Thursday, 26 February 2015

East and West- American Immigration

Anzia Yezierska: The lost "Beautifulness"

This story shows the viscous cycle of poverty in 1920 America. Throughout the story, it gives us an insight into the ideology of immigrants in America, and the belief that they can have a better life. As well as demonstrating the realities that people face.

There are a lot of moral lessons in here, especially in relation to immigrants. On one hand, you have the dream that all immigrants have. In this case, Hanneh wanted her apartment to look nice, and similar to the white upper-class Americans. "ambition to have a white-painted kitchen exactly like that...mansion. Now her own kitchen was a dream come true." This identifies that ambition is valued higher than any other morale value for the immigrants.

The idea of having a house that looks nice is essential for Hanneh as it allows her to feel as though she is just as equal of other members of the society, and can have the same lifestyle as people with money. Despite not actually owning the house or the same amount of money, it allows her to integrate and fit in with the American society. ""When I see myself around the house how I fixed it up with my own hands, I forget I'm only a nobody." Also, the fact that she considers herself a "nobody" reinforces the idea that she can never escape this poverty, despite what she achieves in her life, or how hard she works.

She believes strongly in justice, especially when the landlord increases her rent because he considers it to be of more value. This demonstrates the greed that the rich have, as he seems to have no moral values, he just wants to make money. "Because the flat is painted new, I can get more money for it." The landlord also does not take into consideration the immigrants circumstances, and the fact that her son is serving for the Unites States. Her morals are less about selfishness, and more about kindness between each other.

The fact that Hanneh feels as though she has changed, since coming to America, questions the American morals, over immigrant morals. "I ain't no more the same Hanneh Hayyeh I used to be." This proves that America has changed her, and not in a good way. Immigrants lose their good moral values like helping each other. and adopt American moral values like the landlord, greedy and only cares about making themselves rich.

Overall, this story identifies that the immigrants are not equal to the upper-class America. And she questions the better life that all immigrants are promised. "Did I wake myself from my dreaming to myself back in the black times of Russia under the Czar?" Because she is looking back at her life, and not forward with hope, it seems as though in America, you cannot leave your social-class, nor become equal, as immigrants especially, are controlled by those in a high-class.

Anzia Yezierska: Soup and Water

This is also about poverty, and the fact that you cannot escape it, even with education. From the start, the story shows that the immigrant is not being treated equal, "could not recommend me...because of my personal appearance." This is in relation to the clothes she wears, as she is not dressed as well as the others, when compared to them. However, this is because of the differences in wealth, as she cannot afford the same appearance which the others have. Poverty is holding her back from opportunities that can help get her out of poverty.

Again, this moral of determination and hard work doesn't always mean that people will become rich, as Hanneh worked hard to get an education and come out with a diploma. Yet she still can't manage to succeed, because of her circumstances.

"Soap and water are cheap. Any one can be clean." This statement suggests that anyone can achieve a respected appearance, and become successful, whether you are poor or wealthy. However, this story clearly shows that this is not the case.

Equality is definitely not shown in this story either, as Hanneh has to work 8 hours a day, outside of her studies, on order for her to become educated. Whereas people who she is competing with, haven't got the same lifestyle, yet potentially are more successful, despite the immigrant worker much harder than the average. "They had the time to rest...put on fresh clothes for dinner. But I...had only time to bold a soggy meal, and rush back to the grind of the laundry till eleven at night." This also identifies the selfishness of the societies morals. Because you have people who have nothing, working flat out, in order to sustain their current lifestyle. Whilst others achieve success much easier, as they have luxuries that they don't have to work for- enabling them to have more time in order to be successful. This shows the differences in the society "I came against the well-fed, well dressed world- the frigid whitewashed wall of cleanliness."

The story also describes how despite going to college, her opportunities were still limited, and she was still not able to escape poverty. "How I pinched, and scraped, and starved myself, to save enough to come to college! Every cent of the tuition fee I paid was drops of sweat and blood from underpaid laundry work. And what did I get for it?...a sense of poverty that I never felt before." This is a powerful statement, not just in terms of her struggle, but also her morals too. Firstly, it demonstrates that despite being poor, she still got the opportunity to attend college. Even though it was a lot harder for her than others, through the morals of hard work and determination, she managed to achieve it. However, by doing so, it also made her realise just how poor she was. As among other immigrants, she probably wasn't the poorest. But being among the upper-class, she quickly realises that she is not only poor, but is actually in poverty as well. This demonstrates the hardships she faces.

A key moral to the immigrants especially was hop. Because they had a hard life, hope was the only thing that they all could have. "in my darkest moments of despair, hope clamored loudest." Many immigrants also only had one way to achieve their goals, become successful and to fulfill their dreams they had, first arriving in America. This was to work their way up the economic and social ladder. "I tried to work myself up."

Overall, the story proves that the morals of hope, friendship and kindness can overcome hardships, and the fact that your success isn't always about wealth, but a sense of belonging and feeling equal to those who are better off.

Right of passage: Dave P. Fisher 

This story is a good example of the hardships that many poor people face. As the working class family (the dad) works hard in order to make a living for the family, so when he gets killed, the children have to take over, rather than getting an education.

"He felt for the boy, but he had no place in his outfit for a boy." This has the opposite morals to the two immigrant stories, as he does feel sorry for the boy, and offers him some money. He shows kindness to others in the society.

"I don't want your charity! I ain't a beggar." This shows a moral that many upper-class people do not have; integrity. Despite obviously needing the money, he refuses and want to earn his own money to provide for his mum and family.

The boy is polite despite being rejected a job. This demonstrates his character and morals are much more important than anything else. The "Right Of Passage"is an example of this, where a boy earns to become a man, the Irish boy did this in a fight.

"When a boy becomes a man he sheds them short pants and puts on long pants and boots." This however is a problem for the boy as "I don't have long pants, or money to buy any with." This also proves the viscous cycle of poverty, as he cannot afford the appearance that the society creates, in order for him to get a job.

The fact that the employer ends up hiring the boy who is now considered a man, shows that the morals of the employer is good. Because he rejected the boy before, not because of his wealth status, but because of him not being a man. This is the opposite of the two immigrant stories, despite the boy being Irish.

Grace La Traille


Monday, 23 February 2015

'That'll be the Day'

The scene I chose involves Wayne's character Ethan formally disown Debbie as his blood kin. I feel this scene Exemplifies the hard line standards of the west. Almost every single aspect of this scene provides how tough the west is to live in and how tough it makes someone who lives in it. 

To start with we see Martin getting water from a small stream dribbling off a cliff face. when his water bottle is filled to his satisfaction he eagerly drinks straight from the fountain himself, which exemplifies his dehydration from such an inconsistent supply of water, which while could be detrimental to his health he must accept because that is his only choice if he is to survive out on the harsh plains.
When he joins Ethan out in the open sunlight he gives the water bottle he filled to his injured friend and attends to a fire the two of them have created. At first this confused me since evidently, with the sheer amount of sun in the scene, there is no absence of heat nor is there any food to be cooked on the fire. He places something that, if I didn't know better, I would have thought was a sword, or something similarly metal perhaps to seal Ethan's wounds with the searing heat. This again shows the harshness of the west since not only do people have to tend to their own injuries but they have to prevent infection through burning rather than sanitary means.
Ethan is in this scene clearly injured, most noticeably on his shoulder (shown by the sling holding the injury in place) but also it would appear on his chest (shown by the tight wrapping around his chest). I cannot say what aliment caused him to need this bandaging but at a guess its more likely to be an open cut or something similar, on or around his chest rather than a broken rib (in which case I don't know if compressing it in such a manner would be a good idea). Assuming that the wound is an open or once open cut makes sense however with no blood on the dressing it is evident that they either managed to stop the bleeding (most probably by sealing with the burning metal aforementioned) or that Ethan simply didn't bleed that much in the first place. This suggests that his body has hardened to the western hardships, which suggests that they are so encompassing that to live in the west is to evolve to suit it. This idea is only backed up when we find out that the reason Ethan's shoulder is bandaged in place like it is is because of being poisoned either with an arrow or a snake bite that Martin is 'surprised' he hasn't died from yet.
When Ethan gives Martin his will before we even find out that it is a will we find that martin has great difficulty reading. Which at first points out how little academia means to the west, martin is still a successful young man but that is because he knows how to survive, not because he knows how to read like what would be needed in eastern America. It also crossed my mind the question 'If he doesn't know how to read, how could he send all those letters back home?' but I imagine that he did so heavily relying on Ethan's help and support if not then as someone to whom he dictated what he wanted to be written down to.
In his crudely written will Ethan formally disowns Debbie as his niece, favoring instead to give all his possessions to his adoptive nephew martin, I personally am unsure of the intentions of  Ethan in making martin read out the will, whether they were meant to be caring, in the sense that he was choosing him over everyone else, or if it was meant as a formal declaration that he no longer has a niece by the name of Debbie. If it is the latter than its lucky as that's exactly how Martin saw it.
In his anger at Ethan disowning Debbie, Martin bursts, so to speak, and at first goes to stab Ethan with something he grabs out of the fire, upon realizing that he still respects Ethan as an uncle and as a friend and the fact he couldn't kill him because he himself would probably die out in the west alone he drops the thing back in the fire and instead opts for an incredibly bitter 'I wish you'd died' to which Ethan replies with this posts namesake 'that'll be the day'. This is suggestive of again the brutality of the west, particularly in how Ethan reacts, hes been hardened by the west to the extent that it'll 'be the day' when he finally dies, which highlights how many times he has previously come close and yet still survived so that now one could say he sees himself as immortal within a human range. Martins response of anger can be seen as a young buck still learning about how unfair the life on the plains is, he still sees the injustice and he is still eager to resolve it if he can, in getting angry he shows his lack of achievement in this.
In conclusion this scene is exemplary of how the west changes people through and as well as putting them through almost insufferable hardships to the point that one can see death as something to be looked forward to, something that can almost be admired as peaceful, something that'll be the simultaneously best and worst day of every westerners life.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Searchers; Opening scene!

The Searchers (1956) has a notably incredible final scene, but I instead wanted to look at the opening scene and just exactly how it solidifies the film as a Western and just exactly why it does what it does.

As the scene begins, the very first thing you see is the gorgeous landscape of the Western, though it was set in Texas in 1868 it was actually filmed in Monument Valley, Arizona. Many Westerns are also shot in the same place and it's this setting which gives you that Western feel right from the get-go. 

The camera follows Martha (Dorothy Jordan) out the door and pans more of the gorgeous valley scene. You can see Ethan (John Wayne) just in the distance travelling in on his horse giving the sense of a 'lone ranger' feel, a mysterious unknown man galloping in on horse with no history and no understanding of who he is really help to cement the foundations of a true Western.

The camera then shows Martha in all her glorious attire stood in front of the homesteaders house which gives Martha a background before we have even been introduced, it is clear that Martha is the lady of the household whom in her working clothes will cook, clean and tend to her husband. She also raises her hand to her head as if 'searching' for who is on their way.

Following that the camera zooms in on Ethan as he is riding in and he is set between two 'monuments', for lack of a better word, the scene behind him appears to go on for miles, and you can see the horizon which gives the idea that this mysterious man has travelled forever, with almost no beginning which links to the final scene as he also doesn't have an end.

To wrap up the scene the man of the household Aaron (Martha's husband) steps forward in an authoritative stance wearing blue jeans, a brown belt with a burgundy top and waistcoat which is a very typical homesteader outfit. 

The music is key. The background track though it has that classic 1940-60 film feel more specifically it has Western aura about it, it also has a sort of romantic vibe which is possibly due to the 'obvious yet secret' love that Ethan has for Martha. 

Most importantly the opening scene is key to setting the ground work for the entire film and I believe that is is just as iconic and possibly more so than the final scene.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The searchers scene 1956

The Searchers:
I have chosen the final scene from The Searchers:

Even though this scene is a relatively short clip, it is arguably one of the best scenes. This is because it demonstrates just how much of a classic Western the film is. It does this with the setting, social behaviour, camera work, actors as well as the story line too.

The setting shows the hardships in which 'Ethan' faced during the quest of finding the girl 'Debbie'. Because it is set in the dessert, which is hot and uncomfortable to be walking and riding in for many hours a day, whilst also fighting Indians that he encounters. The scenery is also very symbolic of the Western genre, as it represents the American West in the 1900's. It demonstrates the major difference between wilderness and civilisation, whilst showing that they can be together despite being complete opposites, as you have the family home in the wilderness.  

The music is a significant feature of this clip, especially as the words indicate that 'Ethan' should be and it meant to be alone. The words are "Ride away..." suggesting that in Westerns even the hero has to leave. Within this film though, it is because he is a danger to the family including the women, especially as he has a worrying background, because he has allegiances with the Confederacy, and yet he wants to potentially live in a place South. The music is sad as well, which relates to the fact that 'Ethan' is being left out of the family, despite doing all the hard work of finding the girl 'Debbie'. The fact that he is a hero and not actually welcome there any longer is an interesting ending to a film, but it is also a typical Western ending too.

It is as if 'Ethan' the hero is destined to be on his own as he is the outsider or the lone cowboy. He belongs to the wilderness rather than civilisation, so therefore cannot stay with the family because he is best suited with nature, always on the move, especially as he very rarely sits down even in the civilisation settings, demonstrating that his character belongs with the wilderness. He is meant to go to the next town and be the hero once more. It is like a vicious circle. When he walks off in the very end, the setting is an amazing scene with the lone man walking away to the unknown.

The fact that 'Ethan' doesn't question the way in which the family just ignore him, indicates that he is either used to it, or doesn't actually want to be there and included in the family. He prefers to be on his own in the wilderness as a lone cowboy. It is interesting that the family don't even say thank you or shake his hand, or even acknowledge his existence! This in itself shows how they are isolating him from the family and don't want him to be there.

When 'Ethan' walks up to the house and family with the girl 'Debbie' in his arms really demonstrates the pride in which he had in finding the girl. Because he could of just dropped her off when he got off the horse, but to actually carry her to the parents shows how much he cared in doing a good job. This is why the response of the family is so interesting and also an important part of the film as it shows the relationship between the hero and the family or society. This creates the question of whether 'Ethan' is a flawed hero because the family have difficulty in trusting him.

John Wayne's height is how masculinity operates in the film, especially when he is carrying the girl. This is also shown when he gets off the horse,as he is not only towering over the man beside him, the camera work makes him taller than the horse.

The clothing in this final scene is significant as the use of the hats indicate dominance, with 'Ethan' and the old man sitting in the rocking chair being the only people actually wearing a cowboy hat. This shows dominance and despite the old man wearing a hat, he is also sitting down, making John Wayne the most masculine figure there.

The fact that John Wayne 'staggers' off into the distance shows his dominance, and that he doesn't have anywhere to be in a hurry. This whole scene reinforces the myths of the Western, as it has the iconography, story line and setting of a classic Western film.

This image is a contrast of the one above as it really has a lot of meaning to it. Because the previous image has John Wayne among others, which symbolises that he would be made welcome into the family, as he is a hero for finding the girl. However, this image shows him just standing there, all alone, which is a symbolic and traditional way to  end in many Western films.

Grace La Traille 


Monday, 16 February 2015

Rio Bravo

Film: Rio Bravo (1959) 
Critics review:

With even the briefest of google searches it is very soon clear that my review of Rio Bravo is among tens to hundreds of gleaming reviews of the feature. With a 8.1/10 rating on IMDB, a 4.7/5 on amazon and a 100% approval rating on rotten tomatoes this feature is, at least in today very well received. When this movie was originally released no one thought much of it however, as  points out Howard Hawks, the Director of this movie, had recently suffered a terrible dip in his career after the film he released prior to this, 'Land of the Pharaohs' had flopped dramatically and after his 3 year break no one thought anything good was left in the then 62 year old, and so no one really bothered with it at the time; this has lead to many critics today calling it a masterpiece and they might be right but it might be some sort of twisted compensation for its unspectacular reception when it was first released.
I cannot say I agree with them however.
What Rio Bravo proved quite definitely to me is how much the classic western is aimed at men and boys, this is a topic we as a class have already discussed in depth in the first week of the semester when reading Tompkins' article 'The west of everything'. I found this evident from the sheer amount of violence exhibited in the film, in fact with in just the first five minutes there's one stand off, one dead and two incapacitated through being hit with either fists or the wrong end of a rifle and all with (at a guess) less than 100 words said. While I'm sure this appeals to some the violence with very little context at the beginning of the film (and then more as the movie progresses) seems rather pointless other than showing which men roughly dominate which other ones although this is susceptible to change. Maybe, if you're really perceptive, it will indicate good guys and bad guys in the film but with everyone shooting everyone else and everyone wearing similar things and pulling their guns all at once this is easy to miss. 
An astonishing lack of female representation is indicative of this too, in the whole film I noted 2 women, including extras within which I saw no women. of the two female characters one of them had very little screen time and the other's main position seemed to be love interest to the main character whom did nothing in attempt to get this lady, simply a woman  who's young enough to be his daughter just simply started falling all over him while he stood and plainly talked about his job, because that happens all the time in real life doesn't it? 
I understand entirely the fact that westerns (as with any film) are traditionally romanticized versions of reality and the question I just posed can be applied to most films from any era I don't believe this makes it any less of a valid point that in this case shows how the feature is aimed at men since it was a young beautiful woman after a old ragged sheriff of a town she was briefly staying in but then made her permanent residence because of this man who had showed no real interest in her until after she'd got a job there. this is an uncommon view among the professional critics where most think the opposite Egbert says in his article 'It has surprisingly warm romantic chemistry between [John] Wayne and Angie Dickinson'. He also states 'It is uncommonly absorbing, and the 141-minute running time flows past like running water' which I personally have to disagree with, at multiple times I felt like the movie was drawing to a close and then it simply didn't, instead it ran for another 40 minutes or so. This might be because westerns simply aren't for me in this way but if it were as uncommonly absorbing I feel I should have been more invested in the characters than I was. 

First released in 1959, Rio Bravo is nearly, if not the most recent of the films I could have chosen for this task and I will admit it shows in the acting and the general quality of the special effects, sound and continuity in comparison to some of the other westerns we have watched in class. It is almost certain that Rio Bravo has more to be explored and hopefully some of that is more positive than what I have said here, and perhaps with a more experience of western films Rio Bravo appears more like the shining beacon of western cinema that the professional critics paint it to be. While I'd like to spend my time catching up on all the western films made between the 1930's and 60's in order to provide an educated comparison, I haven't the time; what i can provide is an outsiders opinion on the film which, as you have seen, is generally poor.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Gunfighter-1950

The Gunfighter directed by Henry King has the lead role of Jimmy Ringo played by the noted Western actor Gregory Peck. I am not going to describe the plot but here is the shortened synopsis from IMDB;

"Notorious gunfighter Jimmy Ringo rides into town to find his true love, who doesn't want to see him. He hasn't come looking for trouble, but trouble finds him around every corner."

The Gunfighter is an extremely interesting piece of the Western genre as it doesn't meet the typical subjects within the Western when it comes to its protagonist Jimmy Ringo. Ringo is a hero to many and an enemy to the same amount. What makes this film so fantastic is it's chronological realism and it's use of high octane drama, not gunslinging per se, but the use of high tension and time restraint. 

The New York Times (NYT) review of The Gunfighter put Ringo's character into a very revealing light 

'But the uncommon thing about him is that he hates to shoot. He is trying, in fact, to shun trouble in the most determined way. Only the young, foolish "squirts" in every bar-room won't let him pursue his peaceful way. They want to out-draw the famous "bad man."' 

I couldn't have put Ringo's character into better words myself. The NYT review appear to have the same view as I on Ringo and it is a sort of empathy with the character that leads to sympathy for him and that I believe is the effect the King was trying to get through to the audience and it was so effectively done by Peck as Ringo. 

This isnt to say you simply forget about what Ringo had done in the past but you can see (or feel if you have become that empathetic with the character) that Ringo is a changed man and simply wants to put things straight with his estranged wife and son. 

I struggled to find many critic reviews on The Gunfighter but from the ones I was able to find (mostly a couple of lines long) they all showed a an almost gratefulness to Peck and the way he played the character wrote 'He gives it great sympathy and a type of rugged individualism that makes it real.' Speaking about Peck. I do completely agree Peck played the role with great consideration and truly put a great film into the Astonishing category.

I have more points to discuss in the meeting such as what makes a Western? and why is The Gunfighter so different but still so similar? 

source IMDB:
source Variety review:
source NYT review: 
source image:

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Classic "Western"

I have chosen the classic Western film Shane, which was made in 1953. The critic that I have chosen is The New York Times.

This film is a really good film as it is not only entertaining, but it is also a classic Western which can be identified straight away just from the front cover. The film itself has different sub-genres to other Western films, Shane has the presence of the homesteaders and the gunfighter, both of which make it an amazing film. 

Within the New York Times review it states, "another great Western" and this shows that the film has the characteristics of Western films, which is really good as it represents what the classic American Western was like. These characteristics include; the clothing, acting/the behaviour of the people and the landscape of the "Wild West" as it mentions, "dramatic mobile painting of the American frontier scene". This indicates that the setting in particular is a good representation of the West, especially as it includes the traditional wilderness Vs civilisation aspects of the West, making it a good film. 

The film Shane also had more than the appearances of the American Westerns, it also had the relationships of the homesteaders and the cattlemen as the review comments that "It contains a tremendous comprehension of the bitterness and passion of the fueds that existed between the new homesteaders and the cattlemen on the open range". This is good because it argues that the Western wasn't just full of cowboys who were bitter, it also incorporated the cattlemen which would have been common in those types of areas, demonstrating the realistic people you would get in an American Western. 

The film also has mythic representations of the West, because these are the saloons and hotels within the civilisation places of the film. This is interesting as there wouldn't normally be any hot water in these areas. This then makes the film not very good as it doesn't give a realistic view of the American West. Although, the film has these within them which the New York Times indicates, "There is tempestuous violence in a fist-fight that a stranger and a younger's father wage against a gang of cattlemen hoodlums in a plain-board frontier saloon". This shows that the film is a bad representation of the West, however it also makes it really entertaining. That particular scene is good because it allows viewers to see the people within the Western films, and the differences the characters have. 

This critical review states "a group of modest homesteaders to hold onto their land and their homes against the threats and harassment's of a cattle baron who implements his purpose with paid thugs". This demonstrates that the film is good because it not only shows the history of the West, but also of how people want the Western to be in the future. For example, the binary structure, which is as much about a lost dream or ideal of the West; the homesteaders are trying to protect their land, homes and dreams. 

An interesting point that The New York Times review thought was "For "Shane" contains something more than beauty and the grandeur of the mountains and plains, drenched by the brilliant Western sunshine and the violent, torrential, black-browed rains." This is interesting as it is saying that Shane not only has the wilderness and civilisation within it through the settings, but it also has the plot which is a typical Western, as it involves an outsider becoming part of the society, but only for a short amount of time, yet they have a significant impact. 

Overall this classic film has good and bad points, and it gives an insight into the  American West whilst also having entertaining scenes to make people want to watch it. 

Grace La Traille 


Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Buffalo Hunt - Charles Marion Russell (1919)

This is the painting The Buffalo Hunt by Charles M Russell, painted in 1919. This image was painted 7 years prior to Russell's death and well into his career as an artist, throughout his time as an artist Russell specialised in painting the Old American West and had previously lived with a Native American tribe. This is probably the cause of the genre of his paintings and also the nature of them too.

As seen in the above image, the Native American tribe are hunting the Bison on horseback using their bow and arrows. This paints a much more positive view of the Native Americans as it shows them in a much more civilised manner than the 'savage' depiction they had been given before. Just as well, the grass is green, the sky is blue, and the Bison are the many, there is still this image of a bountiful America with resource for all.

Russell held a high amount of respect for the tribe that he stayed with for the 1888-1889 period the 'Blood Indians' this is possibly the reason for the positive image for the Native Americans in the above painting. Even though, the Native Americans are on a hunt they arent being portrayed as 'abusive' of the land or nature, and as well it is as if the image is saying the America is so bountiful that even these great hunters don't require all the food available. Unfortunately shortly following the release of this painting in 1919 the Bison population fell to extreme lows and it came extremely close to the extinction of the species altogether. This idea of the never-ending supply of food and raw materials, it's no surprise that the American population felt it acceptable to go and have mass Bison hunts and thus killing millions of Bison.

After having released almost 2,000 paintings -the majority of which were of the American West- Russell had become an internationally recognised artist. There has been an art museum opened in his name once he passed away, displaying almost 2,000 of his artworks, artifacts and personal belongings. This shows how effective Russell had been in reproducing the old west as so many people across the world appreciated his work. Russell was a respectable man and passed away on 24th of October 1926

Image 2:
Image 3:

A Bad One by Charles Marion Russell

The Painting I have chosen was painted in the 1920 by Charles Russell and is entitled 'a bad one'. Russell was born in st Louis Missouri where he lived for the first 16 years of his life dreaming of the wild west and the cowboys that live there. when he was 16 he moved to Montana to work on a ranch where he fell in love with the state and the lifestyle it offered him. He worked on a ranch in Montana for 11 years working on his art in his free time before retiring in 1883 to be a full time artist. In 1888 he sent the summer with a local group of Native Americans called the Northern Plains Indians whom he greatly admired. Despite achieving the status of internationally known artist by the early 1900's he remained in Montana until his death 26 years later. Since then a museum has been created in his honor and is located in the state of Montana that he loved so much. 

I chose the painting entitled'a bad one' mainly because the title interested me. The Immediate assumption the viewer makes when looking at this piece is that the horse that is rearing is the bad one, this would be unquestioned if the setting was a European one. However the riders behind who are sitting on docile horses are cheering the person in the center of the painting on, evidently applauding his bravery in staying on the horse through its acting out after being spooked. Or alternatively as you can see the rider is wielding a rather unfriendly looking whip which may be because that horse is prone to bad behavior and the onlookers are cheering him on in his attempts to control the horse. I believe the latter to be more likely however the fact the rider chose to use that horse in this particular outing rather than others suggests the western obsession with expressing bravery and/or being able to control the wild, (or attempting to), this i a long standing tradition and in fact even today there are rodeos in some states where misbehaving horses are put into a ring and agitated just enough to make them buck nonstop with a stirrup-less rider on top for the purposes of seeing how long the rider can stay on the horse. 
In the background you can see a small settlement which could be a native american settlement or the cowboy's base, both can hold significant meaning. To say the settlement is native american suggests that Russell believed that native Americans and the European settlers could live peacefully on the same land, on the condition that they aren't integrated. the settlement in the background could be a home/base for the riders. If this were the case the question of 'where are the group going?' is raised as it is evident that their herd are right there, beside the settlement. So surely they cant be herding their cattle or moving them around; it crossed my mind that they could be looking for a stray or a predator but that amount of man power cant be needed for those tasks unless the predator is a bear or something similar, which I doubt since the painting appears to be set on the great planes. I later came to the conclusion that the group are probably surveying the area since if it is their settlement they look to be very new to the area so getting to know the surroundings is a necessity for safety and important in the interests of utilizing the land in the most profitable way possible.

In conclusion this painting shows many different aspects of the cowboy/frontier lifestyle even though it was painted many years after the frontier was considered closed. It is also a romanticized version of the west focusing on the bravery of the cowboys and their determination to domesticate the west.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The West, Wilderness in the American Life and Imagery

I have chosen  a painting by Thomas Cole: View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Masschusetts -after a Thunderstorm,1836. 

This picture was painted in 1836 by Thomas Cole, who traveled to Northampton, Massachusetts and tried to paint a realistic representation of the American West.

The image is in keeping with Thomas Coles' other work, with fantastic scenery, but this image also has an ugly appearance too. This is what makes the image unique and amazing as it suggests that the West is represented in America as being mysterious and unusual.

This painting is symbolic as it has Thomas Cole himself is in the centre of the picture, which indicates that this image is the representation of the American wilderness, and this makes it much more realistic as well.

The Hudson River has significance as it has the meaning of the dividing line between the East, which is calm and has civilisation, as opposed to the West, which is chaotic and scary. But it also has the meaning of the river itself being the representation of wilderness, as a river can be calm as well as rough and wild. As it is positioned in the centre of the image, it demonstrates what the picture is supposed to mean unintentionally.

The storm is an interesting part of the image as it isn't clear if it is going East, North, South or West. The storm itself signifies that it is not peaceful to be in the wilderness and there is doubt as to whether humans and the American landscape can live peacefully together.

The Hudson River image can also be seen as an idealistic view of the American wilderness and landscape as its appearance is considered perfect, which makes it questionable as to whether it is a realistic representation of the American West.

Thomas Cole captures America's natural beauty by painting different types of trees, rolling hills, mountains and an elegant river. In contrast however, the image also has the realities of extreme environments which the artists often encountered, whilst exploring these new lands of the American West. This is shown with the messy Western side of the painting, including the trees, bushes, rocks, clouds and the dark and stormy skies.

The skies also illustrate that the unknown and what is to come for not just the travelers but also for America in the future as well, as it is represented as dark, depressing and mysterious. It also resembles the Native Americans and the Europeans in the West too. This is because there were many wars, and the black storm is suggesting that the West isn't all glamorous, but is is also dangerous and people should be careful.

Thomas Coles' image shows themes of romanticism and it does this by using his artwork to make the American wilderness as realistic as possible, especially as many people could not afford to go to these places themselves, so an image of a painting was the only way in which they could know what it was like. This image shows that the America landscape and America in general is represented as "Eden", in relation to "Adam and Eve" in the bible. It is to symbolise that America and the wilderness is a fresh start for humans. The river is a metaphorical line between the old you (East) and the new you (West), which the wilderness allows you to do.

The presence of the man (Thomas Cole) among the wilderness in the picture has a significant meaning. It is indicating that the landscape is so huge, that people "vanish" when they are there, demonstrating that the West is far from Europe or has the same landscapes as Europe, but mean different things to the American people, as well as showing it's greatness.

The Hudson River represents the West interior at the time, from the East Coast to the West; "Manifest Destiny", as the wilderness was the 'unknown' during this time. The image shows the difference between the America which Europeans know and the America that Native Americans can relate to; the wilderness.

Because it it a painting, it isn't always as reliable as a photograph because the painter often interprets the land around them, creating an idealistic version, to make it appeal to people who cannot physically be there.

Thomas Cole 1801-1848:

Thomas Cole.jpg

Grace La Traille


Monday, 2 February 2015

Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma

The Pawnee tribe, claiming on their website to be around 700 years old, are perhaps not the oldest of Indian tribes in America but this doesn't mean the Pawnee tribe doesn't have a rich history and culture that's still alive today. 

The Pawnee tribe were originally from the great planes of mid-west America to be more specific they lived along a large river in whats now called Nebraska. The thing that drew me to this tribe was the name; I cant tell a lie that when I first saw the name of this tribe in our Tuesday lecture I did immediately think of Pawnee Indiana, a fictional town from popular american sitcom Parks and Recreation that I had recently watched. In the sitcom they make numerous references to the Indians that had once lived on the land there known as Pawnee, IN and at multiple points try to breech the (incredibly violent) gap between the two nations that history had left them, to create a working and happy environment for both parties, and I was curious to see how such a long lasting relationship could develop in the first place. My questions were roughly answered in the lecture and I assumed the names came from treaties roughly made between the Indians and the settlers, this made even more sense to me when I found out the Pawnee tribe had been labeled a 'friendly tribe' by the US government which means upholding the Indians side of the treaty would be easier come by than if they were named a hostile tribe (or something similar). the only thing that surprised me is that although there is a real town called Pawnee it is in Illinois rather than Nebraska where the Pawnee tribe holds most of its history or in Oklahoma where the tribe was placed after ceding their land and being removed.

Despite being displaced the Pawnee tribe still seems very supportive of the US and its exploits. On the history section of the website they claim (or the wording they use claims) that they fought against the Indians in the Indian wars, which although this seems nonsensical this may have been a survival technique, perhaps the Pawnee tribe could see the US government wanted to eradicate all Indians and sucked up to them in the hope it would save them; or perhaps the tribe simply had a vendetta against all other tribes and were willing to fight against them, although its also likely that I mis-read the quote 'In support of American’s freedoms, the Pawnees have served in all military conflicts to date beginning with the Pawnee Scouts that served during the Indian wars.'

Although I can hardly make an entirely justified judgement from a relatively brief glance at this tribe's website the Pawnee's success as a nation seems to be reliant on their niceness, their hospitality that makes them such a 'friendly tribe' but what also may have aided their survival is their either strategically adaptive or perhaps weak-willed (I am still unsure) qualities that allowed them to stay on the white peoples good side and preventing them from getting eradicated completely.
You MUST post in good time, in advance of our meeting. Some of you are leaving it late.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Cherokee Nation

I wanted to take a look at possibly one of the most famous tribes in North America today, Cherokee Nation. What I noticed as I was looking at a number of websites of Native American tribes was that they tended to have their name followed by 'Nation' or 'Reservation'. From this I took that the Native American peoples want to hold on to the fact that they are separate from the U.S. government. I understand that they are legally separate or 'foreign' land and I also understand why they differentiate themselves from the Federal government by being named as nations and reservations because of their past with the U.S. but what strikes me as peculiar is that Cherokee nation rarely referred to themselves as a tribe apart from in historical context. Why that stood out to me was it brought up the question, do they not want to keep that part of their history or is it simply that as they have grown in population they feel much bigger than a tribe now and much more like a 'Nation'. 

In the our history page on Cherokee Nation's website they obviously discuss their relocation by the order of President Andrew Jackson. Even though what happened to the Cherokee tribe they don't post anything that sounds resentful of the United States Government but this is possibly due to the amount of aid and support that the federal government have given to the Cherokee nation in recent years. Even so it doesn't excuse this;
'The Cherokee were herded at bayonet point in a forced march of 1,000 miles ending with our arrival in "Indian Territory", which is today part of the state of Oklahoma. Thousands died in the internment camps, along the trail itself and even after their arrival due to the effects of the journey.'

This journey is commonly and popularly referred to as 'The Trail of Tears'
As seen here;

I would like to focus on the use of the term 'herded' for me this points out the idea that they were treated like cattle rather than human beings which does explain why they were able to go about relocating the Cherokee tribe because I don't believe you could relocate and cause the death of so many humans without a great amount of guilt, so treating them like animals or 'savages' makes that process much easier just as they did with enslaved African as well.

Finally I will discuss the success of the the Cherokee Nation. To put it simply I didn't expect any Native American tribes to have a website (how wrong was I!). The Cherokee Nation have a very comprehensive website which includes information about their taxation system, healthcare system, education sector, census data and many more articles. This to me seems more like a very developed country rather than a small Nation within the state of Oklahoma, and the Cherokee nation takes pride in their advancement over other tribes in a similar situation and under the 'Proud Heritage' sub heading within their 'Our History' section it says "The Cherokee shaped a government and a society matching the most civilized cultures of the day." This is a very proud achievement for the Cherokee Nation and still today they have a similar government and society to those of countries such as the United Kingdom and United States.

Emblem Image:
ToT image:
Cherokee Nation:
Cherokee Nation History page: