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Great Falls: Key Quotes

Again, look for quotes that have multiple roles they deal with elements of character and theme. You should all probably try and learn the final quote because this is probably Fords most powerful statement about the modern human condition. It goes beyond just Jackie speaking, to this broader notion of Ford inserting his own voice/opinion through the character he has made. While this isnt specifically a quotation, the story is riddled with the words knew, know, and seemed and so, as a consequence of this repetition, there is a motif of knowledge that runs throughout the text. The repetition helps the reader understand, through simple, blunt repetition, that the conflict between knowing and seeming to know is at the core of the story.

Editorialising This is not a happy story. I warn you. - The reader is immediately implicated in the story through the use of the direct address. The mood of the story is established, as is our awareness that the storyteller knows they are telling a story. It sets up this notion that the story is being used for a purpose and therefore introduced to the reader the significance of story telling its not a happy story, but its important that the story is told. she thought they could leave the sticks and see the world together which I suppose they did for a while. And I felt something was wrongsomething I didnt recognize and did not know the importance of, though I was certain it was important. And I dont remember him ever smiling at me that way again. I thought even then, with as little as I knew, that these were opportunities other boys would dream of having but probably never world. And I dont think I was wrong in that. - The above few examples represent Jackie coming to realisations through the act of story telling. These moments in his life take on greater significance through the story, as they are lifted up out of the chaos of existence into the realm of significance. It was on a night such as this that the unhappy things came about. - Similar in impact to the opening line of the story (Talking about the unusual appearance of an unknown car when they arrive home) My father said nothing about it and I didnt either, thought I think now for different reasons. - Only in retrospect is Jackie able to understand the difference in perspective. As a child, Jackie doesnt say anything about the car because he thinks nothing of it. His father doesnt say anything because he does know what it means that someone is there that shouldnt be and he doesnt know how to explain that to his son. Only by telling the story can Jackie truly understand this and so bring meaning to this moment that would otherwise be lost in the chaos of existence. But I hadnt thought about that though later I would. Later I would think I should have gone with her, and that things between them mightve been different. But that isnt how it happened.

Things seldom end in one event. - Here was have Jackie putting together moments that would not have seem directly linked at the time. However, by constructing this passage of his life into a narrative (a story) he is able to draw connections between disconnected moments to help give them significance. I think we both believed we were in a fog we couldnt see through yet, though in a while, maybe not even a long while, we would see the lights and know something. And in any event, I know now that the whole truth of anything is an idea that stops existing finally. - This is a very potent quote that expresses Jackies understanding of the potential lack of universal meaning that surrounds modern existence. Its the notion that there is no whole truth thats important, no universal truth. Its by telling the story that Jackie is able to come to this realisation. I thought to myself that my life had turned suddenly, and that I might not know exactly how or which way for possibly a long time. Maybe, in fact, I might never know.

The Problem of Knowledge / The Limits of Certainty (Look at how many times the word know/knew and seems/seemed comes up, as well as observing how Jackie often uses the phrasing I thought, suggesting an attempt to know, but a knowledge that that ability to know is limited.) He liked The Mermaid, and my mother as far as I knew didnt mind it if he went there. (Jack Russell talking about Jackies mum and her idea that no one dies of a broken heart) We were living down in Texas and wed had some big blow-up, and that was the idea she had. I dont know why. I did not answer him, but what I thought was that my father knew nothing about farming, and if was right it would be an accident. He knew about planes and hunting game, and that seemed all to me. (On first meeting Woody) He did not seem afraid of anything. I could smell the irrigation ditch, hear it hiss in the fieldIt was nothing Woody knew about, nothing he could hear or smell. He knew nothing about anything that was here. - This ones interesting in a different way because it points to how our way of seeing the world is unique, because we each have a unique persective and knowledge of the world. Jackie can know these sounds and smells because hes lived them, while Woody cant. This is what fundamentally separates humans from each other, this idea that everyones knowledge of the world is different and so we can never share perspectives. I wondered what Woody knew that I didnt. Not about my mother I didnt know anything about that and didnt want to. He and I were not so far apart in age, I knew that. But Woody was one thing, and I was another. And I wondered how I would ever get to be like him, since it didnt necessarily seem so bad a thing to be. - points out the irreconcilable difference between one person and another. As much as we want to know what it is to be someone else, we never can. As a consequence, how can we ever connect to other human beings if we are always already disconnected from them?

Did you know your mother was married before? Woody said. a smile that said he knew something he wouldnt tell, a smile that made you feel bad because you werent Woody and never could be. - The important part here is the never could be, thats the cold, hard truth from Ford. Woody seemed willing to let my father push him. though I thought she was thinking about me, which made me feel strange. (About his father) I think he was afraid. Everything must have seemed out of hand to him. And I wondered what they had to say to each other, something important enough that they had to stop right at the moment and say itThese are not the kinds of things you can know if you were not there. - This is particularly valuable as a quotation for representing the limitations of knowledge. This conversation between Woody and his mother as they drive away is key for Jackie in terms of understanding both Woody and his mother properly; however, he is permanently denied access to this conversation, which highlights how limited our knowledge of others is and how we are stranded in a situation where even the people closest to us are ultimately mysteries.

Images of Light (Our main interest in the light imagery in this story is they way in which they draw the readers attention to the darkness that surrounds the characters. The light is ways in pools or coming from specific fixtures, with everything else around it being dark.) the lights of Great Falls sank below the horizon, and I could see the small white lights of farms, burning at wide distances in the dark. - This is quite nice in terms of the way it develops this notion of pockets of light in amongst the dark. It really shows that we are surrounded by the dark at all times, which is a nice way for Ford to get across his belief that we are surrounded by the unknowable, or surrounded by chaos. And I could see out in the night the yellow lights of our house, shining through the olive trees south of us like a ship on the sea. - You get a great feeling of isolation here as a result of the simile. It really helps to show the emptiness of the surroundings and that sense of being surrounded by the unknown. You could see moonlight off the taillight chrome. My dog, Major, came outand stood in the car lights when we drove up. Woody and I walked outside and stood in the light of the floodlamp above the side door. Woody turned and looked into the dark toward where the glow of Great Falls rose on the horizon, and we both could see the flashing lights of a plane lowering to land there.

The Gun Symbol

My father took the revolver pistol out of his coat and put it up under Woodys chinI dont know what to do with you, my father said. I dont have any idea what to do with you. I just dont. (Jack Russell talking to Woody) Are you in love with her, too? Are you, crazy man? Are you? Do you say you love her? Say you love her! Say you love her so I can blow your fucking brains in the sky. - these two quotes are really about control. The gun, for Jack Russell, is a way for him to try and take control over a chaotic situation. We see this particularly in the second quote where his desperation is not so much for revenge, but for an explanation that will allow him to act in a way he understands. He needs Woody to be in love with his wife because that is a story he can understand and that he knows how to react to. However, Woodys motives remain uncertain and so the gun is impotent. The suggestion is that there is no way to control that uncertainty, as much as we want it, we are powerless to get it. I do not think she thought my father would shoot Woody. And I dont think Woody thought so. Nobody did, I think, except my father himself.

The Unknowability of Others (This idea is seen throughout most of the other quotes above, its just that the quotes below are directly tied to figures not being what they initially were thought to be.) My father blinked again. He seemed to be becoming someone else at that moment, someone I didnt know. - This is almost a summation of what the story is about. Jackie realising that his certainty about who his parents are is fundamentally wrong and that ultimately, he cant know who they really are. Once hes seen that moment of crisis, he can never see his parents in the way he used to see them and so they become forever unknowable. Though I remember wondering if Woodys heart was broken and what any of this meant to him. She looked pretty in a way I didnt remember seeing her, as if something that had a hold on her had let her go, and she could be different about things. - To a large extent this is the same as the quote with Jack Russell. Here we discover Jackies realisation that is mother isnt who she used to be. If she is able to change like this, then it impossible for Jackie to ever be certain of who his mother is which is therefore the situation that the reader must realise is true of their own lives.

Rhetorical Questions Why wouldnt my father let my mother come back? Why would Woody stand in the cold with me outside my house and risk being killed? Why would he say my mother had been married before, if she hadnt been? - Just like in Rock Springs, the rhetorical questions draw the readers attention to the core issue of the text, this time the problem of knowledge, or the limitations of knowledge. Jackie eventually admits that he will never know the answer to these questions. The questions point out that, ultimately our worlds are unknowable because our knowledge of the world is limited. At the same time, these questions illustrate the desire for that knowledge, the desire to gain stability; however, the story illustrates that that is a stability we will never gain.

The Modern Human Condition

But I have never known the answer to these questions...Though possibly it the answer is simple: it is just low-life, some coldness in us all, some helplessness that causes us to misunderstand life when it is pure and plain, makes our existence seem like a border between two nothings, and makes us no more or less than animals who meet on the road watchful, unforgiving, without patience or desire. - Probably Fords most harrowing line, but a great one for illustrating both what Jackie comes to understand about the human condition as a consequence of telling his story, and about Fords attitude to the modern condition. For Jackie, telling his story has at least provided some consolation, he at least better understands the nature of the world, and that is ultimately the power of story it provides consolation, in a world that is a border between two nothings, the story allows the individual to give significance to the chaos of their existence and so perhaps lifts them beyond the animals who meet on the road because at least we can tell the story of that meeting.

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