profit.

    In Socialism the workers in the factory own the factory, machines, and the cars produced. After they produce their cars they sell them on a market and distribute what they make above their expenses amongst themselves. The workers only have collective ownership of where they work and what they produce.

    Finally, in Communism the entire community collectively owns all industries and everything produced in those industries. The workers in the commune's car factory would produce cars that could either be distributed within the commune or sold to others with the profits being distributed amongst all members of the commune.



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