Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Elizabeth Cady Stanton- Seneca Falls Convention Address

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an influential lady in the women's rights movement, gave a speech at the Senaca Falls Convention in 1848. She spoke of the inferiority of women, and she spoke of how women were not begin represented fairly. At the time, men were considered to be intellectually superior and physically superior.
In 1848, when this speech was given, women were virtually housemaids. They were expected to be seen and not heard. Men were smarter than they, stronger than they, and certainly more important than they. This speech was given at the Seneca Falls Convention, a gathering that discussed the roles of women in society. Stanton encouraged women to form their own opinions, and retain their own thoughts (not just think what their husbands thought). At this convention, women's sufferage was discussed, although that did not happen until 1920 when the nineteenth amendment was passed by Congress.
Stanton made the comment, "But in the United States of America6 woman has no right either to hold office, nor to the elective franchise, we stand at this moment, unrepresented in this government—our rights and interests wholly overlooked." This was true. Women were overlooked, seen merely as the housemaids and keeper of the children. They were expected to "obey their husbands." Sidenote** Seriously? This honestly makes me mad. Women should respect their husbands and love them not obey them. Their husbands are not superior to them. A marraige is all about equality. The two partners in it are equal to each other. One can not expect a marraige to last if it is not based on equality.** Most recently the "obey your husband" came up during the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. This being the 21st century, Kate Middleton chose to leave this out of her vows to Prince William. I respect that choice as I feel that (as forementioned) marriage is based on equality.

Harriet Jacobs

Harriet Jacobs tells the story of her life as a slave in this narrative. She tells of being treated well and mistreated. She talks about the trials of having and raising a family.
Jacobs tells this story under pseudonym, Linda. It begins at the right old age of 15. She is owned by a Mr. Flint. Mr. Flint treats her well because he trusts her and likes her as a person. She works hard and does what she is asked to do. However, all of this nice treatment from Mr. Flint does not sit well with his wife, and she becomes jealous. She was many years his junior. Jacobs gives birth to two babies, fathered by a white man (very scandalous for the time), and this outrages Mr. Flint. She chooses to raise those children as slaves, although this would not be the line of work she would optimally choose for her children. As the story progresses, Jacobs begins to take on a heavier workload. Eventually, she becomes outraged by the work and runs away, leaving her children behind.
So after reading this story, I began to think of one of the first slave narratives I ever read, and that was Harriet Tubman's. Tubman lead so many slaves to freedom using the underground railroad, and she, too, ran away from the troubles of slave life. She proved that she had a good strong heart by coming back to free the others from her plantation. Jacobs ran away using similar methods to Tubman. She banked on the kindness of strangers to take her in (regardless of color).
Back in the 1800's racial tension was very strong. Whites and blacks did not mix. The white man was superior to all and the black men, women, and children were his property. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, thus freeing all slaves. This document was meant to be the end of slavery. However, it still dragged on the south. Eventually slavery in America ended altogether, but there was still tension between the blacks and whites. Througout the 1960's in America, Blacks and whites were split up. They couldn't eat in the same room or drink from the same water fountain. This lead to the civil rights movement of the 1960's made famous by Rosa Parks sitting at the front of a bus, a few men sitting at a counter in a diner in Greensboro, NC, and by a little speech given by a man names Martin Luther King Jr. His hopes were that one day blacks and whites could peacefully coexist; that they could sit at a restaurant together. His hopes and dreams were beautiful. While we have come a long way from even the 1960's, we still have racial tension in America that dates back to before Harriet Jacobs.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Whitman-Song of Myself

Wow... Can I say confusing? I read this story three times and I still have no idea what Whitman is talking about. To me, it seems that this has absolutely no flow. He is jumping leaps and bounds and can't stay on a common topic (or at least warn us with a transition of some description when he was about to switch topics on us) However, I sensed a few common themes throughout. The first one I noticed was family. In line 6, I got the sense that Whitman had stayed around the same area that he had grown up in. I felt that he was saying that many generations of his family had lived in that area. By staying there, Whitman shows a strong sense of pride for his family. First confusion factor- In lines 14-17, Whitman mentions something about distallation. In line 22, he says something about vines. My mind immediately went to alcohol distilleries and wine (since it is made from grapes that grow on a vine). Now, I really can't understand why this would be in a section of "Song of Myself" unless Whitman was a raging alcoholic? (And I seriously doubt that) This is probably not even what Whitman was referring to. I felt a strong connection to Emerson throughout this selection of Song of Myself, particularly when Whitman started referring to young people. In line 41, Whitman says that youth or age is plentiful. Emerson placed such an importance on youth in Self Reliance that I think one took cues from the other. Importance on youth should be a big deal. As I mentioned in a previous blog, youth will run this world one day. There is a young man or woman out there who is learning his or her ABC's today and just a few short years down the road could be the president. In line 39, Whitman said that he did not talk of the beginning or the end. Well we are supposed to mention anything these readings remind us of, and this reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite cheesy movies, Hope Floats. Sandra Bullock says this at the end of the film: " Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome. That's what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will..." Sandra Bullock, or Birdie Pruitt as her character in the movie was named, placed the same values on the middle as Whitman did.
Just a few questions to end the post:
Was Whitman referring to love in section 5?
In section 8, what suicide was Whitman referring to? Was the baby killed?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson- Self Reliance

     So I have just finished Self Reliance, and it was interesting. Emerson was basically talking about ways to live. He spoke in great detail about conformity and non-conformity, the importance of youth in today's culture, virtues, and religion. Quite honestly, I found this essay to be extremely redundant. He made all of his points several times throughout. Had he mentioned things less, it would have been easier to read and probably would have interested more people.
Conformity vs. Nonconformity
     Around line 119, Emerson begins stating his ideas about conformity and non- conformity. He continues these points through line 160. While he was a bit long winded on this topic, I agreed completely with what he had to say. He mentions, "It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." It is so easy to conform to what others are doing, and Emerson makes a great point when he says its easier to be an individual in solitude than in a crowd. One look around ECU's campus and conformity is very evident. One will find many girls wearing black yoga pants to class. Do most of these girls take yoga classes? Probably not. However, these pants are comfortable and many people are wearing them, so why wouldn't every girl own a pair? It's conformity. Most people don't argue that but we are conforming to what someone thought was a great idea for going to class wear. (Not saying that I'm arguing with that, because I wear them all the time) Emerson realized this idea and stresses the importance of being your own self. He says in line 153, " but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs." Americans take their cues from the media. We rush out to buy what's "in," and we toss what's "out." It takes a strong person to be yourself and not who others want you to be.
     Emerson spends quite a while stressing the importance of youth to the reader. He says, "Bashful or Bold, then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary." Emerson knew that the youth he was writing about would one day lead this country and take over the world. I think his hopes were that they would do things their way, and not conform. He mentioned that infancy conforms to nobody. The youth are truly individuals. They always speak their mind, and tell you exactly what they want. (Grocery stores are a fine example of this... I want cookies! Mom I want you to buy me that juice! or there's Look at that lady's ugly shoes!) Children don't know to hold in opinions yet; they are very forward and outward with everything they think.
     So I'm pretty sure Emerson was channeling a bit of Ben Franklin when he began talking about virtues. He says virtues are the exception rather than the rule. He talks about it in such a way that when men do good deeds, they almost always expect a handout of some sort. A reward for a job well done. Franklin spent a great deal of time in his autobiography talking about virtues such as temperance and modesty. He was trying to live a certain way, and he didn't always succeed at it.
Religion and God    
     Religion is a touchy subject for most, not for Emerson. He dove right into Self-Reliance with multiple inferences to God, the "ever-blessed ONE," and the "Almighty efforts." As I was reading, I wondered to myself why were there so many religious undertones in this piece of writing? After a little digging, I found out that Emerson was the son of a Unitarian minister. He attended Harvard Divinity School and was employed as a minister for almost three years. After reading this, I understand moreso. His background is very religious, so it makes complete and total sense that his writing would be full of religous undertones.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Kinsman, Major Molineux

Nathaniel Hawthorne begins with the image of a young man on a ferry digging through his pockets for change. He is arriving in a new town in search of his kinsman, major molineux. He is very unfamiliar with this town and the way towns are set up, due to his being from the country. His father is a New England clergyman, and Robin, the young man, felt that since he had reached the age of 18 it was time for him to see the world. As he walked through the town, he looked at the dwellings and deduced that some just weren't big and fancy enough to be his kinsman's home. He stops a man on the street by pulling on his coattails and asks him where his kinsman lives. The man on the street laughed at him. He stopped in at a tavern and asked there and had the same response.He continues to wander around town and stumbles upon an older man who appears to be homeless. He tells him that if he will stay standing there for a while his kinsman will be by shortly. Robin sits patiently and talks to the old man; then he hears loud noises that remind him of a party. When the "party" rounds the corner, he sees his kinsman, major molineux, tarred and feathered. He is embarrassed as is Major Molineux. He decides that he wants to go home and tries to leave, but an older man tells him to give city life one more go and that he may be able to make it in the world without the help of his kinsman.
So let's just say that this story really confused me. One of my biggest questions is, What did Major Molineux do to get tarred and feathered? Is that the reason everyone laughed when Robin inquired as to the whereabouts of Major Molineux? Did the whole town know what was going on and they didn't have the heart to tell him, or did they think it was funny that he had no idea?
My next question is about the ugly man from the tavern. To me it seemed that he was Hawthorne's representation of the devil. He had two bumps on his forehead, a black and red face, and fiery eyes. Did he represent temptaion that Major Molineux gave into. I also wondered about the girl in the scarlet petticoat. Was she a prostitute? Was she the ugly faced man taken into another form? I believe that this man was able to take the form of others and was trying to tempt Robin also. However, Robin was from a good family and had good values and did not give into the temptation. When I thought about this it reminded me of reading 'The Crucible." That entire town was scared of witchcraft and the housekeeper Tituba was hanged for it. The feelings of despair Robin had reflected those of the townspeople in "The Crucible."

Another question... Are the stocks jail? I'm assuming yes, but I really have no idea.

Introduction to Romanticism

In the 18th century, Romanticism bloomed in Europe. It changed the way painters painted, the way authors wrote stories and books, and the way composers made music. It was full of emotion. The article states that it gained steam through the industrial revolution. Because the industrial revolution was a time of booming technology, writers were able to mass produce their books because of the printing press. The books were cheaper and more affordable for most, so reading became popular for people that were not necessarily in the aristocratic class. Writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson were able to have their ideas reach thousands of people. Music also changed during the time of Romanticism. Composers included more key modulations in their music and incorporated elements of folk music.
The article puts an emphasis on how war affected the romantic writers and composers. These people were experiencing death and destruction all around them from soldiers at war, so they created new worlds of beauty and grace in their writings. These writers personified nature and showed great pride in their country. Because they did not go to war themselves, they showed love for their country through their writings. Women began to write more and more during this time period due to being at home while the men were away at war.

Reading this reminded me of my sophomore English class; It was American Literature. My teacher loved transcendentalism. We spent an entire semester reading Emerson's "Nature," Thoreau's "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience," Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," and various poems by Emily Dickinson. Personally, I didn't really enjoy that particular semester of English, but my teacher was so enthused and excited that we all really learned about it. I remember reading "I heard a fly buzz" by Dickinson and thinking how weird it was. That had to have been one of the craziest things he made us read.
As far as some of the visual arts mentioned, I noticed that there was a painting by Francisco Goya included. It was titled " The Third of May." In high school, we studied spanish painters in my Spanish II and III class. Goya was a very celebrated spanish painter and was very successful. However, later in life he went a little bit crazy and started his phase of "black paintings." They were really dark and hinted towards beliefs in witchcraft. Let's just say that the day that was studied in class was an interesting one!

Monday, September 5, 2011


When the Constitution was signed and approved in 1787, it had to be ratified by the thirteen states that made up America. The Constitution was a drastic improvement over the Articles of Confederation, the first document that attempted to govern America. Basically, each state had to ratify the constitution or they would be independent of the united states entirely. There was a huge debate about whether or not to have one large government overseeing all of the colonies and governing them as one, or to have thirteen seperate governments-one for each state. This created such a rift that the country was divided into two groups the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.
The federalists were made up of wealthy men who were merchants or property owners. These were the men who were instrumental in creating the constitution. Examples of men who were federalists: George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. The federalists were in favor of one large governing body over all thirteen states.
However, while the land owners and merchants were in favor of one large governing body, there was a group that was in favor of individual governments- The Anti- Federalists. This group included such men as: Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Edmund Randolph. The anti-federalists were less likely to be wealthy and more likely to be tradesmen.
Ultimately the federalists won out. The country became one large governed body. Because these men were instrumental in creating the constitution, that worked to their advantage when arguing for one government at the constitutional convention.
This goes to show that political debates are not just a thing of today. These debates have been going on since America was founded. So many people get so caught up in Politics and don't truly take time to listen to what kinds of things and changes that politicians would like to make. People just hear the republican candidate or the democratic candidate and vote along with whatever party they are registered with. A prime example is in the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Many african americans were so excited to see him as a candidate that they just voted for him without knowing his political platform. I am not saying that is right or wrong, because according to the government established by the federalists, these people have a right to cast their vote in the election- whether they know the political platform of they candidate they vote for or not.

Cartwright and Allen

These narravtives are told from two totally different points of view: the slave's view and the white man's view. In early america, these were two groups of people who didn't mix. The white man believed himself to be superior to any black man, woman, or child. The white man was supreme to all. Reading through these, however, I realized just how similar the white man and the black man are. Both want to care for their families, and both want to earn a respectable living. Both pieces have an emphasis on religion. So both groups believe in a higher power. If they would stop, take a step back and look around, they would realize that they are more similar than they believe.
Racism, today, is a huge issue. My mind immediately went to this because many believe that the strong racism today in rooted in the slavery from early America. My family emmigrated from England many years ago and have been linked to eastern North Carolina for hundreds of years. I have ancestors that did own slaves, and I am not ashamed of that because that was a way of life back then. I have encountered many people who feel that due to my ancestors choices I am a bad person. I didn't choose to have slaves and african americans today are not slaves, so they are not entitled to tell me that I am wrong because of my ancestors choices.

Venture Smith

Venture Smith, a former prince, tells of his experiences as a slave in Rhode Island. After a dangerous time on the coast of Africa, Venture's homeland, his father was killed and he was thrown into the realms of slavery. He tells of how he was one of his first master's most trusted slaves. He did as he was told and didn't disobey orders. Despite his good behavior, he was traded to another master thus being seperated from his friends and his wife and young baby. Venture Smith went through numerous owners and eventually was allowed to go out and work on his own. By doing this and selling possessions, he was able to "buy back" his wife and friends and countless other slaves. He gave them a better life.
The first thing this made me think of was the "American Dream." Albeit twisted, Smith came up from nothing and really made something of himself. He fought through stereotypes and became a trusted slave and an educated black man. (That was unheard of at the time.) His story also reminded me of the story of Frederick Douglass. Douglass was a slave just as Smith was and he became a very smart, educated man. He was educated by his master's wife. She would sneak around behind her husband's back and teach Douglass to read. It was rare for slaves to be educated and know how to read and write at that time. Both of these men eventually had published works. I admired the way Venture Smith worked to get his family back together. Obviously, he had his values straight in life, much unlike Ben Franklin. He had honesty and a strong work ethic. Because of this he was able to help many people have a better life. If more people lived life the way Venture Smith did, then this would be a better world.

Ben Frankiln

Benjamin Franklin is traveling to Philadelphia and trying to find his place and settle down in the first few chapters of his autobiography. He tells the readers of his travels by boat and his search for work. At first, he has no luck finding work at first. Going to two different men, they tell him that they currently do not have room for him to work at their print shops. By the sixth chapter, Franklin has grown as a person ans has established himself as an affluent member of society in Philadelphia. He includes letters from friends and fellowmen and tells of his religious preferences and the various ways he attempts to live his life from day to day.
In the first few chapters, Franklin is a young man looking to start a life. He is humble and appreciative of any and everything that he is given. He has not yet gotten full of himself. By the sixth chaper, he is printing letters of how wonderful others think he is. It seems to me like he is trying to show off, and almost say that he is now better than others. In my opinion, just because someone is willing to say nice things about you does not mean that you should wave them around as if saying, "Look I'm better than you are!" He also details his Presbyterian religion and how he attempts to live his life. He wants to live by such virtues as: temperance, justice, humility, silence, moderation. In my opinion, that's a big fail for Benjamin Franklin. The entire sixth chapter is him bragging about his good attributes. That is not silence. He is not being humble about his beginnings, and he needs to quit tooting his own horn.

The Sot Weed Factor

The first thirty lines of 'The Sot Weed Factor" detail a journey, a journey to America. Cooke's protagonist arrives by boat in Maryland. He tells of the arduous trip: how the waves were extreme in the ocean, how the sails and masts bore extreme wear and tear, and how worried the passengers were.
From what I have read of this poem, it reminds me of the journey of the pilgrims from England. They suffered a long and trying trip over the ocean in order to reach America, "the promised land." They were looking for a better life here, much as I expect Cooke's protagonist and his fellow travelers were. Also similar, both groups were looking to make money in agriculture. The sot weed factor of course is dealing in tobacco. Tobacco was an extremely profittable market in the past and still is today. While the English immigrants take credit for it, they did not originally have that idea. The indians were the first to pick tobacco leaves and smoke them. As I read this, I thought about how scared I would have been if it had been me arriving to a new country where I did not know a soul. I would have been terrified to just start over and have a brand new life the way the protagonist did in this poem. I admire the courage and audacity it took to do something like that.