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Author Topic: The Reunion  (Read 814016 times)

Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4800 on: April 04, 2016, 10:33:14 AM »
Which leads neatly into my long-ago remark that I (in keeping with everyone else here) am “not actually obliged to answer” questions raised by others. Passions can get stirred here, and there have been times when discussion has entered remarkable, microscopically observed territory. I plead guilty to that, for sure, and yet I've often abandoned lines of enquiry when another poster has shown no inclination to pursue a point to the (literary) death.
 
I think in all my years here, there's only been one question which I and others have repeatedly asked, and that was "How did Jack know that Ennis would not then embrace him face to face?" That was a crucial question, and it directly links to the questions I was asking you.
Just to clear up something here, Marian, it might be a crucial question but apart from the one you asked me (“I'm not sure what you are hinting at with mention of the twenty-years-long memory; are you suggesting Jack's memory is faulty?”) in your Reply #4737, you’ve asked me no other questions which relate to the DE, as I’ve already said (in my Reply #4780).

But, now that you’ve asked me, you can expect an answer soon. In the meantime I’ll respond to your other points...
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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4801 on: April 04, 2016, 11:16:31 AM »
Let's deal with the unreliable/untrustworthy narrator. (My various dictionaries are happy to accept these two words as synonyms.) AP is deliberately opaque at times in order to reveal the story in her preferred way. In particular, Jack's story is held back, hinted at rather than described in any detail, therefore it is to be expected that there is no backup evidence to support the remark that Jack "had been riding more than bulls, not rolling his own". There is also no backup evidence which clarifies what he's later spending his money on when away on those business trips. We could argue that he's lying when he admits to going to Mexico, and even that the mention of the ranch neighbour is all fantasy, since we never actually see or unequivocally get told about what's going on.

The issue is, I think, not whether backup evidence is expected but whether it is provided. Using the writer’s methods to support the claim that backup evidence is not expected seems to be a deflection from that point.

The interjection is the only time in the story that the narrator directly contradicts something Jack has said. #

In two of the cases you mention the narrator doesn’t insinuate that Jack’s lying when he tells Ennis about going to Mexico, or that he lied when he told his father he intended to bring “a ranch neighbor a his from down in Texas” to “help run the ranch.” Both men accept, based only on Jack’s word, and without any external supporting evidence being provided, that he’s telling the truth, as does the reader and, presumably, the narrator, who is notably silent in each case.

As far as the third example is concerned it is the narrator who mentions Jack’s buying trips (and who also provides some evidence regarding how he spends his money), and not Jack. He might indeed be spending his money on other things—but unlike the case of the motel interjection—the issue of expecting further backup evidence doesn’t arise. In this case the reader accepts that his dental work, rather than a detailed itemisation of the expenses he incurred, is sufficient, and certainly so as Jack himself never mentions how he spends his money, or that he even has money to spend.

Readers with a tendency to be suspicious of anything Jack says and does, even without the narrator’s “hints,” might believe—simply to find evidence of his untrustworthiness—that interpreting his words and actions is a fruitful way of passing the time. But doing so simply because they believe that the writer’s style permits them to forever look for increasingly more microscopically-hidden clues about his behaviour, even where none actually exist, brings everything we’re told into question.

Jack provides his own “backup evidence” that he doesn’t “do it with other guys” by providing a valid explanation about his belief in the importance of the mountain in his and Ennis’s lives. Ennis’s question comes out of the blue but Jack’s repudiation of the suggestion, and his immediate provision of an authentic supporting argument—without even a pause for thought—demonstrates his straightforward truthfulness. But in this case his word is not enough for the narrator, who intentionally casts a slur on his honesty. The obscurity of its references is sufficient in itself to raise doubts about its veracity in the mind of an alert reader. The vaguely sexual implications alone bring into question what we’ve come to know about “who-does-what-to-whom” when Ennis and Jack engage in sexual activity. 

That “it’s to be expected” that no supporting evidence is provided for Jack’s alleged misbehaviour is an extraordinary claim, Marian, especially as it’s the only time that Jack’s honesty is so directly impugned. ##


# If that's incorrect, I apologise.
## Ditto.
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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4802 on: April 05, 2016, 08:10:29 AM »
(It's worth noting that AP also steps in with a subjective tone in an earlier part of the story. "They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word......." There may be other examples. My point is that it's part of her overall style rather than a stepping in and out of "unreliability".)

The narrator, not the writer, is presenting this information. Had the writer “stepped in” the personal pronoun would have been used. The writer, however, is not a character in the story but its creator. The narrator is also not a character in the story, but is an external entity who presents the story, and without employing a personal pronoun.

To indicate an example where the narrator is a character in a story I mention the second Mrs. De Winter in Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca.” Du Maurier presents her story entirely from that character’s point of view. She uses the personal pronoun “I” to indicate the character’s thoughts and behaviour and, as the narrator, Maxim’s second wife is unaware not only of the thoughts of the other characters but also of any events (unless directly told about them) in which she does not personally participate. Everything in the novel is relayed to the reader via this (unnamed) second wife, who is as unaware of what’s actually going on as she is.

The extract you mention above employs the 3rd person objective narrative mode and has no “subjective tone.” We’re told by the narrator what they did, when they did it, and where they did it. Even the choice of the adjective to describe what they didn’t say is in keeping with the objective description of what Ennis and Jack were doing. The narrator makes this clear by describing their activity (i.e. what they did) not only as “quick (and) rough,” but also that there was “laughing and snorting, no lack of noises.”  We’re also told that “They never talked about the sex, let it happen.”

Ennis and Jack are teenagers with rampant hormones, totally engaged in experiencing the physical pleasures of highly-charged, testosterone-based “corn-holing”—with its associated smells of semen, sweat and shit (omitted from FNIT for narrative purposes, considering the activity which occurred “out of the blue,” as possibly constituting “information overload,” but mentioned later in the motel)—to the full. The alert reader# understands that “goddamn” words were not only unnecessary but irrelevant.


# Possibly male and homosexual, but who knows?
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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4803 on: April 11, 2016, 09:03:21 AM »
Let's deal with the unreliable/untrustworthy narrator.
Returning to your initial comments, your argument is that the writer of the short story is deliberately opaque at times, that her preferred style involves providing hints without backup information and gradually revealing previously withheld information, rather than the presentation of straightforward exposition.

This is not the same thing as a narrator “stepping in and out of unreliability.”

A text can be understood by a reader without first acquiring knowledge of a particular writer’s methods. You seem to be suggesting that a failure to understand a writer's methods before reading his/her work would be detrimental to a reader's understanding, not only of what a story is about but also the methods employed in its presentation. An understanding of the role of a narrator, however, is certainly helpful in order to discern whether what is conveyed is presented objectively or subjectively.

That said, there are occasions when discussing the writer’s role is relevant, such as when, for instance, the text was changed from the version published in the New Yorker, and her decision to restrict Ennis’s use of Jack’s name to eight times when they’re alone together (which has nothing to do with the narrator, who simply presents Ennis's actual words).
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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4804 on: April 11, 2016, 09:09:20 AM »
In relation to the remark that Jack "had been riding more than bulls, not rolling his own" you said...
Quote
“That this takes the form of an unverifiable fact, followed by a non sequitor, an obscure and unrelated reference to something indecipherable (and which nobody here, to my knowledge, has ever clarified), casts doubt on its veracity.”
...and mentioned foreskins and whether there was an implication that Jack was doing unto others what Ennis had done unto him.

Excuse me, Marian, I did not imply whether “Jack was doing unto others what Ennis had done unto him.”
I said that, as Jack didn’t have a foreskin, his rolling those of other men makes a nonsense of the phrase “not rolling his own.”

To clarify, he cannot not roll his own foreskin because he simply doesn’t possess one.
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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4805 on: April 11, 2016, 09:24:05 AM »
AP doesn't go into specific detail about the sex except where it's required (FNIT, Alma and Ennis) so I interpret "riding" as meaning that Jack was having sex with other men, one way or another, and that he wasn't masturbating as Ennis was (although I'm sure that got involved as well...)
Interpreting “riding” to mean that Jack was having sex with other men “one way or another” is an unsupported analysis of the text.
I’ve referred before to “riding” as being associated with the active, insertive role in sexual intercourse.

Whether it’s heterosexual vaginal intercourse (where the woman is on top), or male homosexual anal intercourse, with the insertive partner on top (as occurred during the FNIT), in each case the position of the active partner is similar to actually riding a bucking bronco. Jack himself refers to this sexual positioning in the motel, when he tells Ennis, “Christ, it got a be all that time a yours ahorseback makes it so goddamn good.”

Whether Jack masturbated, either thinking about Ennis or not, isn’t a pertinent issue. A reader might think he did simply because it’s not mentioned in the text but to conclude, simply to satisfy idle curiosity, that he must have done so ignores the issue of narrative purpose.

For instance, a reader might assume, after Ennis saying he was going to “warsh everthing” he can reach that Jack, despite it being unmentioned, had also done so on the mountain. It can be assumed that he did, I suppose, but the narrative point being made here is that Ennis is going to wash himself for a reason, so that Jack can notice that he doesn’t wear “drawers and socks.”

Although it’s not mentioned we can accept that Jack does wear drawers and socks because it’s made clear that he thought Ennis’s not doing so was something noticeable:

“Well, I’m goin a warsh everthing I can reach,” he said, pulling off his boots and jeans (no drawers, no socks, Jack noticed), slopping the green washcloth around until the fire spat.

I think she just liked the sound of the expressions and hoped her readers came along for the ride.
If so the ride (for some readers, apparently) has been successful.
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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4806 on: April 12, 2016, 10:07:53 AM »
However, this is all leading to the DE (and my apologies to our longsuffering moderator - I did try to shift to a more general thread.
Your shifted my Reply #4764 from the Reunion thread, where it related specifically to what was said in the motel, to an unrelated thread.

I preferred that it stayed where it was in the interests of continuity. My discussion of the issues raised in the motel might momentarily—and tangentially—deal with the subject of a different thread but flitting from thread to thread to follow a discussion could be distracting, and not only to myself.

I looked through your replies again and these are the bits which stand out.
Quote
It’s what Proulx tells us is Jack’s memory.
We don’t get his recollected thoughts, but what she says they were.

The only time we hear about this supposed reluctance on Ennis’s part to embrace Jack face-to-face is when the narrator pipes up with her timely little nugget of information. #
# Which rather conveniently ignores the fact of their full-on, face-to-face embrace outside the Riverton apartment, and casts doubt on the veracity of the narrator’s interjection.
I think we can discount the last bit as being able to "cast doubt on the veracity of the narrator's interjection" since the "interjection" relates only to the time on the mountain, not beyond that.
Before I respond to your final comment I mention that selectively quoting sentences from someone's separate posts gives the impression that not only are they all from the same post but also that they’re four points in a consistent line of thought.

It’s also important to note the context in which others’ comments were made. For instance, in my Reply #4732 I wrote that:

“Although the DE is presented solely from Jack’s point of view, some twenty years after the fact, Proulx provides sufficient clues to indicate the effect that the embrace also has on Ennis, even if it’s presented only in terms of his physical behaviour. In a rather biased way AP includes information only about what Jack feels (but I digress...).

In your Reply #4737 on the Reunion thread you said “I wouldn't call AP's presentation of the DE from Jack's perspective as being biased.” My response, that “It’s what Proulx tells us is Jack’s memory,” in my Reply #4740 was intended to support the points I’d made in Reply #4732.
 
The second “bit” you quoted above, also in my Reply #4740, was to support my earlier comments about the DE being presented only from Jack’s point of view. I see now, though, that it would have been better expressed as “We don’t get Ennis’s recollected thoughts, only Jack’s.”  :">

The last two comments of mine you’ve quoted were in my Reply #4756, where I’d also said,

“We never hear anything about it again. Not once does Jack raise the issue when the brakes are off and a full-scale major argument erupts at the trailhead parking lot. He just complains about how their life could have been better, about Ennis keeping him on a short leash, about meeting only a few times over the years and having to go to Mexico for what “he needs” and “never hardly gets.”

But it’s odd that, if Ennis’s refusal to “embrace him face to face because he did not want to see nor feel that it was Jack he held” was such an important issue “in their separate and difficult lives,” why Jack didn’t mention it. After all, it was the perfect time to do so.



PS This is merely to clarify the contents of your post.
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Offline Ministering angel

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4807 on: April 13, 2016, 03:28:15 AM »
Paul, I assume that you see Jack as being a straight man who, in the time between the mountain and the reunion, does not engage in m2m sex, and possibly doesn't do so after the reunion either.  He goes to Mexico for an unspecified reason (the warmth?) and also has an affair with a neighbour's wife. Later, he presumably mentions coming up to Lightning Flat with the neighbour. (I only include this because there's no other way which Mr Twist would know about the neighbour, unless there is a side story we don't know about.) Are my assumptions correct? I am basing them on what Jack actually says in the story, in both direct and indirect speech.

Offline Ministering angel

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4808 on: April 15, 2016, 03:11:43 AM »
Paul, I may regret it but I'm revisiting what you referred to as "the narrator's sly interjection".

"....I never had no thoughts a doin it with another guy except I sure wrang it out a hunderd times thinkin about you. You do it with other guys? Jack?"

"Shit no," said Jack, who had been riding more than bulls, not rolling his own.


This "interjection" doesn't come out of the blue; it follows the pattern of Ennis's words. Ennis is saying he didn't think of doing it with other men (shared activity) but he did think of a particular man - Jack - when masturbating (solo sexual activity). The "interjection" deals with Jack's shared sexual activity ("riding more than bulls") in contrast to masturbating ("rolling his own").

I finally got around to checking in my available books about "riding" as a sexual metaphor. Neither The Oxford Dictionary Of Euphemisms, nor The Penguin Dictionary Of Historical Slang, nor Slang Down The Ages restrict the term in the way you suggest. So, it is quite possible that Jack may have exclusively bottomed and still been "riding more than bulls". I really don't care what he was doing beyond the implication that he was having sex with other men. (We know he had sex at least once with at least one woman.)

A quick google search will throw up several examples of "rolling your own" being a euphemism for masturbation.

So, the "interjection" can be seen as an echo of Ennis's comments. Jack lies when he denies his activities over the intervening four years.

Of course, if a reader chooses to believe everything Jack is quoted as saying (despite the fact that on the last trip "truths and lies" are mentioned), then my comments won't make any difference.

(Why does Ennis talk about "thoughts a doin it" when referring to himself, and yet asks Jack about actually "do[ing] it"? It could be argued that it fits better with the "interjection" (and thus is a literary decision). It could also be argued that it could indicate that Ennis wasn't quite so naive about Jack as he'd like to be.)

Offline Ministering angel

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4809 on: April 15, 2016, 03:14:53 AM »
But, now that you’ve asked me, you can expect an answer soon. In the meantime I’ll respond to your other points...
I look forward to your DE post. We now have a thread devoted to the DE, I'm delighted to say. You'll find it here.

Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4810 on: April 15, 2016, 07:30:11 AM »
I think we can discount the last bit as being able to "cast doubt on the veracity of the narrator's interjection" since the "interjection" relates only to the time on the mountain, not beyond that.
I’ve only one more response to make to the points you raised in your Reply #4783 after this, and would prefer, at this stage, not to go into detail about the “last bit” and why I disbelieve it can be discounted, apart from saying that what we’re told by the narrator indicates that Jack’s memory is either faulty or very selective.

The other thing I want to say is about your statement that “the interjection relates only to the time on the mountain, not beyond that.”

I’ll later post my thoughts about the section of the story in which the narrator interjects during the conversation between Ennis and Jack but it seems to me that it’s incorrect to restrict “Jack’s riding more than bulls, not rolling his own” to no later than the summer of 1963.

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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4811 on: April 15, 2016, 07:55:23 AM »
As to the rest, I just don't get how you can speak of Jack's recollected thoughts as having an existence outside of Proulx's words, and this is why I find it extremely difficult to continue a discussion. Essentially, if AP tells us "what Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand' then that is "what Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand". There is no reason to doubt his memory and there is no reason to doubt that what he recalled was correct.
I see now how you came to think that I believed “Jack’s recollected thoughts” had “an existence outside of Proulx's words,” and I apologise for not being far more careful in my response. I think it’s important, for clarity’s sake, to keep things in context. My comment (“It’s what Proulx tells us is Jack’s memory. We don’t get his recollected thoughts, but what she says they were”) was in response to your “I'm not sure what you are hinting at with mention of the twenty-years-long memory; are you suggesting Jack’s memory is faulty?”

What I should have said (and which would have acknowledged your recogniton of my “hint”) was “It’s what the narrator tells us is Jack’s memory of the embrace, not his thoughts at the time.

(AP actually shows us the thought processes of both men in the opera libretto, bless her heart. What she writes there does not deviate from the description of the DE in the SS, except in the way the differing media require material to be presented. It is the same story.)
The “thought processes” of neither Jack nor Ennis are presented in the story during the embrace. What we’re told is presented objectively by an impartial narrator, one who has no access to their thoughts, and who simply describes what occurred at the time. But the innermost thoughts of both characters are voiced in the opera’s embrace, which is therefore a different animal altogether.

Incidentally, I have no qualms if it pleases you to bless “Saint Annie”  ;)  but you’re off the mark regarding the short story and the opera being “the same story.” 
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Offline Ministering angel

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4812 on: April 15, 2016, 03:55:00 PM »
I’ve only one more response to make to the points you raised in your Reply #4783 after this, and would prefer, at this stage, not to go into detail about the “last bit” and why I disbelieve it can be discounted, apart from saying that what we’re told by the narrator indicates that Jack’s memory is either faulty or very selective.

The other thing I want to say is about your statement that “the interjection relates only to the time on the mountain, not beyond that.”

I’ll later post my thoughts about the section of the story in which the narrator interjects during the conversation between Ennis and Jack but it seems to me that it’s incorrect to restrict “Jack’s riding more than bulls, not rolling his own” to no later than the summer of 1963.
If you look back you will see that I was answering your remark about Ennis's reluctance to embrace Jack face to face, as mentioned in the DE. You brought up the embrace in 1967 as an argument against that. You used "interjection" as a description, hence the confusion, perhaps.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2016, 04:37:18 PM by Ministering angel »

Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4813 on: April 16, 2016, 08:58:02 AM »
Paul, I assume that you see Jack as being a straight man who, in the time between the mountain and the reunion, does not engage in m2m sex, and possibly doesn't do so after the reunion either.  He goes to Mexico for an unspecified reason (the warmth?) and also has an affair with a neighbour's wife. Later, he presumably mentions coming up to Lightning Flat with the neighbour. (I only include this because there's no other way which Mr Twist would know about the neighbour, unless there is a side story we don't know about.) Are my assumptions correct? I am basing them on what Jack actually says in the story, in both direct and indirect speech.
I’ll just say that homophobia is a negative reaction to behaviour that’s perceived to be non-heterosexual, irrespective of whether men (or women) self-identify as homosexual. Sexuality isn’t really the issue. This was clear in the case of Earl and Rich, where only one of the “tough old birds” was murdered.
I doubt that Jack went to Mexico only for the warmth (or the cuisine) but whether he was heterosexual or homosexual is beside the point. 
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Offline Paul029

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Re: The Reunion
« Reply #4814 on: April 16, 2016, 09:02:03 AM »
Paul, I may regret it but I'm revisiting what you referred to as "the narrator's sly interjection".
No need for “regrets,” Marian.

"....I never had no thoughts a doin it with another guy except I sure wrang it out a hunderd times thinkin about you. You do it with other guys? Jack?"

"Shit no," said Jack, who had been riding more than bulls, not rolling his own.


This "interjection" doesn't come out of the blue; it follows the pattern of Ennis's words. Ennis is saying he didn't think of doing it with other men (shared activity) but he did think of a particular man - Jack - when masturbating (solo sexual activity). The "interjection" deals with Jack's shared sexual activity ("riding more than bulls") in contrast to masturbating ("rolling his own").
I disagree with the sentence I've “enpurpled.” :)  It’s more a matter of grammar, not subject...

I finally got around to checking in my available books about "riding" as a sexual metaphor. Neither The Oxford Dictionary Of Euphemisms, nor The Penguin Dictionary Of Historical Slang, nor Slang Down The Ages restrict the term in the way you suggest. So, it is quite possible that Jack may have exclusively bottomed and still been "riding more than bulls". I really don't care what he was doing beyond the implication that he was having sex with other men. (We know he had sex at least once with at least one woman.)
The context (and purpose) of the narrator’s interjection indicates that the transitive verb “riding” relates specifically to sexual activity.
If that’s “restrictive” it’s the fault of the narrator, not myself.

A quick google search will throw up several examples of "rolling your own" being a euphemism for masturbation.
All I’ve found were references to rolling cigarettes:

... perhaps it refers to the cowboy term, “Rollin' your Bull” (i.e. to roll your Bull Durham cigarettes), which he doesn’t, he rolls other people’s. We later discover that he’s circumcised, so there’s no way he could roll his own (foreskin), which turns the phrase into a nonsense.”

My reference to rolling foreskins was possibly intuitive, but I do recall that in Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs Miller Mrs Miller (Julie Christie) asks McCabe (Warren Beatty), when he says he wants to run their whorehouse, whether he’s prepared to “roll back” his workers' (foreskins) to check for disease before they meet the “girls,” a job she does as its madam. He declines.

So, the "interjection" can be seen as an echo of Ennis's comments. Jack lies when he denies his activities over the intervening four years.

Of course, if a reader chooses to believe everything Jack is quoted as saying (despite the fact that on the last trip "truths and lies" are mentioned), then my comments won't make any difference.
I take it that you’re referring to people other than myself?

(Why does Ennis talk about "thoughts a doin it" when referring to himself, and yet asks Jack about actually "do[ing] it"? It could be argued that it fits better with the "interjection" (and thus is a literary decision). It could also be argued that it could indicate that Ennis wasn't quite so naive about Jack as he'd like to be.)

I’ll be posting my (need I say detailed?) thoughts on this very issue in the near future.
We seem to be thinking along parallel tracks.

Incidentally, “hit the hay” was also a slang term for sexual intercourse (c.1945), which puts a different slant on the DE, especially as Ennis didn’t follow through. (Green, J., Dictionary of Slang, 2010.)
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