Monday, 29 February 2016

Prosperity and Money

Prosperity and Money in The Great Gatsby 

Within The Great Gatsby there is great emphasis placed on the themes of prosperity and money. Throughout the novel it is clear to see that the American Dream for most Americans during the 1920's was the idea of prosperity and wealth, this dream is portrayed primarily through the protagonist Jay Gatsby. Gatsby's back-story (which is explained in chapter 6) shows him as a struggling man with little income, from dropping out of college, to working on a yacht as Mr.Cody's assistant, it is also explained how he fell in love with the luxuries and wealth after sailing through the West Indies. 

From this the novel shows Gatsby now as a wealthy businessman, showing his success through the luxuries he now possesses. Gatsby lives in West Egg, which is described in the novel as the home of 'new money' whereas East Egg is home to those of 'old money'. New money refers to people like Gatsby who have become newly rich, for example earning an inheritance or working for their earnings. People of new money are also shown as spending their wealth in careless ways, this can also be seen through Gatsby, for example his party in chapter 3 which is described as being very over the top with an orchestra, expensive buffet food and drink and paid staff to cater for the guests. Also Gatsby's material possessions such as his Rolls Royce car and marble swimming pool can also show the careless spending. 

On the other hand, people from old money are more selfish and careful with their money having come from wealthy families, an example of this is Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Within the Great Gatsby, wealth and prosperity is a major theme which runs throughout the novel and defines the type of person each character is. It is also interesting to see that the lower classes are not referred to, with the exception of Myrtle and her husband, who both die in the end of the novel, along with Gatsby, who was born into the lower class. This could perhaps be to symbolises the power of wealth, as Daisy not only get away with murder but is able to leave East Egg with Tom without any concerns, this ending for these characters could also perhaps be to symbolise the death of the American Dream.  

Recent Example-

For a recent example of Prosperity and Wealth having a great effect on the American culture, I chose a video portraying the Wealth Inequality in America. This video from 2012, shows the inequality of wealth within America, I though this was a good example as it shows how difficult it is to be considered 'wealthy' nowadays and how uneven the distribution of wealth between social classes is. This video also shows how difficult it would have been for Gatsby trying to gain his wealth if he lived in today's world both due to the recession and the competitive labour market.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Closing Scene

This scene is the final scene from the film, The Searchers. The scene opens showing the central protagonists riding across the large expansive Western American desert. This gives viewers the idea that the frontier was incredibly open free space, which is an ideology that was also conveyed at the time in which this film was set. It offers the idea of the vast size of the American west, and is a stereotype of the Western genre.

This scene shows Ethan and Marty returning to the village after rescuing Debbie. Debbie is shown in the traditional role of the damsel in distress as she is lifted off of the horse by Ethan and escorted in to the house by the family.

The most interesting aspect of this scene, is the way it ends with Ethan stood in the doorway of the house. Throughout the film Ethan is presented as the 'loner' which is also a convention of the Western genre, and this idea is continued in the way in which this film ends, with him rejecting the opportunity to join a family, instead turning back to his old drifter ways and continue to ride through the desert. The fact this scene is shot through a doorway with the door closing behind him, could also be seen as giving the idea of 'as one door closes, another one opens', which also offers the audience the idea that Ethan is moving on to other opportunities.

Monday, 22 February 2016

The Searchers scene analysis

Ethan returns to the family homestead. 

This scene opens with shots of the characters riding horses with the landscape in full view, I believe this is shown to represent the availability of land in the American west, this relates to the myth that the frontier/American west was the edge of the settled country where unlimited free land was available to everyone. 

This scene also portrays the native Americans as murderous and dangerous predators as they set the family home on fire, killing those who are inside also it is hinted toward the possibility that the Indians has raped Martha shown through Ethan picking up the dress before finding her body. As we are watching the film from the perspective of the settlers we view the native Americans as the villains of this story, which is a common theme in westerns and in old literature

I believe this scene reinforces the myth of the American west by showing the Native Americans in such negative light and through the myth of the wild west which can be shown through the character of Ethan as he is shown as a stereotypical cowboy, for example his clothing and violent nature (when he punches the other character). 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Cherokee Tribe

The Cherokee Tribe are a group of Native American people who were settled in the south east of the United States of America, in an area which would become North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee among other states. Through their oral history it is known that they migrated from the Great Lakes area, far north of where they eventually settled. They were recognised as incredibly advanced, both socially and culturally by the English settlers, and were open to adopting their cultures and technologies.

This is before they were forced to move to Oklahoma by English settlers. The Cherokee Tribe didn't want to leave their homeland and appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent them from being forcibly moved. Despite the Supreme Court allowing them to stay, this decision was overturned by President Andrew Jackson, who had them driven out by the American army. The Cherokee Tribe's journey to Oklahoma was long and arduous and thousands of Native Americans died, this lead to the path being known as The Trail of Tears.

After their resettlement the tribe continued to be well known for their advanced culture and school system. In 1844 the Cherokee Advocate was started and was the first newspaper in Indian Territory, it was printed in both Cherokee and English.

The Cherokee Tribe was one of the first non-European ethnic groups to become recognised as US citizens. Based on statistics gathered during the 2010 Census there are 314,000 members of the Cherokee Nation and over 819,000 people who claim to be of Cherokee heritage. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Blackfoot Tribe

I chose to look at the the Blackfoot tribe, due to the link between the tribe and Charles M. Russell, from my last blog post.

The Blackfoot tribe is a group of northern Great Plains Native Americans, made up of three sub-tribes; the Siksika, the Kainah, and the Piegan. They migrated from the Great Lakes region, to the Northern Great Plains, living in Montana and Idaho, as well as Alberta, Canada. Eventually, they dispersed, becoming four independent tribes, with their own governments.

The Blackfoot Indians were skilled huntsmen, primarily hunting buffalo, using them for food, shelter, clothing & equipment. However, when the white men began hunting buffalo in the 1800's, the Blackfoot, and several other tribes suffered. With their food source depleting, as well as the diseases e.g. small pox and measles, brought by the settlers caused the Blackfoot population to decrease from 20,000 to 5,000. Being mainly huntsmen, the tribe had no interest in arts or agriculture.

The Blackfoot population was known for being difficult to get along with. They fought with those living in close proximity to them including the Assiniboine, Cree, Crows, Flatheads, Kutenai, and the Sioux. Their aggressive nature also meant that before the 19th century, the Blackfeet were known as one of the strongest military powers in the Great Plains, fighting against explorers and settlers who entered their territory, until 1806.

The Blackfoot people have several religious beliefs, as well as superstitions. For example, they believe in underwater people called "Suyitapis", therefore the tribe actively avoided hunting/eating fish, and using canoes. The tribes would also congregate to celebrate "The Sun Dance", due to their religious beliefs, bringing the three tribes together for this festival.

Today, many of the Blackfoot live on reserves in Canada, and about 8,500 people living on the Montana reservation, and approximately 25,000 members in total. The Blackfoot tribe remain battling with unemployment, and alcoholism, Despite this, they continually advance in education, while continuing many cultural traditions of the past and passing on their ancestors' traditions to their children, such as the Sun Dance (which was illegal from 1890s-1934).

Video on the Blackfoot Tribe

Apalachee Tribe

The Apalachee were a native tribe which inhabited the area in North-western Florida. The tribe was first discovered 1528 by Spanish explorers. In the mid 1600's the population was estimated to be 6,000 - 8,000 people. The Apalachee had a trade network that reached north to the Great Lakes, not only did the Apalachee excel in trade and agriculture but they were also noted warriors. 

By 1600 the Apalachee were missionized by Spanish Franciscans, they occupied eight villages until early into the 18th Century, when Creek tribes from the north where sent by the British to raid the Apalachee settlement. The attacks began in 1703 when an army of Englishmen and Creek warriors defeated the combined Spanish and Apalachee. The tribe was almost entirely destroyed, save for around 1,400 Apalachee who were removed to Carolina where some merged with the Creek. The remaining sought out protection from the French in Mississippi and Lousianna. 

Today most of the Apalachee live in Lousianna. The tribal office is also situated in Lousianna and serves approximately 300 members. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Rocky Mountains - Albert Bierstadt

I have chosen this painting by Albert Bierstadt, it is titled The Rocky Mountains and was painted in 1866. It encapsulates a lot of the key aspects and themes that were associated with art of that period. It depicts Western America as a place which is particularly beautiful and spectacular.

This image strongly conveys an idea of the sublime. Through the way that the forest in the foreground is shown as particularly wild and destructive, as indicated by the fallen trees. However the main aspect of the sublime is shown through the scale of the mountains how they seem to go on forever. The way in which the top of the mountain disappears into the cloud is especially effective in conveying the size of these mountains as shows them as being particularly sublime, the turbulent sky is also very effective at continuing the idea of the sublime in this painting. The use of mist also gives the landscape an aspect of wilderness and mystery as the viewer is unsure as to what the mist could by hiding. The inclusion of the deer in the painting's foreground as links the landscape to nature and ideas of the wilderness, although they also help to convey the grand size of the mountains that dominate the painting.

Charles M. Russell – A Desperate Stand (1898)

Charles Marion Russell was an artist of the Old American West, creating over 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians, and the landscapes of the West. Though being known for several paintings depicting cowboys, hence his nickname as "the cowboy artist", in reality Russell's depictions of Native Americans outweigh those of cowboys by a ratio of three to one.
Joan Troccoli explored the context and detail of Russell's work during an exhibition, noting in depth Russell's sympathy for the indigenous people, stating that they were "Russell's ideal, their human failings all but cancelled out by their tragic fate", almost suggesting that the conflict initiated by the people was justified, as they fought to take back their own land. Russell aligned himself with the American Indians, creating a physical resemblance to the people in his clothing, and even taking the "Indian" name, 'Ah-wah-cous' (Antelope) for himself. It is interesting to note how eagerly Russell sided with the American Indians, considering the era, as well as his focus on Native women, as well as warriors, revealing his admiration for the independence and courage of Indian women. It is this unique subject matter and style which makes Russell such a distinctive artist at the time of the "Wild West" trend.
When exploring Russell's work, Troccoli made a point of noting how the artist depicts Native Indians as "dignified, complex human beings who held the only truly authentic claim to the West", as well as actively protesting the "injustice and public indifference that attended their removal from ancetral lands." I believe that this is emphasised greatly in the painting which I have chosen.
Among Russell's multitude of work, his painting 'A Desperate Stand' (1898), caught my eye immediately, with it being the depiction of a battle scene between settlers and Indians.
This painting is captioned:
"The discovery of gold in southwestern Montana in 1862 brought a flood of prospectors to the region. Unfortunately, it also brought numerous conflicts with the indigenous native people who lived and roamed there. By the summer of 1864...groups of prospectors were being attacked by hostile Indians.
Here, Russell depicted one of those battles, between a group of men...and a band of hostile Blackfeet...A Blackfoot lies dead in the left foreground...Russell created a tight central composition...A man in the very centre of Russell's painting aims his rifle...directly at the viewer - placing the viewer, as Russell often did, on the side of the Indians."
What immediately caught my eye when I first saw the painting, as intended, was the dead Indian in the foreground, a shocking, emotive subject. This, alongside Russell having the opposition seemingly aim his rifle at the viewer of the painting, almost ensures that people will sympathise with the American Indians.
Possible symbolic meanings behind the painting are numerous. Firstly, the fact that the group of men are using the bodies of the fallen horses as barracks almost implies how the settlers would do anything to protect and serve themselves, the use of the dead horses similar to the death of numerous American Indians as a result of "protection" of settlers. Another symbolic aspect of the painting would be the Indians in the background of the art, clearly signifying that they outnumber the settlers, in horses and possibly manpower. This could signify how Indians initially outweighed settlers in Early America, yet this soon changed due to settlement and a clear gap in weapons, with new Americans having guns. Whether the above symbolic meanings were intended or not is unclear, but given Russell's sympathy for the American Indians, it wouldn't be surprising if they were intended.
Context is also key when analysing this painting, especially as this painting was created almost twenty years after the actual battle took place. This indicates that the events portrayed may not be entirely historically accurate, as well as being clearly sympathetic towards the American Indians in its message. Regardless, the painting, and several others by Russell, differ significantly from fellow 19th century Western artists, especially as said artists often actually lived in the East, whereas Russell lived so close to where the pictured battle actually took place.
In conclusion, I believe that this painting embodies the American West well, especially in relation to the struggle between settlers and the indigenous people.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Emanuel Leutze

Westward by Emanuel Leutze

This painting by German-American artist Emanuel Leutze, painted in 1860, celebrates the idea of Manifest Destiny at the time when Civil War threatened the republic.

The painting itself presents the image of settlers moving westwards, within the image we can see a different settler groups, the majority being families, as seen by the father and children atop of the rock in the centre of the photograph. This painting creates a damaging image as we can see a few settlers in the left hand corner chopping down trees along their way, creating much controversy as they are destroying nature as well as land which is not theirs.

The idea that the West holds a bright future for the settlers can be seen through the sunlight which appears on the left hand side of the painting.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Little House On The Prairie Presentation Notes

Little House On The Prairie Presentation

Chapter 18, The Tall Indian

Focus: attitudes to American Indians

- Chapter opens with Indians riding down the path next to the house
- Laura gives very detailed description of them
- "They saw red-brown skin against the blue sky"
- "Scalpolks wound with coloured string and feathers quivering"
- Seems to show the childlike wonder through which Laura and Mary see the Indians
- "The Indian's faces were like the red-brown wood that pa had carved to make a bracket for Ma"
- Objectification?
- Pa says "I wouldn't have built the the house so close to it if I'd known it was a highway"
- Shows acceptance towards the Indians
- Opposes Jack and Ma who hated the Indians
- "I declare Indians are getting so thick around here"
- Opinions continue
- When the tall Indian arrives and has dinner Pa protects him from Jack
- The two are silent but there is an understanding between them
- Pa is very open to sharing food and tobacco with the Indian
- Laura and Mary are fascinated by him
- "They couldn't take their eyes from that Indian"
- Also shown by the way they run to the window to watch him as he leaves
- Ma believes the Indians should stay away from them
- "Let the Indians keep themselves to themselves"
- Pa defends them
- "That Indian was perfectly friendly"
- Pa also shown as accepting and respectful when he keeps Jack chained up
- "Well it's his path. An Indian trail, long before we came"
- Indians come in to the house while Pa is hunting
- Take their food and tobacco, want to take furs
- "Killings, burnings, beatings, horse thefts and grave robberies – committed by white settlers, such as Charles Ingalls, against Osages living in villages not more than a mile or two away from the Ingalls’ little house"
Dennis McAuliffe Jr, Little House on the Osage Prairie
- Shown as rude and as thieves
- "Dirty and scowling and mean"
- Shown as intimidating
- "Ma held baby Carrie in her arms, and Mary and Laura stood close to her"
- Don't take furs in the end
- Chapter ends with Pa telling Laura that the Indians will be made to go west by the government
- "When white settlers come into a country the Indians have to move west"
- "White people are gonna settle all this country"
- Represents the attitude at that time - "manifest destiny"
- Laura asks "I thought this was Indian territory won't it make the Indians mad to-"
- Pa interrupts "no more questions"
- Shows how he doesn't want to think about the Indians and the effect their settlement will have on them

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Attitudes towards American Indians

During my presentation I hope to explore the Attitudes towards American Indians during Chapter 11 of “Little House in the Prairie”, entitled “Indians in the House”.
Throughout this children’s book, American Indians are portrayed in less than positive light, with characters revealing their personal attitudes toward Natives, such as Mrs Scott declaring that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”, and that “they’d never do anything with this country themselves. All they do is roam around it like wild animals”. These views are clearly disrespectful and offensive, especially for a children’s book, which is why Wilder has often been criticized over what has been omitted and what has remained in the novel, by the likes of Laura June who explored the “casual racism” in the plot.
In relation to Chapter 11, we are told that two American Indians enter the household, while Pa is out. Nothing about the description of the Indians is positive, as Laura informs us of their skunk smell, and the girls’ immediate reaction to the men is negative, “Indians!” Mary whispered. Laura was shivery; there was a queer feeling in her middle and the bones in her legs felt weak.” This, however, can be considered a normal reaction, as Laura tells us that from prior knowledge, “she knew they were wild men with red skins”. In this, we can see how the attitudes of her parents towards the Natives have been passed down to Laura and her siblings.
A significant part of this chapter is the fear of Ma’s character as she had to protect her family, due to Pa’s absence, from the Natives. She does as she is told and gave the Indian’s tobacco and fed them, being shown as a victim in this perspective. However this can be argued as almost ironic, through Angela Cavender Wilson’s quote, that we should “observe how expertly [Wilder] crafted the horror of white supremacist genocidal thinking and the stealing of Indigenous lands into something noble, virtuous and absolutely beneficial to humanity”. In this, we can see that the scenario of Indians taking the tobacco and cornbread from the Ingalls family could be compared to the unjust taking of their lands. Therefore, it could be argued that the attitudes shown toward American Indians in the novel could be conveying the fear of Indians taking back what is rightfully theirs from the settlers.
A key aspect when exploring how the attitudes towards American Indians are conveyed through the text, would be to consider how Wilder could alternatively have portrayed the Indigenous people in her novel. As discussed in the lecture, with Wilder being a non-Native writer, there are clearly obstacles in avoiding appropriation, while remaining sympathetic towards this group of people which she had viewed as different and threatening, from a young age. Furthermore, Wilder intentions are to have the audience side with the Ingalls family, therefore, like the wolves and diseases, the Indians are just another hardship for the family to struggle with for survival in the West. And yet on the other hand, Wilder couldn’t exactly have completely omitted the presence of the American Indians altogether, as this could also have offended, as well as disrupted the plot majorly, as the people impacted her life, and therefore her books, so much.
In this, it can be argued that Laura’s attitude, presented in the book, is typical of a non-Native settler child, who was the product of a society which oppressed the Natives, as well as seeing them as threats of an almost animalistic nature, similar to the wolves seen in the book. During the book, we see Laura wants her father to give her one of the First Native babies, suggesting she saw the people as lesser beings, which she could objectify and own, even at such a young age. Furthermore, we see Laura hope that Pa could “show her a papoose…just as he had shown her fawns and little bears and wolves”, yet again suggesting that American Indians were creatures, rather than human beings, for her father to possibly hunt.

In conclusion, I think it is reasonable for readers, especially today, to find the attitudes conveyed towards American Indians within “Little House on the Prairie” as shocking and casually racist, particularly within Chapter 11. However, I also believe that this view towards American Indians, albeit horrifying, is simply a product of life at the time the book was written, with settlers fearing those whose land they had taken, and treating them like wild animals who lacked civilisation. The view of the Indigenous people through the eyes of a small settler girl is a sad example for readers today, of how the group were viewed.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Presentation Script

For my presentation I will look at the hardships faced by the Ingalls family, within chapter 25.

This chapter presents a significant political hardship faced by the Ingalls family, the chapter focus’ primarily on the news that the Ingalls are living 3 miles over the line into Indian territory meaning that they would have to relocate away from the area.

The chapter opens with the description of the garden the Ingalls family have created together over their time living on the prairie, there is also a strong emphasis on the future within this description, this can be shown through the repetition of ‘pretty soon’ and the children’s excitement at being able to have vegetables in the future.

Overall this focus on the future creates a foreshadowing effect as we suspect that this will not actually occur ‘pretty soon’. We start to grow suspicious as the majority of the opening to chapter 25 is drawn out, as every new paragraph begins with subjects such as ‘one day’, ‘one evening.’ The title of the chapter also draws our suspicion as it is entitled ‘Soldiers’ which leads us to believe something daunting is going to occur.

Finally, it is revealed by Mr. Scott the news that they are 3 miles over the line into Indian Territory and that soldiers will be coming to remove them. Instead of staying in the house that they created, Pa decides it’s best to move on before the soldiers arrive as to not be ‘taken away like an outlaw.’  The chapter ends with Pa giving Pet and Patty to Mr. Scott, the family saying their goodbyes to Mr Scott and Mr Edwards and enjoying their final meal on the prairie with the food they had been saving. Thus they pack their belongings and move away from the prairie.

There is bittersweet ending to the chapter as ‘everyone was quiet, even jack’ creates a sad and melancholy tone as we can feel the characters heartbreak about having to leave the home they had built and spend so much time with. As this is a children’s books it would be difficult to just end the chapter on such a pessimistic ending as this, therefore Ingalls Wilder chooses to end on in a uplifting and exciting way with Pa stating, “what’s a year amount to? We have all the time there is.”

This particular hardship faced by the Ingalls represents the society of this time by drawing a strong focus on the rivalry between the Indian tribes and the settlers. Throughout the novel we can see that the Ingalls family are unlike many typical settlers of this time as they do not show strong prejudices towards the Indian tribes, Pa even stating: “Indians would be peaceable as anybody else if they were left alone.” Also the fact that the Ingalls do not try to claim the land as their own and ask the soldiers to remove the Indian tribes instead show that they do not hold strong hatred towards them.

Although the Ingalls family faces a lot of difficult hardships during their time living on the prairie, such as the wolves which circle the house wanting to presumably attack the family, as well as the natural hardships such as the chimney fire, the prairie fire and the illness which the whole family suffers from. The illness, which is nowadays known as malaria, is another significant hardship faced by the family as they are too weak to care for themselves and require the help of a passing doctor.

 Something which all these hardships have in common is that they are all overcome in some way or another, for example the wolves leave to follow a deer pact, the chimney and prairie fires are tamed before they can do too much damage, and the malaria is cure by a doctor who passes by at the right time. I believe the reason for this being that in a children’s book, such as ‘Little House on the Prairie’,  it wouldn’t be suitable to show the family suffering in such ways as this would make the target audience uncomfortable whilst reading. This is also the reason as to why so many of the real stories where left out of Ingalls Wilder’s books, for example, their younger brother who died only a few months old.

In conclusion, I believe that this particular hardship in chapter 25 is most significant, as it not only informs us just how corrupt this society was but it also helps to shape the future for the Ingalls family as they continue to migrate throughout the states, and sets up new stories for the family to be shown in future novels.