Thursday, April 8, 2010

House of Mirth

After reading through House of Mirth, I can just not get over the character of Lily. She seems to always pass up the opportunity to marry a rich man in the vain hope that an even richer man will come along. She goes from nervous to almost arrogant after meeting Gryce and deciding she wants to marry him.

The various intricacies of high society were also rather amusing to read. Stealing guests from other parties and then complaining about it later, though the large amount of gossip that seems to occur between the women seems to be a running theme in novels that involve high-class women with seemingly nothing to do but sit around and talk to one another.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I actually liked the film 'Greed' that was shown in class today. I suppose I was one of the few that had seen a few silent films in the past, so the lack of actual dialogue was not very difficult. The trick I've found is to pay more attention to the hand gestures, body language and music in order to follow the story. Most silent films do not have a large amount of plot twists, they are relatively simple stories overall and it doesn't take a great deal of understanding to keep up with the plot.

I did enjoy the small bits of humor that were thrown in, the funeral procession outside of the wedding ceremony, the spanking of the little boys and the dinner table scene. I only wish we could have seen the movie in its entirety and not just a little clip here and there.

Of all the scenes we watched, I thought the ending portion was the most interesting. It seemed as though the actors were hardly even acting, being exposed in the hot death valley in real life while filming, it is not like today where actors spend the time between shoots in an air conditioned trailer and then fake sweat is applied to their bodies. It's all very real. The lack of special effects I quite enjoyed as well, far too often modern movies rely on fancy special effects that are almost as comical as some believe 'Greed' to be.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I have to admit when I first started reading McTeague it was a little on the dull side for me. I understand the certain appeal of reading a more realistic view of daily life for someone living on Polk street, but it didn't really appeal to me as a reader. That is to say, the story was a little too dry, and the romance with Trina didn't really help that much.

It wasn't until around page 143 that things started to get interesting, McTeague losing his ability to practice dentistry without having gone to school seemed to start a train of events that really got me into the book so much so that I could hardly put it down without finishing it. I was quite surprised that Trina was killed by McTeague though, I was expecting someone like Marcus to be involved with something like that. Seeing as though Marcus and McTeague never got along very well, McTeague married Trina, who Marcus liked at first... and Marcus notified the Government that McTeague was practicing dentistry without a license... it sort of makes sense that Marcus would want to throw another wrench into McTeague's life. Though, I suppose one could argue that Marcus would never want to hurt Trina as he loved her as well.

All in all, I thought the book was a reasonably good read after the first few chapters. It starts off a little slow but it gets very interesting about halfway through.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trend in Theme?

After reading Puddn'head wilson and Iola Leroy, I can't help but wonder if novels that dealt with the same issues, that being blacks being raised as whites only to discover they are actually black... was a popular one in those years.

I suppose one could argue that novels with slightly taboo subjects would be popular, but it could be a way to educate people. There was no TV, no internet in those times, so I am sure escape reading was very much the vogue in those days, especially with books being so widespread what with the printing press. Mass printing would have been an easy thing to accomplish.

Because of this, writing books that show that one learned how to live by being around the culture, regardless of race, people are just the same as the person next to you. I am sure women and many african americans read these novels, perhaps helping to give them inspiration to pursue equal rights in America in the end.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pudd'nhead Wilson

I have to admit I wasn't really all that interested in Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain. The first half of the novel was not very interesting for me to read, and the southern accent made it even more difficult to read smoothly.

The second half of the novel was much more interesting, but I think my favorite part was the trial and eventual conclusion of the novel. I thought the use of fingerprints at that period in history was very interesting, and I can only imagine Pudd'nhead trolling through all the fingerprint records of the town in order to find a match, that must have taken a week at least.

I also found it interesting how, at the very end, Pudd'nhead reveals Tom's true identity rather than Roxy who had been holding that trump card of hers for so many years only to never have the chance to use it.

The fates of Tom and Chambers is also interesting. Regardless of who they turned out to be in reality, they are still the people they were raised to be. I can only imagine how Tom adjusted to his new slave lifestyle after being sold and shipped down the river. And poor Chambers, having to have lived as a slave for so long only to discover he is actually white and has the opportunity to live a new, free life... but he dosen't even know how or dosen't seem to want to live amongst whites.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silas Lapham

After reading some more of Silas Lapham, I noticed some interesting things. It seems like Silas is just unable to adjust to his new rich lifestyle. One of the best examples I've found of this is on page 146 where he gets into an argument with his wife and daughters as to how to get more aquainted with this new society.

He just doesn't seem to understand how society works, and refuses to take the advice of his wife on the matter.

"Don't you know that it wouldn't do to ask those people to our house before they've asked us to theirs? They'd laugh in our faces!" Mrs. Latham to Silas.

Previously, on page 139 or so, Bromfield Corey and others are discussing the Lathams and how they do not fit so well into society, if at all. They are amused that Silas Lapham does not have a single idea as to how society works, and as we can see, they are entirely correct.

I would like to think that in these modern day times these sorts of issues are not present, that is, earning a lot of money and being successful in business, but not being able to get in on the higher society. I think the traditions of giving dinners and such have died out for the most part, and unlike Tom and Bromfield's concepts of "good sense and right ideas" being a detriment to society have evolved to a modern day's view that good sense and right ideas, that is being a good businessman or woman are admirable attributes that are valued by high society.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Daisy Miller

I have to admit the first time I read through Daisy Miller by Henry James, I was not really all that impressed. I think it was because it was mostly a romance novel, not really something I would pick out of a bookstore to read.

Upon a little closer inspection I found some parts of the book to be rather interesting, most notably its comparison between European and American values and morals as well as the perception of Americans traveling outside the United States.

Randolph is portrayed as your stereotypical American, very greedy and a little bit of a snob. He asks for some sugar from Winterbourne, who says he can have one lump, but Randolph ends up taking three. When Winterbourne says that his teeth will rot away and his mother would not be pleased, Randolph hardly seems to care, even going so far as to say that his own mother will just give him some sugar.

Daisy Miller also plays the part of the typical American traveler, disregarding the social customs of the country she is visiting and going off to do her own thing. She even nitpicks the culture on more than one occasion, stating that the europeans don't have any society or culture. Though I think she is merely perturbed that the culture in Europe is nothing like it is in the United States, and so they must have no 'proper culture' at all.

Daisy also acts with reckless disregard for the local customs. Customs such as not visiting the Colosseum in Rome at midnight because of the risk of catching Roman Fever, a deadly form of the malaria disease.

After realizing these often humorous comparisons, I enjoyed the novel much more and was able to read through it much easier. Many of the comparisons could be made about modern Americans traveling to Europe. After all, you can almost always pick an American out of a crowd of tourists these days it seems.

Brian Rush

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Blog Post #3

So after finishing Joaquin Murieta I thought I'd look into a sort of comparison between the author and the persona of Joaquin Murieta. Both share some similarities. John Rollin Ridge was a member of one of America's minority populations, just like Joaquin Murieta. In addition to this, he ran away from a murder in which he committed over stealing a horse.... a similar circumstance to the early events of the Joaquin Murieta story. Not only that, but John Rollin Ridge was chased off his own land several times and was involved in several violent disputes (The Indian Removal and the Cherokee factional wars). Again, very similiar to Joaquin Murieta's forced removal from his own land and his move to become a rogue criminal.

I think it is entirely possible that John Rollin Ridge took the character of Joaquin Murieta to write one of his first books in order to have a character he might be familiar with. He may have even modeled parts of Joaquin Murieta's past after his own, some of the characters may bear a similar resemblance to his own friends and companions over the years. A little research using the class website shows that the actual life of Joaquin Murieta is quite disputed, much of it based off of John Rollin Ridge's book, which is obviously a fiction and not a true to form biography.

And, just in case anyone was wondering, Joaquin Murieta was indeed featured in the first Zorro film. Zorro's exploits were also based mainly off those of Joaquin Murieta. And just like John Rollin Ridge, bear a sharp resemblance to each other. Each fighting against the white settlers of California who were often seen abusing the mexican population and exploiting them.

-Brian Rush

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Joaquin Murieta

I rather enjoyed reading Joaquin Murieta. I was quite surprised how Joaquin descended from his relatively honest living as a miner and farmer to become one of the most feared and revered bandits of California. However, given his treatment by white Americans, the rape of his wife, the loss of his homes and the death of his brother drive him to the revenge-killings of any white man he comes across. All he had wanted to do was to settle in California and raise a family, he was pushed to crime by white Americans.

Even with this though, he still maintains a certain sense of his prior moral ethics. Generally he does not murder people who have done him no harm and in fact goes so far as to protect the innocent victims who find themselves in the middle, like the ferry man and Rosalie.

His story is very similar to other bandits of American history, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid quickly come to mind. Slightly different circumstances, but neither outwardly punish innocent people and they all seem to meet the same end at the hands of the authorities, their luck finally running out.

What I found most lacking about the story was the lack of character development on the part of Joaquin's partners in crime. People like Claudio and Reyes are given very little backstory, we have little idea what their lives were like before they joined the bandit group. I suppose it is entirely possible that the author had no information on them, and rather than fabricate their stories to make for a better novel he merely omitted them. However they all seem united to commit crimes, whereas their leader Joaquin has a somewhat more dedicated purpose.

Even the Captain, Love is given a little backstory, a dispatch rider during the Mexican War. Of all the characters I think I like Love the most. He has no qualms about fighting fire with fire, using Joaquin's brutal tactics against him like when he executed one of Joaquin's number, Gonsalez. Even with his early failures, Love manages to continue chasing Joaquin, forcing the outlaw and his gang to go on the defensive for a time.

It is difficult for me to figure out which character is the hero of the story, or if there is even a hero. I do not consider Joaquin to be a hero, murdering white men just because they are white, robbing them and torturing them is hardly the mark of a hero. Love could be considered a hero, but we do not get a chance to really see what goes on in his mind or what his beliefs are. Perhaps there is just no hero in the story, and it is just a story that tells the events as they happened.

Brian Rush

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blog Post #1

So first post, we'll have to see how this goes.

What I found upon reading The Blithedale Romance and the idea of Trancendentalism interesting was the similarity between Trancendentalism and other more or less secular communities. The most obvious one that comes to mind would be the Amish of North America. What were the core issues that divided these two styles of community and made one far more successful than the other?

Both the Amish and the Trancendentalist communities, like Blithedale, saw the "modern" community as corrupting of people. Both groups sought to distance themselves from the outside world. Obviously as we all know, the Amish were far more successful for several reasons.

While they did indeed forgo most modern conveniences, their lifestyle seems to have been much more compatible with living apart from the modern world. Not to mention the mindset of the people was far more accepting of their way of life and they had experience with farming and were quite used to that lifestyle. This is in contrast to the Blithedale community that very much relied on one man to do most of the farming.

The people who inhabited the Blithedale community also came from the outside world, rather then having lived traditionally such as the Amish have. The Amish have also adopted some modern conveniences, and do not limit their diets as many Trancendentalist communities have, eating plenty of meat and even some forms of candy.

Also, many Amish communities have begun to mesh with modern society, and do not shun the conveniences provided. Things like movie theatres, soft drinks and other social elements have been incorporated into the community, which takes away the urge some might feel to want to experience them as we saw in the Blithedale Romance with Coverdale escaping to return to modern society.

It is entirely possible that if the Trancendentalist communities had taken its que from the Amish, their communities would have been more successful and far more long lasting than is seen in the Blithdale Romance and even the essay, Trancendental Wild Oats.