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Into the Gorge

The setting was at the forefront of this story and had a clear purpose in the plot.  Jesse’s sense of family is found in the woods, and by the ginseng patch near his home.  The plot line that followed the history of his great-aunt and the underlying tension with Jesse’s own age both develop through the forest, and we are able to see a kind of duality between them.  With age, Jesse’s great-aunt was physically strong enough to still garden, but she went a little senile, and ended up taking off all of her clothes before her end.  Jesse seems mentally, fully intact, but physically he has trouble getting through the woods, and in a panic of being found ends up taking off his boots and putting himself in a situation that could potentially turn hypothermic, like his great-aunt.  Even the act of going through the water (which could make him hypothermic) is linked to confusion, but not on his own part, but his attempt to confuse the dogs.  Moral of the story: confusion =  hypothermia.

I couldn’t help but feel that he returned to the gorge, or stayed in the gorge in the first place, to maybe encounter the ghost of his great-aunt.  Although the reasoning behind this escapes me.  Maybe he is trying to find something that’s familiar, since the woods are no longer his, and his house has been taken over.

I felt sorry for him panicking like that, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the pushing of the officer was something premeditated or, like he talks about in some cases, an old fool’s mistake.  Jesse tries to make everything that might cause him trouble go away in the woods by physically removing it from his presence, but the woods won’t let him.  He pushes the officer down the well, but the well has a bottom that won’t let him fully go away.  He tries to throw his shoes, the pistol, but even these no matter how much effort he puts in end up hitting something solid that keeps them close to him, and just out of reach so he cannot change their location.  The forest restricts him.  For as much as it seems like he is alone there and has an intimate relationship with the land, he is ever conscious of the fact that he is not alone, and it is not his.

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