Blog prompt 7

In February, Lisa Moore writes convincingly of the effects Cal’s death has on his family. Choose a scene in particular that you think is especially effective in showing the reader how this loss has had an impact on the life of someone in his family. Include a quotation from this scene and, by focusing on Moore’s writing, explain why you think this scene is so evocative.

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31 Responses to Blog prompt 7

  1. Paul D. says:

    ” Because of the children Helen felt a great pressure to pretend there was no outside. or if there was an outside, to pretend she had escaped it. Helen wanted the children to think she was on the outside, with them. The outside was an ugly truth she planned to keep herself.” pg 14

    Although some other people chose this same scene, I feel that it is one of the best examples of how Cal’s death effected the family. After Cal’s death Helen was left to take care of the children with very little support. She had to provide for them and also teach them the ways of life. Without Cal the Children had a void that they didn’t understand at such a young age. It was Helen’s job to make them feel as normal as possible which proved to be very difficult. So when the kids are feeling sadness about their father she wants to let them know that they can relate with her. In a perfect world she would be able to make them feel like they were on the inside but this was not possible so she would have to help them grow up on the outside. I think this scene is so representative of the effect of Cal’s death because of the dichotomy of inside and outside. It is a simple concept but it explains how death effects people. People may think that they know better but you cannot know something unless you have experienced it first hand. In this case within the family. The amount of emotional damage that death does to a person makes them quite different from someone who has not experienced it. Thus, the outside and the inside are good categories for determining how people (especially Cal’s family) are affected by loss.

  2. Timmy T says:

    “Her black cardigan hanging on the closet door. Always there is that high-pitched terror when the phone rings at night: Is someone hurt? Louise has had a few scares with angina. An ambulance last winter. Helen is frightened of the phone.” (203)

    This passage does a very effective job illustrating the subtle anxieties that Helen did not necessarily experience previous to her husband Cal’s unexpected death. Angina is a chest pain or discomfort that occurs when an area of your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen/rich blood. In this scene Helen’s heart is literally and figuratively aching over the death of Cal. She is afraid that bad news will plague her for the rest of her life, thus she is constantly prepared for the worst. When she realizes that it is merely her son John calling she is filled with relief. Because all of her children are older now and have grown up away from their home and have led successful lives after St. John’s…Helen is left alone at the house, filling her with inevitable worries over her children, the only ones she has left in the family. With all the time in the world alone, all Helen has left to do is reflect on the Ocean Voyager incident, leaving her filled with grief.

  3. Nikki says:

    “She will never forget his face. She won’t forget the green cotton scarf he had. Or the time he patched the canoe and there was the smell of Varathane… Or she remembers the way he held her hand when John was born, nearly breaking every bone, and how he wasn’t afraid.” (69)

    This particular scene really hones in on how his death effects Helen. She is preoccupied with his memory through the entirety of the story. Cal death affected Helen greatly. It took her many years to begin to let go of his death. She was always on the “outside”, which was the place were Cal was still alive and his spirit was within her. She loved him dearly and that is why it was so hard. People die everyday, but there are always certain people’s death that affect you more than others. Those are deaths of loved ones. They are the hardest to let go and the hardest to overcome. It was evident through the description of Helen’s life that she was madly in love with Cal. It even surprised me that she remarried. It is sad to see someone suffer through years of pain, which was why this book was so intriguing. I felt that by Helen holding Cal’s memories close to her heart, you saw her vulnerable side. Even though she tried to act alright, deep down she was grieving, and her grieving process went on for some time. This scene just shows how remembrance of a loved one is a way many people grieve. It also shows how the death of a family member affects the memories you choose to look back on.

  4. Ian Macdonald says:

    “The act of being dead, if you could call it an act, made them very hard to love. They’d lost the capacity to surprise. You needed a strong memory to love the dead, and it was not her fault that she was failing. She was trying. But no memory was that strong. This was what she knew now: No memory was that strong.” pg. 247

    This passage is part of an important theme in Moore’s February, because in it Helen is struggling against the imperfections of her own mind and memory in order to retain a clear image of Cal. The years had altered and clouded her memory, and she is constantly trying to hold on to the memories, which is as effective as trying to hold a handful of loose sand. The bit about the dead being unable to surprise is saying that Cal can no longer make any new memories with Helen, so she has to rely on her own memories. She is struggling so hard because she knows that the dead only exist in other peoples memories, and she is worried that as her memory of Cal fades, a big part of who he was will be forgotten to the winds of time.

  5. Veronica B says:

    “Looking at his dead son must have been like watching a movie where nothing moved. It was not a photograph because it had duration. It had to be lived through. A photograph has none of that. This was a story without an ending. It would go on forever. And Helen was trying not to faint because it would scare the living daylights out of the children, and besides, she had known. She’d known the minute the bastard rig sank”.

    The scene of conversation between Helen and Dave, Cal’s father, after Dave has positively identified Cal’s body. These short sentences remind the reader that both characters think in short bursts and try so hard to make the simplest statement. It is not easy for them to communicate with each other; Dave talks and talks, Helen listens, allowing her focus to go in and out. I like the description of a movie where no one moves, as opposed to a photograph. The movie makes the moment endless, as it is for Helen and Dave. Time , as we have discussed, is inconsistent and unreliable, allowing for memories to creep back in to the present. This play on time is an interesting parallel to the format of the book. It allows the reader to understand a little bit of what they’re experiencing, feeling these moments that last forever and speaking in tiny bursts that don’t match what’s happening in their heads.

  6. Hannah B. says:

    “If the death of his mother was behind that curtain, John realized, he was unequal to it. He knew he was just a kid and that he should not understand about being unequal to anything. Most people didn’t have to face that kind of realization until they were well out of childhood; he knew all that. But he had learned too early that you could be unequal to your situation.” (42)
    This quote comes from the segment when Helen is in the hospital having her fourth child. Childbirth is dangerous even today with all the advances, John knows this. He was with his mother in the car when she was in labor and he is terrified. The death of his father really hit him hard, it was so sudden and unexpected. Now that death has been opened up as a possibility to him, when he is so young, he now sees it as a possibility for all his loved ones. This scene is so evocative because of Moore’s continuous use of the word ‘unequal.’ John shows other signs of how he is impacted by his father’s deaths – nightmares and a fear of the water but this passage shows something more. This passage is more than fear it shows that he has suffered beyond just being scared he is now almost indifferent, something far worse. The death of his father has affected him so he has seen the worst in life so early. He has discovered that life is unfair that you can have things happen to you that are unjust. Children are supposed to be innocent and naïve. It is the duty of adults to protect children for the horrors of the world yet it is truly impossible. The death of Cal is when John is no longer a child.

  7. Peter C says:

    “She came upon Meg with the baby in the laundry room. Meg was holding the baby over the big sink, and she had the baby dressed up in a long white dress that hung down over Meg’s arm and a little beaded cap, and she had her eyes closed and she was praying with the tap running. Meg prayed and took a handful of the water and dropped it over Gabrielle’s forehead, and Helen crept out quietly, unseen, back down the hall, and she opened the back door, careful not to let the spring screech, and ran down the street and around the corner and waited.”

    Helen had been lost ever since the death of Cal and Cal’s father always told them how he wanted the children to be baptized. Helen is indifferent during this scene because she knows Cal’s parents wanted this, especially after Cal’s death. She didn’t want to be selfish in this scene nor did she want to make it a big deal that Meg was baptizing Gabrielle without her consent. Helen realizes she is not the only one who lost him and Cal’s parents had been a big help in raising the children. Although Cal did not think much of the baptism of his children, his parents did and Helen knew it meant a lot to them. I think she had a lot of her things on her mind at this time and did not want to cause a commotion. It also signifies Meg’s love for Cal and anything associated with him. She loves the children as well as Helen and wants the best for them all. Helen realizes this and lets it go. This explains why she did not want to be seen watching her mother-in-law do this to her child.

    This scene is very memorial because it’s something Gabrielle has that none of the children experienced. From a religious standpoint baptism is a very sacred sacrament and this brings Gabrielle closer to Cal. Helen was pregnant with the baby when Cal had died and her baptism can be associated with Cal’s death in that it makes her closer to God thus being closer to Cal. Since she never saw her father she has something to hold onto and cherish for the rest of her life. I think this ran through Helen’s mind as she watched Meg perform the sacrament on her and thought positively about it. She would normally want to talk to Cal about something like this before it happened but I think she thought he might have changed his mind after his own death.

  8. Nicolaus Fox says:

    “You had a father on the Ocean Ranger, Mr. McPherson said. What was distracting was the guy’s tie” (Hay 137).
    “There were safety procedures that did nothing but tie the hands of people looking to make things run smoothly out there. Shoreline Group wanted men who could think for themselves. Me. McPherson wrote a figure on a piece of paper and folded it twice and pushed it across the desk to John. ‘Yes my father died on the Ocean Ranger,’ John said” (Hay 139).

    It is quite masterful and effective how Hay has John return to the question regarding his father after two pages of discussing how the Shoreline Group “worked to eliminate redundant safety procedures” because they are detrimental to efficiency (Hay 139). At times Hay is very particular in her language as well as the way in which orders the action of the characters. Another example is when the man in the truck is overly frustrated before learning that the reason for Helen’s car blocking the road is because she just recently lost Cal, then he immediately reverses his tone. In this passage, Hay demonstrates the stubbornness and even stupidity of large institutionalized companies like Shoreline Group, who not long after the Ocean Ranger is already claiming that they are too safe and loosing money. The timing of John’s response that his father was on the Ocean Ranger, and died, is impeccable in that it brings attention to the fact that the Shoreline representative recognized this but only seconds later continued to commodify human life for the sake of efficiency.

  9. Camille says:

    “After his father died, John had a vivid recurring nightmare. Every night, for a long time, a presence would seep through his bedroom door. An evil presence, in the form of a cloud, wet and cold. It swirled over his bed, full of weather and stars, and settled on his chest, and as it grew heavier, John felt a paralysis creep through him until he couldn’t move. Then the cloud took on the form of a naked old woman who squeezed her hands over his throat. He’d feel himself suffocate. Sometimes it was an old woman, sometimes it remained a cloud, but always he’d felt awake, alert with terror, and he could not breathe. Then John would wake for real, soaking wet, his hair stuck to his face, sometimes screaming” (Moore 92).

    Like Helen, John develops a fear of water after the Ocean Ranger went down. His memories of the nightmares that he experienced right after the accident where basically he is getting the feeling of drowning suggest that he is traumatized by the tragic way that his father died. John’s fear of water comes up again later in his life as he is doing survival training on a rig in 1991. We see him being unable to stay calm in the simulated sinking capsule and he passes out on numerous attempts(184-185). Out of all of the children, it seems that John is the most effected by the death of Cal. Most likely, this is due to him being the eldest child, and therefore most emotionally aware of what happened at the time of the accident. I think that it is amazing that he is able to work on a rig in the first place, let alone be willing to be in a simulated drowning experience after what he went through.

  10. Kathryn says:

    One of the best passages in the whole book that conveys the impact Cal’s death had on Helen appears right at the beginning on page 13. Helen says “Some of these people were full of hope. Insane with it, and the lore is that hope can bring lost sailors home. That’s the lore. Hope can raise the dead if you have enough of it…. Helen knew, absolutely, that Cal was dead and she would be lucky to get his body back.”

    I think this shows how sudden the change was for her. Helen was realistic about his death and knew there was no going back. I think this also says something about how she deals with his death throughout the rest of the novel. Although she accepts his death right away this acceptance turns into depression for her. She’s knows she can’t bring him back but she still wishes that she could and that it wasn’t completely out of her hands, this is why she keeps thinking of their time together and dreaming about joining him. Since he can’t come back to her it’s as though she feels like there must be a way of going to him.

  11. Cassie says:

    This is what Helen has learned: it is possible to be so tired you cannot reach for the sky, you cannot breathe. You can’t even talk. You can’t pick up the phone. You can’t do a dish or dance or do up your own zipper. The children make such a racket. They slam around. (166)

    This passage focuses on Helen, who is clearly the most obvious choice in picking a character suffering from the grief of losing Cal. However, this passage struck me because of the deeply physical nature of the description of grief. It takes place as Helen is in the middle of a yoga class, recommended to her by one of her daughters. As a yoga instructor, this juxtaposition is particularly resonant, mostly because I can connect to the physical exhaustion that yoga doles out on both the mind and the body. This passage is key in that it gives the reader a side of Helen she is reluctant to show. Helen is described largely as a go-getter who is always there for and lives vicariously through her children, pushing herself after Cal’s death to singlehandedly tackle homework, meals, and Christmas trees with barely a whimper. I like seeing the softer side of Helen in this passage.

  12. Lauren says:

    “Because of the children Helen felt a great pressure to pretend there was no outside. Or if there was an outside, to pretend she has escaped it. Helen wanted the children to think she was on the inside, with them. The outside was an ugly truth she planned to keep to herself” (14).

    In this scene, Helen sees the ‘outside’ as the dangerous world that is plagued with loss. Helen wants her children to think that she is not a completely depressed and ruined person because of what happened. She refers to being on the ‘inside’ with them to be there and comfort them, like the old motherly Helen used to. Helen desperately wants to escape the thoughts that recur in her mind about how Cal died and what could have been done to stop it. This passage portrays the effect that Cal’s death had on their children because Helen’s attitude is what effects John, Lulu, Cathy and Gabrielle the most. Helen feels the pressures of having to constantly compose herself to the kids do not see how much pain she is in. Helen wants to be in the ‘inside’ with the children to help them cope with the loss and try to live a normal life again. In reality, the children need to save Helen from the ‘outside’ (where her state of mind usually is) because can’t let go of Cal’s death. Helen’s demeanor plays a huge role in their children’s ability to move on. Overall, Moore states that the outside was an ugly truth that Helen planned to keep within, however, while Helen keeps her thoughts inside she is still affecting the people around her through her unwillingness to let go.

  13. Matt Graham says:

    “Don’t cry in front of the children. Cry all the time. Eat meatloaf. Beg for forgiveness. Beg to go back to the wedding night or the birth of the children or an ordinary moment cooking in the kitchen or when there’s a bill to figure out, a snowfall, skating on the pond” (Moore 66).

    At this point in the book Helen in still in the beginning stages of dealing with the grief of losing her husband and she is having trouble rationalizing what has happened to her and her family. The somewhat scattered stream-of-consciousness style of writing Moore employs in this passage to me effectively puts across Helen’s frantic efforts to make sense of her current situation and desperate search for meaning in what has become of her life. By breaking Helen’s dialogue into something that sounds so desperate and pitiful she very clearly communicates the earth-shattering feeling of loss that Helen is experiencing in this point in the story.

  14. Molly says:

    The degree to which Cal’s death affects Helen becomes more evident, and more poignant, as the book progresses. Though Helen speaks of forgetting Cal a bit more each day, and by the end she is with Barry, it’s clear that the memory of Cal will never vanish entirely for her.
    One of the most heartwrenching revelations of how much Helen remains affected by her loss comes on pages 113-114, when we are told about the small pastimes that Helen cultivates to occupy her time–yoga, sewing, renovating the house. Moore writes, “Helen has mastered loneliness. No one thinks of her as lonely anymore… But if [she] is, say, driving or sleeping or stretching on a yoga mat, she’ll remember and live through a fresh fierce wallop of grief. It can take her by surprise. Knock her silly.”
    It is an upsetting and real picture that Moore sketches: a woman so adapted to life without her partner that the rush of memories that comes twenty-six years later is almost more horrendous than the early stages of mourning were. I think we can all relate to this feeling. You know the feeling when terrible or tragic or embarrassing things happen and then enough time passes that it feels like you’ve finally overcome the grief. Only, one day when your not expecting it, you are reminded again of the past experience and the same sense of loss or devastation overtakes you again. This seems to be the reality that Helen faces. In the vulnerable, still times when she’s doing yoga or sleeping, the memories and feelings haunt her.
    The way Moore explains this–with the dichotomy of a gentle and meditative Helen beside a “fresh, fierce wallop of grief”–gets across her point quite effectively. She shows the harshness of the feeling well by playing up this dichotomy. It becomes more poignant and realistic for the reader.

  15. Megan N. says:

    “If she had been honest she would have asked: Could you be my dead husband for an afternoon. Could you put on his clothes, I still have them. Will you wear the cologne he wore. Will you smoke Export As, just for an afternoon. Will you drink India beer and burn the steaks on the barbecue, will you be funny and tell jokes and leave groceries for the family down the road who have no groceries. Could you be Cal?” (page 156).

    This was the scene in the novel when Helen’s daughters have talked her into joining a dating website, over 20 years after Cal’s death. It is apparent that she is going to compare everyone she meets to Cal. He is going to be on her mind anytime she is on a date or when she meets someone new. His death has greatly impacted his family’s lives, especially his wife Helen. Throughout the entire book it is obvious that Cal’s death has stuck with her throughout the years since he died.

  16. Matthew P says:

    “ And she’d left him in the elevator. It was an unforgivable. John’s father had already done the impossible: His father had died. What he thought…His mother must have died too…If the death of his mother was behind the curtain, John knew he was unequal to it…He knew he was just a kid and that he should not understand about being unequal to anything. Most people didn’t have to face that kind of realization until they were well out of childhood; he knew that”(Moore 42).

    This passage goes into the mind of John from Helen’s perspective after the death of his father. To lose a father at such a young age and so abruptly is one of the most unfortunate and horrific things that can happen especially considering the nature and circumstance of the death. Without a father figure John’s mother is afraid that he will feel incomplete. Helen struggles to look out and make sure that John knows someone is still there for him. In the story after Cal’s death, John symbolically being the oldest male in the family, takes over the position trying to provide for his mother and siblings. At an extremely young age he begins a paper rout in order to make some money. John understands that there is no longer a male figure to look up to, therefore he has to become Cal in a sense. Cal’s untimely death reflects John’s premature growth into adulthood. Death is an extremely complicated issue to face as a young child. As a child I remember being extremely confused when death occurred. When everything in life is play it is extremely hard to recognize and accept something serious. However, John astonishingly understands it at his young age, which is unfortunate, but he is mature enough to know that even the worst hand dealt in life can still win the game.

  17. Andrew L. says:

    Of the blog prompts that we’ve done this year, this one probably has the greatest flexibility and amount of possible responses. I say this simply because there are numerous references to Cal’s death throughout the novel, and it is often made clear just how profound of an impact his death has on his family. Here is one quite obvious example of that:

    “After his father died, John had a vivid and recurring nightmare. Every night, for a long time, a presence would seep through his bedroom door. An evil presence, in the form of a cloud, wet and cold. It swirled over his bed, full of weather and stars, and settled on his chest, and as it grew heavier, john felt a paralysis creep through him until he couldn’t move. Then the cloud took on the form of a naked old woman who squeezed her hands over his throat. He’d feel himself suffocate. Sometimes it was an old woman, sometimes it remained a cloud, but always he’d felt awake, alert with terror, and he could not breathe. Then John would wake for real, soaking wet, his hair stuck to his face, sometimes screaming.”

    John’s dreams, as described in this passage, are a clear indicator of the incredible grief that Cal’s family experienced as a result of his death. It’s interesting that these dreams involve an unrelated, old woman, but it’s possible that the clouds are reminiscent of the storm clouds that overcame the rig on that fateful night in February. Further, the feeling of suffocation undoubtedly mirrors the sensation that Cal experienced as he hit the icy Atlantic waters. I can’t imagine anything much worse than being engulfed by freezing cold water…it would certainly suck every bit of breath from your body.

    Also, there is something about dreaming and the way that it affects our lives, that makes this passage all the more profound. This has something to do with the way that dreams manifest themselves, and more importantly, the reasons for, or the times at which we dream the most. I am currently in one of these heavy dreaming stages, as I have been going through some important and meaningful changes with loved ones. I’ve found that recently, my dreams have been numerous, realistic, and overwhelmingly affecting. This could be the reason that this passage stuck out for me, but I think that most everyone will agree that dreams can be incredibly powerful, especially following a traumatic experience.

  18. Nigel says:

    The scene in the beginning of the section “Who’s there?” where Helen is putting Claire to bed, and Moore writes about Helen’s approach to parenting is particularly evocative of how Cal’s death had impacted her life. Moore describes the various stories that Helen reads to Claire during her bedtime, and the forcefulness in which Helen takes in her parenting. Moore writes “This had been Helen’s approach to parenting: Because I said so”(Moore 204). The act of parenting for Helen is one of determination in the face of despair. The next passage accurately describes how Helen uses parenting to react to the tragedy of Cal’s death “Helen did not take tranquilizers. Her children would never know it, but this was her approach to parenting: she was there for them. Her doctor has said pills, but she had said no, Helen was there, morning, noon, and night. That was her approach. She had wanted to die. She did not die”(Moore 204). This passage illustrates the fact that Helen is coping with Cal’s death through the raising of her children. The reading of bedtime stories to Claire is like a panacea to control her feelings over Cal’s death. Moore’s indirect style of writing tells us what Helen feels like and what she is living through the imagery of taking care of her children. Reading bedtime stories and being there for her children is basically what Helen lives for. The end of the passage “ She had wanted to die. She did not die”, depicts the strong emotional support her children give her as she learns to deal with Cal’s death. It is very plainly written here, which I think helps to make the impact of Cal’s death more convincing. The short sentences also help to increase the gravity of the feelings Helen has. If they were longer, and more descriptive, they probably would have less strength in the text.

  19. Emily says:

    “You had a father on the Ocean Ranger, Mr McPherson said. What was distracting was the guy’s tie…he had just broken up with Sophie for good…we want someone like you, Mr. McPherson said. There was a sheet of hard plastic under his chair and one of the castors had edged off it and the man was slightly tilted…There was a culture of safety, Mr. McPherson said, that was detrimental to efficiency. That’s what we want to trim. Trim, repeated John…Mr. McPherson wrote a figure on a piece of paper and folded it twice and pushed it across the desk to John. Yes, my father died on the Ocean Ranger, John said…(137-139).

    This quote is very broken up, but not just because of my ellipses. While John goes to talk about a new job, a job that is going to “trim” safety procedures, procedures that could have saved John’s father, his mind is all over the place. Moore’s writing makes John’s mind jump from his relationship with Sophie to thinking about his past with oil to noticing minuscule details about the room he is in. Mr. McPherson asks if his father died on page 137 and John only confirms this two pages later when they are on a different subject. John is unable to keep his mind on topic. This entire scene, if it really was about John getting a new job, could have been written in five lines. But it spans over four pages so Moore can prolong the process just like John’s mind does. It is never said outright how John copes with his father’s death, but it is apparent that he does not like to talk about it. Maybe does not like to think about it either, but it creeps back in at times. He has taken the opposite mental track of his mother, but it seems as if he is on auto-pilot just as much as she is. John and Helen both get lost in their thoughts, in their pasts become their presents and they are not fully aware of what is going on around them.

  20. Jake A says:

    “You see your life but it’s as though you are behind a glass partition and the sparks fly up and you cannot feel them. You know it’s your life, because people behave as though it is. They call you by your name. Helen, come shopping. Helen, there’s a party. Mom, where’s the peanut butter. There are bills. You wake in the middle of the night because you hear water and there is a leak in the kitchen roof. The plaster has cracked open and water is tapping on the tiles faster and faster. She did not want a tree the first Christmas after Cal died but Cathy demanded a tree” (Moore 65).
    Helen was devastated by Cal’s death. Cal was essential to her happiness in life, and without him she was not the same person. She can’t focus on the present. Her mind cannot get over her memory of Cal in her life. She is now continuing life in a way that is detached from herself and her family, because of this heartbreaking memory. She hears and sees people still interacting with her as Helen. But she is no longer the Helen she once was, “You know it’s your life, because people behave as though it is”. She does not enjoy life anymore. She is simply existing, and going through its motions. This can be seen by her disregard for anything that she once enjoyed, such as shopping or going to parties. She can’t focus on anything in the present that gives her happiness, because she is obsessed with the memory of Cal and the constant joy she shared with him. Furthermore, her inability to overcome Cal’s death has made her very depressed. She isn’t enthusiastic about any type of celebration with her broken family. This is why she did not want to get a Christmas tree. She is far too unhappy to even adopt the idea of any form of celebration or forward movement in her life. Helen doesn’t even notice the phone bills until the phone is cut off. She doesn’t pay the bills because this is also a recognition that life continues. Overall the death of Cal has shattered Helen’s life. She has such trouble accepting his death that her own life does not feel like life itself, but a yearning for the past.

  21. Fiona says:

    Throughout the novel, Moore goes back and forth in time, progressively revealing the full extent of Cal’s death and the profound implications it has had on the family, especially Helen, over the years. As a single parent, Helen is forced to carry on her duties as a mother, while dealing with immense grief. The readers are given a channel into Helens internal life as well as her external.

    “Helen unlocks her front door, holding an armful of groceries, and there are three empty floors and silence. It is a relief. Solitude, she thinks, is a time-release drug, it enters the system slowly and you become addicted. It’s not an addiction; it’s a craft. You open the closet doors very carefully so loneliness doesn’t pounce out.”

    This scene is a depiction of Helens internal life, and the pain within. Here, readers are able to understand the debilitating loneliness that accompanies grief after losing a spouse. In scenes such as this, Moore conveys these feelings of solitude that Helen struggles with internally, by focusing exclusively on Helen, apart from her children and obligations.

    Her internal life is where she continuously revisits Cal. It is in these moments that she holds on to her dead husband. She does this privately though and on the outside, no one thinks that she is lonely. Towards the end of this section Moore tells, “But if Helen is, say, driving or sleeping or stretching on a yoga mat, she’ll remember and live through a fresh fierce wallop of grief.” In this way, Helen endures her loneliness by remembering her husband. Ultimately, it her promise to never forget Cal, that allows her to move on and escape a life of solitude and internal suffering.

  22. Aaron says:

    “She could not see him. She looked at the spot where he had been and he was not there. Then the wave withdrew with a roar, and there he was. He stood and he was dark against the sun except for a gleam down his arm and hair, and he flicked his head and the drops flew out like a handful of silver, and he dipped under the water again and waded against its pull towards shore and came back up the beach to her” (Pg. 307).

    It’s perhaps a somewhat cliché scene (then again, one could say the entire novel was clichéd), but I thought it was interesting how Helen’s narrative only really catches up to the present near the end of the novel. She is only able to move on from Cal’s death by going on her honeymoon with Barry, and seeing him emerge from the water after being temporarily submerged by a wave. This seems to have some ‘cathartic’ effect on her, enabling her to move on. Significantly, she has to physically leave the Canadian environment (specifically, Newfoundland and the North Atlantic) & travel to Mexico for the acceptance to occur.

  23. Evan says:

    To go along with what Shane mentioned about the chapter “outside 1982″:

    We can see by reading a few lines that Helen is very much troubled by the loss of Cal. Shane mentioned above that she is troubled and fights to keep a sense of normalcy and that is most definitely true. She is keeping her feelings to herself to help protect her children.”Because of the children Helen felt a great pressure to pretend there was no outside. Or if there was an outside, to pretend she had escaped it. Helen wanted the children to think she was on the inside, with them. The outside was an ugly truth she planned to keep to herself” (Moore 14). , Helen had to be “inside” for her family. This meant that she could not show her loss and the true love she felt for Cal. Its a low point for Helen, she has to somehow let her feelings out, but the children are too young to understand.

  24. Sarah says:

    “Cal has been dead for twenty-six years and she is capable sometimes, for a stretch of time, of forgetting Cal has died and how he died. She talks to her daughters every day. She is taken up with the house and her yoga. She sews wedding gowns, a kind of business venture that grew from a hobby.”
    “I’m a young fifty-six, Helen thinks. Her grandchildren need her. She plays bridge. She took up curling but she hated the bloody curling. Her sewing gives her satisfaction.”
    “Helen has mastered loneliness; nobody thinks of her as lonely anymore.”
    This passage shows how Helen is still affected by the loss of Cal on a day to day basis. There are a few places in the novel where Moore talks like this. She’s saying how Helen is not longer hurt as much by his death as she used to be, giving examples. She says how nobody thinks Helen is suffering anymore. However, I think by saying all these things it just shows even more how much Helen is still suffering. She has to do these other activities to get through life, which, don’t get me wrong, is great. She even tries things that she hates, like curling. She continues to live for the people around her, especially her children and grandchildren, because they need her and that gives her a reason to keep trying. For me, this passage shows just how torn apart Helen is after all those years. Without her hobbies, without her children, without all the spectators of her life, she would fall apart. Every day is a struggle for her to keep it together, and every day she doesn’t think about Cal’s death is a personal victory. By not thinking about his death, she can simply live as if he is still there with her, experiencing everything with her. Helen has certainly not mastered loneliness, she is extremely lonely and it gets worse throughout the book, but at least her loneliness isn’t something she puts on others.

  25. Azure G says:

    “Maybe, John thinks, he doesn’t want to know what’s in the future. He has given a lot of thought to the nature of time and how a life can be over much too quickly, if you’re not careful. The present is always dissolving into the past, he realized long ago. The present dissolves. It gets used up. The past is virulent and ravenous and everything can be devoured in a matter of seconds… your life could go on without you” (Moore 238-9).

    Since his father’s death, John has not been the same. Along with being scared of water, he has taken on a very negative outlook on life; he has become a “glass half empty” kind of guy. He seems to go through life simply walking through it, not living it. For example, his rendezvous with Jane to him, was just that: a week that was fun but overall, meant nothing to him in the grand scheme of things. He wasn’t expecting to have a child out of it, which was clear when he asked Jane if she had thought about an abortion. Due to his father’s death, John has come to the conclusion that nothing lasts, which has given him a very pessimistic outlook on life. He doesn’t really truly care for anything or anyone (besides his family, but even that seems to be a stretch at times) he is, essentially, a robot. This is obvious considering the above quotation, the thought process that John has about the present is depressing, he is so detached from everything that he actually thinks your life could go on without out. Not only is it sad that he thinks this, but it is extremely scary too that someone could actually feel that way about their own existence…

  26. Alex says:

    Through out February, readers get a vivid understanding of the impact Cal’s death has on Helen. Although the novel focuses on her loss and recovery process, the effect his death had on their children is not explicitly illustrated as often. In this passage Helen considers how John’s life has been impacted as a child, and now as an adult:

    “But after his father died, Johnny was afraid of the water. Wouldn’t put his face under the shower head if he could avoid it.
    And Johnny has no children. John is capable of hard work, and when he drinks, he really drinks. He forgets to call. He travels when he feels like it, or he goes away on business. Sometimes he is remote. He can lie easily when it suits him” p. 142-43

    The first part of this passage demonstrates the immediate impact Cal’s death had on his son. Before his father died he was fearless of the water, and even learned how to swim with Cal’s instructions from the shore. After his father is killed, when his oil rig sinks from a terrible storm, John is clearly frightened by the power of water. Even in the shower he avoids it from going anywhere near his nose or mouth. It can be assumed that after time John starts showering normally again but the second half of the passage illustrates the long lasting effects on his life.

    This description of John portrays him as a man who avoids all close connections. His desire to never have children is brought up multiple times in the novel. It is even the reason behind many of his serious relationships ending. John’s lifestyle, traveling on a whim, not checking in, isolating himself when he feels like it, and lying when convenient, keeps him from forming close bonds with people, including his family. After losing someone as significant as his father, he seems to be keeping everyone else at a distance. If he does not let anyone in close, he will never have to feel that pain he experienced again. Another reason for John not wanting children may be the possibility of something happening to him. Knowing the hurt that comes with losing a parent could have shaped his decision to not believe it is worth the risk. Eventually John does end up having a child, though not on purpose, which will help him learn that it is ok to love again.

  27. Laurel Ganem says:

    “You never saw a father so proud of his kids. Helen could say that about Cal. Cal told Johnny that with these boots on, he could walk on water…But after his father died, Johnny was afraid of water. Wouldn’t put his face under the shower head if he could avoid it. And John has no children. John is capable of hard work, and when he drinks, he really drinks. He forgets to call. He travels when he feels like it, or he goes away on business. Sometimes he is remote. He can lie easily when it suits him.” (142)

    Throughout the novel, I found the character of Johnny to be a fascinating one. Assuming the role of man of the house at the early age of eleven, Johnny employed a level of maturity almost unheard of by his age group. In doing so, however, certain characteristics developed in Johnny that manifested in his personality as an adult. I think this quote illustrates some of the frustrations and tendencies that Johnny encompasses as consequences of the death of his father. Not having any children could potentially be out of a fear of losing them or leaving them behind; travelling is a form of escapism from his painful memories. If Johnny lets the water of the shower hit his face, he is accepting the death of his father as something that actually happened. As long as he does not have to confront this tragic reality, he can exist in a world where travelling numbs the pain and having no children negates the possibility of losing them. This quote leads to the notion that even if he does not act like it, there are voids in Johnny’s life that point explicitly towards the death of his father, and that is one of the strongest influences of loss.

  28. Megan D. says:

    A scene I thought was effective in showing the reader the repercussions of Cal dying was the scene when Cathy is moving out into her own apartment with Claire. It shows what the children think of having a single mother. “Helen’s grown children must have got together and had a talk. They must have sat Cathy down and given her a good talking-to about moving out. Nobody wanted to be stuck taking care of an old lady…the hurt had been monstrous…Helen was afraid of being alone” (Moore 208). This passage shows that Helen’s children are fearful of being stuck taking care of her. They were raised solely by her, yet they do not want the burden. Typically children don’t have to have the type of conversation Cal’s children have because there is a mother and a father to take care of each other. When Cathy moves out, Helen is fearful of being alone because of medical emergencies or ghosts as she later goes onto state in her narrative. This fear of being alone stems from Cal’s death. When Cal died, Helen lived for her children, then they all conspire to move out so they don’t get stuck taking care of her since she has no one else to rely on. This scene is so evocative because had cal been alive, it would be no big deal for Cathy to move out because Helen would not have been completely alone. I found this scene very emotional because it is from Helen’s perspective and the passage shows a feeling of betrayal from her children. Helen had been there for Cathy to take care of Claire, then feels abandoned when Cathy moves out because she has no one else to take care of because she lacks a husband.

  29. Juliana says:

    Helen’s wish for men she meets on internet dating sites: “If she had been honest she would have asked: Could you be my dead husband for an afternoon. Could you put on his clothes, I still have them. Will you wear the cologne he wore. Will you smoke Export As, just for an afternoon. Will you drink India beer and burn the steaks on the barbecue, will you be funny and tell jokes and leave groceries for the family down the road who have no groceries. Could you be Cal?” (156)

    This section shows that not only is Helen incapable of moving on, she doesn’t want to find another man to love, she just wants Cal. This passage shows that her physical body needs Cal, as her senses are connected to all of these images of him: smelling his cologne, burnt steaks, seeing his clothes. There is a sort of dry humor here that is often seen in Moore’s writing (“could you be my dead husband” Helen knows that she sounds crazy and can’t actually say this). Helen’s questions are not asked as questions, but rather declared as statements. The second to last sentence is a run-on but it sounds like what familiar, personal speaking would sound like, especially speaking coming from a woman imbued with memories that she holds on to and can rattle off easily. Cal is always at the front of Helen’s mind, and the simplicity with which she talks about him shows that his death has impacted her so deeply that she prefers a man dressed as Cal to just a normal man.

  30. Shane W. says:

    “Because of the children Helen felt a great pressure to pretend there was no outside. Or if there was an outside, to pretend she had escaped it. Helen wanted the children to think she was on the inside, with them…She pretended by making breakfast and supper (though she often relied on chicken nuggets and frozen pizza) and she did the children’s homework with them…All the families of the drowned men were waiting for the settlement, because how do you feed four kids and pay Newfoundland Light and Power” (Moore, 13-15).

    This section, titled “Outside, 1982,” is very revealing in regards to the effect Cal’s death has had on the family. The entire section could be used as evidence for the detrimental effects of Cal’s death, as it shows how each character, especially Helen, copes. Here we can see how Helen attempts to maintain a family atmosphere without Cal, and how she struggles to preserve a sense of normalcy. We see how Helen is forced into the role of both mother and father, where she has to raise and provide for her children. She attempts to create an atmosphere that will not upset her children and is forced into odd jobs and cutting her expenses (especially with food). In addition, we also get a glimpse of young John and his struggles with school and growing up fatherless. Overall, this scene portrays the beginning of the aftermath of Cal’s death and works as a preface to the struggle of coping and moving on.

  31. Latimer says:

    “What I was saying, John said, is that the trouble now s a guy doesn’t have to think any more. And this can be a danger. It’s not good for industry, the culture has developed around safety. They’re like a crowd of old women.
    He would not shut up about the rigs and protocols and things none of them wanted to hear.
    Safety is a good thing, Helen said.
    Nobody spoke. Claire was fiddling with her corsage and a pin dropped on the table.
    Did you hear that pin drop, Claire said.
    I don’t want to start something, Helen said.
    Then don’t start something, Mom, Cathy said. John knows safety is important.
    I was just saying, John said.
    Shut up about it, John, Cathy said.
    What I was saying–
    Why don’t you shut up?”

    This scene shows the incredible tension that cements the family simultaneously together and apart. John’s job is to streamline companies, trying to eliminate “unnecessary” safety measures, while Helen is being torn up inside with the memory of Cal’s unnecessary death. If the safety measures had been followed, Cal would still be alive, and John seems callously unaware of what he is saying until his mother says one simple sentence. Everyone freezes, and it is literally so quiet one can hear a pin drop.

    This is one of the few times we see the whole family together, and especially when there are great age gaps, family “reunions” can be stressful, and even more stressful when the family has suffered a great loss. John, while not intentionally being hurtful, blindly continues on until his mother says something. There is immediate fear of an explosion, and everyone feels it. Cathy manages to diffuse the situation. The fear of an altercation, started by something so simple, but risking the tender balance the family has, brings the reminder that the family needs each other.

    The final observation here is that Claire was born after Cal’s death, and she seems almost blissfully unaware of what is happening, as she prepares for her special prom night, and she is two generations below Helen and Cal. The goal is to protect her from the pain and tension that is occurring (something I have often witnessed in my own family).

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