Reading Group Discussion: The Long Walk (Tuesday, July 30th)

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roadhawg

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Question: Did Ray actually see his girlfriend and mother in the crowd as the Walkers passed through his hometown? At first I thought they were real and then I wondered if it was in his mind. Do you know?

I haven't read the book recently so maybe i won't give the best answer but i thought it was never determined. And was he falling further into exhaustion at that point to where he could be hallucinating? As i don't remember how late in the book that happens
 

do1you9love?

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The only homoerotic part I'm noting is the sexual daydream he has where he confuses his girlfriend with McVries. Other than that, I think he just idolized the guy. Classic story of big brother, captain of the team, whatever...just hoping the other guy's glory will shine on you. That's mostly what I mean. As I said, I don't think Ray was gay.
Understood. Desire to be.

Things that stuck with me for this tale...

His longing for his family.
His embarrassent first time he had to "go" while walking.
His determination to beat the "one ahead" when he was the last.
 

roadhawg

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....I've read it several times, and each time I come away with another thought about "the shadow" and how/if Ray's mind had slipped for good.....

roadhawg

I think GNT is referring to the ambiguous ending. It isn't clear whether Ray dies and sees the Reaper (or God/Devil) or if is still alive, albeit delirious.


I agree but maybe i misunderstood, I thought GNT was hinting that he did not like the ending. Because yes, sometimes you want a definite ending but i find it fun to not fully know what he is seeing in the end and leaving it up to the imagination. although sometimes that can be annoying
 

Doc Creed

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There are several characters, and as we read we get to see the person behind the number. Who stood out to you? I thought Scramm was an interesting character just because he was married and expecting a child. He was sort of a unicorn among the bunch and some of them were wary of him and drawn to him. Garraty was even impressed that Scramm had facial hair. I like how Garraty helps rally the Walkers to commit to helping Scramm's widow should Scramm die. The winner had to swear to commit to this selfless act. I saw it as children becoming men, doing something for someone else.
I also liked McVries and Barkovitch, even though the latter was crazy.
 

roadhawg

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That's interesting. I never once questioned that Ray was alive and was seeing "the last runner" AKA no one - yes, mind broken, he was done.

I took the ending that he was done, through his mind or death. Because he was so exhausted after days of walking (5 days?) due to how he could run at the end despite wanting to collapse seconds before
 

Marty Coslaw

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Keep pickin' em up and puttin' em down.
As Bev Vincent pointed out, this was SK first written work.
So many elements within. The descriptions were extremely vivid.

I do have a thought/ question--- those readers of my era.
Does anyone feel this was a metaphor for the Vietnam War? Written during that period/ the draft being televised/ seeing friends die.
And the ending-- describes what it is like to be the survivor while others died around you? Just some thoughts.......
I definitely got the impression that the senselessness of the boys' feeling some obligation to volunteer was meant to mirror, or at least make the reader think about the social pressure that motivates some men to enlist. I thought the references to being chosen for the Squads was meant to make us think about the draft.
 

Doc Creed

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That's interesting. I never once questioned that Ray was alive and was seeing "the last runner" AKA no one - yes, mind broken, he was done.
The first time I read it I took it as he died and The Dark Man got him and that's why he ran. The second time I was more hopeful. Funny what we project onto a story. But, that's the power the writer gives us when ambiguous endings are done as well as this one.
 

Spideyman

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Just north of Duma Key
Keep pickin' em up and puttin' em down.

I definitely got the impression that the senselessness of the boys' feeling some obligation to volunteer was meant to mirror, or at least make the reader think about the social pressure that motivates some men to enlist. I thought the references to being chosen for the Squads was meant to make us think about the draft.
Absolutely.
 

Doc Creed

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Doesn't McVries half-jokingly ask Garraty to jerk him off? Am I thinking of a different walker? Either way, I would definitely like to know what other people thought of the homoerotic undertones for whichever characters are involved.
Yes, he does, but in this instance I didn't think anything of it. This is very much in the parlance of what young guys say and do. Just crude, frivolous talk.
 

Marty Coslaw

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Yes, he does, but in this instance I didn't think anything of it. This is very much in the parlance of what young guys say and do. Just crude, frivolous talk.
Yeah, I completely agree that I sensed no implication that either of them was actually interested in the other sexually, or even in men in general. But this part really intrigued/confused me:
Mcvries laughed again.
"I'm supposed to feel like a heel because you owe me something and I'm taking advantage? Is that it?"
"Do what you want," Garraty said shortly. "But quit playing games."
"Does that mean yes?"
"Whatever you want!" Garraty yelled.
 

Marty Coslaw

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Some of the deaths in this novel are not for the squeamish. Was it Olson who was holding in his guts with his hands as he limped along, refusing to stop. This scene was sad and horrific and it feels like it goes on forever. I think it was Olson, can't remember.
Somehow they seem to be progressively more objectionable as the book goes on, which is saying a lot. That one was one of the worst.
 

Doc Creed

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Yeah, I completely agree that I sensed no implication that either of them was actually interested in the other sexually, or even in men in general. But this part really intrigued/confused me:
Mcvries laughed again.
"I'm supposed to feel like a heel because you owe me something and I'm taking advantage? Is that it?"
"Do what you want," Garraty said shortly. "But quit playing games."
"Does that mean yes?"
"Whatever you want!" Garraty yelled.
Is that in referral to what you said before? Yeah, I think this was one of the parts which made me raise an eyebrow. It was kind of odd. I just couldn't make heads or tails of it.
 

Doc Creed

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Another factor unique to this story was the very nature of the Walk brought the group together (some of them, at least) in a short amount of time. Four or five days, I think. I was surprised at how emotional the scenes are of Baker dying at the end and Garraty promising not to watch him die in the road. Had a lump in my throat. The writing is at gut level with this book. Everything is heightened, as I said before. They are all literally marching to their death with only one hopeful survivor among them.