The Dollmaker Study Questions
2. The decision to forgo buying the land and move to Detroit is really the turning point of the novel. Do you think it occurs too early in the novel? Do you get the feeling at this point that they will ever move back to Kentucky or do you think they will have to stay in Detroit?
I feel that the turning point does come too soon in the novel. I agree with Arnow that it is important to completely display what life was like for the Nevels in Detroit, but I feel that the reader would have been more inclined to sympathize with Gertie and Reuben if he/she were to be able to see more of the good of living in Eastern Kentucky and the characters from that area were more developed. I would like to say that they go back to Kentucky, but I cannot. In real life, most people who left Kentucky to go north for work never came back, and to be honest there was nothing for them if they did go back. I think that after the death of Cassie, Gertie will need to stay close and not abandon her little girl to a cemetery in Detroit.
3. Most of the children aside from Reuben seem to adjust to city life fairly easily. Why cant Reuben `adjust`? What does he share with Gertie, in this respect?
Reuben is a strong willed young man. Since he was one of the older children and he was a male, he has known quite a bit of freedom back in Kentucky. He had the wilderness as a playground, where Clytie, another of the older children, was tied to the house because of her gender. Once he has known this freedom the restraints of Detroit are too much for him. Reuben and Gertie also have a love for land and nature. Instead of seeing it as a hindrance to modernization, they believe it is a necessity of life. Once in Detroit, Gertie and Reuben cannot live their lives where there is no visible earth and greenery.
4. Do the abilities or capacities that make Gertie effective in rural eastern Kentucky hinder her ability to `adjust` in urban Detroit?
Gertie has used her abilities and capabilities to not adjust. However, those same qualities could blossom in Detroit if she chose to allow them to. Mr. Skyros could help her to showcase and sell her art, she could use her frugal ways to make even more money for the family if she would tell Clovis why she was saving, and with her love of nature, she could try to get away from the company housing and work in an area where she could use her knowledge of farming. Sophronie works and has children, so why should the reader believe that Gertie is tied to the house?
Arnow, Harriette. The Dollmaker. New York. Avon Books. 1999.