Saturday, January 16, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 3

In which Shane and Joe uproot a tree stump, and Marian bakes apple pies.

Doesn't sound like much to write a whole chapter about, does it?  And yet, I find it fascinating.  The description of Joe and Shane attacking that tree stump is so moving -- how they start off with such fervor, but then settle into a patient, determined session of chopping.  By the way, this is totally an aside, but my goodness, what wonderful physical shape those two must be in!  To chop at a tree stump hour after hour like that?  I wouldn't be able to move the next day.  

I think one of the things I like best about how this book is written is the way that Bob freely admits that as a child, he didn't understand what was going on between the adults at times, but that he doesn't then try to provide his own adult commentary on it.  He tells it like he experienced it, and doesn't try to shoehorn his own morals and meanings into it.  I dig that.

Anyway, while Joe is out learning to he doesn't have to be self-sufficient, Marian is learning to be content.  She tries to change up her bonnet to look fashionable, the way Shane told her bonnets were being decorated in the city, then realizes she's being foolish and vain, trying to be something or someone she isn't.  She's pretty embarrassed by this, though, and it takes her the rest of the day to get over not only the embarrassment of trying to be fashionable, but also of burning an apple pie.  Poor Marian.

Don't you love Joe's response to Marian's hat, though?  He says that "whether you have a hat on or whether you don't have a hat on, you're the nicest thing to me that ever happened on God's green earth" (p. 20).  Awwwwwwww.  What a sweet guy.

Favorite Lines:

The silence was clean and wholesome, and this was one of the things you could never forget whatever time might do to you in the furrowing of the years... (p. 26).

Possible Discussion Questions:

I'll ask the obvious one here:  what do you think the stump symbolizes?  And how about the pie?  Why do you think Schaefer put the pie in there too, and didn't just stick with the stump?


  1. That big ol' stump taught Joe that he could rely on someone else, but more importantly, it taught Shane to trust someone.
    He has known Joe only 48 hours. The moment he slips under root, he has exposed himself. Joe is considerably bigger and armed with an axe."I (Bob) wanted to shout a warning. But I could not speak, for Shane had thrown his head in a quick sideways gesture to fling his hair from falling in his face and I had caught a glimpse of his eyes. They were aflame with a concentrated cold fire."I really like every word of this book, and its depiction on screen.*This* moment, book or screen, always takes my breath away.No matter how often I read it,I think of him pinned and helpless. After all, *we* have only known Joe 48 hours, too, and don't know what's in his mind.Fortunately, with lesser drama of the apple pie, Shane cracks up everyone with "that's the best piece of stump I ever ate." Oh, Shane - I wish we could know you better.

    1. Kelda, yes, it definitely taught them both to stop trying to be entirely self-sufficient. But what do you think they saw it as? They attack it with much more vehemence than a simple nuisance would require.

      There's a movie called "Gunless" that also involves a man trying to rid his yard of a giant stump, only it gets used to much more comedic effect. One of these days I'll watch it again and review it, and try to puzzle out how and why the filmmakers put it there, since it HAS to be a shout-out to Shane.

    2. They were both angry coming out of their encounter with the trader. One of those "I gotta hit something!"days. The stump was a catharsis.We've been talking of neither man being violent, but Bob says "I never could have explained what that sound did to me....With it ran a warmth that erased at once and forever the feeling of sudden chill terror that our visitor had evoked in me." Alone, it's unlikely that either man could have cleared out the stump on his own. Shane started the project with his slight build and a lighter-weight axe. Joe picks up on the man's energy & joins in.I can't figure out why either one is so angry at the trader who they foiled.

    3. I don't think it's the trader. He was just what sparked them off. I think that, for Shane, that stump represents all the people who instantly assume the worst about him, like the trader did. And like the Starretts didn't. And for Joe, it represents the pressure from the guy across the river and everyone else who keeps saying his new ideas will fail. That's my take, anyway.

  2. I think the stump symbolizes the block that blocks intimacy between Shane and the Stauretts. That's how I saw it. How did you see it? Even though Shane is still silent concerning himself, I felt that he opened himself up a little bit more.

    I think that the stump was a block in Shane's and the father's relationship, and the apple pie was the block in Shane's and Marian's relationship. I think that the boy doesn't have any blocks with his relationship with Shane because he is innocent being a child, and he looks up in awe of Shane.

    Do you know what I mean when I mentioned the blocks in the relationships? I'm not sure if I make sense, but I'm not sure how to describe what I'm seeing.

    1. Ekaterina, that's a good angle! The thing blocking them from really being close, and they had to destroy (by uprooting or eating) it before they could be good friends. I like that! I hadn't thought of it. Like physically removing a wall.

  3. Best chapter ever, ten out of ten. :)

    I believe it *is* my favorite chapter; the whole battle with the stump was pretty exciting and I like reading stuff like that.

    Have I mentioned how much I love all the characters? Shane, of course, but Bob and especially Joe and Marian. <3 They're all wonderful.

    1. Eva, hee! It IS very cool. Not my favorite, but so very memorable.

      And yeah, they're all awesome. I want the Starretts to adopt me.

  4. The 3rd chapter fascinated me simply because it was just about that stump and the apple pie. Which means both of those items must mean something important.

    My first guess for symbolic meaning is that both the stump and the apple pie mean adversity. You come at it head-on and you don't stop until you've overcome it. When something threatens to beat you down, you don't just give up, you fight until you've conquered. For most people this means a fight that takes a lifetime. In this scenario, it takes a day. And I would assume when you've tackled this type of adversity, it does bring you rest, just like Joe said.

    We could also look at it as being representative of a stubborn streak in all of the characters. Marian doesn't understand the men's need to chop down that stump, but they don't get her need to bake a new apple pie, no matter how long it takes. The motives might be the same, but neither side can really understand why the other side is doing what they're doing.

    I suspect there are many angles to look at symbolism in this chapter, which is why I sort of enjoy the nonplussed curiosity of Bob who, as a child, doesn't quite get it.

    1. Carissa, I dig that :-) Stubbornness is totally important in this story, isn't it? In a good way -- not being willing to give in, turn tail, run away. Doing something that needs doing even though it's hard.

      And I like your observation about the disconnect between the genders -- that at first, neither of them quite get why the other has to conquer their obstacle, why it's important to them. But they come to accept that it is -- Marian baking biscuits for the men, and them eating her apple pie. Shane gets it, though, and then Joe and Marian do too.

  5. My own personal idea is that for Shane, the tree stump represents all the things that have happened in his past that stand between him and a life like the Starretts'. That he feels like they're blocking him, clinging to him, refusing to leave him -- we've talked in later chapter comments about the possibility that he might have PTSD, that these memories and experiences are clinging to him or chasing him.

    And for Joe, I think the stump is like Fletcher, this immovable, implacable presence that he can never avoid, something that's been here longer than Joe and is, by its very presence, preventing him from succeeding with his homestead the way he thinks he ought to.

    And for Marian, the pie is all about her need to contribute, to be necessary in what is so often seen as a man's world -- ranching, farming, tree-stump removal, they're what people talk about, and she needs to show and feel that baking and providing food and comfort and a real home are equally as important. When she fails to do that, it's like she's failed to be integral to their lives, so she has to bake a new pie to sort of let herself hold her head high and stand beside these men as equals in this big work of taming the land.


What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome! Posts older than 7 days are on moderation to dissuade spambots, so if your comment doesn't show up right away, don't worry -- it will once I approve it.

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)