Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Modern Women

Reporting on the Lives of Women (Appendix F)during the time in which House of Mirth was written was very eye-opening to me. It's easy to read the novel and think about how bizarre and sad Lily's life and behaviors were and to write it off as just a story. But realizing that Edith Wharton's purpose in writting the book was to satirically comment on actual women and behaviors present in that time, makes it much more incredible. It's so sad to me to think that women lived with their only goal being to get married and find a rich husband who can support them.

Then I realized that I large percentage of today's women only live with the goal in mind to marry rich. I hear people all the time saying their financial plan is to marry a rich man. While most of this is joking, it is obviously routed in a very true practice, and there is some subconscious truth in it. Many women are perfectly happy having their husbands "bring home the bacon" while they stay at home and raise the children. Their is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it does show that maybe we are not so far from Lily Bart than we think.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

journal response

Puddn'head Wilson, written by Mark Twain, is often included on the list of great and classic novels. Robert A. Wiggins disagrees. His article "A Literary Caesarean Operation" describes a novel that is shallow, poorly developed and lacking from an author that can do better. Twain proved himself, according to Wiggins, in Huckleberry Finn with his well-developed characters and their relationships. In comparison to PUddn'head Wilson. Wiggins finds the actors and story flaawed. He found the philosophy and racial commentary intriguing, but the execution seems disjointed and pieced together. This is probably because Twain ended up deviating from his original plot focuz on the "Extraordinary Twins"; however Wiggins does not accept this as an excuse. He finds areas of inconsistency in Twain's conclusion. Through Tom Driscoll, Twain makes the statement that "blood is thicker than water" (Wiggins 183). In direct opposition is Valet de 'Chambre who cannot live as a white man even when he discovered his blood-line, because he was raised as a black man. Wiggins' makes an illuminating analysis of the novel and concludes that Puddn'head Wilson is a poorly compromised novel that barely brushes the surface of its intriguing theme.

Although Wiggins' arguments are very logical and make sense, I disagree with him. I think that Twain is a brilliant author and proved it with his writing of Huckleberry Finn, but that Puddn'head Wilson exemplifies it even more. Twain showed his depth in Huck Finn and I therefore believe that he was just as purposeful with Puddn'head Wilson. IF there were inconsistencies in the social commentary, then it was put there for a reason. Like Wiggins, I noticed the contradicting ending with Tom and Chambers. But rather than Twain declaring one all-encompassing answer to the nature-nurture debate, which is what Wiggins seems to think he ewas trying to do, I believe he was showing the absurdities with placing emphasis on skin color. The tragic circumstances in the novel lead the audience to feel sorry for both boys mixed up in the race mess, and the conclusion is perfect to make a stand against prejudice and racial profiling.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I really enjoyed seeing my first "silent film" today. It was hard for me to take it seriously though, because I was constantly reminded of cartoons. The old Loony-Tunes where the picture fades out or gets smaller reminded me of the way the screen blacked out to put emphasis on one character. To add to the cartoon feel, the actors over-played their actions and showed dramatic emotion on their faces that we do not see in modern film, or in real life. For example, the scene at the wedding when the couple was looking at their gifts and the guests were standing around was very funny. It was at a slightly faster speed than real-life and when the man started spanking the children it added to it. However funny and odd it seemed at first, the dramatic actors played the parts well and for a good reason. With no sound, they have to portray the film somehow and the only way they can is through their expressions. Once I got used to it, it was actually very dark, sad and ominous.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Name game: Identity

One thing that was a major theme in both Iola Leroy and Puddn'head Wilson were the character's names and how they helped define the individual's identity. Take David Wilson for example. He is labeled right off the start as a "Puddn'head" and retains that nickname almost all the way to the end of the book. Only Roxy realized that he was not a puddn'head at all. By the end of the book when he uncovers the real assasin and frees the twins from their unfair arrest, the rest of the town says "he isn't a Puddn'head, we are the puddn'heads!" I wondered why the book was called Puddn'head Wilson, because while Wilson does play an important part, we never know much about him or what he is thinking. The story mainy revolves around Tom and Roxy and their motivations and feelings and actions. So I realized that Twain was putting a focus on mistaken identity. Puddn'head was improperly named, and that opens up the door to see who else was improperly named (or who took on an improper identity). And we see this with almost every character in some way. Obviously Tom and Chambers are switched and that screws with everything both of them understand growing up and messes up their sense of self when they learn about the switches. Roxy also takes on the role as servant to her true son, and is a possibly negligent "mother" to her master. She is never truely a mother because when Tom finds out about her he acts as her beneficiary, providing for her; and she encourages his unlawful activity. The judge has the role of father to someone that is not only his son, but not even related to him. The twins are immediately treated with reverie when they come to town just because their names are foreign. In Iola Leroy, Iola's refusal to deny her black family shows a loyalty to the name. Rather than tell people she is fully white, she always reveals her blood and it puts her in sad situations. There are such strong emphasis on names in these novels. It shows what a struggle identity was for people to understand.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I thought our class time in the MASC was really interesting today. One of the books I noticed was a travel guide called something like "Pacific Coast Travels". It had a couple paragraphs written about most of the cities along the coast of California and a couple major inland locations. Being from San Diego, and having traveled around California I know about most of these places now. It was so interesting to me to read about San Diego in 1880, from a tourist attraction standpoint. It was described as a place with "ideal weather" never getting too hot, but being comfortably warm for most of the year and its major resource was its safe harbor that didn't get too many rough wakes. These things are basically the same today. It also stated, and astonished me, that the population was 2,600ish, when today it is above 3 million and my own high school that I graduated from had over 3,000 students. It blows my mind that the entire population of San Diego was smaller than the amount of people I went to school with. Another funny thing was that it had a little disclaimer about the possibility of large sharks off the coast and the fact that a swimmer had disappeared recently. Now, it is a well known understanding that there are great whites that breed off the coast in the deep water.

Finding this book really made me appreciate the archived books and all the insight they have to offer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Daisy Miller

After our discussion in class about Daisy Miller I began to really dislike the girl. We spent a lot of time comparing the differences in cultural and time period social rules and expectations. One thing we did not discuss, however, is the fact that while there are differences in social rules, people should be respectful of the expectations in the time and place that they are living. Daisy's behavior, while acceptable in the United States was not acceptable in Europe and it gave her a reputation that she may not have wanted to support. She never took responsibility for her behavior being different. She consistently gave the excuse that basically said "this is okay in America". The thing is...she wasn't in America. She may not have agreed or understand European culture, but as a respectful tourist she should have submitted to it. By not doing so she was acting offensively toward the people that did live there. Comparing this to modern times, people that travel to other countries are also expected to follow the culture of the location to avoid offending the locals. For example, if traveling to certain places around the world like Africa and Middle Eastern countries, there are rules for what kind of clothing both men and women may wear. Americans now-a-days that travel the world and don't follow the rules give American tourists a bad reputation, just like Daisy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More Joaquin

I absolutely loved the last couple of pages of this novel. As a whole, I found the book easy to read, unemotional, and very play-by-play. I liked it, but felt no emotional draw toward any character or theme. Regardless, I liked that it was written in a way that left out too much dialogue or thought, which can sometimes complicate and confuse the purpose of the book. This purpose is fully explained and summed up by the line on page 158: "a wrong done to one man is a wrong to society and to the world". I think this is an amazing lesson of how humans treat the people around them. Obviously when people do bad things, all the victims don't immediately run out and rampage, kill and rob everyone they see. However, if a person hurts someone and that happens to be the final straw, that victim may lash out at someone else, which could be that third person's final straw. Joaquin Murieta is an extreme example of what hurting others can do, but it is an important lesson.

The women have an interesting role in this novel because they do not retaliate. Joaquin's wife was hurt just as much as he was, but she also has to deal with the guilt of running around with her bandit husband, and the sadness of watching him ruin their lives. The women are the biggest victims of the book because while they have received the wrong-doings the rest of the men have, they do not murder or rob anyone, but blindly follow their mates. The last line of the book draws attention to these real victims. And it makes an important point that cruelty is learned. I think the author's point is that we, as humanity, needs to stop teaching people that revenge is an appropriate response to hostility and that aggression toward others is ever okay. By learning these, we will not continue the evil cycle that Joaquin Murieta displays.