Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Great Paradox

The great Paradox of The Rise of Silas Lapham: Morality verses looking out for yourself.

I was really socked in class on Tuesday when I found myself saying very contradictory things about what is morally right and ethically right. It was a struggle deciphering why I could justify one action but not the other. I agreed with the majority of the class that Silas was correct in sticking true to his morality and not selling the worthless property because he knew it was wrong, but I also thought that Penelope was justified in her decision to discount Irene’s feelings and marry Tom. I had to ask myself, why is it morally right for Lapham to take the hit to make sure that no one gets hurt and why was I encouraging Penelope to not care about her sister’s feelings?
It comes down to the systems we have created for both business and moral obligations and in the book the characters break free of the system finding their true selves. In the business world the accepted norm is “dog eat dog” meaning who cares how you treat the other person as long as you get ahead? Lapham goes takes a stand against this by refusing to be dishonest by selling the land to Rogers. He refuses to follow the business standard and in doing so he discovers his voice and true character.
With Penelope, she has always been the quiet and meek individual fitting into the system accepted for women during the 1900s. She breaks free of this and gets her voice by potentially hurting her sister and doing what she wants. The radical idea reflects some of the rights women take for granted today in our modern society. The Rise of Silas Lapham is about finding your true voice, and morally they both make the best decisions for themselves.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

American Dream: How its Changed

Down With the Empire!

My first impressions of The Rise of Silas Lapham, were confusion. After reading books such as Blithedale Romance and Joaquin Murieta, where the focus was on the language and describing every little detail about everything surrounding the character, I was shocked to read The Rise of Silas Lapham. The focus is completely off the language and more on the characters and their experiences. I really benefited from the class discussion today when the point of differences between Brittan and the United States were brought up. We talked about how Realism, as opposed to Romanticism, is anti-aristocracy and pro-American Dream. I began to understand how the ideas of Eighteen Eighty-five, when the book was published, still reflected the hope of being separate from Brittan. The United States had only been in existence for a little over one hundred years, and was still feeling the influences of the once “oppressive” force.
Over the hundred years The United States had grown apart politically, there were attempts at separate economics; however socially society was still following the aristocracy system of worth. If you had old money you kept it in the family and married into other families of old money. Realists seemed to be breaking the mold, placing more value on what you did and not where you came from. This idea is what we as Americans refer to as “The American Dream” that anyone can make something of themselves if they try and work hard enough. It is interesting how in our society today there is still the importance of status regarding money, but it is still dependent on how you obtained the money. You are valued more as a citizen if you started off with nothing and built yourself up to being really successful. Realism was the gate through which this change took place. It will be interesting to finish this novel with the lens of today’s society and how things have shifted.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

During the time of Joaquin Murrieta the American West was undergoing severe changes. The “civilized” east coast was branching out into the wild frontier where the “law” as they understood it was irrelevant. The concept of justice for offenders and mercy for the good was not understood. The idea portrayed in the Joaquin Murrieta is that you need to take the law into your own hands, enabling the idea “survival of the fittest” and revenge solving all problems. The many fallacies of the American west were spread through many mediums during the late 1800s.
The romantic idea of the “wild west” was a ploy used by many corporations looking to raise money and secure the future of the area. The introduction of the rail road inspired a great deal of propaganda and trickery. The Union Pacific Railway, one of several companies, contracted artists to paint the land in a sublime style. Barren wastelands were transformed into lush rolling hills with vast valleys just waiting to be explored. The hope was that the people crammed into the cities would see the grand landscapes with open land and flowing water and come running. When settlers did arrive they did not find the land of milk and honey they were promised. Many lost their entire life savings relocating to a place based off of a lie.
Literature from this time also played a roll in the movement of workers to the American west. Romantic adventures tug on the heart strings of men wanting to do more with their lives. Tired of living the privileged lives, they relocated to the west looking to become true men. Owen Wister’s The Virginian, written about the same time period also plays on the concept of becoming a true man in the West. Novels such as The Virginian and Joaquin Murrieta demonstrate the a part of the American west, but they are not complete and accurate representations.