Monday, 29 February 2016

Re-invention of the self

Re-invention of the self is a major theme in The Great Gatsby as it is what turns James Gatz, the son of a rural farmer from North Dakota, into Jay Gatsby; the wealthy and glamorous figure that we are introduced to by Nick Carraway. It is also an incredibly important theme within the concept of the American Dream- the notion that anyone from anywhere can be anything. Gatsby certainly achieved the American Dream.
In chapter 9 we learn that Gatsby had a sense of dissatisfaction from a young age with the social position that he was born into. In 1906 he had written himself a schedule with times set aside for activities and a list of  'general resolves' for furthered self improvement. His father comments that because of this "Jimmy was bound to get ahead". This mirrors the real life and famous 'thirteen virtues' that Benjamin Franklin wrote for himself in order to become virtuous and therefore more successful. It can be seen that Fitzgerald was intending for this similarity to be clear to readers as Franklin rose from humble beginnings to one of the founding fathers of the United States. This is partly what Gatsby may have aspired to growing up as the American Dream and stories like Franklin's were influential to many people.
Gatsby thus changes his name and reinvents himself with the help of the wealthy Dan Cody and himself becomes wealthy, after fighting in WW1, by partaking in the underground world of organised crime and bootlegging during the period of prohibition. After this he projects an image of himself as a wealthy American who does not need to work so he fits into the world of old money that he desperately aspires to. Without going to this effort to self improve he would not have fitted into this world. Gatsby is the self made man that achieves the financial goals of many people today and when the novel was written in the 1920's. This concept is reiterated in the final paragraph of the novel- 'tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning..." This sense that stems from the American Dream that everything can always be bigger and better, nothing is ever settled; with the final allusion "one fine morning" that you will be where you want to be one day if you keep working at it. Before this time in history, and especially in the old world, social position and wealth were largely determined by birth and re-inventing ones self was not a concept for people.
Although it is mostly successful for Gatsby, Myrtle's attempt at self re-invention through having an affair with wealthy Tom Buchanan to climb socially and move away her life that she sees as beneath her is wholly unsuccessful, showing that not all acts of self reinvention will be successful and is a warning for readers.
And in contemporary times the obsession with self improvement and reinvention is still important, and that is especially projected by the American Media. Today self help books are big business.
The second most successful on the list, Think and Grow Rich was published in 1937 and has sold over 70 million copies. "Before compiling the text, Hill researched the lives of over 40 millionaires to discover how they became so successful." This seems to allude to everything The Great Gatsby and the character of Gatsby set out to and did achieve. Even the cover seems like a reference to the novel. A more recent example, the 2016 Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want is a step by step guide to " to design a life with the end in mind, determining in advance the outcomes we desire and path to get there". These examples show that this major theme of a book written 90 years ago has as much relevance now as it did then as people continue to believe in self-improvement.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Crime and Sin in The Great Gatsby

Even though Crime in the 1920’s was not one of the main focal points in The Great Gatsby, it is certainly present in the background of the book. One of the prime examples of a character representing the theme of crime is Meyer Wolfsheim who Gatsby does business with. Gatsby involvement with Wolfheim in illegal activities is implied later on in the book, There is a big possibility that Gatsby was involved with Wolfheim in the production of alcohol and sale of it to even though this is not openly stated, though this could be suggested with all of the lavish parties he has hosted. This would have also been during the time of the prohibition area in which such practises were illegal. 

Gatsby's relationship with Wolfsheim makes Nick and others doubt the honesty in the acquisition of Gatsby's wealth, and Tom later accuses Gatsby of becoming wealthy through criminal business activities.  So although not at the forefront of the story, crime is represented in the novel.

One of the basic facts about Jay Gatsby is that he throws amazing parties at his house every weekend. Alcohol , dancing, and people aren’t even invited — they just show up. These partygoers, it would seem, exhibit the sin of gluttony, in that they eat and drink and dance and party to excess, and take extreme advantage of the offerings of a man they don’t even know. In Gatsby, we see many characters who are a bit more than well-off. Both Gatsby and the Buchanans (Tom and Daisy) live in lavish homes, yet they still yearn for more. It seems that no one in The Great Gatsby is truly content with their current status — everyone is constantly on the lookout for what they can grab hold of next.

Tom Buchanan is a great example of lust. Though he already has a beautiful wife in Daisy, it is revealed that she apparently is not enough for him: he is a serial cheater, and his latest mistress is Myrtle Wilson, a woman from the “Valley of Ashes” between Long Island and New York City. Tom often takes trips into the city, picking up Myrtle along the way so that they can continue their affair. Wrath is presented through the character Tom Buchanan, who not only flies into a tempered fit at one point and slaps Myrtle, but also falsely sends George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, after Gatsby when Myrtle is killed by a speeding vehicle. Many of Tom and Gatsby’s interactions are rather heated, and Tom has quite the tendency toward flares of temper.

Envy drives the plot of the tale, for it is Gatsby’s desire for Daisy and his jealousy of the rich lifestyle that kicks off his entire persona. Gatsby is made from envy and exists to inspire envy in others, he crafts for himself an image that begs to be desired just as he once desired it.

An example of modern day crime an corruption can be represented through Sepp Blatter and the Fifa scandal in 2015.The 2015 arrests centre on the alleged use of bribery, fraud and money laundering to corrupt the issuing of media and marketing rights for FIFA games in the Americas, estimated at $150 million, including at least $110 million in bribes related to the Copa America Centenario to be hosted in 2016 in the United States. Sepp Blatter can be related to the character of Meyer Wolfheim who is known in the booking for his shady dealings as well as him claiming to the fixing of another well know sporting event, the world series.

Women and Liberty in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby plays host to three key female characters: Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan, each portraying what appears to be varying aspects of perceived womanhood in the 1920s.

Daisy longs for the days of her 'white girlhood' because she is unhappy in the marriage she forced herself into with Tom. The system of relationships and affairs between the two is complicated by gender-enforced double-standards. For instance, Tom is unhappy when he believes Daisy and Gatsby are having adulterous relations but fails to see the hypocrisy of this as he completes the same actions, perhaps even to a larger scale. In this regard, Daisy is not free but trapped in what the society of the time believed to be acceptable based on gender. Daisy is also objectified throughout the novel, not by Tom but Gatsby who claims to love her, as he sees her as an achievable goal (often viewed as the American Dream personified). The green light could be seen a siren call to lure Gatsby as the seductive woman she is often portrayed, and as the ultimate desirable woman for men. 'Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget...' Fitzgerald often describes her in a poetic manner so that she fits the image of the siren. Gatsby sees this as a signifier of wealth and social status.

Jordan seems to be the most forward-thinking of the three main female protagonists as she is a golf player which would generally be seen as a male sport. In this manner, she is free from the boundaries of a socially sexist environment. This is a further achievement the fact Fitzgerald often classifies women as 'girls' in the presence of men at Gatsby's parties. Jordan often counterbalances her own good image with her cynicism and her incurable dishonesty. She too is of a higher class than characters like Myrtle which allows her in this context to act like a dominating force.

Myrtle however is of a much lower social class as she lives in the Valley of Ashes and in this time 'once the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, the lines that divided women - class, race, age, ideology became more significant' <>. Being viewed as lower down than women like Daisy and Jordan, Tom's affair with her can be percieved as more scandalous and opens her up to a higher chance of victimisation, such as Tom breaking her nose and simply leaving afterwards. Like Gatsby, Myrtle often tries to rise above her general station as she has grand social aspirations but the class system is great boundary of society, and in particular gender.


This is a video of Emma Watson at the United Nations discussing gender equality and her HeForShe Campaign. She talks about how she questioned 'gender-based assumptions' in a modern society and her theory of stereotypes can be applied to The Great Gatsby with regard to the moral double-standards regarding Tom and Daisy. In a digital age, Watson says that she was 'sexualised by certain elements of the media'. Gatsby obtains elements of these objectifying traits as he simply aims to claim Daisy as his own. As Watson calls for gender equality and the unity of men and women, we see in the novel a clear divide between the sexes and also the individuals of the women. Although some of the men intertwine, work together and go on daytrips to New York together, it is rare for the women to be anything but individual. In the modern world, the audience is able to witness the inequalities that have been faced throughout history, which is inclusive of the female characters in Gatsby.

America and Self Absorption - The Great Gatsby

Daisy Buchanan is one of the most self absorbed characters in the novel as she uses her status and love of money to look down on others. She is so driven by her social status and love of money that she does not care that her husband is cheating on her so long as she can remain in a higher status in society. Also she loves to be the centre of attention, she talks quietly so that people will come closer to her, again emphasising her self absorption. This coincides with her selfishness because the reader knows that she loves Gatsby and is only staying with Tom for the wealth and status yet when she is confronted about whether she loves Gatsby she just goes along with what is expected of her. As soon as Tom makes promises to better there relationship by being faithful she quickly discards Gatsby from her life. As long as the situation benefits her she does not care about anything else.

Tom and Daisy are described in chapter 9 as "they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made" Furthermore the couple are both destructive and self-centred as they completely disregard other people's opinions. Daisy in particular only cares what happens to her as long as she is happy that is all that matters. This is also shown when she lets Gatsby take the blame for killing Myrtle even though she was the one who was driving the car. This act of selflessness on Gatsby's part ultimately leads to his death. He sacrificed everything for the love of Daisy who would not have been able to face the disgrace from society and lose everything she believes in from Myrtles death. Therefore she is a completely selfish and self-absorbed character .

In terms of America today, according to Bill O'Reilly America is self-absorbed and ignorant. He identifies some quite shocking statistics such as 67% of the 1000 peoples asked did not know that the US is Capitalist, 43% could not define the bill of rights yet more than half of those polled could name at least two members of the Simpsons family. He rightly suggests that this is due to the "internet creating a generation of people who are self-absorbed, addicted, distracted and and ignorant people." This is similar to Daisy and she is so self-absorbed she becomes ignorant to the world around her. The fact that such a large percentage of people do not know general knowledge facts about their own country says a lot about how internet culture and teaching in schools has changed how much people are aware of what is going on in their own society. It makes a worrying future for America if statistics like these are not changed soon.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Final Scene

The ending scene within the film is one of the most famous scenes in film history, the ending sequence of the film is without dialogue and features music in the background. Ethan returns Debbie home, while the rest of the family return into the house, Ethan is left standing in the doorway alone. He turns directly, facing the camera, a dark silhouette against the the bright backdrop behind him of the desert. He turns and walks into the desert wind as the door closes on him. A possible reason for this is that really he is trying to save the community from himself and wants to stay as far away from them as possible. this is very different to other westerns that were produced in the same era such as Shane, where he was considered a hero and endeared by many.

An interpretation of this scene could be that he felt that he had completed his task for the family, due to Debbie being returned safely to her family. The actions of Ethan could be considered traditional of the western hero and that now he is moving on to pursue other adventures. The lone ranger theme is also very prevalent in this film as he begins to travel on his own.

The Edenic Myth is also featured in this scene. The Edenic Myth is the vision of a paradise with mountain backdrops and desert plains, and this longing to find this paradise can be related to the westward expansion.At the end, Ethan leaves the family which is gathering in the cabin to celebrate Debbie's return and walks away toward the spires. This indicates that he cannot give up on this Edenic myth for civilisation.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Searchers - Ethan shoots the Native American's eyes out

The majority of Americans shared similar racist views as Ethan. This scene shows Ethan shooting a dead Native American in the eyes so that he cannot enter the spirit world, instead he must wander the winds forever. Throughout the film Ethan refers to Martin as blanket, which is another racist term to describe Indians, this shows his demeaning attitude towards Native Americans and does not refrain from speaking his mind regardless of the situation.

A critic called Pye argues that "Ethan's obsessive hatred of Indians and the idea of mixed blood are presented in ways designed to distance us from him." This suggests that Ethan is not a true representation of the myths of the West as the audience are supposed to feel distance from him because that is not an accurate portrayal of how white men felt at the time. However Ethan is a bitter character who has personal resentment of the Comanche tribe due to personal experiences regarding his wife. The significance of this scene is that it is one of the first brutal acts we see Ethan do, following this he gradually becomes darker and more driven to kill any Native American that gets in the way of saving Debbie.

Furthermore as Ethan is played by John Wayne who is famous for his roles in the western genre, some critics argue that this has an impact on how the audience perceive Ethan as a character despite his constant racist remarks. John Wayne is notoriously known for his portrayal of a western hero so for him to play a character that is considered to be evil makes it difficult for the audience to distance themselves as Pye would argue. He is still depicted as a hero but has a dark side which makes his character interesting and is a move away from the traditional western hero that would represent the west. Particularly as he has a strong, masculine persona that despite being the hero can be intimidating to some of the characters in the film as he is reluctant to take orders. His leadership ability intertwines with his racist attitude because he is in control, so can be as savage as he wants to be when killing the Native Americans. Yet in the western genre it is the Native Americans who are portrayed as being savage and uncivilised which challenges the traditional conventions of the western genre.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Searchers - Opening Scene Analysis

Many critics see the final scene of The Searchers as one of the most influencial within the film but I believe it could easily be argued the opening scene ranks the same. The cinematography between the two is almost identical but simply in reverse. What is enduring about this scene is the very first few seconds as Martha opens the door, as if she is opening the door to the movie narrative and a picturesque landscape overpowers the darkened corners of the screen to present the inside of the house.

In many ways, this simple minute with only one line reinforces many of the ideas and myths that surround the settlement of the West. For example, the notion that they are the only family within sight would have been highly uncommon in reality but media outlets such as the Western film aimed to solidify these ideas because it portrayed a kind of paradise. The score solidifies this idealistic image also with high-pitched strings providing a happy yet calming soundtrack to accompany Martha looking out onto what seems to be a utopian situation. Similar views on settlement are found in literature, in Little House on the Prairie for instance. Many comparisons can be drawn. Both families are shocked to see figures approaching the house. Here we see Aaron in awe of of his brother Ethan's arrival, showing this embedded sense of peace that this family has to the extent that they remain detached from their own family as well as the rest of the outside world.

What is also established in the scene are the generalised ideas of gender. For instance, Martha is consise with her appearance to the finest detail and also immerses into a moment of melodrama with her hand movement whereas Aaron simply struts in front of the house squinting in his rugged shirt and waistcoat. A major contrast between them is the colouring of their outfits - Martha wears white and blue to suggest high levels of domestcity and a certain aspect of innocence also but Aaron wears dark clothes which almost look dirty suggesting he endures the more typically masculine jobs around the land. These ideas can also be found in other Westerns and again, Little House on the Prairie. Aaron falls into one of Frederick Jackson Turner's three catagories of emigrants being 'the pioneer, who depends for subsistence of his family chiefly upon the natural growth of vegetation, called "the range" which certainly seems true of this family's position given the acres of land that surround them with no neighbours to unsettle them.

Turner also speaks of the American need to 'enlarge their dominion over inanimate nature' which can certainly be seen here with them being the only household in sight. This falls into the theorised expansive power which resides in the American identity. What is striking, and particularly visual in this scene, is how subconscious that notion has become - there seems to be no regard for what or who may have previously been settled as their idealised lifestyle is the dominating feature and visualised with extensive beauty in the camerawork as we move from the interior to the exterior.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Nez Perce Tribe

The Nez Perce Indians are original people of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State. Most Nez Perce people live in Idaho today. 

The Nez Perces live on a reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. The Nez Perce nation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, they are also US citizens and must obey American law. In the past, each Nez Perce band was ruled by a chief, who was elected by a tribal council of important men from each village. Today, they are ruled by a tribal council which is elected by all the people. 

The food that the tribe ate included salmon and fish and a variety of meats from the animals that they hunted. They supplemented their protein diet with seeds, nuts and fruits and used cornlike roots to make ‘kouse’, this was also by Native Americans to create a variety of medicines.

By the middle of the 1800s, settlers had flooded into the land of the Nez Perce, which was about 13 million acres. In 1846, the U.S. government took ownership of the land from the British and it became part of the United States. Conflicts arose between the Nez Perce. Many settlers ignored the Indian ancestral rights to the land. Others stole horses and killed the Nez Perce in disputes. Often these acts against the Native Americans went unpunished

Then gold was discovered on the Nez Perce land, and the land became very valuable to the people of the United States. In 1863, the government of the United States offered the Nez Perce a treaty that would take away over 90 percent of the land that settlers hadn’t already taken. 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma

The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma prides itself in its enriched seven hundred year history. Before the beginnings of the United States, they inherited areas along the North Platt River in Nebraska. As the U.S. government began interfering in the affairs of Native Americans, Congress labelled them as a "friendly tribe". The Pawnee were present in a lot of wars that enveloped the nation. Having fought in the Indian wars, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom, the Pawnee take a great sense of accomplishment in serving their country. In accordance, they host dance events to remember Memorial Day, Veterans Day and even Christmas Day; also hosting an event for the Pawnee Indian Veterans Day on the weekend closest to 4th July each year.

The flag is a dominant symbol in Pawnee culture. The eight arrowheads symbolise the eight wars they have battled through. A central figure on the flag is the wolf, to suggest cunning and courage, with a peace pipe standing for the peace of their people and a tomahawk for defense placed underneath in a cross formation. Throughout their website, there are stories of their involement in wars and speak highly of one story that discusses a battle which saw them outnumbered by double against armed soldiers but drove them away in order to preserve their land. This is a testament to their pride and sense of honour that runs through the heart of their community.

There are several job opportunities within the community and use their website to advertise these. There are departments for education, finance, law enforcement, and even a Pawnee Nation Court and Nation Government as to regulate the acts in their community by their standards. The offices also offer housing, education, health, social and employment aid and services to tribe members. An interesting point to notice is their advertisements for Stonewolf Casino and shows images of Native Americans working as waitresses and game hosts, evidencing further the Native American involvement in the casino industry to stimulate the Pawnee economy in this circumstance.

It is said that the Pawnee tribe claimed more than 60,000 members in the early 18th century and today has a reduced 3,200 enrolled members.

Yurok Tribe           

The Yurok tribe originate from North Western California. They are known for being good fishermen, eelers, basket weavers, canoe makers, storytellers, singers, dancers, healers and strong medicine people. The villages could be located on the Klamath river, with houses being built from materials such as redwood planks that were split from logs and would be tied together with grapevines. Every village would have several family homes and sweat houses. According to the Yurok's traditional stories the redwood trees are sacred living beings, even though they use the trees to build houses and canoes the redwood is still respected as they are believed to be guardians over their sacred pace. 

The main source of food for the Yurok was acorns with fish which would most likely be salmon. Also they had a good source of deer to hunt for meat, in the summer bulbs would be dug and seeds would be harvested. They would collect salt from the seaweed and if a whale was washed onto the shore this would be considered to be prize meat, however they would never hunt for whales. 

By 1849 more and more settlers were staring to move in to Northern California due to the discovery of gold. At first the settlers would make trades with the tribe but as more settlers arrived the attitudes towards each other soon became more hostile. The government was pressured to change laws in order to protect the Yuroks from loss of land and assault but the settlers did not care about this they just wanted to find as much gold as possible. As a result of this Native Americans were killed as settlers passed through, in the process destroying the villages too. By the end of the gold rush era at least 75% of the Yurok people died as a result of bloody massacres and disease, other tribes in California saw a 95% loss of life. Even though the death toll percentage is high for the Yurok tribe when it it put in context with the area of California as a whole it enhances the severity of the impact of the gold rush on innocent human life.

Treaty negotiations also took place between the Native Americans and the white men despite the reluctance from the local tribes and were very much opposed to meeting with Redick Mckee, the representative sent from Congress. This was due to masses of complaints from the settlers to Congress complaining that the Native Americans were receiving an excess of valuable land and resources. Consequently Congress rejected the treaties and did not notify the tribe about this decision. 

Interestingly, to this day the Yurok Tribe is the largest tribe in California with over 5000 enrolled members. They include the local community and are open to enrolling new members into the tribe. They also have a council that discusses issues and solves any issues that arise from the people.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Glacial Meadow and Lake, William Keith

This painting by Keith from the 1870s or early 1880s shows a scene depicted from Tuolumne Meadows in California's Yosemite National park. During this time he travelled around Yosemite with John Muir, an early advocate of the preservation of wilderness in the United States. It was well known in this period when he travelled that Keith 'felt free to depart from geologic reality, placing an imagined glacier or a river in a scene to enhance the beauty of the painting' and so this painting may be slightly altered from the reality of what he saw to obtain awe from the viewer. The great variety in landscape in only one area, how it can go from flat ground with a lake, to hills, and then to mountains exemplifies the great variety of the West in general. His use of people and a horse in the foreground to allow the vast scale and size of the West to be put into perspective, with the valley creating lines so that your eye travels to the mountain range in the background. Furthermore, the use of light in this painting to make the mountains and sky seem bright whilst the foreground is shadowy and warmer that gives the painting a sense of calm and safety and that this wilderness is in fact as safe and welcoming as it is picturesque. Therefore this painting, much like many of his contemporaries when he studied art in Germany, could be seen as a product of Romanticism in art in this period of settlement.

It is perhaps unusual that humans are depicted in this painting, as they are often omitted to portray the wild landscape as untouched by human intervention; but in this case they are seen as entirely peaceful and gives the painting a sense of adventure in such a place of natural beauty as they are merely observing. There is no sense of danger and no wild animals are seen. This links to his agenda to show the West in a way that portrays its need to be preserved.

Natural Bridge, Virginia - David Johnson - 1860

Natural Bridge, Virginia is created by David Johnson is his attempt of the portrayal of the sublime in nature. The painting uses light very well to emphasise the beauty of this natural landscape. As we see the bridge is in the distance, and is surrounded by dense vegetation. This vegetation also gives the sense that a lot of the surrounding areas are unknown and mysterious, that also with the fact the limited amount of light reflecting from the vegetation.

From the look of the painting on the left side, there seems to be the presence of a home, maybe livestock, this gives the indication of human presence, this also gives the painting a balance between man and nature. This balance, paired with the relatively small scale of the work and its elevated perspective, prevents the viewer from being overwhelmed by a spectacular vista, instead, it gives the viewer a more compacted view of the painting, and thus gives them more time to think about a particular aspect.

At one time, Thomas Jefferson owned Natural Bridge and the land that surrounded it. In the nineteenth century, the Virginia land bridge was among the most well known natural wonders in North America. Thousands of European and American tourists journeyed to the site, marvelling at what they saw as evidence of God’s sublime creation.

Monday, 8 February 2016

View of Greenwood Lake, New Jersey - Jasper Francis Cropsey (1845)

Jasper Francis Cropsey's painting Greenwood Lake depicts a picturesque view of nature. It is inspired by Cropeys travels of New York and New jersey where he hoped to find an idyllic, picturesque setting to paint, The colours are quite dull, consisting of greens, oranges and browns which would suggest that this is Autumn. The painting enhances the vastness of the setting due to the mountainous background and the huge amounts of land on the painting, therefore portraying the sheer size of the land in the American West. The artist has presented the landscape as being beautifully simplistic free from human intervention; this makes it natural and vulnerable to the threat of human intervention in the future. There is a sense of the sublime in this painting as it shows the greatness of the natural landscape through the vegetation and forestry as well as the mountains in the distance. As the atrist had also spent time travelling in London this inspired him to capture the aspect of the change in seasons in order "to convey an idea of the vastness and magnitude of the American landscape, the clearness and beauty of the atmosphere,and the richness and variety of the colour in the foliage during the Indian Summer period of the year." Due to the portrayal of size and vastness in the painting the danger of the sublime could be lurking in the forests as it is a place of mystery and danger that could be a threat to the peace of the natural landscape. However as there are no humans in this picture there does not seem to be a threat but due to the time the painting was created Westward expansion was at its peak, therefore human intervention could ruin the tranquillity the artist has captured.

Sierra Nevada (1871-73), by Albert Bierstadt

This painting by Albert Bierstadt who was an artist celebrated for his depictions of journeys during the Westward Expansion, joining many travels during his career. This particular painting is of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California; one of the most westward areas in the United States. Not many people would have visited these parts at the time of painting so would have relied on artists like Bierstadt to illustrate accurate images of these mountain ranges, lakes, etc.
Certainly there are elements of majesty and natural wonder that settlements in the East and the population in Europe would not be familiar with. For instance, the mountains reaching above the clouds could indicate a religious meaning. However the clouds to the West, and particularly the East tend to morph into a grey shade that hints the sublime. The sublime is not necessarily obvious on first viewing due to a grand mixture of colours but the trees are a much darker green than would be expected and the water moves further away from a tranquil shade of blue to a darker one.
I find it interesting also that there are no depictions of humans, only animals. This could be a suggestion that from Bierstadt that the West is a wilderness not inhabited by humans as a dominant ideology. I think it should it also be noted that Bierstadt is of German descent - he would not have seen these sights in Europe or even the East, thus explaining his motive to portray it as an extensive landscape and a site of the most natural orientation.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Hardships faced by the Ingall family (Chapter 6)

Little House on The Prairie, Chapter 6

  • Throughout Little House on The Prairie, we see that the Ingall family face a wide array of hardships.
  • From the very outset of chapter 6 we find out that the Ingalls are already facing difficulties when they move in to their new house, there are many issues with the house such as a lack of windows and doors, they are also without a stable for pet and patty.
  • What makes this situation even worse is a bit further on into the chapter, Pa hears wolves nearby, which makes it even more vital to build the stable to make sure that they are protected, if the wolves happen to get closer to their new home.
  • Ma was less worried about the looming situation as she said to Pa “Well, you have your gun, so I’ll not worry”. Pa was feeling a lot less safe as he in considered the protector of the family, and he wont feel safe until the house is repaired properly.
  • Besides the natural hardship of the wolves, whilst building the walls, Pa was also faced with hardship of the weather conditions,as if it wasn’t hard doing these jobs on his own, he was holding down the canvas, whilst encountering very extreme winds. This led Laura to believe that he “must let go or sail into the air like a bird”.
  • Even when Pa finished of the walls, the house still lacked windows and doors, the canvas was all they had for in terms of a roof. These hardships only multiply in their seriousness especially as a family with young children.
  • In this chapter, one of the social hardships is that they are miles away from their family in the big woods, and it would be very hard to communicate with them as they are roughly 40 miles for the post office.
  • Another social hardship for the Ingall family is isolation and loneliness, this is due to them packing up and moving miles away from their family in pursuit of a better life. These social hardships are also a great disadvantage in this chapter with the Ingall family thing to fix the house in extreme weather conditions. It is this sense of self-reliance that the Ingall family portray as also as an aspect of the American Dream that many other families alike were trying to achieve.
  • Pa relies on himself for pretty much everything, he chooses where they will build their home, to support and feed his family he plows seeds and collects furs to trade.
  • All of Wilder’s books take place in the period of the westward expansion in the United States. They travel in search of land to claim as their own, or they would simply take over land that didn't belong to them in the first place. 
  • For the Ingalls, as well as many other families alike, holding on to the land that they claimed could be very tough as they would have to survive anything from brutal weather condition to settlers trying to overthrow them.

Presentation on Attitudes Towards Native Americans in Chapter 18 of Little House on the Prairie

Attitudes Towards Native Americans in Chapter 18, The Tall Indian, of Little House on the Prairie

Throughout the novel, the reader can see varying opinions of the Indians, so that everyone can relate with at least one character along the broad spectrum of morality. For example, Pa is often sympathetic whereas Ma is unaccepting. However, Jack is the most hostile, and as the designated protector and guard of the Ingalls family, his metaphorical voice against the Indians is dominating. One of the most interesting voices is Wilder's herself as she speaks with a high arrogance which is monotonous as if to pass judgement on lines of narration like 'They went by [the house] as though it were not there.'
Ma's hatred of the Indians is often echoed through Jack, but as a passive and maternal figure, she is easily forgiven. An interesting attitude from Ma is that the Indians are like an omnipresent force. She complains about not being able to 'look up without seeing one', and then one appears standing in the doorway. She also immerses in a great fear of them and complies in making food for them and letting them commit theft out of fear alone. Her attitudes are contractictory however as she disregards them as the government's problem rather than theirs, showing an embedded disrespect and dehumanising attitude towards the Indians. Ma's attitudes were very common at the time. Wilder's voice often matches Ma's but is closer to a vocalised version of Jack's, especially on simplistic and almost childish lines like 'Those Indians were dirty and scowling and smelly.' Almost all attitudes towards the Indians are negative in one way or another.
Pa seen as a sympathetic character towards the Indians but his actions of settlement contradict this. However lines like 'Well it's his path. An Indian trail long before we came.' show signs of guilt but not enough to exercise these notions. There is a moment of respect when he moves Jack out of the way before attacking an Indian to let him pass. A level of guilt is plausable here as they provide no reason as to why they settled there other than a subconscious assumption of white privilege. Pa happily interacts with the 'friendly Indian' but his attitudes of allowing the government to simply move the Indians west contradict these briefs moments of kindness.
Sweeping attitudes of white privilege are apparent towards the end of the chapter - 'When white settlers come into a country, the Indians have to move on.' which reflects the Turner Thesis with regard to 'an expansive power which is inherent in them' without any sympathy to the native communities in the area. This line helps to show that these attitudes reside so passively in them that this way of thinking was so common in America at the time.
Laura and Mary's attitudes are more curiousity than anything with a subliminal level of fear as they often express a fascination at the Indians - 'Laura and Mary backed against the house and looked up at them.' with the verb 'backed' showing that subliminal fear. Laura's voice often questions Ma and Pa's attitudes but as a child, they are easy to disregard as nonsense.
To conclude, it is this chapter that reveals the true attitudes towards Native Americans from each character that were only hinted at or questioned in previous chapters. It is because we see different representations of Indians that allows the reader to witness several responses from the characters that allow us to see their attitudes clearly.

Hardships faced by the Ingalls family (natural, political, social)’-chapter 23

Hardships faced by the Ingalls family (natural, political, social)’- chapter 23 Indian War Cry

  • A major hardship faced by the Ingalls' family is that of the threat of hostility displayed by Indians towards them which is a recurring theme throughout the novel 
  • Sentiments such as those by Mr and Mrs Scott that the 'only good Indian is a dead Indian'.
  •  the 'Minnesota massacres' which took place in 1862 and involved members of the Sioux tribe killing around 500 white settlers. 
  • In this chapter, after surviving the prairie fire in chapter 22, fear builds as 'there was an uneasiness about the Indians' with Pa beginning to make lots of bullets. This intensifies when 'out in the night the drums were beating and the Indians were wildly yelling' which Laura is told upon speculation is an 'Indian war-cry'. 
  • Pa Ingalls ultimately decides to leave after this interaction with the Indians as he believes that white settlers will be removed from the land by the government. In reality the Indians are moved on in 1870 by the Drum Creek Treaty to allow the land to be settled by white people and to make way for the railways 
  • 'They must have left in between then and the date of this meeting, and Pa must have been pretty sure it was going to come out the other way. Had he waited a couple of weeks, the family would not have had to leave their little house on the prairie.' significant hardship
  • in other accounts the same hardship is faced by similar families - on the Oregon Trail- emigrants worried a great deal about possible Native American attacks, but very few were ever actually killed by the native tribes.'