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Old 04-18-2010, 11:08 PM   #1
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Discussion: The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald (spoliers)

Hey folks... lets get this party started. What did you think of this book. Did it make you smile, snicker, giggle, lol?

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Old 04-19-2010, 01:02 AM   #2
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I'd like to add another question.

Do you think the book was more enjoyable (to you) due to having some experience with the situations described in the book or enjoyable due to having heard family stories about growing up in that era?
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Old 04-19-2010, 02:41 AM   #3
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I haven't finished, but I find it a very entertaining read, but sometimes boring I've read a few other books in between.

I think there's a lot in there which is more funny to females than to males, such as her stillborn bread (I've made one of those as well in the early days of being married).

As an animal lover I don't understand how she can hate chickens, but I expect it's easier to chop their heads off if you do.

I have smiled, giggled and even laughed.
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Old 04-19-2010, 02:43 AM   #4
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I'd like to add another question.

Do you think the book was more enjoyable (to you) due to having some experience with the situations described in the book or enjoyable due to having heard family stories about growing up in that era?
I think it was more enjoyable for me due to me being a woman..
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Old 04-19-2010, 08:14 AM   #5
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Betty MacDonald nicely captured my memories of growing up on a farm before electric power was connected. Some of the narrative was idealized (living between neighbors falling at two behavioral extremes), but she got the raw parts right. Humor was what made things bearable.

Chickens are not bright but they do have standards. One is pecking order. I used to confound them by dropping a big pile of feed in front of the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order and watch her struggle with an ethical dilemma until the top hens rushed over and took their share. How many people could do this?
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Old 04-19-2010, 08:41 AM   #6
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I am surprised at how negative she is about her neighbors. I "flipped" back to the beginning to see if names were changed but I didn't see it. "Ma Kettle" sounds too much like the TV character of the same name.

The story makes me glad I have a nice cushy 8-5 job in a climate controlled office.
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Old 04-19-2010, 08:56 AM   #7
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Yes! The discussion has started! Two days earlier than expected! (Well, a day and 52 minutes earlier, to be precise.)

As a comedic work, I found it lacking. There were moments of mirth, to be sure, and some interesting comedic descriptions of people, things, and events here and there, but as a whole I was disappointed in that regard. What it lacked in humor, however, I felt it made up in realism and characterization. You could almost see the dirt under the nails that planted and smell the sweat of the workers who toiled. The neighbors seemed like people you knew, or had at least met more than once. And I learned that next time I plant potatoes, make sure at least 3 eyes are in the slice planted!
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Old 04-19-2010, 09:28 AM   #8
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Well, it wasn't quite a comedy as I expected, but it wasn't decidedely un-funny either. As I got about 2/3 in, I felt it started to drag and get boring.

She comes across as a social, well-educated person, and it can't have been all that funny for a 19-20 year old girl like her to be dragged to the back of beyond by her new husband. She's done quite a good job of presenting it all in a positive light.

I can't see she's especially negative about her neighbours. As with everyone else, including herself and her husband, she creates comedic characters out of people. As far as I understand, she quite liked the Kettle's. It wasn't as if she could do much in eth way to choose her company, she had to make the best of what was available.
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Old 04-19-2010, 09:37 AM   #9
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I can't see she's especially negative about her neighbours. As with everyone else, including herself and her husband, she creates comedic characters out of people. As far as I understand, she quite liked the Kettle's. It wasn't as if she could do much in eth way to choose her company, she had to make the best of what was available.
I'm only half way through, so maybe the tone changes further in. But, so far, she describes the Kettles as lazy and filthy. Her description of her other neighbors focused on the wife's obsession with her inner body malfunctions and the wife's mother as being annoying.

I did get a chuckle out of Bob going over there to argue and finding Mrs. Kettle sitting in the open outhouse doing her business.
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Old 04-19-2010, 09:40 AM   #10
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I'm only half way through, so maybe the tone changes further in. But, so far, she describes the Kettles as lazy and filthy. Her description of her other neighbors focused on the wife's obsession with her inner body malfunctions and the wife's mother as being annoying.
But what if they were lazy and filthy? She also describes the Kettle's as friendly and she appears to generally like/accept them. Perhaps you should hasten to read the rest of the book
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Old 04-19-2010, 12:28 PM   #11
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I am surprised at how negative she is about her neighbors. I "flipped" back to the beginning to see if names were changed but I didn't see it. "Ma Kettle" sounds too much like the TV character of the same name.
.
"Ma Kettle" sounds like the TV character, because the TV-Character was modeled after the Ma Kettle from the book

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_and_Pa_Kettle

Ma and Pa Kettle are comic characters who first appeared in the 1945 best-selling novel The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald about life on a chicken farm. She based them on real-life farming neighbors[1] in Washington state, U.S.A. In 1947, Universal Pictures adapted it into a film starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, with Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride as the Kettles. After positive audience reaction, Ma and Pa Kettle and their fifteen children became the subject a series of their own very popular comic films.

Betty MacDonald's characters Ma and Pa Kettle also appeared in television's first comedy serial, The Egg and I, which aired on CBS (September 3, 1951-August 1, 1952)[6]. Each episode was only 15 minutes long. Ma Kettle was played by Doris Rich and Pa Kettle was played by Frank Twedell. Betty Lynn (better known as Barney Fife's girlfriend Thelma Lou from The Andy Griffith Show) played Betty MacDonald in some episodes, including "Pa Turns Over A New Leaf" (which aired on May 21, 1952).

The 1980 satire film Loose Shoes (which also starred Bill Murray) included a sketch called "A Visit With Ma and Pa" where Ma Kettle was played by Ysabel MacCloskey and Pa Kettle was played by Walker Edmiston.

Animator Walter Lantz produced a short-lived cartoon series for Universal Pictures called "Maw and Paw," though only four cartoons were released between 1953 and 1955. The characters Maw and Paw (voiced by Grace Stafford and Dal McKennon) were based on the characters of Ma and Pa Kettle. The spellings of Maw and Paw Kettle appeared in the 1945 book [The Egg and I].


Oh, and I thorougly enjoyed reading the book, and had to chuckle quite often - even without personal chicken background

Last edited by lila55; 04-19-2010 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 04-19-2010, 02:19 PM   #12
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I liked the part where they as children try to find out where babies come from, where the sister Mary end up proclaiming:
Quote:
Ladies and Gentlement babies are born out of people's stomach holes.


In another part the husband Bob and Betty herself hopes that working under pressure will make here more efficient and structured which ends with the following conclusion:
Quote:
unfortunately we both found that like the Government when given more bureaus to handle, I merely became more inefficient on a much larger scale.
Two things in the book keeps coming back:
The relation to food in all it forms and Stove on which the food is prepared, you sure get a lot of reports on the stove all throughout the book.

To sum it all up from Bettys' perspective on hens:
Quote:
The thing that defeats me about a hen is its unresponsiveness. You can pour your heart's blood into their upbringing and all you can hope for is a squawk. You can stroke cats, pet dogs and ride horses, but the only thing you can do with a hen is eat it.
Finally at the end Betty hopes for some not so early mornings when they're planning to move to a more modern house and Bob concludes this with:
Quote:
Oh, that wont make any difference. Bob said. Chickens have to be fed anyway and the earlier you feed em the sooner they start to lay.
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Old 04-19-2010, 02:57 PM   #13
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Two things in the book keeps coming back:
The relation to food in all it forms and Stove on which the food is prepared, you sure get a lot of reports on the stove all throughout the book.
Yes, the food, I noticed that, too, and I felt not a little envy over all that fresh food she had access to
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Old 04-19-2010, 03:23 PM   #14
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Yes, the food, I noticed that, too, and I felt not a little envy over all that fresh food she had access to
Ah the food. America! what a Wonderful Food! The seafood, the venison. Actually she potted it. No mention of scallops though. Maybe they do not have scallops on the West Coast. I have not finished the book yet. You started a little before the time. Never mind. I have been waiting this discussion for a long time. Go on please. I will catch up.
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Old 04-19-2010, 03:48 PM   #15
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Speaking of food; I was disgusted when she described how her neighbors would boil everything. In one scene she was invited to dinner and they boiled a standing rib roast. Criminal!

The theme that struck me was time. Up at 4:00 AM and working until 7:00 PM. Yet, she also described days at the beach digging clams, etc. Also, I wondered how they managed while she was in the hospital for a couple of weeks for the birth of her girl.

Lila55: That is interesting about Ma and Pa Kettle. I didn't know those characters sprung from the book. I did not realize that the book had that much of an impact.
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