The Character of Elizabeth Gruber in The River Warren
After reading The River Warren by Kent Myers, I felt a kinship with Elizabeth Gruber. Her loss had been an enormous one. Her return to reality and the world around her took great inner strength. The numbness and the void she was experiencing is very real and can be all consuming if not put in check, not just for women but all humans. We as humans are all different and the grief process is different for all of us. Elizabeth, upon being aroused from her pit of grief, realizes that her strength and connection with her husband, Leo, is the only thing that is going to bring him back form his deep, dark, prison of regret, grief, and guilt. I felt her pain in both the loss of her child and the painful silence that her marriage had become. As Elizabeth drives to the field and assaults the tractor with a rock, I remember times when I would have loved to do the same thing. Only I was not brave enough to attack the iron mistress that takes away the farmer's spare time.
Many farmers I know respond to grief, stress and anxiety the same way Leo Gruber does. They bury themselves in their work. There they can think, and they have control. Many times, with all of us, the intense feelings of guilt and sorrow make us feel as if we have lost control of our world. So we retreat to a place where we can have control. For Leo it was his work, and his tractor. Liz Beth brought him back to the real world. Cowboys, farmers and men of the west learned to shut themselves off, and they weren't allowed to feel or show emotion. To these men showing real feeling and emotion was a sign of weakness, and the weak don't survive in the west, at least that is the way they were trained to think for many generations.
My father is a fourth generation South Dakotan. For many years as I was growing up I wandered if he had ice in his veins, just as Jeff had wondered about his father.