The Dollmaker Study Questions 2
1. Gertie is introduced to the reader as such a strong woman – fighting for her dying son’s life, working the land, and running the household. Why do you think she doesn’t stand up to her mother when she has the chance to buy the Tipton Place? How does her reaction to this event change your perception of Gertie? Do you think she makes the right choice?
Note: In an interview, Arnow admitted that she was irritated by Gertie’s inability to articulate what she wants. She ‘speaks’ with her hands and through Bible verses. Ultimately, she did not think Gertie was a strong character. Does it matter what the author thinks about her own character? Does it change how you think about Gertie?
Although Gertie is depicted as a strong person physically and even in her own way, intellectually, she is weak when it comes to standing up to her mother. This could be due to conditioning. Mrs. Kendrick has an extremely dominating personality and one can assume that she has dominated every aspect of her children’s lives when they were young. However, she controls Gertie by guilt. She has recently lost her brother and Mrs. Kendrick blames Gertie for his going to hell for the sin of dancing. This is just one instance, of the guilt that has been placed on Gertie’s head. It has taken years of mental and emotional abuse to control Gertie the way that she does. I feel that to question Gertie’s strength would be to blame the abused instead of the abuser. If anything, this shows her endurance. I do not agree with Gertie’s choice to obey her mother when it comes to the Tipton Place, but I understand why she made it.
Arnow saw the lack of strength Gertie had when it came to Mrs. Kendrick, but I do not think that she hated her because of it. It was her way to show the world how there are women who are subjected to mind control every day. I do not see Arnow’s comments as totally negative. I only see it as frustration with Gertie and her submission. It does matter what an author thinks about the characters he/she creates. To understand his/her position is understand the message that the author makes by creating the character.
7. At the end of the novel, when Clovis finds out that Gertie has saved money (which she spends on Cassie’s funeral), Clovis claims, “Why, if I’d knowed you’d ha had all that money, I’d said buy a place an wait for me…I wanted you to have what you wanted, Gert.” Were you surprised by this revelation? How does it affect your opinion of Clovis? Do you think Gertie has been unfair to him?
Lack of communication has been a problem throughout the Nevel marriage. Gertie does not trust Clovis enough to share her dreams. I was surprised at the statement and that is when I began to reflect on Clovis in the previous chapters. I then realized that all Clovis really wanted was to make his family happy, he just did not know to ask them what they wanted. Gertie, growing up in the Kendrick household, was not taught skills for a successful relationship. When the two collide, you have a couple who are both good people with good intentions. They just do not have the skills that it takes to thrive. She assumes that he wants her to be happy in the city and he assumes that having material possessions are what will make his family content. This is where I changed my opinion about Clovis. I then realized that Gertie had been unfair to Clovis even though she had not meant to.