Picking Daisies, Falling Into Chasms

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When you think of daisies you typically think about something that would be happy, but Nurse Daisy is nothing like that. However, she may seem like the uncaring nurse that's out to just get through her days by being mean to her patients at the nursing home, but she seems to be about the only one that's relatively level headed so far in this book. She says, "we must see things we do not see now...and not see things we see now" (Williams 169). This explains that as humans we need to think about other things instead of what is just right in front of us. She continues to refer to a number of different things that death may represent. Sure most of which seem to be negative like, "birth is the cause of death" (170), but is she really being negative? Isn't she just trying to illustrate that death happens to everyone and showing death from a new perspective?

All of the characters seem to have so many different perspectives on death and different morals that Nurse Daisy seems to play such a small part in the book (at least so far) that her importance may get over looked.  Nurse Daisy continues to perpetuate the notion that "our capacity to do evil has nothing to do with our innocence" (171) further showing that she does have some morals even if she seems overly coarse to the patients or at least some kind of perspective that examines human nature in a new way. Still she has one of the most interesting takes on death. She even realizes that people may view her as harsh and uncaring, but is ready with, "But no one consciously suffers here. That's the tragedy of this place. All this remarkably calibrated suffering and not a bit of consciousness involved" (172). Here she is stating that everyone is so far gone already that it wouldn't even matter if she was nice or mean to them. The people are just waiting for death to come which leads to the most important thing that Nurse Daisy says to Alice.

The chasm which "Alice understood it, being the divide between life and death, although in this place the chasm had been shrunk to a crack, even less than a crack, a crease, something technical and maladroit that people here couldn't manage to fall into" (173). Basically, if you went to Green Palms you were kind of stuck in between death and living. You were a ghost of some sort without actually being dead. Nurse Daisy further punctuates her claim by saying, "so you think that reality is the present, is that what you think?" (174). Here she is just trying to get Alice to approach the situation from a different perspective. Alice even thinks, "This was the most remarkable query [she] had ever heard. She wasn't going near this one" (174). So if nothing else, Alice is at least learning and seeing the world a little differently after having spoken to Nurse Daisy.

I'm not sure yet, what effect Nurse Daisy will play on Alice as the story progresses, but I'm betting it will definitely influence Alice in some capacity.

9 Comments

Josie Rush said:

Whenever Nurse Daisy said that the tragedy of their suffering was in their ignorance of it, I took that to mean that most of the time, the greatest comfort ppl take from their suffering is viewing themselves as a martyr, as something special because they are marching towards death. The tragedy is that these people no longer even realize that death is approaching, they can't be awe-struck, afraid, proud, reminiscint, anything.
I thought it was revealing that Alice and Nurse Daisy didn't get along better. Before this point it would've been possible to characterize Alice as pessimistically contrary, just picking the most depressing view that went against the mainstream. However, here, she doesn't jump on the bandwagon (which means she could still be classified as contrary), and we see she's not just super-critical of life; she actually has reasons for her opinions.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Josie - Your explanation about the quote makes a lot more sense than mine did. However, I didn't think that Alice necessarily just picked the most negative outlook on topics, but I thought it was very revealing that she was actually somewhat afraid to approach the topic of whether or not the nurse was being mean to the patients. I guess up until that point, I didn't think anything could trip Alice up. She seems to always have some kind of comeback or answer for everything. Like you said though, Williams was probably trying to show that she does have a reason behind her opinions.

Jessica Orlowski said:

Up until this point, the character who has been the most focused on death has been Alice, and I also took this to be merely a quirk of hers. However, Alice has finally found someone who is more blatantly "obsessed" with death than she is, and perhaps this scares her.

Kayla Lesko said:

I was actually kind of surprised by Alice's reaction to what Nurse Daisy said. For once she didn't say any of the usual crap, she actually sat and thought about it. Maybe this will make me like Alice's character.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Jess – I don’t know if she really knows if the idea that someone is more obsessed with death than she is really scares her, but I would have thought that she would have jumped at the chance to discuss death so much with someone else. Maybe its Williams way of showing that Alice really has other ideas and thoughts that aren’t focused on death. I mean she does defend Corvus against Annabel, so something else is penetrating her brain other than death.

Kayla – I’m hoping you’ll eventually come around to liking Alice since she happens to be my favorite character in this book so far. Hopefully, she doesn’t disappoint in the final section.

Josie Rush said:

I'm with Jess on this; I think Alice was, if not scared, then certainly put off by Nurse Daisy's questions. Honestly, maybe what made her uncomfortable in her scenes with Nurse Daisy was that she didn't have the answers to the questions she was being asked. For example, "Do you think reality is only in the present?" and Alice thought something along the lines of "I'm not touching that one." (sorry, my book isn't with me or I'd check the pg number out for that). Alice, up until this part of the book, has not been portrayed as uncertain. Now, more and more, she seems to be losing some of her absolutes. Is this her growing up or giving up?

Melissa Schwenk said:

My last paragraph kind of explains my opinion on the quote you just used. However, I didn't address whether or not Alice was just growing up or giving up because of the questions she was being asked to answer. I think that Alice is merely trying to learn as much as she can about the world. I think somewhere she mentions that she never wants to stop learning (I have absolutely no idea where she says this), but this new perspective is more to expand her thoughts than to portray her as uncertain. In a way, the author was trying to point out that there's more to Alice than what the reader has seen so far, and that we shouldn't start falling into the pattern that we have this character pegged.

Josie Rush said:

I think that by having Alice doubt herself a little more, Williams is pointing out that to grow, we sometimes have to sacrifice our certainty about things we used to assume we had pegged.

Jessica Orlowski said:

Josie- I don't think it's her giving up, but I do think that it's an indication of her growing up. As children, we tend to want to see things as all one way or all another. There really is no in- between. Therefore, I think that Alice is growing up a little more.

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