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Thread: IB Big Fish IB

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    Registered User coltrane's Avatar
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    IB Big Fish IB

    Here we go again... since we all read the same book, let's start a discussion about Big Fish. All HHS students are invited, but IB students and pre IB students are particularly encouraged to jump into this conversation. So, what did you think of the book?

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    I thoroughly enjoyed Big Fish. I loved the short story feel to the book, but it was interesting to discover the common threads throughout the novel also. Although many of the stories were farfetched, they were still very intriguing. I believe there are many ways of interpreting the reasoning behind the four stories of Edward’s death. I think this is another technique the author uses to reveal the struggle in the father son relationship. I believe that each scene actually occurred, and with each, William was trying to find the proper way to say goodbye to his father. He was not sure what should be their last words, but he luckily had many opportunities to decide. The final telling of Edward’s death or metamorphosis, I feel was perfect for their relationship. William had always heard his father’s extravagant stories, but was never sure if he truly believed them. He was able to be a part of this magical ending or new beginning, depending on how you look at it, of his father. He will now and forever have this special connection with Edward. This was the best goodbye there could be. He did not have to think of the perfect final conversation that he knew his father would just make a joke about. This is my take on the four death stories. What do you guys think?

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    Registered User coltrane's Avatar
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    The book seemed to me like Daniel Wallace read a bunch of mythology then forgot some details and mixed up a few of the myths, then put them into his father's life story. On the other hand, aren't all of our parents in some ways mythical to us? Myth to me means larger than life, well known but also at some distance, with a mix of fact and fiction. Just musing on a Friday night.

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    Big Fish was a very interesting book. It seemed like the author put random events together and made it sound like a story being told out of order. I think flgirl073 is completely right about the four deaths. I feel the same way that William was uneasy about what the last words would be between him and his father. Each of the four deaths start out almost in the same way, but end differently. A person can never have four deaths in real life, but the way Daniel Wallace makes each of the four deaths end differently gives the reader different ways to interpret the death scenes. It's interesting how the book is in bits and pieces of different things, but at the end it all comes together and makes sense. The book is written like a diary or journal, and has a lot of flashbacks and forwards.
    I felt that the tone throughout the book was thoughtful and humorous. William is reflecting back on his father's life and he's trying to find the good things about his father. The story is humorous because of some of the things Edward tells to William about his trips when he is away from home and because of several exaggerations.

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    I think it was a very appropriate book to have for the "One School, One Book" program this year. It was a very easy read and it kept me entertained all three times I read it. I did enjoy the different takes on Edward Bloom's death, which actually brought me back to The Handmaid's Tale because Atwood also used this technique. One of the things I didn't agree with was Edward Bloom was so caught up in being and wanting to know if he was a "great man". Even when William gave his standards of what makes a great man, he still thinks his father is one. I think he doesn't really know his father and he might just be saying it just because Edawrd is dying. Either that or he's using what he does know about his father and saying "Sure, you did alot of great things, you're a great man". Maybe I'm wrong here, but I think Edward was just doing what he wanted to do. He did use them as a "pit stop before going somewhere else" and I think it was appropriate for him to use the guest bedroom because he was a guest in his own home.

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    Yes, I believe children often see their parents as larger than life in a way. I feel that children see their parents more as superheroes rather than responsible caretakers. Children are very gullible and at such a young age they do not know what is fiction or nonfiction. They believe everything their parents say or do is true, without question. However, in Big Fish William begins to be skeptical of his father’s stories. At first he was intrigued by his father’s magnificent tales from foreign lands, but as he grows older and hears more and more, his thoughts begin to change. On the other hand, going back to the idea that children believe everything their parents say, when William doubts his father about the two-headed woman, Edward brings up the idea of her sister, and once again William is wrapped up in the story. Many of Edward’s tales William knows can not be true, but he wants to believe them. This story telling is a strong part of his relationship with his father. Although it can often bring struggles, it also provides time for them to bond. As seen in many parts of the novel, the two often have trouble when discussing serious topics, so at least these stories allow them to talk. Also the many great tales told by Edward provide William with something to remember his father by. If he had made the decision as a child not to believe or listen to his father’s stories, he would have hardly any positive memories of his father. Overall, William describes his father as a myth, but his stories provide a key foundation to their father son relationship.

  7. #7
    I thought the book was okay. It wasn't an incredibly hard novel so I didn't get my brain fried over the summer The author's terrible fragments drove me insane though. I don't know why but his choppy sentences were just really annoying. I think my favorite part about the novel was the different parts of Edward's death. I felt like William was getting more and more irritated with Edward's jokes in the different parts. I felt like as William shows more frustration with his father's jokes in the different parts, he was being more honest with how he feels about his father. Also, the point of view was interesting. Often, William calls his father just "Edward" which makes the two characters seem more distant than they should be. I felt like William felt distant from his father because Edward is this great legendary person and William is so normal (well, as far as I could tell). But anyways, yeah-- not a bad book.

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    The Artifact zukazamme's Avatar
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    @rani: I don't think that Edward died four times but rather that his death took place in four stages, and that at each stage William was in fact trying to come up with something meaningful as flgril pointed out but was having diffuculty for the shear fact of not knowing his father, and was also somewhat irritated with his father's casual take on death.

    @coltrane: I agree with what you say about the muddled myths, this imo makes the story original in the way it progresses as it is similar to older tales yet also quite unique.

    @kappy: Totally agree with Edward doing whatever he wanted, but in the end they were his family and he did return to them for his, what appeard to be, death. Although he did mention somewhere that he regretted not being able to spend so much time with his son.

    I liked the book and thought it was rather interesting with it's magical realism elements , but it was difficult to get a sense of timing with his fragmented approach and I wasn't really sure what he was going for . Otherwise it was easy to handle and I read through it rather quickly .
    No works need be cited for this mangled message.

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    @ Zukazamme

    I remember Edward saying that he missed being with his son during one his (or stages of his) death, but William also said that it was horrible for him to be dying because he had to stay at home and not be out doing what he wanted to do.

    "So he was not a good candidate for death; it made being at home even worse...He became just a man, a man without a job, without a story to tell, a man, I realized, I didn't know" (pg 17).

    But I think it was more out of obligation and also that it was the right thing to do for him to go home. Also that he couldn't travel anymore was probably a big factor in why he went home. Again, he did say he missed out on his son's life, but after he says this, he tries to almost justify it with his dad being gone so long and not there.

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    @ flgirl073
    Your comment about children believing everything they hear from their parents is true. The fact that William believed everything and then started to doubt or get annoyed of the stories reminds me of The Poisonwood Bible. It reminds me of how one of the daughters was the worshipper of her father, until she realized that what her father was doing was wrong. Her views started conflicting with her father's just like William's started contradicting his father's views.

    At the end of the novel, the last paragraph, William seems like he's finally accepting his father. His father was always his hero, as he had said, and was still trying to help other people. His father became a myth to everyone because when people saw him and told others stories about the "big fish," no one believed it.

    Also, I think it was interesting how when William and Edward were born, something out of the ordinary happened. When Edward was born, it rained, and when William was born, Auburn finally won a football game. What do you guys think of this?

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    Registered User coltrane's Avatar
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    I had the most awesome post ever, but wasn't logged in. I'll be brief, and follow up later:

    Four deaths: maybe not literal deaths; at least not until the last one. Ask me about my grandfather sometime.

    Rani's last post: lots of myths and religions describe miraculous births; I know the Christmas story from my own tradition; do ya'll know of others (since we do have that I in IB?)

    I'm really pondering what the novel says about parent child relationships. I've been on both sides of that line, and I realize that I can never truly know my own father before I existed; I can only get it through stories, most of which are filtered through him, so in a sense he's only real to me in the time I've been alive. In the same way, my life before my kids were born will always be "fictional" to them. Do you guys see this in the novel? Is there a different pre-father Edward and post-father Edward?

    I'd also like to discuss the women/female figures in the novel, because women have always puzzled me, and the ones in this novel in particular.

  12. #12
    Despite Big Fish being extremely sporadic, I have to admit that I enjoyed it somewhat. He tied in a lot of mythology which I love, but I agree with coltrane; he did confuse quite a few. Nonetheless, his references to Greek mythology did prove to be a common thread. (I still think his confusion of these myths were intensional.)

    I am surprised that no one has brought up The Great Gatsby. I felt like the comparisons to Jay Gatsby and Edward Bloom were screaming in the reader's ear. I did talk about this a bit in my snippets so I'll just give a quick summary: both seem to be Christ figures due to the fact that they recreate/reinvent themselves in attempt to become "great" and follow their dreams.

    To coltrane, I do have the same feeling with my own parents. Their pasts seem "fictional" to me partly because I can't imagine them going to school or having to worry about relationship problems; they have always been "grown-ups" as far as I can tell. It is also very interesting to compare what siblings believe about thier parents before the individual births. I have two younger sisters and they have trouble believing "stories" about my parents that I remember experiencing. It's kind of like what we discussed in TOK; it's important to be open-minded and skeptical in balanced amounts. If you are too much of either one, you could either end up jumping off a cliff after a queue of lemmings or becoming the most ignorant person on earth.

    I think what makes Edward so unique is that there is no different pre-father Edward and post-father Edward. He is the same person throughout, aspiring to become "great" throughout his life; he never gives up his dream (much like Gatsby). In my opinion, William believes both pre- and post- father stories with the same skepticism. It's only until his father is about to die that he is accepting of them as a crucial part of his father's identity.

    As for the women in the novel, what about them? Big Fish makes all of women seem so dependent on Edward and his abilities. The only one who breaks the mold is the "neried" that Edward encounters at the grove and at sea; she aids him instead. Of course the novel is focused on Edward, but for Jenny "Swampgirl Mistress" Hill to go completely crazy after not seeing the "wonderful" Edward for a couple months is a bit too much for me.

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    I looked up the girl from the river and it seems that she is a Naiad. The Naiads were fresh-water nymphs, the daughters of river gods, who inhabited the rivers, lakes, brooks, springs, fountains and marshes within the catchment area of their river-god fathers. They were not immortal, but were still classed among the gods of Olympus. There is also a tie with the boat that Edward was on, The Neried. Nerieds, I think, were a type of Naiad that were more associated with the Mediterranean than with fresh water. there's some overlap because the Greek's thought that the world's waters were all one system. Ex. Arethusa, the nymph of a spring, could make her way through subterranean flows from the Peloponnesus, to surface on the island of Sicily.

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    I thought this novel was ok. It wasn't as exciting as I would have liked it to be (I liked Balzac a lot better ) but I think it was appropriate for the "one school, one book" thing for the reasons previously mentioned.
    I agree w/ Kappy about Edward, and William's true feelings towards him. I got the feeling as well that William was only telling Edward he was a great man b/c he was dying. I found it really ironic how Edward went through life trying to become great by accomplishing all these things and in doing that he was avoiding his family and denying himself becoming a great man by his son's standards.
    I also found it odd how Edward was so praised throughout the novel and seen as wonderful when, as said before, he was constantly putting his family second to his self-centered goals. Oh and you can't forget about the whole Jenny thing.
    Speaking about the part of the novel with Jenny, I found it interesting that since the story is told in Edward's son's view how the tone of the novel stays the same during that part. You would think that the tone would be different and somewhat resentful, but it seems to stay the exact same way as it has throughout the whole novel. What do you guys think?

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    Just as many other people mentioned before, I believe Big Fish was a formualation of many short stories put together to make one novel. Although these stories were at times random, once the story came to a conclusion, everything fell into place. For example, sometimes one chapter would end, and I would expect that story to be concluded in the next chapter, but sometimes it would just jump somewhere else. Nevertheless, this was a great novel full of many surprises, and through the magical realism, it was able to keep my attention because of all of the bizarre things that were mentioned. But, the greatest thing that I noticed in this book, and I think we all should have this aspect in our lives, is the huge amount of humor he contained in himself. Although in our lives not everything should be taken in a joking matter, but Edward had a great sense of humor, and kept things alive. Furthermore, even when Edward was "dying," he did not leave his humor behind. Sometimes this got irritating to William, but it was one of his dad's qualities that he had learned to put up with. In conclusion, I think this was a great "One School, One Book" book because it can relate to so many things in just everyday life, and because this book was set up differently, it was easy to follow and read.

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