Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Life and Adventures of John Rollin Ridge

The paper that I am currently writing analyzes the affinity between John Rollin Ridge and the character in his book The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta. Murieta is presented by Ridge in a way that parallels many of his own beliefs, characteristics, and physical qualities in order to share with the world the injustices that he and his people experienced in a form that would grab the interest and imagination of 19th century readers in North America.

John Rollin Ridge and Joaquin Murieta share many biographical similarities including the experience of tragedies during their lifetime that eventually push them to desire revenge upon those they blame for the injustices responsible for the tragedies. Ridge experienced first hand some of the hardest times for the Cherokee people during his lifetime including the Trail of Tears. His father was murdered for a decision he made to protect his people and as a result, Ridge swore vengeance on those ultimately responsible (the United States Government). Murieta has a similar story and declares vengeance after the unjustified murder of his brother by White Americans. John Rollin Ridge continues throughout the book to paint Joaquin Murieta as a man with strong moral integrity and a heightened sense for natural justice and law, which are character qualities that Ridge himself is believed to have. Ridge also gives a physical description to Joaquin that greatly resembles Ridge’s pictures and written documents that describe his physical attributes.

I believe that John Rollin Ridge wrote The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta to parallel his own political beliefs and to share with the world the injustices served to him and his people during his lifetime. It is possible that Ridge chose to paint himself as a Mexican bandit in California for the romantic qualities that the story held and the greater chances of selling the story to readers in the 19th century. A story of the massacre and mistreatment of a Native American population did not hold such qualities or potential.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silas' Moral Obligation

The question of moral values greatly intrigued me within this book. I have always assumed a natural separation between the business morals and personal morals of an individual. I questioned that assumption with this book and after the lecture on Tuesday. While reading the book I felt as if Silas did the right thing when he refused to sell his property, even when he knew that the people offering to buy it could handle the loss much better than he and his family could. I did not read it as a business operation at the time, rather I saw it as a good personal moral decision. I came away from lecture with a new view on the topic. Salas Lapham was a business man and the moral decision he was faced with was a business decision, yet he did not see a distinction between the two. I admired his strong standing when being tempted by Rogers to sell. When I asked myself if I would choose to make the same choice as Silas, I really did not know. Initially, I claimed that I would and had no questions about it, but when I began to see it as more of a business operation, my assurance slipped. I am not sure if I would have made the same choice. I may have left it up to the buyer to do his proper research before buying the property, that is after all what makes a successful business man, wise decision making. If they failed to do their homework and made a bad investment, would I be morally wrong to let them? I think that we all can learn a good lesson from Silas Lapham. There is no difference between business morals and personal morals. They are one and the same. The choices we make affect the people around us and whether that choice is business related or not still leaves us with a moral obligation to make the right choice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller was a surprisingly dull book for the amount of potential the story held. The characters were developed to the point where most fictional novels would just be beginning to take off into the exciting story that they were dreamt up for when Miss Daisy Miller develops a fever and dies. I was left very unsatisfied at the end wondering if perhaps Mr. Henry James drew bored of his novel just as it was taking shape and decided to draw it to a close before it gathered too many free ends and rendered itself incapable to be tied up sufficiently in a page or two. Even with such an excuse, James failed to give his readers the satisfaction of even understanding the few mysteries he had proposed in the few short pages of this novel. For example, who and where is Daisy Millers father? Why does Mrs. Miller act so strangely and allow her daughter to behave so unconventionally for that time? What is the purpose of the character Randolph? These questions along with many others are insufficiently answered by Daisy and her family and left me to wonder if perhaps their identity was a facade. This concluded speculation, however, also failed to be satisfied because of the sudden end of Daisy Miller and the insufficient conclusion that Henry James provided. I believe that only a chapter or two more may have concluded the book better and allowed room for the mystery of Miss Daisy Miller to be sufficiently unveiled, for Mr. Winterborn to learn the truth and either be freed from his obsession or to continue on in his idolatry of her, and for those involved in the judgment of Daisy to either realize their wrongs and repent of their mistake or for the readers to be sufficiently pleased with the punishment that they would be forced to endure by living out the rest of their days in continual ignorance of the wonderfully innocent character of Daisy Miller.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Only a Little Mask

After today’s lecture I concluded that Behind a Mask is allegory for Louisa May Alcott herself. Jean Muir is a woman who chose to defy the societal rules of her day by placing a mask over her true identity in order to achieve the goals that she sought to accomplish. She was able to successfully live both lives and come out on top in the end because of her keen ability to read the situation around her and play it to her benefit. I believe that Louisa May Alcott did the same in her career. The societal norm was to look down upon women who chose the career path of an author except for a few appropriate exceptions. Writing woman’s domestic or sentimental fiction was one of these exceptions and Alcott took advantage of the opportunity to show her great talents as a writer by publishing books such as Little Women, Good Wives, and Flower Fables. While Louisa was a great success in her chosen career and in keeping her reputation as a lady, she secretly desired a different life. Her famous stories told the world that she was a great supporter of the good morality that all girls and women are taught to possess, but Alcott seemed to actually find that role of women to be a bore. Under a mask with the name of A.M. Barnard, Alcott was able to tell the story of her true feelings and beliefs. She published many books, including Behind a Mask, under this disguise. The women in these tales are portrayed as stronger and wiser than men and often deceptive and villainous in character. The character of Jean Muir, in Behind a Mask, fights against the normal expectations of society and humbles all of those around her in the process, a goal in which I believe Alcott had for herself in writing books that would have possibly ruined her reputation had she published them under her real name. Like Jean Muir, Alcott fooled the world, gained her fortune and her title, while living both lives with the help of only a little mask.