Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

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John Adam

Reading John Adam’s theory and his letters with his wife shows me that he is a much more calmer person than most of the political leaders at his time. He seems to be the person that is philosophical and think radically about the problem and the future of America. No doubt that he’s heart is with America because most of his letter talks about what his dream for this new country is and what his fear also. He believes that America is a revolution that will bring a new age to the world. The ideas that comes with America’s liberation from Britain will be a new chapter in many people’s life. One of his theory struck me with the similarity to what I’ve been thinking about lately. His theory on the social and the unsocial. Adam brings the question about how much can we really feel the pain of another person unless we actually went through the exact same process? Can we really sympathize those around us who are going through a personal hardship or pain? He then goes on and talks about how should one expresses pain and anger in a way that people could “ACCEPT”. Most of the time when we are near someone who is hysterically upset or angry we generally walk around that person and avoid him/ her. This is accurate even to this day and I think Adam’s on to something that is not only true to his generation but will always hold true to HUMAN BEINGS. The idea that we CAN bring ourselves to other people’s feeling and points of view if we allow ourselves to be humble and sympathetic by heightening our moral and imagination. Adam also suggest that it is also important to know WHAT to sympathize towards and if you SHOULD sympathize with. Everyone have eyes and can have compassion but it is important to cultivate your eyes and use your sympathy correctly. At the time I think Adam is urging his fellow American to come together as one and feel each other’s pain and understand each other with compassion, However to not fall into the hole of feeling without thinking. He also wants people to know that we should never become so vicious that we loose our humanity. The new generation rises in American after their declaration of independence. This new emerging idea of freedom is something that people can “FEEL”. Adam wants his reader to “FEEL” this idea and not only FEEL it but cultivate yourself to UNDERSTAND it. Help this movement move in the correct way with a compassion heart but cultivated mind. I believe his theory works in our every day lives. If we understand his theory it can be used on practically everything and it changes your point of view from SELF to OTHERS. It also changes your perspective on sharpening your thinking ability and understanding so that you have a mind of your own to count on when a newly revolutionary idea comes upon you. That this idea won’t make you irrational and lost but that you have what it takes to fully indulge it and process it so the best result may be delivered.

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Life in the Iron-Mills:The “Underside of American Prosperity”

“Is this the end?”

O Life, as futile, then, as frail!

What hope of answer or redress?

Life in the Iron-Mills is a reading that is one of the most profound readings we have read so far.  The quote, in the beginning of the story, “Smoke everywhere! A dirty canary chirps desolately in a cage besides me.  Its dream of green fields and sunshine is a very old dream,-almost worn, I think.”  I feel that this quote sets the tone for the rest of the story in how Deborah and Hugh live their lives in this time.  The dirty canary, dirty and covered with dirt and ashes, symbolizes Deborah and Hugh, who are trapped in their lives, in a cage.  They dream of being in another life, a life where they will not work so hard and live in complete turmoil and poverty.  Their dreams of a better life seems to be an old dream of theirs, something they can never attain, and it seems as if they have stopped trying and accept the lives they were given. It is so hard to imagine the lives of Deborah and Hugh while reading this story.  How difficult their lives are just to meet their basic needs.  They work in such harsh and unforgiving conditions and their work never seems to be enough to make ends meet.  As they numb their minds and their bodies, “By night and day the work goes on, the unsleeping engines groan and shriek, the fiery pools of metal boil and surge.”  Throughout the story, I can almost feel their pain that they put their bodies through every day just to survive and the breathless air that they breathe.  They are miserable, and lead lives of unhappiness, empty of excitement or passion.

It is so interesting to read a story about the bad side of industrial revolution.  There are so many stories and history books that boast the inventions and growth that developed at the time.  When, in actuality, so many people were taken advantage of.

Effect on industrial revolution workers

While reading both passages I find that “Life in the iron mills” and “The paradise of bachelors and the tratarus of maids” were very similar and each representing the miss treatment of both sexes during the time of the industrial revolution. We often refer to this time as a major victory for the United States and in many ways it was and while it also provided jobs for a working class society to what extent, and what did it cost them? These short stories both hope to bring to light the deep unhappiness intensive labor.Both Meville and Davis refer to the workers often in the ideal of souls, or being soulless comparing a living human to a corpse with no soul is an extreme way of emphasis how earning a living during these times was robbing these people of their lives.

The Coquette

The coquette at the beginning seems to have a very predicable story line. almost like watching a bad drama that after reading just 1/3 of the book you could already tell what will eventually happen. However, the mystery and the meaning lies deeper within these dramatic lines. A powerful message about politics and generation leaps through to grabs a hold of your attention. it alerts all readers to not be like Eliza Wharton and completely indulge herself in her FREEDOM. Freedom is liberating and it’s addictive, it’s hard to know when’s the limit to how much freedom one should intake. I find that the first time reading the coquette gave me an uneasy feeling toward the unfair outcome to Eliza Wharton’s life. As a woman I question why the Author pushes the idea of a “CONSERVATIVE” and “RESTRICTED” life for a woman asa the best way to without ending up like Eliza. I wonder if that’s the only solution to have a happy life. It’s almost like Eliza only have two man to choose from. One is the flirtatious Standford and the other is the boring Boyer. Is it really true that a woman can only choose from the two extreme? Either suffer from being wild and eventually be punished with death or STILL suffer from the boring life and wishes to be dead. It puzzled my mind for a while after reading the novel. However, during the class discussion I realize a different perspective that the author is trying to bring by using the two extreme. The author is also a female and I think she is not trying to give the DEAD-END sign for her fellow sisters. In class discussion a political idea of “how much freedom should one receives without wrecking it?” was brought out and it opened my mind to a new meaning. Instead of using Eliza Wharton’s situation only on WOMAN if we put it onto the new generations of America we see a whole new idea. Maybe Hanna was trying to warn the newly emerging Americans that while we rejoice the freedom of our new country we also have to beware of the outcome that can come with these freedom. If don’t watch where we are stepping we can easily step out of the line and have a terrible ending like Eliza’s. When I read the book again with this new perspective I am not enraged by the idea that woman have to live such a rigid life but understands that it’s not only for the woman but for the whole mankind. We are always living between two extremes trying to find the balance and the grey spot. This novel is a dynamic book that allows the reader to open their eyes and heart to accept a greater perspective not a narrow one.

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BENITO CERENO

After our discussion in class, I still can’t help but think of the last paragraph where Babo’s head was put for display. How can his head/face be as Meville describes? It may not have been meant to be taken as literally but if we take the other sentences in the paragraph as it is, shouldn’t this make sense too? The direction of where his head is displayed is quite clear. Babo’s head was facing towards the St. Bartholomew’s Church where late Captain Aranda was buried and across the Rimac bridge towards the monastery where Cereno was. How can this one head face toward both these places? If they are in the same direction, how is the head able to look toward both places? The head is at one height and even if these places are at an uneven height (where one is taller than the other), how does this lifeless head gaze toward them? I understand with the Whites’ gaze because the people look at the head but with a lifeless and faceless head (how can his eyes be open?), how is it all possible? I keep trying to imagine it but I really find it hard to picture.

Benito Cereno

This was defiantly not an easy read for me personally my first read I didn’t understand the characters actions, or bizarre behavior but as I was re-reading and finally finished I understood the ironic plot. This story to me is full with irony, the slaves are actually “portraying” to be enslaved while the whites only appear to have freedom. The quote which Delano was almost memorized by was like a intuitive message “Follow your leader” because in fact the whites were acting so strange in particular allowing beatings that were called “ruff housing” or a game, and especially Cerenos weak demeanor was all his following of his leader. In the end Cereno even followed Babo to his death. He was unable to find the strength to survive and recover after the experience, which highlights maybe on a another “white man” weakness or Spaniard in this case. The Africans who were enslaved dreamed of freedom and they prayed for the day to receive it you can guarantee they will find the courage and will to accept and overcome their past. I also at certain points found myself worried for Delano I felt nervous once I had a feeling that this ship was not an average of the time, he was unguarded and very naive.