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Tangents in Waterland
Transcript of Tangents in Waterland
You need to learn the past to understand the present.
Stories that seem random often come together to form the main idea.
"The Ouse flows on, unconcerned with ambition, whether local or national" (145).
The Ouse is a central part of the livelihood of Tom's ancestors, which you would not know if this was read in isolation.
The history of the eels seems irrelevant until we learn of:
Dick catching eels
Freddie putting an eel in Mary's pants
The Fen people ate eels
"Freddie sits with one... fixed eye directed testingly at Dick... [and] slips off along the bank to the wooden bridge and beyond, to where, as Freddie knows, there are eel-traps" (192).
"The wind which announced your history teacher's recovery by ceasing and letting the sun shine on spangled winter tranquility, doesn't cease for her. It continues to scream and howl. It's a terrible wind" (273).
"People die when curiosity goes" (206).
Tom's students do not understand why they need to learn about historical events, such as the French Revolution. He justifies it by explaining the importance of curiosity.
The weather relates to the character's health and sanity; there is rain when Sarah Atkinson dies, Helen Crick dies with the east wind, etc.
"But man-let me offer you a definition-is the story telling animal" (62).
This explains Tom's need to tell stories to his students.
Tom gets fired
Mary steals a baby