The Dog of the South, by Charles Portis

2 May

For the lighter side of life in the shadows, we’ve been reading this odd and wonderful road trip novel. At this point in the novel, chapters 7-10, we’ve got a lot going on. Midge is now in Belize (called British Honduras in those days), where he’s met a new cast of wacky characters, and he’s finally found Dupree–though he hasn’t seen Norma yet. Aside from these plot developments, we’ve also come upon a number of motifs and themes*, such as:

Race, ethnicity, and nationality–How are Mexicans, Belizians, Americans, Canadians, Mayans, and the British represented? What do you make of Webster Spooner as a character? How about Ruth? Is Meemaw a colonialist missionary like those we’ve seen in At Play? Or is her mission different in some way?

Writing, or metafiction–We know at this point that the character, Midge, has actually written what we are reading, not as a novel but as a kind of memoir. Discuss Midge as a writer, and as a reader. What is his purpose for writing? What are his preferences in terms of books?

Religion and the supernatural–Midge is certainly not an unusually religious man, but we’re beginning to see more and more references to the metaphysical. How does this fit with the rest of the novel thus far? It strikes me that Dix is taken as a kind of holy man. What do you make of that?

*Both themes and motifs can be thought of as recurring elements in the narrative that take on symbolic value, and there is much overlap between these terms. The difference is that motifs are concrete, like the recurring presence of grifters, or broken-down cars, and themes abstract, like Midge’s frequent exclamation: “maintenance!”

142 Responses to “The Dog of the South, by Charles Portis”

  1. jasen May 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Midge as a writer.

    It is interesting to figure out that what we are reading is in fact account of what happened, instead of his living it in the moment. The fact that Midge did nothing with his life, but read historical works of battles, which center on some glorified central character, makes his memoir all the more important for him. It is like this is his way of making himself like all the books that he read.

    • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Great observation.

    • Benjamin May 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      Or remind himself of the fact that he hasn’t done anything with himself besides read and this is all he can do to make up for it.

      • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

        Yeah. Kind of like a confession.

      • jasen May 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

        Not really to make up for his life he’s lived so far, but to make himself something now, for himself and for others to read about him.

        • Benjamin May 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

          I like that ^

    • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      I agree, and since he normally only reads stories where the hero is defeated, we can maybe guess that his story will also lead to a downfall.

    • hresan42 May 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      I agree that it’s very important to notice the books that Midge reads: historical fiction that focuses on a hero. You have to wonder if Midge is shaping this in the same way. I think he also does some unintentional similarities (including a lot of detail and making things dry (if not for the unintentional humor of Midge this book would be deadly dry and boring).

      • erinjones10 May 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

        In contrast, I think Midge is the perfect antithesis to the classical heroe he glorifies in his war stories. Midge is redefining the archetypical character. Midge leaves his home on a quest in search of something lost. He has to prove himself multiple times along his journey. And his personalirty querks are the very forces holding him back from succeeding. Midge is at conflict with the “self,” which in my opinon is the hardest to fight. So although Midge is off-kilter with the archetypical image of a hero, he has drive to prove himself in the world and the motivation to battle against his flaws. In my opinoin, this is very heroic, even if unconventional.

  2. aarontrost May 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    I don’t know what to make of Webster Spooner, but he seems to be a hard working man. He wants to help Midge but cannot seem to find the right way to do it, or does half of the task. He seems to be nice, but is strongly overpowered by Ruth. She seems mean to him because she takes most of his money and doesn’t let him do much. But one of the key things about Webster Spooner is, he wants to learn. He always has some new question for Midge, and I think that makes him different than the other people he has met because they don’t ask questions like him.

    • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      And then there’s the fact that he’s awesome.

      • hresan42 May 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

        Seconded! I feel like Webster Spooner can really go somewhere, even though he’s stuck in a place as stagnant as British Honduras appears to be.

  3. angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    I believe Meemaw is the same but different than the colonialists in At Play because she is trying to change other peoples opinions and make them believe what she is doing and she is also in a way bribing them with the Tarzan movie. I think she is different because it’s more or less her religion and not a standardized religion.

    • erinjones10 May 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      But isn’t that exactly what the missionaries did in At Play? I think because Christianity and Catholicism are familiar to us, we view missionary work as non-invasive. But look at it from the natives’ point of view. Standardized religion or not, they perceive it as an intrusion. Moreover, the missionaries in At Play also bribed the natives with gifts of clothing, food, guns, etc. Although more comical, Tarzan is a bribe just the same to win the loyalty and faith of the natives.

  4. staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    I think Webster Spooner was introduced into the story in order to show the level of superiority of Midge. In this story the only people Midge will confront and ask to do his favors are children, which shows that he only finds himself superior to children. This reinforces the idea that Midge is not yet an adult. It is funny becuase he can not always get Spooner to finish his tasks, such as when he asks Spooner to meet him at the church.

    • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

      Yeah. Midge and Spooner are on the same level somehow.

    • angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      I agree with Stacey and the fact that he can’t get Spooner to ever finish the task completely also shows that he lacks power. He may have power over Spooner or Spooner may just be willing to help because he is a nice guy and is willing to try and help everyone.

    • petekoczmara May 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      I kind of agree but the reason Midge can’t always get him to finish his tasks is because Webster is still a kid. Just like every other kid, he seems to get easily distracted by other things and we can see that when he never got back to Midge with the map.

    • kristensteckbar10 May 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      I definitely agree that it seems as if the only people that Midge seems superior to are children, people who have not had the same education, life experiences, or time for maturing as he has. It’s a bit ridiculous of him to hold himself so high compared to children but to the reader, it also shows his lack of maturity.

  5. aarontrost May 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    With Meemaw, I don’t see her like all of the other missionaries in “At Play” because she doesn’t to try to change the children and doesn’t give them gifts. She has very strong opinions about her religion, but she seems to let the kids just watch movies and doesn’t teach them a whole lot.

    • bayernjung1023 May 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      I agree with that. Meemaw, it would seem, has her own style with dealing with teaching people about faith. She doesn’t force it on to people; she lets them make up their own minds. I think she knows that the native Belizians aren’t all that interested in religion so much as making a buck, but she still shows movies to try and promote at least coming to church for a small gathering.

      • brittondallas10 May 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

        I also agree with that, at first when this character came, I thought she was very preachy and questioned Midge about religion ( very strange questions) about religion and the bible that she though he should know. I thought it was commical on page 115, when it says ” Mrs. Symes, no fool, had rearranged the schedule so that the Bible quiz was now held before the movie and no one was admitted late” THis was made so taht no one could come just for the movie, it was a reward of doing the quiz, but the movie promoted people to come

  6. 0213rose May 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    I like Midge as a writer because he describes exactly what he is feeling at any given moment. He doesnt have a filter, and the silly thoughts about insignificant things make it into the book. Alot of what he writes has nothing to do with plot development, it is more about who he is as a character. He really likes history novels, and I think his purpose in writing this book is to document his unique journey since he has never done anything like it before. I think he wants to try and be like the characters in the books he reads. They are courageous and brave, and he really isnt. He doesnt go after the problem and face up to danger. Its almost the complete opposite. At least his old life was. In the novel he sort of comes out of his shell and does things he normally wouldnt do. He is trying to embody or become like the people he reads about.

    • kyleemc2010 May 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      It is interesting that you enjoy the randomness of Ray’s writing, and how he just says what comes to his mind. While other students in the class see this as a sign of his disorganization as an author. It is peculiar to see how different students enjoy different writing styles!

  7. meghanbradley10 May 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Midge is a really quirky guy. As a reader, he does not tend to stray from the genre which seems to interest him the most, this being war stories and historical novels of the such. He is enamored with random war sites and obscure battles no one seems to recall. As a writer, I’m not really sure what to think about it. He seems to be all over the place and doesn’t really know how to organize his thoughts…he gets off track really easily and gets stuck on the minimal details that any other writer wouldn’t think twice about.

    • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      You’re right in a way, but actually he hates novels of all sorts. He wants to throw the sci fi book across the room. Everything he reads is nonfiction. And we’re supposed to pretend this book we’re reading is in fact nonfiction, if you see what I mean.

  8. bayernjung1023 May 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    On the subject of Dix as a holy man, he’s really only revered by Dr. Symes. I think Midge can look at Symes and see that Dix is speaking through him. It’s almost as if Symes was the lone prophet for any of Dix’s work. He knows everything about the man: where he was born, when he published his work, etc. But he’s the only one who knows it. I think Symes looks at Dix and does revere him as a great teacher for those on the radical outside, even if he does take his message a bit too far in some cases.

    • shannonzwicky May 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      Not only does he know when he published his works, but he scopes the US looking for where he might be able to find him, and discovers that there are supposedly numerous impostors.. borderline stalker if you ask me. If I were Dix I would hide from nut-cases like Symes as well

    • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      Yes and no. There seems a whole secret society of people who write about, talk about, and even “worship” Dix. And think of all the mystery. What’s in the trunk?

    • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      i feel like the doctor also imposes his own interpretation when he talks about dix. He claims to know all of these great things about him and tries to imply that he is an expert on Dix and i feel like everytime dix is mentioned, there is a certain level of judgement and interpretation done on the doctor’s part.

      • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        I agree and to me this reenforces the idea that Dix is a holyman. Many differenct religions are developed from different ideas and interpretations of the Lord’s work.

  9. shannonzwicky May 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Meemaw doesn’t seem to have the same type of backing as the missionaries in “At Play.” She seems to have not direct affiliation with any certain church from her homeland but yet she decided to come to Belize and start up her own little church for younger black children. This was interesting to me because it doesn’t really talk about why she came there so much for her business but she knew the other preacher prior to moving there which made me think maybe she has some personal vendetta against him.

  10. kyleemc2010 May 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    As the story goes on, it is easier to see the “Coming of Age” like theme in Midge’s character. He is learning more about himself as he goes along his journey, and he sees the differences in the way he was before and how he is now. I do, however, think that he still has a long way to go in developing himself. He is still more judgmental of other people’s actions–even if he is doing the same thing himself. Such as calling Dupree a “pillhead”, even though he openly admits in these chapters that he is unsure as to why he keeps popping his bitter orange pills.

    • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      He still seems a little unsure of himself. He lacks the confidence to come face to face with Dupree, so he rather sits in the car. Yes, I know dupree does have a shotgun, but as a reader It seems to me that Dupree will not have the balls to actually shoot Midge, and I think Midge understands that.

    • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      I agree that the coming of age theme is progressing more rapidly. For example, when he locates Dupree he realizes their incompetence in life, “Here we are, almost thirty years old, and neither one of us even has a job. Were worse than hippies.”

      • kyleemc2010 May 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

        Exactly! It’s as though he is becoming fully aware of the fact that he was kind of a “loser” who did nothing with his life and bummed off of his father’s money. Not only does he seem to be learning more about his past self, but what other’s thought of him as well– not physically, but his personality and characteristics. Such as when Dupree tells him all of the things that Norma “truly” thought of him, although we do know as readers that Dupree is not a trustworthy character.

      • angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

        I agree with the Coming of Age theme progressing but I’m just wondering if there will ever be a time that Midge truly stands up for himself. For example when he goes to the house with Dupree and just sits there and waits for the appropriate time that never comes. I think in the end Midge will actually learn to completely stick up for himself and what he wants.

      • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        Nice quotation.

  11. wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    I think Webster is an interesting character due to the fact that he will actually acknowledge and be courtesy to Midge, unlike his aunite. He works his multiple jobs, and he is always working hard at these job. I find him to be a very respectable and likable character due to his work ethic, and the fact that he wants to learn something from Midge. His ability to communicate with Midge is unlike any other relationship that I have seen in the book.

    • shannonzwicky May 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      Webster seems to be very unlike his counter part from at play in the fields of the lord. both of them seem to buddy up to the main characters but in this novel, it seems to be a real friendship that exists. Also, Webster isn’t as mischievous and really wants to learn from Midge.

  12. nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    midge is such a weird guy. He never really states what he wants to actually happen, he just randomly formulates plans on the spot and makes odd deductions. He’s calm in situations like seeing his car in leet’s lot, but prior to that it was his sole motivation for being down in british honduras. If he was so passionate about his car, i feel like he would’ve at least yelled at the guy or demanded money. It just seems like he has no goal in BH, he more so would like to just live down there with all the weird interactions he has with the culture.

    He almost reminds me of the main character from fear and loathing in las vegas. Aside from the crazy delusions that came with the mescaline and other drugs, they have these odd characteristics that seem comical when they interact with others. For instance, when he analyzes Melba’s writing in that she likes the f\phrase inasmuch and crestfallen and latter and former. he picks up on the weird things much like the Johnny Depp’s portrayal of fear and loathing in las vegas.

    • jasen May 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      I suppose the question to really ask is, Why is Midge even there? And really, I believe he doesn’t have a reason for going down there, not to get the car back, not to get his wife back. Throughout the story so far he is finding justifications for doing things, but really, he does not need any of this. I mean, his detective adventure is not even needed. Everything he is doing is kind of pointless.

      At the beginning he stated that he pretty much had a year to burn, because he thought he was a year older than he actually was.

      • angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        I think Midge is going on this trip in order to become his own person, to finally do something by himself and not need to rely on other people. He does in fact end up relying on the doctor and some people but the overall trip was something that is his spur of the moment, take responsibility act.

        • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

          Exactly. He’s trying to become a man, but he has to borrow money from everyone he meets.

      • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

        exactly, he just wants an adventure

        • erinjones10 May 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

          Well if Midge is trying to become a man, he still has a LONG way to go. Like Daniels mentioned, he is still dependent on everyone around him. He has to borrow money, he cannot confront Dupree, and he still holds on to this fantasy of finding Norma and (in my opinion) trying to win her back. He holds longingly on to his memories of Norma.

  13. meghanbradley10 May 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Meemaw plays out to be a different kind of missionary, forcing her ideas down people’s throats and pretty much saying it’s my way or the highway. She intially pegged Midge with questions after his arrival at the church and seemed less than content with every answer he gave her, shooting them down as soon as they left his mouth.

    • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      she’s not so much the missionary as she is a person who craves power. her reason for opening the church is probably the accomplishment and being able to say its hers, not because she loves god

  14. Benjamin May 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    As a writer Midge becomes something else. Midge becomes that person that he has always wanted to be but in his own life can’t seem to muster up the guts for that unhindered and unfiltered mind he likes to use when he writes. But that’s what makes him great, that as a writer he has an entirely different persona that he has built for himself from these characters he has read, like characteristic armor to shield his own faults from himself, yet at the same time help to bring them to light.

    • Benjamin May 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      I also like how much he compares himself to historical people, like Washington how similar he thought they were except for in stature, Washington was a big man but he is “stocky” in his build. This was funny mainly because this wild tangent of comparison was brought on by him staring at a roll of quarters in Websters fist.

    • meghanbradley10 May 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      I think that can be accounted for as a lot of writer’s needing to write..they want to do things they can’t do in day to day life and be someone who maybe they had dreamt of being as a child but somewhere their path got deviated. Authors can “hide” behind words and stories and live in their world they created for themselves.

      • Benjamin May 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

        Which leads a lot to how writing is done, and something I liked about the author, who I went to go listen to read her book for this class, was how she commented on how much we put ourselves into a book as a character ourselves which became apparent when she explained how she had worked on a Horse race track in her twenties as did a young lady character in her novel. Which makes me wonder how much Portis has put himself into his own book, if at all.

  15. 0213rose May 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    The mexicans are portrayed as not as smart or civil in a way. The worker at the border just let Midge though because he didnt want to deal with it that early in the morning. And he is constantly being surprised by the hard work and good work of the Mexicans, like they are breaking out of their stereotype. I remember him saying Mexico was over run with canadians. In parts they just took over and I think that has influenced the culture in a huge way. They project on to the natives. Almost a form or colonialism. The mayans were portrayed as primitive. They wanted to get cigarettes and Midge kept giving them bonds that weren’t useful to them. They live secluded in the jungle and live a simpler lifestyle. Almost like the natives in Fields of the Lord.

    • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Also, Midge didn’t even try to tell him why he stopped to see them, he let them go through with their tour for a second time just to make them happy. This reinforces the sterotype that the Mayans are more primitive.

  16. kristensteckbar10 May 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    In regards to Meemaw relating to the missionaries from At Play, I think that for the most part she is different, but some of the things that she does are similar. Meemaw does not seem to be passionate about her work in the way that the missionaries were in the previous novel. She believes things are super important that others may not feel are that important at all, like when she asks Midge about the wine/grape juice. Of course her main goal is to help her community and provide a place of worship, as well as teach Christianity to the native people, but it does not seem as genuine as the people in At Play. Another way that they are different, is because Mrs. Symes is trying to “help” and convert people who are somewhat civilized, whereas in At Play, the missionaries went into a completely uncivilized and extremely primitive area. Do the people in British Honduras “need” Meemaw’s missionary?

    Meemaw seems similar to the other missionaries because she tries to appeal to the native in ways that do not always start out as Christian work. For example: she shows them American videos and cartoons. Like the missionaries in At Play, the both, in a way, are trying to “Americanize” the natives that for the most part do not have anything to do with spreading Christianity.

    • kyleemc2010 May 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      Just playing devil’s advocate here– but did the Niaruna really feel as though they “need” missionaries either? I think there is this fine, rather blurry line of where missionaries “duties” are required– or more needed than other areas. It seems to me (not knowing much about real-life missionary cases) that these missionaries just choose an area of interest and convert as many people as possible in “the word of the lord”.

  17. cadams177 May 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    I think all the tangents he goes on give him more charecter than much of the plot does. HIs inability to admit his own motives even to himself shows us his stubborness, and i have to say I almost admire him for it.

  18. bayernjung1023 May 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Webster Spooner. The kid works his tail off, working three jobs to even come close to making a dollar. I think Midge can look to Webster and see the person he should be: a person who has gotten out of his home and has begun to work in the real world and make some money instead of sitting at home and doing nothing. It also seems that he’s the only one (aside from Dr. Symes, Meemaw, and Melba) that actually likes Midge as a person. I think Webster has his fun with Midge, but he’s also placed his trust in a man he barely knows, and Midge, in my opinion, definitely doesn’t disappoint.

    • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      i agree that midge has a lot to learn from webster. i feel like this is the friend midge has been searching for on his journey to mexico. it seems like midge has never had a true friend, only the characters in his books; and now midge likes that he has someone to count on and help him-like a sidekick.

      • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

        Let’s face it. Spooner is more mature than Midge.

        • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

          Spooner is the man. For a kid to be working 3 jobs and growing his own tomato plants is pretty neat. He is always looking for something that can get advance his status, wether that be a job for more money or asking people questions in order to learn more. Very respectable young man.

      • angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

        The friend Midge has been looking for but also the “sidekick’ that the story needed. Someone Midge can ask help for and someone that works hard and is willing to help him out.

        • kyleemc2010 May 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

          But does Midge really want a sidekick? Didn’t Jack try to be his sidekick in the beginning and Midge just wanted to ditch him at all costs? I feel like Webster is more of a servant or someone to handle his “errands” to Midge than a sidekick or a friend- but maybe that’s just me.

          • angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

            I feel like Midge and Websters relationship is different because Webster isn’t trying to be in charge. When it was Jack and Midge they were always competing and wanting to be in control and not follow the other one but with Webster, Midge has the power and Webster is willing to follow what he says.

    • kristensteckbar10 May 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Midge definitely should look up (down?) to Webster. He is so young and is already fending for himself. Despite Webster giving a large portion of his earnings to Ruth, he is still motivated to earn as much money as he can.

  19. aarontrost May 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    The Mayans I think are represented as the lowest class people. All they do is stay at the temple and try to become American. They give tours to make money and when someone walks up they think they want a tour. The Mayans don’t seem to leave the place as well because they keep hacking away at the brush that grows back after they are through. The other ethnic groups I think follow the same trend of wanting money or taking money as a token of service. All the people Midge has encounter, he has given money to them with his bonds even though he doesn’t even have money for himself.

    • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      i find it odd that he is so willing to just give away money to everyone, even the ones he doesn’t deem deserving.

  20. brittondallas10 May 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Midge as a character has never really done anything big with his life, but I dont think that doesnt mean he doesnt want to, I feel as if he just still has never found what is right for him in life, this is why he keeps going back to school for different types of studies. Midge as a writter I seem to like, hehas alot to say but struggles getting it out a lot of the time, it can be very unorganized but also very comical making the novel its self a good read and a realistic story.

  21. Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Notice how the book is in fact like a war history. Midge, the invading force, places a stockade on the enemy stronghold, Dupree’s house. The difference, of course, is that Midge never has the nerve to do anything other than stand there, and Dupree hardly even knows who he is, much less why he’s come.

    • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      I would agree that dupree being protective with his home and other things are within the nature of his being, but he still knows midge pretty well. For instance, when he played the con of the dog needing the pain killers. He knew midge would fall for it and that midge is a weaker person that doesn’t have the tenacity to get what he’s come for.

    • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      These chapters made it seem like this “war” is going to be a war of attrition as both characters stay separated and do nothing more than drink beer and stare at each other. I am looking forward to the final chapters because I have a feeling something is bad is going to happen to our unheroic hero, Midge.

      • kristensteckbar10 May 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

        I agree that it seems that something bad will happen in the remainder of this novel. All of the books that Midge reads are about wars and the heroes that always seem to be on the losing side. Perhaps this novel will end like all of the novels that Midge has told us he has read? We know that he isn’t a very bold, or aggressive character and those are not qualities of a leader or a war hero.

    • 0213rose May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      Thats an interesting comparison that I hadn’t thought about. I got caught up in how anti climactic the encounter between him and Dupree was. He wouldnt even go up to the house and fight him. I never thought about it as a war because no fighting ever ensued. They were just having a regular conversation and then he gave up and left. Not what i was expecting at all!

    • petekoczmara May 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      It was quite amusing reading that part of the story because the stand off seemed so childish. Midge didn’t have the guts to go inside the house so he smashed the pills that Dupree said were his dogs. I can only see an immature kid doing that, not an adult.

      • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

        Agreed. The whole thing is totally childish, which is funny considering who Midge compares himself with.

        • petekoczmara May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

          I think the reason Midge likes to read all those war-like stories is because he would never have the guts to fight anyone. He is more of a nerdy character who wants to be someone he’s not, a badass in a way but he’s failing miserably. He had this plan of going and getting his car but yet, he’s too scared to make Dupree talk.

  22. wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    One interesting thing I noticed with the interaction between Midge and Dupree was the fact that Midge asked about Norma before the car. After Dupree says she isn’t here Midge asks about the car, finds out is stolen, but then a few questions later is on the topic of Norma again. I think that says a lot about why Midge made this journey, and it is going to be interesting to see how this story plays out with Midge trying to fight to get his women back.

    • aarontrost May 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Another thing to keep in mind as well is this new lady friend Midge has. He knows it is wrong, but he still wants to bring her out for drinks. He also allows her to come and do her laundry and shower with her boy at Meemaw’s house.

      • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

        I think this new lady just adds another dimension to Midge’s life that he will not be able to handle. I think at some point Midge is going to make a choice that will ultimately hurt the women and himself, but will also lead to a failure of reconnecting with Norma.

        • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

          Yeah. He blew it when he had the chance to scratch her back. Reminds me of a hundred times when I thought back on something a woman had said and then realize she may have been flirting with me but I missed it.

          • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

            i like the anecdote. sometimes people are too focused on the world and what might happen to see the things that actually are happening. perhaps this is why midge doesn’t believe dupree when he says that norma aint there

      • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

        Earlier in the story Midge and Norma seemed like opposites, but Midge and Chrisitne are even bigger opposites. She is a free-spirited hippie and he centers his life on details. I cannot imagine this relationship panning out to be more sucessful than his previous relationship with Norma.

        • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

          Not to mention how he dresses.

        • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

          he just wants conflict. if norma can have a fling with dupree, he should be able to give christine a go. i think he just wants to spice his life up with christine.

    • cadams177 May 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      I cant see this story ending in the traditional “guy gets the girl back” kind of way. Maybe im wrong, but from all we know about Midge, and the nontraditional style of this story, I think well all be surprised if everything works out exactly as planned

      • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        does midge really want to win? he obsesses over the war stories where the one he’s rooting for dies…

        • hresan42 May 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

          nicklevato has a point- a lot of war stroeis don’t end well. I, too, get the idea that midge isn’t really concerned about winning. He just wants to get out there and fight the good fight like all the heroes he read about did.

        • jasen May 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

          If he is writing his own story, and we can assume that if he is writing it, he will want people to read it like he does with all his books, then he can’t die. Who would finish the book? I am interested to see what the ending is like, because his memoir simply cannot be exactly like the historical non-fictions he has spent his life reading.

          • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

            yeah, perhaps he doesn’t die. but i wouldn’t really be surprised if he comes out of mexico with nothing but the shirt on his back

      • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

        I agree, and I would not be surprised if Norma is already gone back home becuase Midge sat outside all day and did not see any movement in the house.

        • hresan42 May 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

          That would be an excellent turn of events: Norma really went back home a while ago and Midge is running around silly on his quest to find her…

        • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

          that would be really funny, and i could see the author doing that considering his comic approach to the story

    • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      i think midge just wants a fight. he’s never really been in one before, and that’s what his journey is about. he’s seeking conflict. And, midge definitely knows that dupree would fight harder over norma than a car. He can give back the car or make excuses why he doesn’t have it, but he can’t really hide his attachment to Norma-i think midge expects a better fight from dupree than that. And if midge dies, he probably thinks it will be more honorable to die for love than to die for a hunk of metal. Midge wants glory

      • 0213rose May 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

        I’m not sure if I’d agree with the fact that he wants a fight. He clearly has the opportunity when he confronts Dupree at his house, yet he does nothing about it. Like I said in another comment, they just stand there and have a conversation. He envisions killing him and hurting him, but he’ll never have the guts to do it. He is a reader and likes to imagine, not act on those things he imagines. I think hes just fooling himself when he thinks about being all tough and manly like the characters in his books.

        • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

          just because he won’t fight doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to. his whole life he has had no true conflict, he’s begging for an opportunity. give him some time, i’m sure by the end of the novel he will get ballsy and try something violent.

    • brittondallas10 May 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      I agree with this! This is not the only part in the book when you feel that Midge is wanting his wife back, and the car is just a cover up or excuse, but here I think the reader really gets how Midge is feeling with this whole situation.

    • stuartgaulke May 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      Agreed, I also found Midge to be daydreaming about Norma more often in the past few chapters. Also, Midge shot down his idea of going around town looking for his torino very quickly, which is interesting since he came all of this way supposedly for his car

    • shannonzwicky May 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      It almost seems like now that there’s nobody from his old life around except Dupree he can finally express that he really made the trip to take back Norma since he didn’t want to seem foolish before if he were to have told people he’s going on a trip after a wife who wants little more to do with him which would be why she left in the first place.

      • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

        Interesting idea, this also goes against the traditional hero story becasue a true hero would have confidence that he could easily win his woman back.

      • petekoczmara May 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

        Agreed. I think that coming to get the car was just an excuse to actually get Norma back. He just didn’t want to seem weak in others eyes.

  23. stuartgaulke May 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    When I see Meemaw, I don’t see the same antics that the missionaries used in At Play. First of all, Meemaw doesn’t travel around trying to convert, even though she did travel to Belize to be a missionary. She allows whomever to join for classes and movies but does not keep a closed door to those who do not show up regularily. She has very strict views on Christianity, but also realizes that the natives most likely are never going to have the same views as her. Basically what i’m trying to say is that I believe Meemaw understands the culture in Belize and rather than force her opinion on them, she is more lenient and allows the natives to come and go as they please

    • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      In a sense she is different, but at the same time she is similar. She uses worldly possessions that the native people do not have in order to draw them in just like the missionaries in At Play. On the flip side she treats these people like they are equals, ie the girl who was hanging out in the kitchen with mrs. symes and company, which is completely different to the Huben’s view of the natives in At Play

      • stuartgaulke May 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

        Yes, but was that girl just one of the random civilians that attend her mass? She seemed like she was a know it all suck up who was trying to show off how well she knew the bible. I don’t think any random person would be invited inside to the kitchen

        • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

          Yeah. Meemaw seems to want her charges to memorize certain passages of the bible, and she seems more interested in the appearance of respectability than anything deeper. On the other hand, she doesn’t have the zeal of the other missionaries, thank goodness.

        • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

          I think she tries to compete with Father Jackies missionary.

  24. hresan42 May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    I definitely don’t connect Meemaw with the missionaries in At Play. Memmaw is wholly devoted to her mission. The missionaries in At Play had a mission- convert and move on. Their goal was to conquer and move off again, slowly spreading christianity to the world. I feel like Meemaw is more people focused, and it does not feel as if she’s going anywhere anytime soon. If you put Leslie Huben in the British Honduras and told him he might be there indefinitely with limited funding he’d be out of there before you could say “Our Father”. Meemaw seems to be much more okay with the idea that she might be anchored there forever. She has kids to care for and thats all that matters to her.

    • 0213rose May 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      I agree, she is much more understanding and appreciative of their culture. She is there for people who want to join her and listen, and shes not overbearing to those who dont.

      • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

        She even tries to weed out the children that do not want to be there by showing the movie at the end of the lesson.

    • kristensteckbar10 May 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      I disagree, I think that Meemaw only focuses on the less important things of Christianity and only cares that the children can memorize and spit answers back at her. Does that mean that they are truly understanding the meaning of Christianity? Is that more effective than the missionaries in At Play? Just because they would leave when the natives would start practicing Christian traditions does not mean that they didn’t do the job that they were sent to do.

  25. meghanbradley10 May 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Midge tries to be so hard during his “stand off” with Dupree. He is posted up outside his house, drinking warm beer, and waiting for Norma to make a sliver of movement from inside the house so he can…know she’s there? Dupree won’t let Midge see her and if she wanted to see Midge, she would take the initiative and leave the house to talk to him.

    • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      Nothing says hard like a warm keystone ice. That would have been a nice touch by the author

      • cadams177 May 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

        haha, good point, but think midge is more of a PBR kind of guy

      • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

        i think a diesel would’ve been pretty tough. key ice is like water. diesel’s for the arnold schwarzenegger-terminator types

    • petekoczmara May 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      I personally don’t think Norma is in the house and I think that Dupree was telling the truth about it but since Midge is so determined to see her, he doesn’t believe a word coming out of Dupree’s mouth.

      • jasen May 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

        Midge does not believe anything about Dupree, whenever he comes up in the story, he tells us that that can’t be Dupree.

        • cadams177 May 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

          does he not believe it, or is it he cant admit it?

          • jasen May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

            When it comes down to it, whats the difference?

      • aarontrost May 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

        I agree with petekoczmara. I think she isn’t in the house as well.

      • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

        I think it would be kind of funny if Norma was dead, and it would sort of make sense to me. It would result in a failed attempt by Midge to win anything out of his adventure (lost car and wife), and failure seems to be what the author has built up to be Midge’s ultimate fate.

      • angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

        Also, Midge would have nothing else to go on. He would be starting over trying to track her down and the car was sold so he will have a harder time trying to find that. If he accepts the fact that Norma isn’t in the house the trip is worthless and he accomplished nothing by leaving.

        • shannonzwicky May 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

          He could always press Dupree for where she went until he was forced to tell her. At this point if Dupree didn’t have the gun I feel as if Midge would try to beat the information out of Dupree (wether or not he could actually do this is debatable) but Dupree constantly carries Midge’s .410 around. Speaking of wars, kind of ironic if Midge would end up dying by his own weapon, but, no guts no glory

          • angelaledford10 May 2, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

            I’ve always gotten the impression that Midge is all talk and never about action. So, weather Dupree had the gun or not, I don’t think Midge would beat the information out of him.

        • kristensteckbar10 May 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

          True that he wouldn’t accomplish anything in the way of tangible items, car and wife (mainly car), but he would accomplish a new sense of freedom from his apartment as well as an adventure that he has only dreamed about for 26 years. Even if he proves to be completely unsuccessful in his initial journey, he has definitely gained experience in the world.

      • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

        i don’t know if we should believe him. as midge put it, you can’t even count on dupree to lie.

        • jasen May 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm #


      • staceydahm10 May 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

        To me Dupree sounds like a crazy lunatic and I do not see Norma sticking around and choosing to go along with his plan.

        • jasen May 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

          You think he is a crazy lunatic, because of our perception of him through Midge. Really, we have no idea what he is really like. I would like to read his first person.

          • erinjones10 May 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

            This is a smart comment. He have to take everything Midge says with a grain of salt because we already know how skewed his perception and life style is.

        • 0213rose May 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

          Maybe her not sticking around, or maybe him kicking her out? What if he gets sick of her in his state of craziness? He seems like hes a little off his rocker at times…

        • meghanbradley10 May 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

          I can see Norma just using Midge and Dupree as stepping stones to get what she really wants, in this case that could be getting away from everything she’s known and going out into the world

      • shannonzwicky May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

        I agree, if she was in the house she must be locked up in a room in the back otherwise Midge would have seen some sign of her there. Midge is just to stubborn to change his mind, such as when he was told the description of Dupree crossing the border he refused to believe that it was the same Dupree he knew. Midge is hard headed

    • stuartgaulke May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      any chance that Midge steps up to the plate and takes the initiative to go after Dupree? He could finally live up to his historical hero type

      • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm #


  26. Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Remember the exchange:
    Did Norma rub that oil on you?
    No, these are my natural oils.

    • nicklevato May 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      i just found that weird. would his reaction be any different had dupree said yes? i think he’s just trying to get himself worked up enough so that he’ll have the courage to do something worth remembering

      • wakaflockablog May 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

        I found it weird as well. I don’t think a question like that would arise in most guys everyday conversation, and it adds to the weirdness and social awkwardness that the author has associated with Midge

      • Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

        Weird and nasty.

  27. Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Dupree doesn’t seem to recognize Midge at one point. And Midge suggests that Dupree’s political understanding is so advanced he can no longer tell anyone apart from anyone else. What’s up with that? Seems to be a knock on Communism or some such.

  28. Kel Daniels May 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Okay. I’ll be packing up now and heading to class. See you all in five, ten minutes.

  29. meghanbradley10 May 2, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    I think Dupree purposely called Midge by the wrong name just as another ploy to get him off of his front yard and away from him

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