Discussion Week 4: "The 101"

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Here follows week 4 of our discussion of Leif Enger’s So Brave, Young, and Handsome.

A cowboy doesn’t ask for much, that’s my observation. A flashy ride, pretty girl, momentary glory – for a day or two, I’m glad to say, Hood Roberts had them all.” – p. 145

Not a bad recap of “The 101”—equal parts legend, tragedy, comedy, and tall tale, sprinkled with a dash of romance.

I thought my question might be a dangerous one – who doesn’t dread what God might be up to in our pivotal moments?” – p. 109

1) What have the pivotal moments been in the story thus far? How have the characters changed as a result?

Now comes the distressing part of the story, and not just because Charlie Siringo shows up. As Glendon said later, Charlie had to show up – it was necessary for Charlie, for Glendon himself, and even, finally, for me, that Siringo wash into the Hundred and One on the edge of the coming deluge. . . No, the distress was all Hood’s.” – p. 126

2) How was Siringo’s arrival on the scene “necessary” for Siringo himself? For Glendon? For Monte?

3) Given that Siringo was pursuing Glendon, why was the distress “all Hood’s”?

4) How is Darlys DeFoe pivotal in the story?

My wife got so she couldn’t see me anymore,” said an old man in a corner. “She could see everyone else. Just not me. . . It’s the truth. I walked into the house one day saying Darling it’s me, and she couldn’t hear nor see me. If I touched her she’d see me again, but pretty soon, out I’d fade.” – p. 137

5) The quiet, exposing confession of Siringo seems out of step with his character. What do you make of that?

6) Why do you think Monte stays with Siringo?

Bonus Question: What’s the history of the real “101 Ranch”? What aspects of the story seem to be true to life? Where in the life cycle of the actual 101 Ranch does the story take place?

Discussion Introduction
Week 1: “A Thousand a Day”
Week 2: “The Old Desperate”
Week 3: “Jack Waits”
Week 4: “The 101”
Week 5: “The Fiery Siringo”
Week 6: “The Rarotongans”


11 Comments

  1. Amy L

    On #5 – I also found Darlys’s description of Jip (when she’s talking with Glendon earlier in this chapter) out of character with Siringo. No one else could make her laugh like that? That continues to rattle me.

    #2-3: Glendon isn’t really especially distressed when Siringo arrives. He knew he’d come, and it almost seemed like he was waiting for Siringo, so he’d have some good excuse to move out and continue on his journey. He bumped into his past at The Hundred and One, and he was tempted to relax there and be Glen Dobie a little longer, but Siringo reminds him that he doesn’t want to be Dobie. He wants to be himself, and he can’t do that until he sees Blue.

    And we all know why the distress is Hood’s. I loved how the descriptions of the fight and fall were gentle, so it didn’t seem violent, just unfortunate.

  2. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Reading over these questions reminded me just how much I love this book. I can’t wait to hear what folks have to say about the ending.

    Great comments, Amy.

  3. Chinwe

    Ah – Hood! So sad. Amy, you hit the nail on the head about that fight/fall scene. I felt like it was happening in slow motion when I read it. It’s so shocking but beautifully written. What an amazing piece of writing! It’s just incredible how one moment can change your life.

    Which leads me to #1 – about pivotal moments in the story. One comes to mind – when Monte follows Glendon off the pier at the Davies’s house. I think that moment is a turning point in Monte’s life – where he rejects the law/safety/security, and follows a friend. He probably didn’t know he could do that, and become a wanted man who would leave a letter to his beloved behind on the dock.

    Random thought: Both times Glendon shows up on the river, standing up and rowing a boat, that image has reminded me of Jesus walking on water. Strange connection and I don’t know if it was intentional. However, both times, Glendon makes a costly demand of Monte, who decides to leave everything behind and follow.

    #4 – About Darlys DeFoe – I just love what her character allows us to see of Glendon, like Nathan said. I was surprised at how harsh Monte was with her, but I too can be impatient and cold towards those who I feel have squandered gifts of mercy. Glendon’s scolding of Monte: “Maybe she doesn’t have a next act in her. Maybe you ought to have some understanding of this.” Ouch Glendon! But oh so true! As a forgiven person who has been lavished with grace by God, I should be generous in showing grace to others. What a deep lesson.

    Thanks for that photo of the 101, Nathan! It’s not at all what I pictured. I think I was imagining a small town out of a Western movie.

  4. Pete T

    What a great chapter eh?

    AMY – “No one else could make her laugh like that.” Yes, what was that about? Great catch.

    CHINWE – The moment Monte steps off the dock from Davis’ house stuck out to me as most pivotal as well. And I loved what you said about following a friend. It reminded me of when Monte confessed to not having a real friend.

    4) How is Darlys DeFoe pivotal in the story? … Her character provided Monte with an opportunity for compassion. He squanders it at first, but then he discovers her and her story. It was a favorite moment for me when Glendon confirms Darlys’ past with Siringo. Having learned this, Monte’s response is, “Is there anything I can do for Darlys?” And Glendon smiles.

    That is something I can relate to. How often am I short on compassion until I have heard someone’s story?

    I hope to reply more later, but I need to scoot!

  5. Sofia

    Amy & Pete: I wonder if that recollection of Darlys’ was more a reflection of her character than of Siringos. She seems to have been the type of woman whose youth was spent looking for male attention as a way of establishing her worth. Men make up her past narrative—flirting with Siringo & others, getting distracted from going home by the man she married. Even in her now mannish appearance, she seems to come on a bit to Glendon at first, as though reverting to her younger self (which may have been much more attractive? I’ve seen photographic evidence of such a transformation before…). I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the movie, “Secondhand Lions,” but the way she describes these men who have been in her life makes me think of the mother in that movie. I think it’s ultimately this deeper brokenness that strikes a chord with Monte.

    Chinwe: I read the whole description of Monte’s encounters with Darlys with a growing realization that I can so easily be Monte. Yes: “Ouch Glendon! But oh so true! As a forgiven person who has been lavished with grace by God, I should be generous in showing grace to others. What a deep lesson.”

    1/3 – Hood’s distress is definitely his pivotal moment. His running away rather than staying after the accident is where he “steps across and becomes a wanted thing.” Glendon’s been a wanted thing, Monte has crossed the line in another way by going with Glendon, and now Hood has himself become a wanted article. Monte says that as a result Hood is now a “full adult” (130). Why? Is it that Hood now knows the feeling of guilt & fear of justice?

    2- I like Amy’s point about how Siringo was necessary for Glendon. I’m still curious to see how his appearance is necessary for himself and Monte. At any rate, this changes the story from a tale of traveling comrades to… something else (I guess we’ll see what).

    4- Another way that she is pivotal is in ushering the next part of the story. If not for her, would Glendon have escaped? What part will Siringo’s injury play for the development of his character & the story?

    5 – I can’t tell if Siringo’s confession was honest or a bit of acting. He just seems to be one big ball of flashy aliases (Jip, Siringo…etc). If a true confession, then perhaps his anonymity as the man in the dark corner under a hat allowed it to come out. What interested me was how that confession put a finger right on Monte’s fear about his place at home. On that note—What is it with Monte’s obsession about fading? Earlier he feared fading if he went home. Now he’s afraid of fading if he stays away.

    6 – I’ll wrap this overly long comment up, I promise. I think Monte sees a commonality of sorts between him and Siringo because of the confession, and he is interested to know more of this experience. He ascribes his staying to a vague guilt (p. 148) and also seems to realize that he can offer grace to Siringo (p. 150 “Why don’t matter”

  6. Loren Warnemuende

    I think I really enjoyed this section–I know, “think” is an odd word to use! I’m gripped by the story and drawn along, and everything is etched so vividly, but I think I’m still not completely hooked. Maybe it’s the tragedy of it?

    Sophia, I like your assessment of Darlys. I think you’re right on target there. She was an interesting character, and It’s also interesting to watch how Monte works his way from constantly knocking her, albeit inadvertently, to asking Glendon how he could help her.

    I think a pivotal moment in the story is when Monte writes the name “Jack Waits.” After that, he manages to lie to Siringo. It’s interesting, though, that in this section he moves back to being Monte.

    In some way it seems like the changes he makes, or tries to male, don’t stick. He’s still working out who he is…and in many ways he seems to be a passive guy. He’s an observer and recorder of events. He observes Hood’s epic adventure, romance, and tragic fall into notoriety with little input. He’s not even in a place where he can change anything. He has no part in Glendon’s escape–Darlys takes the credit in that. Even his staying by Siringo after the man has been shot is passive. He doesn’t quite know what to do with Siringo; he certainly doesn’t want to murder him, though he knows Siringo’s goal is to catch Glendon, and he likes Glendon much more than Siringo.

    It’s interesting how Monte, not through much choice, has seemed to exchange his traveling companions from amiable rogue to dangerous law-man. I’m wondering where that will go.

    Not sure what to make of Siringo’s confession or inevitable appearance here, but I’m with Sophia on wondering what Monte’s fixation on fading is all about. I guess it goes along with his position so far as passive observer.

  7. Julie Silander

    Amy – Yes – That leaves me wanting to know more about Siringo. He may be the most difficult character for me to pin down.

    Nathan – Thank you! Wow. You get extra points for using a visual aid.

    Chinwe – I hadn’t thought of Jesus on the water. And maybe calling Monte toward a “Peter moment” of taking a step out of the boat as well?

    Pete – I didn’t catch the timing of Monte’s response. Significant. Enger is subtle but effective in achieving these slight, yet pivotal, shifts in character.

    Sofia – I wonder what other commonalities exist between Monte and Siringo? Anybody else?

    Loren – You’re right. At first glance, Monte looks like he has taken a huge risk and is on an adventure. But in reality, he’s really more “along for the ride” – still an observer rather than taking part in the story. To the point made in a previous post, he hasn’t yet learned to be the hero.

  8. Dan R.

    Not much to add here, but regarding the inevitability of Siringo’s appearance:
    I read this as most likely another instance of Monte speaking in his not too uncommon ex post facto narration. I really like thinking of Monte looking at this story from the perspective of an author/storyteller (which I think was discussed, or something like it, in the last section). To me that idea could give this turn of phrase a couple interpretations. Monte could have simply been referring to the massive changes wrought by Siringo’s appearance in the lives of all those listed, and from the perspective of ‘after the story’s end,’ for them to get to where they all are, this reunion was/is necessary. I think he could also be looking at his story and seeing that there was a hole there, a need for something to present a challenge, to bring about certain changes in them as characters. This could be his meaning from a perspective outside the story, or from inside it (which I personally think would be really neat, and bring up some big spiritual hints; the kind I think it would be safe to say we have encountered here before)!

  9. redheadkate

    Sometimes the pivotal moments are the quiet ones that pass us by without notice. They don’t register until much later. In that vein, I think Monte helping nurse Siringo is an important moment. Whether it is a passive choice or not, it drives the rest of the book (or I think it might, since I haven’t finished it yet).

    Right before he is called to the sick room, Monte is writing a letter to Savannah, his wife who has stayed with him and shown him grace repeatedly. So when he offers to help the doctor (who clearly needs rest) by staying with Siringo, it seems like he is doing the gracious thing. Giving in the same way he has received. Now, it might have turned into more than he anticipated. But it seems like he is doing the right thing, not just being swept along because he is there.

  10. redheadkate

    I just finished a book club of “The Great Gatsby” and we talked a good bit about books with boring, passive narrators. It is interesting to see how authors use them and noted that often the narrator is the person who changes but the changes can be easy to miss because the changes are more subtle.

    Anyone want to talk about the interchange about Darlys’ next act…or lack of one? Loved that part, mainly because I’m looking for mine.

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