Sometimes a Great Notion

Sometimes a Great Notion Analysis

There is an extra character in this novel: Time. Time is the character we meet through the town's logging strike, because Time is the reason they are financially desperate. As technology improves, the need for work changes, so the strike is essentially a misguided attempt to reclaim the past, but Time does not heed their concerns.

Then there is the Stamper family itself, Henry specifically. Henry is in a battle against time because he is aging. By the end of the novel, there is nothing for Henry to do but think of his demise. He knows he will die, just like he knows that the river will eventually wither the foundation of the house until one day, the house will breakdown and fall into the river. But he acts as if he doesn't know.

That cognitive dissonance is the most powerful thematic idea, because it shows why Viv feels trapped like a slave, instead of feeling cherished as a wife. Plus there are the minor dramas of how Hank Jr and Leland try to form selves with Henry as an example. In a word, they do what they can, but his example sets them up for emotional instability and failure.

It would have been better for the town to try and find new ways to earn money. Perhaps they can still save their town by building a new kind of business together. Perhaps with love and humility, Henry would have been flexible enough to adapt to life's changes. Ultimately, Time wins all of its battles with humans, and no one has to wonder how Henry's story will end—and in his short life, he caused misery and pain to his loved ones. Not exactly a healthy response to suffering.

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