Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kathy Wade - Courtship/War

Kathy met John in her first year at the University of Minnesota and just like many others he was greatly attracted to her as she was a ‘beautiful woman’ (key passage page 21). John was older than Kathy and when they first met he said “the trick then was to make her love him and never stop” (Key Passage Page 32). To John’s surprise Kathy never stopped loving him. They loved each other so much that they planned their future together, which involved marriage, children and Verona.

At University John began spying on Kathy because he felt her life was “Fiercely private, fiercely independent” (Key Passage Pg 33). After time, Kathy realises John has been spying on her but decides to do nothing about it because she believes it’s out of love. “Kathy knew he had these secrets, things he wouldn’t talk about. She knew about the spying. Maybe I’m wrong but it was like she needed to be part of it. The whole sick act of his” (Key passage Pg 97).

As their relationship develops it becomes distant and Kathy feels that John is manipulating her to do what he wants. This was shown when she became pregnant, he told her “they were young… Plenty of time” (key Passage 158-159). This caused their relationship to dampen even further because “they never talked about it”. Although their relationship - after John returns from war - never really settles down into a happy, loving and close connection they got ‘married anyway’ (key passage pg 45). This decision seems to come from Kathy’s guilt. During war when John was serving his country as an honourable soldier, Kathy scrutinised his service to their country by betraying him and having a relationship with another man. This may have resulted in Kathy feeling she owed him something and at the very least- her love.

When John went to fight the war in Vietnam he and Kathy were separated for two years and this resulted in their relationship becoming distant. During the time John was at war Kathy felt that she had changed and that she needed someone who would treat her differently to how John treated her. Kathy felt that she needed John to realise what she wanted out of life and this lead Kathy to having an affair with the Dentist “That’s what the whole stupid fling was about – to make you see what you were losing” (Key passage page 187). In a letter to John, Kathy explained that she was seeing a “couple of guys”, however made it clear that it was “nothing serious” and told him that “I love you and I think we can be wonderful together”. This also lead to Kathy explaining to John that “we have to be looser with each other, not so wound up or something- you can’t squeeze me so much, I need it feel like I’m not a puppet or something”. (Key passage page 105-106)

In another one of the letters Kathy and John exchanged during war Kathy told John that he “scared” (Key passage page 39) her. This was because John had told her of his tricks at war and how his fellow soldiers believed he was a “witch doctor”. This worried Kathy about his magic because she said “one of these days you’ll make me disappear” (Page 38).

“Love wasn’t enough. Which was the truth. The saddest thing of all”.

by Hannah & Maddy

John Wade - husband & suspected murderer

Relationship with Kathy
John and Kathy met and became intimate during their college years, despite the number of secrets harbored between the two. John spied on Kathy, which she was aware of, just as he was aware of her affair with the dentist. Worth noting that John's alter ego or inner anger is the "Sorcerer." In the relationship there was a lot of pretending. In the start John and Kathy had a lot of plans which included Marriage, a house and babies, lots of babies. John also makes plans of his own regarding a career in politics.

John state of mind
John and Kathy moved to a cottage in Lake of the Woods. They are continuously troubled by the revelation of John's Vietnam secrets, but pretend to be happy nevertheless. One night John wakes up to boil a kettle of water for tea. Instead of preparing a drink, he pours the boiling water over a few household plants, reciting "Kill Jesus," which seems to please him. He remembers climbing back into bed with Kathy, but the next morning she's gone. As an emerging adult, Johns low self esteem, sense of shame and unfulfilled need for love and affection leave him deeply affected; A victim of the effects of “ Deliberate abandonment”. He was mentally disturbed.

Events at Lake of the woods
Or possibly John had returned to the bedroom with the boiling water and had poured it over her face, scalding her. Afterwards he would have sunk the boat and body in the lake, weighed down by a number of rocks. Or the event might have been John's last great magic trick, a disappearing act. John and Kathy would have planned her disappearance, and to have John join her later on, after the search efforts had been called off, leaving them to a new start at life

Key passages• How unhappy they were Chapter 1.
• First paragraph of chapter 10 – The nature of love
• Pages 32-35 Chapter 7 – The nature of marriage
• Chapter 8 – How the night passed
• Chapter 27 – Hypothesis

Key Quotes
• “The mirrors would warp up; there would be odd folds and creases; clarity would be at a premium” P 51
• “let’s be cobras. You and me. Gobble each other up” P 72
• “Sorcerer shut his eyes and retreated behind the mirrors in his head, pretending to be elsewhere…” P 107
• “The guy offed her” Vinnie Pearson page 12

Did John kill Kathy?

At the end of the novel we are given the opportunity to determine our own version of what happened that night at The Lake of the Woods.

Seven hypotheses are given to us, along with seven chapters of evidence and an insight into the lives of those involved, and what brought them to that point.

We’ve explored the possibility that John had in fact killed Kathy but not solely by his own means or motivation.

Veterans of war, especially from Vietnam have been known to act aggressively, even to those they love. And as quoted in the novel “he’d yell in his sleep – loud, desperate, obscene things…Her eyes (Kathy) would betray visible fear. “It wasn’t even your voice,”…”It wasn’t even you”. “Waking up with your hands around your wife’s throat is frightening…..Is he Crazy? Does he hate me? What the hell’s going on?”

Soldiers are taught to act without question, to kill without mercy and to obey orders. This is what makes a good soldier, but not a good man, and despite his flaws John wanted to be a good man, and to be loved. However, John was not a good soldier “barely competent” in fact.

“It wasn’t just the war that made him (John) what he was. That’s too easy. It was his whole nature”. John has suffered a lot in his lifetime, his abusive father, and suicide, his distant personality traits, the war, not least of which the My Lai massacre, political loss, marriage troubles and mental breakdowns.

John is a man who cannot cope with loss, yet he has endured so much of it. As a young child John learned to use his mirror to reflect, and warp reality into something else. In time he brought that mirror with him, only in his mind so he could cope. Except with the war it proved to be too much, this is were he adopted his alias Sorcerer. Under his new title John commits sin, and again has trouble accepting reality so he warped it. Like any person, any soldier would, John tries to forget that side of him. As quoted in the book “Every man has some reminiscences … which a man is even afraid to tell himself, and every decent man has a considerable number of such things stored away…Man is bound to lie about himself.”

Johns’- troubled childhood and life that followed created another side to John, one were he seems capable of murder because he certainly holds the desire.

“John wanted to kill everybody who was weeping and everybody who wasn’t, everybody, the minister and the mourners and the skinny old lady at the organ – he wanted to grab a hammer and scramble down into the ditch and kill his father for dying.”

John didn’t take part in the massacre at My Lai, but didn’t take part against it either. As a reaction to combat, fear and reflex John had killed, but never to satisfy his hidden desire to kill.

At the night of Kathy’s alleged murder, John was in a night terror were he killed plants with boiling water. This is where on Hypothesis describes Kathy’s murder by John’s crazed hand. After the night of the incident, John appears to have began a new life, his anger was gone, along with his beloved wife Kathy.

John had always had trouble identifying the truth “Everything’s True, Everything’s not true”, as he once put it. But alike in Vietnam he forgot details about what had happened, he came to illogical conclusions, simply because alike Vietnam “This could not have happened. Therefore it did not.”

As the story continues and John searches for Kathy (or her remains) John begins remembering details he rather wouldn’t. So when the search for Kathy comes up empty he borrows a boat in search for her himself. Again his intentions may be debated, weather he was escaping arrest, looking for Kathy, running away with her, etc. But under the assumption he killed her I believe that he was merely looking for those lost truths. To either prove or disprove his guilt because he was as unsure as everyone else.

by Darren, Matt & Jesse

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Character studies

We are already into our third week. In this time you have completed background work on Vietnam; completed character studies on both John and Kathy Wade and are examining a range of themes in preparation for essay writing. Over the next few days I will publish a range of student contributions in relation to John and Kathy Wade. This first one was completed by Marnie and Leah. Thank you for your insight!

Kathy Wade – The perceptions of others

We learn about Kathy Wade’s character more through the perceptions of others rather than through Kathy herself as she disappears so early in the novel.

Tony Carbo

“..even his wife, I don’t think she knew the first damn thing about... well, about any of it...” – Tony Carbo. This quote by Carbo suggests that John preferred to keep Kathy in the dark about certain matters.

Patricia Hood

Kathy’s true feelings remain a mystery to John and after her disappearance her sister Patricia Hood plays a large part of revealing her real perspective on her life. “My sister seemed almost scared of him sometimes...” Maybe Kathy was afraid to tell John what she was really thinking which showed that perhaps she wasn’t as strong as she made out to be.

Kathy was not really the kind to share what she felt with John but preferred to confide in her sister about what she was going through “I remember Kathy telling me how he’d wake up screaming”. Through these glimpses of what we are told by Kathy’s sister Pat we see that she was hesitant to share her inner most feelings with John.

Pat also thinks that Kathy was deluding herself her whole life by shutting out the bad things that would happen to her. Instead of dealing with things Kathy would avoid them and think about or do something else. Kathy preferred to disconnect from reality, to trick herself with “…pixie dust. Sprinkle on the love,” and by doing that she fooled herself showing how na├»ve she could be.

Bethany Kee

Another person who sheds new perspective on Kathy is her friend Bethany Kee. Kathy was also thought to have shared secrets with Bethany that she may not have told any one else. Bethany could see that “Kathy knew he had these secrets, things he wouldn’t talk about. She knew about the spying. Maybe [Bethany] was wrong but it was like [Kathy] needed to be part of it.” Although Kathy may have been scared of John it shows that she still loved him and needed him. The comments made by others show that Kathy was very much in love with John and although love wasn’t enough to make her happy Kathy wasn’t strong enough to leave him.

“After work we used to do laps together, over at the Y every night. She’d just swim and swim, like a fish almost, so I’m not worried about… Well, I think she’s fine...” – Bethany Kee. This quote shows that Bethany believes that Kathy’s ability to swim was a saving grace if she was in a boating accident. Perhaps it also showed an inner strength she possessed, which was the ability to push herself. This could also be showing another side of Kath’s personality which was to try and forget things and put them behind her so she could relax and pretend to be happy.

“I’ll bet she’s on a greyhound bus somewhere. Married to that creep, that’s where I’d be. She liked buses.” – Bethany Kee. Throughout the novel it is suggested that Kathy was unfaithful to John, and had an affair with her dentist. I believe Bethany is trying to say she thinks that Kathy may have run off with the dentist to start a new life, escaping the dramas that plagued her existing one.

Bethany also gives us a glimpse into the ambitious side of Kathy, the side that had hopes and dreams and had her whole life mapped out. “She wanted to travel, see the world… She used to talk about Verona all the time” but her relationship with John denied her all of her dreams, not only just her plans of travel she was too
weak to push what she wanted on to John and instead became his doormat and lost all hopes of the life she wanted.

John Wade

John thought Kathy to be a “beautiful woman … [but] her face was tired, with the lax darkening that accompanies age, but still he found much to admire. The green eyes, brown summer skin, slim legs and shapely little fingers…” To him Kathy was the most beautiful woman in the world and he couldn’t live without her.

John always believed that Kathy was happy to oblige to what he wanted. As long as he was happy he thought Kathy would be too. He remembered when “Kathy’s green eyes were wet and happy and full of the light that was only Kathy’s and could be no one else’s.” Perhaps whenever John thought that Kathy was unhappy he remembered these things and fooled himself that she really was happy and she didn’t tell him otherwise.

Through these perceptions from other people about Kathy we see that she is not really the person that she lets on. It could be perceived that Kathy’s true personality was overshadowed by John and only through other people’s memories and views we learn about the true Kathy Wade.

The Narrator
He presents with a range of different hypotheses as to what Kathy may have thought and how she may have acted. But we'll leave this for someone else to discuss.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Welcome to the Class of 2009

Your orientation program for next year has begun. We are beginning with Tim O'Brien's beautifully constructed novel, In the Lake of the Woods. The main protagonist, John Wade is a complex and disturbing character whose wife, Kathy, is missing. O'Brien presents us with many hypotheses as to what may have happened to her. Thus the story is, in part, a mystery.

John Wade experiences an unfortunate childhood. He later becomes a soldier in the Vietnam War before returning to marry Kathy and pursue a career in politics. John Wade's involvement in the Vietnam War scars his psyche and has tragic consequences for the remainder of his adult life. Tim O'Brien is himself a Vietnam Veteran who has openly talked about his own post-traumatic stress disorder.

When we meet John Wade at the beginning of the novel he and Kathy are alone in a cabin at The Lake of the Woods on the U.S/Canadian border devastated by the end of John's political career and the events that have led them to this point.

You will read this novel and complete chapter summaries over the summer break. Due to the non-linear structure of the novel, we want you to have each chapter summarised on a separate page so later on we pull out the different types of chapters, eg "The Nature of", "Evidence", "Hypothesis" chapters to study in depth.

Our job for now is to research the background to the novel - in particular the Vietnam War and the tragic events that occurred at My Lai on March 16, 1968. We are also interested in the cover-up, the conviction of William Calley and what these things tell us about American politics.

Use the links on this site to help you answer the following questions:

1. How did the Vietnam War begin? (eg. end of French Colonialism, Dien’s assassination)
2. Why was the U.S involved? What was their motivation? (eg. The Cold War, communism, domino theory, Gulf of Tonkin)
3. What was Australia’s involvement?
4. What happened at My Lai on March 16, 1968?
5. Describe Charlie company – Who were they? How were they feeling prior to My Lai? Was there any history of brutality?
6. Describe America’s position in the Vietnam War just before My Lai?
7. Who was William Calley and why was he the only one convicted?
8. Were Calley and his men purely following orders?
9. Why was there a cover-up?
10 How did the American public react to the news of My Lai and the subsequent cover-up?
11. What was the role of the media in the Vietnam War?
12. Why was this war described as a war unlike any other in America’s history?

Below is the first part of the documentary "Four Hours in My Lai". There is a link to the other sections of the documentary on YouTube if you need to watch the whole thing again to help you answer the questions. What was your response to the documentary, "Four Hours in My Lai"?