Nicole’s Response to pages 234-325 of “Orleans”

“I don’t pray, but I kiss the cross and I say good-bye. Then I walk into the swamp and the trees be so tall, it felt like a cathedral from a photograph, high arches, cool and deep and green. The water be warmer than it look. It feel good to the touch, so i step in, lower and lower, ignoring the moss and green scum on the surface. I drag my hands behind me and I start to feel so light. I start humming that song Father John be singing to Enola. It be soothing and I need that, so I be humming, then I be singing. ‘Would you be free from your passion and pride? There’s power in the blood, power in the blood.’ I lay back in the water like a baptism, and the swamp be dancing around my ears, little sounds like clinking glass, and it smell of earth and water, and it feel warm, like blood. ‘Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide; there’s wonderful power in the blood.'”

“The City takes. Well, if She want me, She can have me. Maybe then She leave Enola alone. I lie in the water and let the current carry me away” (Smith 305-306).

This scene is one of the most touching excerpts in the entire novel. In this passage, Smith effectively creates a powerful sense of poignancy. evokes a sentimental mood within the audience, and establishes a tranquil, unperturbed tone. At this point in the book, Fen has now “lost” Lydia’s baby girl, Enola, to Father John and has visited her parents’ old cottage to reflect her memories of them. The author implies that the protagonist, after losing her last loved one, basically succumbs to the City and is not really sure of what to do with herself. She does not have a motive to go anywhere, with no objectives to fulfill, like she had before when she was with Enola. This causes her to immerse her body and mind in the water and release all of her stress building inside, which is something that Fen had not had a chance to do throughout the entire novel. The author’s diction-words such as “soothing, warm, and light”- contribute to the tranquility of the setting and tone of the scene. Smith employs other imagery to add to the serenity of the swamp and forest, making this location be somewhat of a temporary haven to Fen. Smith utilities several similes: “The trees be so tall, it felt like a cathedral from a photograph, high arches, cool and deep and green” and “I lay back in the water like a baptism.” Comparing the foliage to a church allows readers to imagine the forest as colossal and open, a place that allows the character to finally relax and breathe. In addition, polysyndeton is evident when Fen expresses the trees are “cool and deep and green”. This deliberate use of excessive conjunctions leads to an effect of multiplicity and builds up the vividness of the imagery.  Moreover, Smith implements personification -“The swamp be dancing around my ears” to make the water come to life and, again, make the surroundings more lively. Lastly, Fen’s decision to let the city “take” her is straightforward, and this matter-of-fact way is shown by the syntax of the last two lines: “The City takes. Well, if She want me, She can have me. Maybe then She leave Enola alone.” These succinct phrases illustrate Fen’s hardheadedness and how her emotions do not get the best of her. While Fen might let her feelings escape, Fen’s “surrender” creates a mood of melancholy within the audience, evoking sorrow for what the girl has been through and lost.

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7 thoughts on “Nicole’s Response to pages 234-325 of “Orleans”

  1. I agree that at this scene Fen is succumbing to her surroundings, not caring what happens to her in this moment. The surroundings are described in religious ways, making the reader feel this religious like experience that Fen is having while being surrounded by nature. The water is compared to blood, as blood is the hugest factor of this whole novel. Fen is currently so full of sorrow due to recent events that she is now giving up, not caring what happens to her as long as it helps to erase her pain.

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  2. I’m really glad that you choose this scene because I was also really moved by it when reading. I also really like how you pointed out all of the various literary devices that were used in this scene. All of the devices that you mentioned help to make this scene so moving and special. I thought that the most effective devices were the similes because they helped me to really see and understand the moment. Even though there was so much going on surrounding this scene, I got a feeling of calmness when reading it. I think that helps to highlight how important this part was for Fen.

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  3. Despite all that has happened to Fen, this scene does an incredible job of illustrating tranquility for what feels like the first time in the whole novel. The entire novel was filled with emotions, yet stilled Fen managed to be in control the whole time. What we see in this scene, is both a literal and figurative “washing away” of her mental, emotional, and physical distress.

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  4. I was really moved when reading this passage as well. It is a strong scene of Fen basically giving in. Giving herself to the city, she no longer on that last important mission, she no longer has a baby to care for. Smith makes the reader connect with the text and almost sympathizes with Fen. This scene give an over all ending feeling to the novel, although i personally hoped the novel ended differently.

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  5. This was arguably the most vivid scene from the entire novel. The dissonance between what Fen is feeling and the lively nature of the scene around her is really striking, and I think it serves to stir emotion in the reader as well. Since she completed her objective, Fen has nowhere else to go, no tribe to return to, and feels as though there is nothing else to do, which is why she lets the current carry her away, until she realizes there is still one thing left for her to do to ensure Enola has a chance at a good life, and why she ultimately sacrifices herself. This scene definitely gives a sense of closure to Fen’s character, as if everything she’s been through is being washed away and allows her to make her final sacrifice.

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  6. I felt for Fen during this scene, the descriptive usage of words really made me create a clear image in my head. For example, when referring to high acres Smith uses “cool and deep green” or describing the water warm like “blood”. Another part of this excerpt is that she literally has nothing left, without Enola she feels like she has nothing to live for. When she lets “the city take her” I was extremely moved, she doesn’t know what to do with herself so she is basically going with the flow. It was a sad scene for me to read, however it is extremely important.

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  7. Throughout this section of the novel, I really felt emotional for Fen. It was a great foreshadowing for what was to come at the end of the novel, but what’s the most significant is how much she realizes that the baby taught her about tribe, what family feels like, and how important a connection to others can be despite all the struggles she has endured. She learns throughout her journey that her new-found tribe is what “is life”. Life to the point where self-sacrifice is more important ensuring Baby girl to safety. In this you also see how the water takes on a religious tone to present her a new life, “I lay back in the water like a baptism”. That also correlate to the power of the blood being important within this new racism, but also in the religious idea of the Blood of Christ. We see here that the water is foreshadowed to the end as a means to take her to eternal life. Like you mention in your blog, it frees her from any obligations or pain that she underwent to get to this very point of the novel.

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