The Dog of the South, by Charles Portis

26 Apr

For the lighter side of life in the shadows, we’ve been reading this odd and wonderful road trip novel. About halfway into the book, 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 apparently someone’s even seen Dupree. The plot thickens, as the saying goes. Consider the following questions:

How would you characterize the Dix book? On the surface, of course, it’s a simple salesman’s guide, but of course Dr. Symes treats it more like a sacred text. Is Symes onto something, in his strange way?

The detective story has continued to unfold. What “plot points” have we uncovered so far, and what do you make of them?

We’ve come upon a slowly developing, subtle theme of mysticism. Has that continued through these middle chapters? To what end?

What do we learn about Midge through Meemaw?

Finally, consider the religious “argument” between Meemaw (and Melba) and Midge. How seriously can we take it? Compare it to the religious argument between the Catholic and Protestant missionaries in At Play in the Fields of the Lord. 

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

  1. keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    For the first question, there’s a lot more information about the Dix book. He explains that the pages were brittle, the text was heave and black and hard to read. It seems as though the book is very dense and read a lot. It talks about how it’s an advice/tip book and how to become a good salesman. Some things that Dix says is contradictory and there’s tension and confusion.

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Is it “bible-esque” in any way?

      • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

        I feel like it is, in a way, since it leaves so much up for interpretation. There really isn’t a concrete message.

        • Gary "Not Brett" Miller April 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

          I think the tremendous sacrifice Dix went through to make it has some Christ like similarities. When there is some sort of physical suffering in order to create something bigger than oneself it can be seen as martyr like.

        • Brettjohnson April 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

          I agree. All of the dynamic tension and contradiction is something that is seen in many sacred texts, and is clearly seen within the Dix book as well.

        • mariacatalano April 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

          I agree with you Dena, the it seems to be very vague and deep, because it is a guidebook I think it can be easily compared to the Bible, especially because Dr. Symes treats is as such a sacred book

      • keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

        Definitely, there seems to be strict rules that one should follow just like the Bible tells us

      • Gary "Not Brett" Miller April 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

        I think Symes is both loony and on to a decent amount of awesome ideas.

        • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

          I don’t know how awesome his ideas are but I they are different. New ideas really do at least be taken into consideration before they’re discarded.

      • bamrein12 April 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

        I think that Dr. Symes treats as if it was bible-esque. One of the things that Symes finds interesting is that it was all written on a greyhound trip going back and forth to cities. One of the things I learned in religion class was Jesus had parables that he shared with his followers, so that they would “listen, but not understand”. Same thing could apply with the mystery behind Dix’s book. Us as reader’s know that a character finds significance in a book, that Symes understands, but we don’t.

    • Joe Wood April 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      I also kind of feel that it is an odd commentary on the lack of universal truths or “right ways”.

    • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      it seems like he does use it as a bible for himself. but in term of him actually following what the book says, i dont see that much. for example, the book says that you shouldnt be afraid to spend money, but the doctor seems to not want to spend it. he told ray he didnt have more than 50 dollars and he found out later he had a lot more

      • mariacatalano April 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        Very true, but the same goes for the Bible and people who supposedly “follow it”

      • Gary "Not Brett" Miller April 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

        It could be a commentary on the bible itself too. The use of the book as his Bible reflects how some use a real Bible. It’s highly touted but some parts are only used when convenient.

  2. Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    In response to the mysticism, I think it has continued with Dr. Symes’ sickness, as well as through the actions of Meemaw and Melba. They are all very “mystical” characters, in a sense.

    Also, I think that the religious argument between this characters is a lot less serious, I feel like. In At Play, the characters are arguing on religious grounds as intellectuals. Here, it is less of an argument than a lecture from Meemaw.

    • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      The tone of the religious argument in Dog of the South here is far less serious than the one in At Play. Meemaw seems a bit contrary, like her son, and that shows in this argument, but she isn’t as intense in her contrariness as Reo is.

      • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

        The tone is different, for sure, but the pettiness is pretty much the same. Meemaw’s whole argument is that Jesus never turned water to wine, because that would have made him a bootlegger. I mean, she seems to reduce the bible to an anti-drinking pamphlet.

        • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

          I thought that part was really funny. She was very adamant about her interpretation as fact, and seemed to consider it the most important thing, when it’s really such a small part of the bible.

        • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

          She does seem to do that! It’s as if she wants to come across as very knowing and very religious, but she isn’t actually. Otherwise, she wouldn’t reduce the Bible in this way.

    • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      I also love how Meemaw is not open to any other opinions. She simply says things that don’t make sense and is closed to Midge’s thoughts.

      • austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

        Yes, this attitude towards others’ opinions related directly back to her son’s lack of caring about Midge.

        • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

          Exactly! It’s like her son has a more drastic or intense version of her personality.

    • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      I agree with Dena that the mysticism continues with these chapters. Symes’ sickness has a sense of mystery to it, and his story about Ski and Leon does as well. Midge can never get a straight answer out of him as to whether or not Ski is coming after him, and it seems that Symes’ sickness is a result of his growing stress about this issue.

    • mariacatalano April 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      I aslo agree that the mysticism continues through Dr. Symes, Meemaw and Melba, they certainly keep everything interesting. There is also generally just a mystical vibe from them or in the scene everytime they are present.

  3. Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I think it is funny that he considers the Dix book a religious text. It’s funny because the book seems to contradict itself. In this way, many people think religious texts are unclear and confusing.

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      Yeah, isn’t “mysticism,” or even spirituality, often a matter of what some may see as nonsense? Like, do this but also that, and be careful not to do either. Sounds like of like Buddhism.

      • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

        I think there are a lot of people who find religion crazy. In the same way Midge finds it hard to take it seriously.

    • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      That’s a good point. I agree with Adam. It’s almost showing Midge’s own views about religion and the situation with his wife and his confusion with both.

      • austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

        It is yet another example of how Midge is so set in his own unique ways that any other ideas of how to do things just confuses him.

    • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      yeah i thought some of the points were contracting too. i also thought it was just some weird points, like avoid excessive blinking and wild eye movement. it just seemed to be a book most people would look over at a book store, not read like the bible

  4. austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    This Dix book is like the Bible of traveling salesmen. It has a plethora of tips/advice for how to be successful and make money. The fact that the Dr. carries it around, and has gone through it so much makes it “bible-esque”.

    • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      What Austin points out here contributes to the irony of the situation. It has tips on success and making money, yet Dr. Symes is completely unsuccessful in life. Furthermore, we are told that Dix traveled in a bus basically his whole life and ended up getting sick. Who would take serious advice from such a person?

  5. Brettjohnson April 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    I believe that we learn that Midge is an honest character when he is talking to Meemaw because there are many situations throughout their conversation about Reo in which Midge could have lied to her to make her feel better about her son, but he answers honestly by mostly saying that he simply doesnt know because of their lack of conversation.

    • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      i would agree with that. he never lied to her about what he was told and seemed to be very honest with what he did tell him

    • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      I agree with this as well. I think it also shows us that he isn’t all that great with people, at the same time, since he is aware he could say something that might make her feel better, but keeps saying other things instead.

      • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        I like when Meemaw says, you remind me of Otho. He couldn’t get the hang of things either. And she thought Midge was disabled because his feet go outward. Funny.

        • Gary "Not Brett" Miller April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

          I thought it was funny when she asked if he prayed every night for the little babies in little rock (98)

      • mariacatalano April 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

        I so agree with this! He obviously doesn’t really understand sympathy (maybe this is why his wife left him?) or just people in general. He understands what he should say to comfort her but in the end says well what would be the point in saying that? Completely disregarding the benefits of someone else’s happiness

    • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      I agree that Midge is pretty honest with Meemaw. He even talks about his relationship with Norma with her and Melba and tells them specific things that Norma used to say to him.

  6. Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Midge is extremely confused by the Dix book. The book offers what seems to be practical advice, and I think Midge may be having such a hard time with it since he prefers his own systematic processes rather than new ones. Midge looks for order and clear instruction, but cannot find it since Dix says to do one thing, and then not to do another. Midge describes himself as “impatient” with it.

    • Joe Wood April 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Maybe the Dix book, in a strange, roundabout way, is forcing readers to act according to your circumstances, not in the same way for every circumstance.

    • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      Because of the practical advice this book offers, I feel that Midge is trying to come up with more rules by which to live his life. Without a clear set of rules, Midge would have a hard time knowing how to live.

  7. keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I don’t know if Dr. Symes is on to something with its religious tendencies. He seems to think it should be the only book read and seems to idolize it. This kind of behavior is dangerous and pretty extreme.

    • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      I agree. Dr. Symes’ attitude toward the book is a bit extreme, but he seems to take this book as a sort of religion. Looking through that lens, maybe his attitude really isn’t so extreme in regards to the book. If it’s his religion of sorts, shouldn’t he be idolizing it a little bit?

      • austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

        I agree with Kristel. The Dr’s attitude towards even the “hidden trunk” reminds me of how fascinated some people are about long -lost religious relics (the ark, the holy grail, etc).

        • Joe Wood April 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

          Agreed! I think this is reflected in how offended he gets when Midge tries to guess what is in the trunk. It’s as if he’s trying to preserve the mystery and mysticism.

    • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      I like that this is also contrary to Midge. Midge reads many books but they are all very different than this Dix book. I think it is funny how one book controls the Dr.’s life and is unlike anything Midge wants to read.

      • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense. Midge is so set in his ways and seems to think he knows it all, but then is confronted with another piece of “truth” (in Symes’ mind, at least) and can’t understand it.

    • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      I feel like Dr. Symes is just a really odd character. His sickness definitely exacerbated that.

    • Gary "Not Brett" Miller April 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      He could literally be a genius and nobody would even know it.

  8. nicholasclark12 April 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    In response to Symes’s interpretation of the Dix book, it seems more like he’s attaching meaning to something ordinarily mundane. This correlates to the Bible in many ways, since some of the stories (in the Bible) are historical accounts that create a context for people to attach spiritual meaning.

    • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      that makes sense in terms of the bible. i would agree that he does look at it in a way many look at the bible and interpret it their own way or create a possible new meaning to things.

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Isn’t the bible also full of really mundane, practical rules–that most people completely ignore these days. Stuff about how many goats you can trade for this and that, and so on. Then it’s punctuated with mysticism, grand notions, magic. Dix has some of that, too, it seems. Or at least a cheap version of it.

      • Gary "Not Brett" Miller April 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

        It’s pretty interesting how that parallels. It’s like a poor man’s bible for traveling salesman.

  9. jessicaandujar April 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    In the way that Joe describes it, it could be thought of as religious because its open for interpretation of the reader.

  10. austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    To me, the Dix book is more advice on what to do in certain circumstances. On the other hand, the Bible has many concrete rules for any circumstance.

  11. keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    There was a nice detective-esque plot point when Midge had to try and smuggle Dr. Symes across the border. His plan to put him on the bus and then ultimately on the boat was very adventurous and gave the readers suspense to see whether or not they would be caught.

    • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      I also think this is a very detective-like moment in the story. I also think it is funny that he is showing this skill in helping the Doctor instead of using this skill strictly to find his wife. Midge puts a great deal of effort into things that are not directly related to him.

      • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

        Good point! Midge seems to have some good detective skills, but you’re right, he doesn’t really seem to be using them for his own gain.

  12. Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    One major plot point that happened is discovering that Dr. Symes had his medical license revoked. Though this doesn’t necessarily play into the detective story involving Midge and his wife, it does reveal quite a lot about Symes. He seems to bend the truth in some ways and then be almost too truthful in others. For example, with his schemes, he is so straight forward about stealing people’s money, but alters other details.

    • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      This point was really curious to me! His mom seemed to act like it was a big shame that it had happened, like maybe he didn’t deserve it. I’m wondering what he did wrong, and if it was because of (or maybe caused by) his apparent mental lapses. I don’t really know if that’s the right word–he doesn’t always seem all there.

    • keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      I agree, we now have more evidence to see Dr. Symes as an unreliable and sketchy character. He has many strong opinions and could probably use his beliefs in a harmful way.

      • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

        Definitely! I’m still unsure of the reliability of Midge, but based on what we’ve seen, Symes isn’t very reliable. I only wonder if that is intentional on his part or if it has something to do with his, as of yet, unnamed sickness.

        • keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

          Hmm interesting point! Midge definitely has more reliability than the Dr. and it seems as though it’s almost blatantly obvious that the Dr. is a very extreme character so it’s easy to put him in this role. It will be interesting to see how this illness affects his character. Maybe we’ll feel more sympathy for him or perhaps it will explain how he’s formed these opinions.

          • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

            Definitely! I’m very interested in seeing where this illness goes and what else we learn about it as well as Symes.

        • Elijah Olson April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

          I almost feel like it could be somewhat intentional and also in result of his sickness.

      • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

        he seems to leave out very important details about himself to others and he always seems to speak in circles. that is very unreliable

  13. nicholasclark12 April 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    With regard to the mysticism motif, I think Dena’s on to something. As Dr. Symes falls ill, even the weather turns foreboding, and his confusion creates a metaphysical feel. This is strange, considering that Midge had never been one to elaborate on such topics before.

    • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      🙂

      His sickness was a really strange part of these chapters. It’s also a big mystery how he got quite so ill in the first place.

      • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        And Midge hears word of Dupree singing and playing a mouth harp? He calls him a young Mr. Meig. Everything is getting weird. Then again, Midge keeps popping Norma’s pills. Interesting.

        • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

          I didn’t even realize that those were Norma’s pills. That certainly adds a new element.

      • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        I feel like his growing sickness could be linked to his anxiety about Ski chasing him. The more and more anxious he becomes, the sicker he seems to get.

      • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

        That smiley face was creepier than I intended it to be…

      • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        With all of these crazy people, it is hard to figure out who is reliable. Midge originally seemed strange, but now it is the people around him who seem to be nuts.

  14. natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    i think in terms of the detective plot moving forward, he is going in the right direction. i thought it was interesting when he was moving across the border and spoke to that officer he was surprised that dupree was listening to certain music

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      How about the gun? When a character packs away a gun, it’s supposed to come back into play at some point.

      • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        the gun was taken away by the officer. i thought it was kind of surprising he didnt really care about that either.

        • keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

          It is very anti climatic since it’s just gone now and nothing happened because of it.

        • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

          I was really surprised that Midge didn’t seem to care about the gun. Also, when he sees the gun, it’s almost like he is suddenly reminded of what he was originally planning to do with the gun…how on Earth could he forget?

      • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

        I thought it was kind of humorous that the officer just wagged his finger at him like a child. Midge really exemplifies the idea of a “coming of age novel” in this part, I think.

      • nicholasclark12 April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

        Yeah, I found it odd that Midge paid so much attention to his gun in the beginning, yet he neglects to hide it during his border crossing. It seemed fairly anticlimactic when it was confiscated instead of Midge getting to put it to use during his investigation.

        • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

          He kind of forgets about everything in the cooler; most of the food has gone bad. He’s really not a very good “hero”

          • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

            Exactly. The novel seems to be willfully not following through with our expectations. Purposely anti-climactic.

  15. michaelhoover12 April 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    As a side note, I found the discussion between Midge, Meemaw, and Melba to be excruciatingly hard to follow. Who was saying what? I had to keep backtracking multiple pages and counting the lines. Beyond that, it’s not even always clear who is talking from the beginning. On page 106, I thought it was Melba who was questioning Midge, but then she says, “What about you, Melba?” Now I have to re-evaluate everything that was said because it was coming from a completely different person.

  16. austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    I thought it was funny that Midge is usually the “detective” throughout the book, but when he gets to Mrs. Syme’s house, he is basically interrogated by the two women.

  17. Elijah Olson April 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    As far as the plot goes with this investigating, I don’t feel like it’s all that much of an investigation. Honestly when you look at this whole trip, you realize there’s no point to it. It’s not really a chase for the wife. The only thing is the car, but even that is somewhat meaningless. I think Midge is in search of becoming a man, but he is still doing a poor job. He still acts very immature and does things like borrowing money. The idea of him investigating makes him seem more like a kid playing, rather than a man anyway.

    • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      at the same time i feel like when/if he finally does find norma, the story is going to change a lot. i doubt he’ll just grab his car and go. maybe the “love” story will take a bigger role

      • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

        I’m starting to wonder if he’s ever going to find her at all. Maybe this is just going to be an anti-climactic ending. It also seems like she might be with a man who isn’t Dupree.

        • Elijah Olson April 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

          That’s true, I hadn’t thought of the possibility of him not finding her. I think it could go either way. I could see him giving up eventually after he goes through some changes. I also see him finding her and this big realization coming. It should be interesting to see which way it goes.

        • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

          That’s a good point; I hadn’t thought of that. It definitely seems like she might be with a different man from what we’ve heard in earlier chapters about a man without a woman and driving some foreign car. Maybe this is why Midge keeps hearing about two similar parties that both sound to him like Dupree and Norma, when it’s possible that it is both of them, but split up.

      • Elijah Olson April 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        I agree. The mystery is what is actually going through his mind. What is he truly chasing for. I’m sure it will come together once he encounters Norma.

    • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      I agree that the investigation does seem to have taken a step back in Midge’s priorities. For example, at the beginning Midge was constantly looking at his map and tracking credit card purchases, and now he barely mentions them. He seems to have lost interest in the map.

      • keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

        Yeah, he seems to have lost a lot of his methodical nature and just does things without fully calculating.

    • hilarysteiger12 April 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      I Would agree with you that its not your “traditional” investigation, however I would say that his trip does suggest that of investigation by his own actions. He is asking around for his “Suspects”, he has evidence he is using to find them and he has an objective to his search which are all key components during an investigation. I will say your right when saying he has the wrong objectives but I personally think this is an untraditional investigation plot.

  18. Joe Wood April 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    As a little side note about mysticism, did anyone else find it a little odd that Meemaw says that they don’t use doctors and she adopts a sort of Christian mysticism (if there is such a thing), yet her son is a medical doctor who acknowledges nontraditional (possibly mystical) remedies? Is there anything to that or am I just making things up?

    • austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      I agree with you Joe! That caught my attention as well.

      • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        And Melba is psychic; she hasn’t slept in years, or Midge is told.

    • Dena Baity April 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      Same!!! And she acts like its such a shame that he got his license revoked.

    • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      yeah that was really strange…i feel like she’s kind of a crazy old lady

      • Joe Wood April 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

        Crazy? Or a reincarnated, female Jesus? Now that would be a great plot twist.

    • Brettjohnson April 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      I did not even make this connection but that is a very good point!

  19. hilarysteiger12 April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    In response to the last question about the “Religious Argument” I think in contrast to “At Play in The Fields of the Lord” is the complete opposite. The components play different roles in each story and In At Play there are two oposing religions that are very strongly set in each of their religious traditions and beliefs and in the Dog of The South Midge seems to not really take religion into account at all saying comments such as “I don’t know what to think” and he has a religious nature but hasn’t determined Gods will yet. In my opinion The scene is a lot more laid back with less tension but both stories have a little humor during the religious scenes

    • Elijah Olson April 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      Yeah, religion in this particular story doesn’t seem to have as much of a role. Although It’s important, it’s nothing like At Play.

      • keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        Religion doesn’t take a priority at all, but if anything it’s a part of Dr. Symes and Meemaw’s characters. The Dr. has his religious book/Bible that he practically worships and Meemaw has dedicated her life to serving God and helping the less fortunate. There is religious parts of these characters which contrasts Midge and his scientific and logical background.

      • Gary "Not Brett" Miller April 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

        Did anyone think it was funny that Meemaw interpreted Jesus turning water not into wine, but grape juice.

  20. nicholasclark12 April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Since we’re on the topic of Midge’s detective qualities, I should mention that a lot of his “discoveries” seem more like strokes of luck. He seems to ask the right people the right questions at the right time. Of course, many famous detective stories experience luck like this in their stories, too.

    • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      I agree that most of Midge’s accomplishments are simply luck. For example, when he was in the car chase with Wilkes, Wilkes’ car broke down instead of his own crappy car (technically, Dupree’s car). That is obviously just luck. If anything, Midge’s car should have broken down at the beginning of this trip!

      • austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

        All of this luck could also play into the theme of mysticism…

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      He didn’t even bring a picture of Norma with him. Even he admits he’s a crummy detective, and a crummy husband.

      • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        yeah i thought it was strange he didnt have a picture of her in the car or his wallet or something. i feel like most married people have a least one picture on them like that. i think that just adds to how their marriage didnt seem to be normal and there didnt seem to ever really be love

      • Elijah Olson April 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

        Which is why I believe this chase is more about him finding out who he is and coming to important realizations. I don’t think he is going to become anything from this trip, rather he will learn about himself and start to grow up. The fact that he’s been able to say he’s a crummy husband and a crummy detective, shows how he’s already starting to realize things, in a more mature way.

  21. austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Did anyone else find the two old women’s obsession with mail odd?

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      That and everything else about them. The things they say all seem kind of random, but Midge is that way too, and so is Symes. How to account for all these crazies in one book?

      • Joe Wood April 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

        I think the extent to which they’re all so mundane is kind of honest about people though. Some people are just very concerned about small things. I mean, who doesn’t know some old person with a weird fixation on something like their neighbor’s cat or the chipped paint on the fire hydrant outside.

  22. austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    As opposed to At Play, this religious argument has no clear objective. I mean that the participants aren’t trying to gain one thing or another like the missionaries/Padre were. I think Mrs. Symes was using the talk of religion to figure out who Midge was as a person.

    • hilarysteiger12 April 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Agreed! People do tend to feel people out as who they are as a person by their beliefs. To me this conversation just seemed casual as opposed to At Play where it was more of a conflict.

    • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      I think Mrs. Symes just wants to continue making herself feel “better” than other people due to her religion and knowledge (even if here statements don’t actually make any sense).

      • Kristel_E April 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

        I agree with Adam. It’s like she’s trying to prove how much she knows and, in so doing, make herself seem superior to others, even though she doesn’t really make any sense.

  23. michaelhoover12 April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Compared to the argument in At Play, the one between Midge, Meemaw, and Melba comes off as more of an interrogation. While Melba remains relatively quiet and sympathetic towards Midge, she is definitely taking Meemaw’s side. Meemaw drills him for answers to questions of varying absurdity, and Midge’s responses are great. Like the Catholic from At Play, Midge does not let any of the argument offend him or get him riled up. Unique to him, though, is his disconnect from religion in general. He isn’t really interested in religion at all. Also, he never says anything intentionally to spite Melba and Meemaw.

    • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      I feel like Midge never really gets offended nor seeks to offend Meemaw in return because he realizes the stupidity of half his actions and he knows that Meemaw is right to criticize him. Since he has no real aim in his life at the moment, he is not easily offended.

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Excellent read. Meemaw is trying to do a hard-sell conversion. She calls Midge a “bible scholar.” He tries to explain he’s not, but she goes on to put words in his mouth. It’s pretty funny, and the other religious argument in At Play was kind of funny too. And both amounted to nothing.

      • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

        i think all religious arguments amount to nothing…everyone always thinks their right and the other person is misinformed

  24. Brettjohnson April 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    I find it interesting that most of us agree that Midge is doing well at moving forward as a “detective” but he doubts his own abilities when Meemaw asks if he has a picture of Norma and he does not have one he asks himself “what kind of detective am I?” or something along those lines. This once again shows his insecurities and lack of self-confidence.

    • nicholasclark12 April 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      He does have a lack of self-confidence to some degree, but I think Midge’s line here shows more about his original motivation for the trip. As others have said before – it appears as though Midge embarked on his journey for the sake of learning about the world and himself, rather than retrieving his wife or his vehicle.

      • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

        Well put.

      • Elijah Olson April 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

        Exactly, I think this line is more about comparing his original intent, to whatever it is developing into. It’s definitely changing.

    • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

      Well, yes. But also, that’s a pretty big error.

  25. Joe Wood April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    On the topic of learning about Midge through Meemaw, I thought that the part where she and Melba sort of tear him down for not even having a picture of his wife was a little bit telling about his personality. Drives all the way from Texas and doesn’t even bring a picture to identify his wife.

    • Sarah Oberg April 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

      This definitely hints that the trip is more about Midge as an individual than as a husband searching for his wife.

  26. austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Some of our earlier beliefs about Midge’s lack of self-confidence were reenforced during his “interrogation”.

    • Adam Bengfort April 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

      Indeed. If he is not confident about an answer he will simply say that he does not know. Also, when he has a contradictory point to make, he seems to be unable to interrupt his interrogators.

      • natlam144 April 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

        at least he can admit when he does not know something. that is a characteristic many people lack

    • keelangoettsch11 April 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

      But we also get to see a side of him where he is respectful and tries to be courteous to Meemaw and Melba. He also breaks some of his rules to stay at their house to eat dinner, although it was out of desperation we can still see him starting to evolve a bit and let go of some of his OCD tendencies

      • Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

        He’s a southern man, after all, and southerners respect their elders.

  27. michaelhoover12 April 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    When the border agent gives the information about these two people that are almost certainly Dupree and Norma, a really funny moment happens. The agent says that Dupree played music on a harmonica, and just because Midge thinks that this does not match Dupree’s character, he suddenly doubts that it was Dupree. This, in spite of the fact that everything else matches pretty nicely.

  28. austinschoeck12 April 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Throughout the whole story, people are describing a guy who is “un-Dupree like”. Could it be Norma is with another man?

  29. Kelly Daniels April 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Nice discussion. I’ll see you in class in ten minutes.

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