Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin

Claire Soderberg Character Analysis

A wealthy woman living on the Upper East Side of New York City. She belongs to an informal group of mothers who have lost sons in the Vietnam War. The group meets frequently in each other’s apartments to talk about their boys. Claire is a rather lonely, nervous woman who sorely misses her son, Joshua. Although her relationship with her husband is strong and relatively fulfilling, she feels more or less alone with her grief and is desperate for someone she might share it with.

Claire Soderberg Quotes in Let the Great World Spin

The Let the Great World Spin quotes below are all either spoken by Claire Soderberg or refer to Claire Soderberg. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Political Unrest Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Let the Great World Spin published in 2009.
Book One, Chapter 2: Miró, Miró, on the Wall Quotes

Joshua liked the Beatles, used to listen to them in his room, you could hear the noise even through the big headphones he loved. Let it be. Silly song, really. You let it be, it returns. There’s the truth. You let it be, it drags you to the ground. You let it be, it crawls up your walls.

Related Characters: Claire Soderberg, Joshua Soderberg
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

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It was as if she could travel through the electricity to see him. She could look at any electronic thing—television, radio, Solomon’s shaver—and could find herself there, journeying along the raw voltage. Most of all it was the fridge. She would wake in the middle of the night and wander through the apartment into the kitchen and lean against the freezer. She would open the door…and she could see him, all of a sudden she was in the same room, right beside him…

Related Characters: Claire Soderberg, Joshua Soderberg
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

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All of it like a slam in the chest. So immediate. At all of their coffee mornings, it had always been distant, belonging to another day, the talk, the memory, the recall, the stories, a distant land, but this was now and real, and the worst thing was that they didn’t know the walker’s fate, didn’t know if he had jumped or had fallen or had got down safely, or if he was still up there on his little stroll, or if he was there at all, if it was just a story, or a projection, indeed, or if she had made it all up for effect—they had no idea—maybe the man wanted to kill himself, or maybe the helicopter had a hook around him to catch him if he fell, or maybe there was a clip around the wire to catch him, or maybe maybe maybe there was another maybe, maybe.

Related Characters: The Tightrope Walker (Phillipe Petit), Claire Soderberg, Marcia
Related Symbols: The Tightrope Walk
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

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Maybe she should meet other women, more of her own. But more of her own what? Death, the greatest democracy of them all. The world’s oldest complaint. Happens to us all. Rich and poor. Fat and thin. Fathers and daughters. Mothers and sons. She feels a pang, a return.

Related Characters: Claire Soderberg
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

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So flagrant with his body. Making it cheap. The puppetry of it all. His little Charlie Chaplin walk, coming in like a hack on her morning. How dare he do that with his own body? Throwing his life in everyone’s face? Making her own son’s so cheap? Yes, he has intruded on her coffee morning like a hack on her code. With his hijinks above the city. Coffee and cookies and a man out there walking in the sky, munching away what should have been.

Related Characters: The Tightrope Walker (Phillipe Petit), Claire Soderberg, Joshua Soderberg
Related Symbols: The Tightrope Walk
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book Three, Chapter 11: All Hail and Hallelujah Quotes

My grandmother was a slave. Her mother too. My great-grandfather was a slave who ended up buying himself out from under Missouri. He carried a mind-whip with him just in case he forgot. I know a thing or two about what people want to buy, and how they think they can buy it. I know the marks that got left on women’s ankles. I know the kneeling-down scars you get in the field... I’ve listened to the southern men in their crisp white shirts and ties. I’ve seen the fists pumping in the air. I joined in the songs. I was on the buses where they lifted their little children to snarl in the window. I know the smell of CS gas and it’s not as sweet as some folks say.

If you start forgetting you’re already lost.

Related Characters: Gloria (speaker), Claire Soderberg
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

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Then again, I was thinking that I shouldn’t be acting this way, maybe I was getting it all wrong, maybe the truth is that she was just a lonely white woman living up on Park Avenue, lost her boy the exact same way as I lost three of mine, treated me well, didn’t ask for nothing, brought me in her house, kissed me on the cheek, made sure my teacup was full, and she just flat-out made a mistake by running her mouth off, one silly little statement I was allowing to ruin everything. I had liked her when she was fussing all over us, and she didn’t mean harm, maybe she was just nervous. People are good or half good or a quarter good, and it changes it all the time—but even on the best day nobody’s perfect.

Related Characters: Gloria (speaker), Claire Soderberg
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book Four, Chapter 12: Roaring Seaward, and I Go Quotes

We stumble on, thinks Jaslyn, bring a little noise into the silence, find in others the ongoing of ourselves. It is almost enough.

Quietly, Jaslyn perches on the edge of the bed and then extends her feet, moves her legs across slowly so as not to disturb the mattress. She fixes a pillow, leans, picks a hair out of Claire’s mouth…

The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.

Related Characters: Claire Soderberg, Jaslyn
Page Number: 349
Explanation and Analysis:

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Claire Soderberg Character Timeline in Let the Great World Spin

The timeline below shows where the character Claire Soderberg appears in Let the Great World Spin. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One, Chapter 2: Miró, Miró, on the Wall
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
One morning on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Claire Soderberg prepares to host a group of women. Her husband Solomon, after bringing her breakfast... (full context)
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Claire nervously readies herself and the house. She considers the streak of grey in her hair,... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
The women who are about to visit Claire are part of a group of mothers who have lost sons in the Vietnam War.... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
...last meeting, the four white women walked to the subway while fearfully grasping their purses. Claire looked up and saw Gloria waving from her eleventh-floor apartment; she wanted to run up... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
As she waits for the women to arrive at her house, Claire reminds herself that she needn’t worry so much about what the other women will think... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Claire continues to nervously fuss over preparing the apartment. For a moment she thinks again about... (full context)
Political Unrest Theme Icon
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
As she prepares the tea, Claire thinks about Joshua, who was in Vietnam as a computer programmer tasked with counting the... (full context)
Political Unrest Theme Icon
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
...Jacqueline—bicker back and forth, periodically telling one another to shush. This puts a strain on Claire as a hostess, who is otherwise relieved that the situation has ushered her guests into... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
As the conversation lulls, Claire goes to put flowers (which Gloria brought) in water. She finds herself vaguely unsettled by... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
...walker fell. They rebuke her for her morbidity, but the question hangs in the air. Claire wishes momentarily to be somewhere else, someplace where she could be close to Solomon and... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
...and about Solomon and about how hard it was to hear about her son’s death, Claire realizes what it is that bothers her about the tightrope walker’s walk: there are so... (full context)
Book Three, Chapter 9: A Part of the Parts
Political Unrest Theme Icon
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
...freedom that he himself works so hard to uphold in his courtroom. Soderberg knows that Claire disapproves of war and violence of all kinds, and he finds himself often agreeing with... (full context)
Book Three, Chapter 11: All Hail and Hallelujah
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
...“churchy” despite the fact that she is not particularly religious. She mentions that she thinks Claire probably thought of her in this way for the first part of their friendship. Gloria... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Claire awkwardly holds out a plate of doughnuts to Gloria, who tells her that if she... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Again, Marcia tactlessly interrupts Claire, this time asking if anyone has the timetable for the Staten Island Ferry. Gloria notices... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
As Gloria checks herself in the hallway mirror, Claire grabs her elbow, ushering her slightly away from the group of women. Claire loudly asks... (full context)
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Although Gloria likes Claire—and although she could imagine staying after the others left—she decides not to stick around to... (full context)
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Out in the hall, Gloria is just about to step into the elevator when Claire once again pulls her by the elbow. With a sad look on her face, she... (full context)
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Gloria steps into the elevator as Claire immediately regrets what she said. Downstairs, the doorman tells the group of women that Claire... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
...rightly. She considers the possibility that she read too much into the situation, that maybe Claire was simply lonely and wanted her company. Gloria wonders if she is letting something small... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Continuing her journey toward the Bronx from Claire’s apartment, Gloria’s feet begin to blister. She isn’t paying attention to her surroundings, so she... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Gloria hails a cab and directs it—for reasons she can’t explain—to Claire’s apartment. When she arrives, Claire pays the taxi fare and ushers her into the building.... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Once Claire helps Gloria get cleaned up, the two women sit in the living room drinking gin... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Gloria asks if Claire can put on some music. Together they sit relaxed in the living room with their... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
...performance for the public, this time somewhere safe. He is clearly happy with himself, but Claire doesn’t seem to care. From the hallway, Solomon calls goodnight to Gloria—and she knows he... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Claire follows Solomon down the hall. He returns after a moment and apologizes to Gloria for... (full context)
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
When Gloria leaves, Claire insists upon escorting her to the Bronx in a car service. When they arrive at... (full context)
Book Four, Chapter 12: Roaring Seaward, and I Go
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
...greeted at the door by a hired nurse. Jaslyn explains to him that she is Claire’s niece, immediately revising this statement by saying that she isn’t really her niece but that... (full context)
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
...the apartment’s guestroom as she had intended. She had wanted to spend several days with Claire to “accompany her dying” in the same way that she accompanied Gloria in death six... (full context)
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Aware that she won’t be able to spend the time she had wanted with Claire, Jaslyn asks Tom if she can go see the old woman. Tom says that she’s... (full context)
Political Unrest Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Jaslyn returns to Claire’s apartment. On the floor outside the door there is a newspaper bearing images of the... (full context)
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
...that Tom is sleeping and that he has been having little parties while staying at Claire’s. Apparently, he has also been showing the apartment to real estate agents. (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
Jaslyn enters Claire’s room and watches the old woman’s body rise and fall with each breath. Claire opens... (full context)