ELA 20: Longing to Escape

from WILD GEESE

The story is set in the 1920s. Judith (Jude) Gare, who is 17 years old, has a passionate and rebellious spirit. Her overbearing father, Caleb, seeks to control Judith through the relentless demands of farm work. Caleb’s tyranny intimidates Judith’s mother, Amelia, as well as Judith’s submissive older sister, Ellen. Lind Archer, a young woman who has come to teach in the local school, boards with the Gares. Sven Sandbo is Judith’s sweetheart.

For the rest of the day, Judith’s hands were of no use to her, so she slipped away with her dog, Pete, through the bush to a little ravine where a pool had gathered below the thread of a spring. Pete caught a scent and was off, and Judith was left alone.

It was clingingly warm, as before rain. Not knowing fully what she was doing, Judith took off all her clothing and lay flat on the damp ground with the waxy feeling of new sunless vegetation under her. She needed to escape, to fly from something – she knew not what. Caleb . . . Ellen . . . the farm the hot reek of manure in the stable when it was close as today. Life was smothering, overwhelming her, like a pillow pressed against her face, like a feather tick[quilt] pinning down her body.

She would have struck Caleb today had it not been for Amelia. Always pity stood in the way of the tide of violence she felt could break from her. Pity for Amelia, who would get what Caleb did not dare mete out to her, Judith.

Oh, how knowing the bare earth was, as if it might have a heart and a mind hidden here in the woods. The fields that Caleb had tilled had no tenderness, she knew. But here was something forbiddingly beautiful, secret as one’s own body. And there was something beyond this. She could feel it in the freeness of the air, in the depth of the earth. Under the body there were, she had been taught, eight thousand miles of earth. On the other side, what? Above her body there were leagues and leagues of air, leading like wings – to what? The marvelous confusion and complexity of all the world had singled her out from the rest of the Gares. She was no longer one of them. Lind Archer had come and her delicate fingers had sprung a secret lock in Jude’s being. She had opened like a tight bud. There was no going back now into the darkness.

Sven Sandbo, he would be home in May, so they said. Was it Sven she wanted, now that she was so strangely free? Judith looked straight about her through the network of white birch and saw the bulbous white country that a cloud made against the blue. Something beyond Sven, perhaps . . . freedom, freedom. She dipped her blistered hands down into the clear topaz of the pool, lifted them and dipped them and lifted them, letting the drops slip off the tips of her fingers each time like tiny cups of light. She thought of the Teacher, of her dainty hands and her soft, laughing eyes . . . she came from another life, another world. She would go back there again. Her hands would never be maps of rope-blisters and Jude’s were now, from tugging a calf out of a mudhole. Jude hid her hands behind her and pressed herself against the cold ground. Hard, senseless sobs rose in her throat, and her eyes smarted with tears. She was ugly beyond all bearing, and all her life was ugly. Suddenly she was bursting with hatred of Caleb. Her large, strong body lay rigid on the ground, and was suddenly unnatural in that earthy place.

Martha Ostenso
1900-1963

ASSIGNMENT

Literature often describes some aspect of the human desire to escape. An individual may desire escape from physical, social, emotional, or psychological circumstances. Whether the individual responds actively or passively to that desire affects the course of his or her life.

In this excerpt from the novel Wild Geese, Martha Ostenso uses descriptive details to convey to the reader a sense of Jude’s longing to escape.

What idea(s) does Martha Ostenso develop regarding the desire to escape? Develop your essay by providing specific supporting details from Wild Geese.

•FOCUS your essay on your controlling idea regarding escape. Provide only those details that develop and support your controlling idea.

•ORGANIZE your essay so that your ideas are clearly and coherently developed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply