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Wild Life

by

Wild Life Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion
We hope the following questions will stimulate discussion for reading groups and provide a deeper understanding of Wild Life for every reader.

1. In what ways ? in her behavior as a mother and her relationships with the townspeople, for example ? does Charlotte Bridger Drummond defy convention? How are the conventions that she defies similar to or different from those faced by independent women today?

2. The very first of Charlotte?s diary entries that we read ? dated three months after her deepwoods adventure, and out of chronological sequence ? is, "To write, I have decided, is to be insane." How does this judgment affect our response to all that follows? In what ways, and in what contexts, do issues of sanity and insanity arise?

3. "I can amuse and digress with the best of them," Charlotte says of herself, "and have an imagination that gives way to no man." What sets her imagination apart from the imaginations of others, and how do its workings become known? If Charlotte prizes the imagination to the extent she claims, why does she insist upon finding rational explanations for everything? How might the combination of Charlotte?s "energetic imagination" and "a certain giddiness" and "relish for adventure" predispose her to her experiences in the forest?

4. With what details does Gloss provide a sense of the landscape, economy, and life of southwest Washington at the turn of the twentieth century?

5. How do the various quotations that Gloss intersperses throughout Charlotte?s account illuminate the major themes of the novel or enhance our understanding of the motivations and behavior of Charlotte and other characters?

6. One of the Samuel Butler quotations reads: "When anything in [my books] is rather strange and outré, it is probably drawn straight from nature as close as I could draw it; when it is plausible, there is probably no particular and especial foundation for it." How might this comment and Charlotte?s immediately following observation ? "It is a mild paradox, I suppose, that plots taken from real life often are the harder to believe" ? apply to Charlotte?s writings? How might they apply to Wild Life?

7. To what degree have Charlotte?s "necessary conditions for female emancipation" been realized? "I envision a day very soon," she wrote in 1889, "when women as a class shall be guaranteed happiness. We lack only the technology." How is this view reconciled with what Charlotte later writes of Melba: "She had little confidence and less interest in the idea of Progress, not having noticed much improvement in people?s happiness with the improvement of machinery"? How have technology and "the improvement of machinery" affected women?s lives over the past 110 years?

8. In a 1906 diary entry, Charlotte notes that, despite being "accustomed to thoroughly governing my own affairs and the affairs of my children" and "in those respects well content with my condition," she has never conquered loneliness. What kind of loneliness does she refer to, and what are its occasions? What is the "agony of solitariness" that Charlotte suffered after being "rescued," and how might it be related to this later loneliness?

9. How might we explain the "feeling of puniness and anxiety, which must be the human response to such supernatural forests" as the one Charlotte enters in search of Harriet? In what way are these "primeval forests" supernatural? How do Gloss?s descriptions of the great forests ? and Charlotte?s observation, "Of course, that is the meaning of forests, that they are wild" ? support present-day arguments for the preservation of wild places?

10. After several days lost in the deep woods, Charlotte begins to contemplate the possibility of her death and the question of life after death. To what extent are her thoughts in this regard commonplace, and to what extent exceptional? What does Charlotte learn about grief and dying and human attitudes toward grieving and the death of oneself and others?

11. In an August 1902 diary entry, Charlotte writes that "the extraordinary has an allure of its own that can transcend intellectual considerations." How might this observation apply to her own story? In what way does Charlotte?s story transcend intellectual considerations? What kind of considerations take precedence over the intellectual?

12. What does Charlotte learn from her observations of the forest beasts about love, family bonds, other states of being, and civilization itself? How do her experiences with and observations of the beasts alter her view of herself and the personal qualities she once held as primarily valuable?

13. As Charlotte joins her own "warble" of mourning to that of the Mountain Giants, she observes of this single instance of alteration, "By such small increments the old lines that set me apart, that defined me, are erased." By what increments and through what stages does Charlotte adapt her behavior and outlook to those of the Mountain Giants? What does she learn or acquire, and what does she lose or forget at each stage? Which is the more important, what she acquires or what she leaves behind?

14. Returning with Horace Stuband to the Island, Charlotte considers that "the conquest of the natural world has been the ruling passion of this modern society." What evidence of this "ruling passion" appears in the novel? How close has the country come to being "emptied of the last of its mysteries"? Why should we be concerned that "the connection between ourselves and the wild world [might be] irrevocably broken"?

15. What is the message conveyed by the final excerpt from "Tatoosh" about the Bearded Man? How do you interpret the statement that "the Bearded Man had cut the cord between himself and the world and now stood separate in his victory, like an embryo which has triumphed over its womb"? What are the implications of the novel?s final sentences ? "In the Moon When Tight Buds Unfurl, Wolverine found a lost child belonging to the Bearded Man and brought this child to us. We have been keeping it safe"?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Jen Travers, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Jen Travers)
My favorite book of the decade! Wild life was a fun adventure in the PNW forest under the shadow of the angry Loowit (Mt St. Helens).
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Rachel Thompson, May 28, 2007 (view all comments by Rachel Thompson)
Gloss's novel splendidly evokes the dark, haunted nature of the Northwest woods, where, even today, if you squint your eyes and close your ears, one can almost imagine a primeval world, before the advent of man into every corner of the world. This novel is an exploration of that advent, a story of the conflict of modernity and its technology, with the older, more natural world. "Wild Life" is a lament about the conflict, not necessarily a solution to it. However, it still expresses the wild poetry of the lost world, preserving it within its pages for future generations.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780618131570
Author:
Gloss, Molly
Publisher:
Mariner Books
Author:
Mol
Author:
ly Gloss
Location:
Boston
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Frontier and pioneer life
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Wilderness survival
Subject:
Women pioneers
Subject:
Wild men
Subject:
Washington
Subject:
Washington (state)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
18445
Publication Date:
September 2001
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9.12x5.82x.74 in. .63 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Literature Folklore and Memoirs

Wild Life Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Mariner Books - English 9780618131570 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

At the turn of the century, in the primeval forest of the Pacific Northwest, a fiery feminist becomes lost. Struggling to survive, night after terrifying night, she is finally rescued by... Bigfoot!? Huh? No, really — this incredible story works. Gloss — laying all the groundwork with such a willful, proud, and imaginative protagonist — makes sure that by the time we have to suspend our disbelief, we are ready for all the hearty metaphors this larger-than-life tale evokes. This book is a great gift for all the wild, woodsy women on your list. For outstanding PNW historical fiction without Yeti, I recommend Gloss's Jump Off Creek.

"Review" by , "As Molly Gloss's unconventional heroine affirms herself as a feminist, natural historian, mythologist, parent, and adventure-seeker, she reminds us that opportunity exists inside the self as well as outside it."
"Review" by , "Cigar-smoking, feminist writer of dime-store adventure novels for women meets Bigfoot in 1905....Never has there been a more authentic, persuasive, or moving evocation of this elusive legend: a masterpiece."
"Review" by , "Gloss twines just enough intellectual fiber around the sleek cord of a great adventure story to offer up a truly satisfying read....While Gloss generates heat and humor from the friction between early 20th-century and early 21st-century attitudes, her prose is most satisfying when she describes Charlotte's housekeeper ironing or Charlotte's patient suitor batting a homemade baseball. Deep into the book, Charlotte describes the 'lowbrow scientific romances' she fancies: '[M]y preference is for the writer whose language is gorgeous, whose characters are real as life, and whose stories take my poor little assumptions and give them back to me transformed.' Gloss couldn't have written a better description of her own novel: the writing is gorgeous, the characters real and vivid, and the story transforming."
"Review" by , "Written in journal format with occasional sidebars and epigraphs, this novel both entertains and engages the reader. Without moralizing, Gloss explores the deeper meaning of what it really is to be human."
"Synopsis" by , Award-winning author Gloss delivers a blend of cerebral satisfactions and page-turning adventure. Set among logging camps in the Northwest frontier in the early 1900s, she charts the life--both real and imagined--of the cigar-smoking, trouser-wearing Charlotte Bridger Drummond, who supports her boys by writing popular women's adventure stories.
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