Saturday, 7 March 2015

Relevance Today of Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie is marketed as a children's book after Laura Ingalls Wilder's original plot for her memoirs did not cut it as a text that could be marketed. Publishers thought it would be easier to market the book as a children's story, and combine it with her memoirs and a westwards narrative that would continue to inspire children with the idea of the 'American Dream' and freedom. 

It has been proven over the years that Laura Ingalls Wilder made up some of the situations and circumstances of her novels, as in fact she would have been too young to recall most events she depicts, and shows her family as being older than they were. Wilder sets the novel a far way over the Kansas border and in Indian territory, and far away from other people and civilised towns despite in reality her family were settled only a few miles over the border and census shows that there were more than twenty other homesteads within range of them.

Wilder's dramatisations of her past make for a more exciting and interesting life than her real memories would. She changes the timescale of when things happened to her and twists the truth to offer an exciting and child-friendly perspective of moving west. The westwards narrative that her series depicts embeds the idea of freedom in the west to the children of today as her books are still popular with younger generations. Americans grow up having read and been read this book as children and it embeds in them the idea of the 'American Dream' and depicts it as being okay that this family invaded Indian territory as the right to the land remained with the Americans that could use and cultivate it.

The marketing of the book allows for a sense of patriotism and freedom as the covers of most issues depict a young girl, Laura, looking out across the great plains in the tall grass with cloudy blue skies above her. 

The book is also popular for its views of the American Dream and how the family set out to find a new place to settle and build their house. On the blurb of the edition I own, the 2014 Egmont edition, it takes a line from the story - "Here we are, Caroline!" said Pa, "Right here we'll build our house." - which shows this unbelievable sense of complete freedom, that the family could build their house wherever they wished to live. 

The idea of the 'American Dream' that plays a large part in the freedom of the story is easily marketable as most Americans are willing to buy into it and wish to believe that the dream can be achieved and Laura Ingalls Wilder's series is the perfect way to allow this. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Anna Yezierka and The Rescue

Short Stories:

In Anna Yezierka’s short stories she describes the way in which immigrants are looked down upon by upper class Americans and the injustice that they suffer due to this.

The Lost ‘Beautifulness’:
The Lost ‘Beautifulness’ is a story of a woman, Hannah, who wants a “little beautifulness” in her home so that her son can walk in and feel proud of where they live, so she decides to paint her kitchen a brilliant white; she does this as much for herself as for her son, “I forget I’m only a nobody. It makes me feel I’m also a person”, the feeling of accomplishment makes her feel worthy and more like any other American. The landlord punishes her, increasing the rent, so that she can no longer afford to live there. When her son finally comes home from the war, he finds his mother homeless, sat on the street in tears. It is a very sad story of a woman who is only trying to do good with the little that she has, however the moral lesson seems to be that no matter how hard you try to move up in society, you inevitably will not be able to do so, even more so if you are an immigrant.

Soap and water:

Here, Yezierka tells the story of a Russian immigrant who comes to America in search of the ‘thrilling “golden country”’ that she had heard opportunities are in abundance. However she soon finds that America is a much harder and more difficult place for someone like her and she is very much judged based on her messy appearance, “I was in the grip of that blinding, destructive, terrible thing - righteous indignation”. The only way in which she finds the ‘America’ that she has been searching for is by the friend she makes in Miss Van Ness who treats her as an equal unlike all of those before her.

The Rescue:

The Rescue tells the story of a bartender, Barker, with a shaky past and a boisterous prostitute, Betty, who go after a gang of criminals to save a young girl, Emily, who is also a prostitute. I believe the morals of this short story are similar to that of Yezierka’s immigrant stories as it shows that people will treat you differently depending where you stand in society. As Emily was a prostitute herself, she was looked down upon and the Sheriff tells Barker that “there are risks with that job” and that there is nothing he can do about it. However, with this story, Betty who is in the same position as Emily, just older and stronger, goes against what others thought was a lost cause and helps Barker save Emily and give her a better life after; showing that even though they may not have such a respectful job they aren’t confined to it and shouldn’t be so quickly judged because of it, as shown when Barker says “Betty had proven as capable as any man”.

Anzia Yezierska Short Stories - Moral Teachings fromImmigration

'The Beautifulness' & Soap and Water

The Beautifullness short story captivates the lifestyle poor immigrants had to endure in the urban ghettos of New York City during the early 20th century. The protagonist, Hannah; a deeply maternal individual, who's 'American Dream' of owning a white-washed kitchen , is established and then destroyed. Because of her self restraint to indulge and conviction to save money , Hannah is able to create her 'dream kitchen' ; a symbolism of her commitment to her son Aby (to whom she wishes to donate her efforts) . However, after upgrading her flat, the landlord imposes an increase on the rent. The issue that arises from this situation is that Hannah has portrayed how financially restricting conditionw , e.g. "there used to be a time when poor people could eat cheap things ....potatoes, rice, fish even dry bread is dear" repress the poor and allow for the exploitation of hard working individual for the means of others,these in the impoverish area the "The Dogs! The Blood sucking Landlords! They are the new Tsars of America" . The autocratic power of these individuals are important in representing of the problems faced by poor immigrants that they can compare the evils of their old and corrupt land to that of villains in the new land of opportunity. As a individual of direction, hannahs refusal to accept chaity, maintains the traditional American work ethic, however, here rejection of aide, places her in even worse standing ,that utlimatley leads to her self-destructive behaviour in running the kitchen. The conclusion is that she is emotionally and financially broken. The moral teaching; pride before the fall.

Soap and Water. Is the story of a Russian immigrant women, who maintains an ambition of achieving a college degree and bettering herself into a higher tier of society. The overall message of the tale is to  establish  a comparative picture of the lives between hardworking , impoverish immigrants and the upper classes, or more precisely the class of women that she wishes to be but not become e.g. Dean, Classmates.. The main comparative focus is on the 'appearance' of an individual. In a land that traditionally is meant to provide equality and opportunity, Yezierska's protagonist receives neither, even with a completed college degree, as a women, as an immigrant in 1920s America. The restricted opportunities create a environment (hard working, long hours manual labour.)  for the individual that mean she cannot accomplish her goals, as the prejudices she must face from authorities people about her appearance rank her inferior; regardless of her intellect. This is an example about how those in disadvantaged circumstances, must overcome and endure, and self-assimilate themselves , without financial means into an 'American Society' in order to prosper.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Moral Tales of Immigrant Experience

Anzia Yezierska: The Lost "Beautifulness" & Soap and Water

Both short stories contain moral tales of the immigrant experience, the first of a woman that aimed to make a piece of property that was not in her ownership better, which in turn increased the value and her rent - an unfairness that is the result of her putting work into some else's property; and the second the story of a woman that used all of her money to put herself through college and was unable to afford soap and water - yet in the end was reunited with the woman that embodied everything she had strived towards. 

The Lost "Beautifulness" tells the story of a woman, Hanneh, that saved and saved to redecorate the kitchen of the house she was renting for her son when he came home, yet was driven nearly insane by the raised rent of the apartment and ruined her kitchen which resulted in her eviction. Hanneh refused to take charity from her friend, despite the promise that they'd help change the rules. Instead she decided to ruin her work, her "beautifulness", because if she cannot enjoy it then she believes that no one else can. The idea of the story seems to depict a theme of unfairness in life and that by being caught up in creating beauty for her son to come home to, Hanneh forgot her senses and lost her house, despite her husband warning her that she should have saved that money for the possibility of something bad happening. Hanneh seems to dream up a perfect life that she could not attain, even through creating the "beautifulness" she worked so hard to achieve.

Soap and Water tells of an immigrant that worked day in day out to put herself through college and ended up only being discriminated against for not being able to afford soap and water, as they were considered 'cheap' by the upper and middle class Americans that daren't associate with her. The tale ends with her not achieving her diploma because of her ugly appearance, despite her having supported herself through poverty to send herself to college, which makes her want to rebel against the divisions of class. It could almost be interpreted as America not being so far from the traditional class system of Europe as it would like.

Jeremy Lane: Souls in the Wind

This short story tells of a man who owns a farm and his best workman, Smoke, is black and has an attractive young daughter that the man's son has fallen in love with, and she him. The pair run off together and the two fathers chase after them to find that the quite corrupt sheriff has found them first and intends to charge the son with kidnap after an altercation with the father earlier in the story. It has a cyclical narrative, ending with Briscoe saying he's going to "dig that man a grave", the same way he did the lynched black man at the beginning of the story. The moral seems to be of the inevitable equality of men, when they die they all end up in graves just the same.