Watergate: A Novel

In Watergate: A Novel, Thomas Mallon captures the weirdness and complexity of the Watergate mystery. When reading the novel, I found it interesting how there was really no head of the operation. No one seemed to have a specific name as to who was behind the order of the break-in. Mallon does a great job showing how although many were involved, it was a complex web of connections amongst the key players that had no one as the main culprit. I believe this complexity and mystery is shown right of the bat with The Players section in which Mallon lists and describes all the characters of the novel. This seemed to me as sort-of an overkill seeing that some characters were lost in the complexity of the story, but hinted that that is the way many people saw this situation. Relating it to the video from Wednesday’s class, it seemed that this event in American history reflects the way in which American politics may have been over-documented in the 70’s. I personally do not think the truth mattered in this scenario, I truly believe that just relating the government/president with such a scandal is fair to question the government/president and maybe call for impeachment.

Throughout the novel, Mallon portrayed Nixon as a paranoid president that feared for his future. Throughout the novel Mallon described instances where Nixon was concerned with how his legacy was being affected with the Watergate Scandal. Even his dreams seemed to hint of a possible downfall as described in the following quote: “But something in the dream was wrong; he was winning too much; he had too many chips in front of him. He didn’t know how he’d gotten them, but he knew he had to get rid of them fast.” (Mallon 19). One can understand Nixon for wanting to leave a legacy worth talking about. But it is ironic how ultimately, something that seemed to be so small and controlled blew up way out of proportion into this confusing and complex mystery. Instead of Nixon being remembered as he wanted to, he will always be seen as a political disgrace and by his famous quote: “I’m not a crook.”

The Green Light

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald plays a lot of emphasis on the green light that was directly across the pond from Gatsby’s house. It is in chapter one where Fitzgerald first mentions it. Just having came back home from her cousin Daisy’s house in East Egg, Nick saw Gatsby outside. As he was about to call him, he didn’t, instead he saw him “stretch out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way… Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away” (Fitzgerald 21-22). At first I did not really pay much attention to it, but once the story began to unwind I understood what that green light represented. The green light represented Daisy. We later know that the real reason behind Gatsby moving to West Egg and throwing these lavish and extravagant parties was to have Daisy come to one of them. The green light represented a past love that had been lost, and after many years Gatsby had found that love again. The light was merely a representation of how close Gatsby had gotten to that beloved past with Daisy, but in reality it was still far. The chances of that past coming back to life was as small and minute as the little green light.

In addition to the green lights representation of the love Gatsby and Daisy once had, the green light can also symbolize something more general. In fact the green light also depicts the unattainable dream. In Gatsby’s case, Daisy was the unattainable dream, trying to get back that love that had been lost. But for America(ns) at the time, I felt as if there was no unattainable dream. People were living in the now and their futures seemed as hazy as the green light. People seemed more concerned in having fun, making money, and living a lustrous lifestyle rather than planning for the future. The novel ends with Nick saying how much “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run farther, stretch out our arms farther…” (Fitzgerald 180). Its odd to think as the light as a representation of both the past and future. While it reminded Gatsby of the past with Daisy, it also gave him hope to recapture that past in the future. That being said I was wondering what people thought about the future, is it always tied to our dreams of the past?

Looking Backward: A Blueprint for the 19th Century

In the novels Preface, Edward Bellamy begins by setting the time to December of the year 2000. Throughout the entire Preface the narrator describes of the prosperous society in which he is a part of. Now obviously this is a fictitious 20th century in which he describes because Bellamy is from the 19th century. But what this does do is give credibility to Bellamy. By starting the setting in the year 2000, this almost feels as if the novel is a historical comparison between 19th and 20th centuries rather than a fictional novel. The Preface ends with the narrator saying goodbye and leaving the stage for the protagonist, Mr. Julian West.

This approach of writing in the future perspective is unique in comparison from past novels we have read. Other novels we have read simply narrate a story through the authors present time. What the reader experiences here is a fictitious future, 20th century, acting like the present while looking back and comparing itself to Julian West’s 19th century, which in reality is the present.

Going back to the ending of the Preface, the reader is introduced to Julian. As the reader finds out in the first chapter, Julian was born into an aristocratic family of the 19th century. He also suffers from insomnia, so as a result he has had to build an underground chamber to sleep in and has had to hire Doctor Pillsbury, a skilled mesmerist that would put Julian to sleep. The night on May 30, 1877, after Doctor Pillsbury put Julian to sleep, there was a fire that destroyed Julian’s home. Since he was in his underground chamber he survived the fire, but remained asleep. He was then found and woken up by Doctor Leete. To his surprise, Julian had found out the date was September 10 of the year 2000. This leads to the importance of Julian. The reason for why Julian is an interesting protagonist is because the intended audience Bellamy was targeting were the people like Julian, the aristocracy of the 19th century. Not only does Bellamy relate to the intended audience, but is also witness to how successful and wonderful Bellamy’s proposed social reforms are.

In a way, Julian is utilized as a mediator by Bellamy in order to reach out to the aristocracy of the 19th century. The simulation of Julian into the 20th century society described in the novel seemed to be “living” proof that these social reforms worked. Therefore, what Bellamy created through Looking Backwards is a blueprint of his reforms and a fictitious way of showing how successful they are.

Confusion and Cloudiness

After reading The Red Badge of Courage, I thought about an interesting point that was brought up in Monday’s class in regards to why was this war really fought? Throughout the majority of the battle scenes in the novel, we see that the opposition side is never clearly seen. In the first instance in where Henry gets the courage to fight, his lieutenant has to tell him that opposition has retreated, that he was merely shooting at smoke. This scene along with the unfamiliarity of the opposition through the majority of the novel gave me a sense of confusion. Going back to my first point, I think the novel depicted this idea of the questioning of the war. I am not sure if this was one of Crane’s intended interpretations of the text, but was something that stood out to me nonetheless.

In response to some of the questions, I believe this story is a universal one. By not mentioning the names, or mentioning them rarely, but instead referring to characters by characteristics such as tall, cheery, etc. is an example for why Crane intended for this story to be universal. The novel embodies a number of values that as Crane depicts, do not belong to a single person. Instead, values that one embodies, good or bad,  such as courage, maturity, self-preservation, etc. are values that we all as humans encounter. That one as a person should look deep within and grow/mature for a better future, better society.

I did not see significance of the tittle until its first mention in chapter 9, when Henry walks in guilt. At that moment, the “red badge” talked about a wound or blood. Henry felt guilt because he had ran away. Walking along those injured soldiers, wearing their “red badges” made him feel like a coward. Again, I saw this “red badge” as a universal idea that represented ease within oneself. One makes mistakes, some that make one feel disgust with oneself or in Henry’s case feel like a coward. The only way to be at ease with oneself, to earn that “red badge” is for one to redeem themselves, as Henry clearly did by showing courage and leadership in the battle field.

Going back to the idea of cloudiness and confusion, it wasn’t until chapter 20 in which Henry finally clearly recognizes opposition. I interpreted this in two ways: one being that Henry finally earned his “red badge of courage” and another being almost finally noticing a purpose for the war.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I was impressed in the way Harriet Beecher Stowe portrayed slavery. The reason being is that after doing a bit of research I found that Stowe knew little on the subject, but nonetheless was an issue that moved her deeply. Seeing a number of perspectives made the novel’s portrayal of slavery very powerful.

When reading the novel, it was clear that religion had a strong presence. Again we saw how despite all odds, one will always have their faith. I felt as if Uncle Tom and Eva, at the time in which they were about to die, seemed to embody this sense of being Jesus Christ. Being the loving and saint-like characters that they were, it seemed to me like Uncle Tom and Eva was a price humanity had to pay for their sins, sins that came with slavery. Furthermore, I thought it was interesting in the way Stowe portrayed Topsy. To me it seemed like Topsy would embody the bad in people, seeing that Topsy was hard to deal with. It wasn’t until Eva and Ophelia showed care towards Topsy that Topsy began to behave. This reminded me of the great pastor and Topsy being the sheep which wonders off, but is saved. Ultimately, I thought that a hidden theme of this novel was the importance of religion and the importance of loving one another.

One thing I found interesting was the portrayal of families in where slaves seemed happy to live with, as is the case with the Shelby’s and some of the St. Clare’s. The loving relationship that the Shelby’s had with their “slaves” portrayed a world where slaves were loyal and content with their role and the family in charged saw the slaves as an extended part of the family.

Ultimately, it is clear that Stowe saw the pain and torture that slavery brought on the families. Showing the mother commit suicide shortly after losing her child was a scene that I could just not get out of my mind. Same with the Harris family. Their determination and will to escape for the sake of having their family together was moving. Along the story, there were a  number of people who became aware of the atrocities that slavery caused. I believe this was a foreshadowing on Stowe’s part or at least her wish with writing this book. I believe she hoped to open peoples eyes and see what was occurring was inhumane and should be something that should be resolved immediately.

Overall, this novel did a great job portraying all perspectives of society. You had the different views within the slaves, slaveowners, etc. Ultimately, Stowe showed how slavery is a monstrous thing in the world, and as humans, we should care for one another and rely on faith to bring us together.

Dramas From the American Theatre

Looking back at A Dialogue Between an Englishman and an Indian, I felt as if the discussion between the Englishman and the Indian symbolized/represented a dialogue between two “Americans” who just so happened to be different. This seemed to represent the beginning of a new nation with new ideals, a new identity/nationality. The fact that an Indian was given the opportunity to attend college and be supported by a respected and educated Englishmen, in this case Doctor W—k, are signs of early integration between the two distinct people. This piece depicts the animosity towards the Indians that still exists between the Englishmen, but ends with the Englishman saying the following: “You seem to talk so fluently. — Perhaps I have been too much prejudiced against the Indians.” (Smith 8). I understood the ending of this dialogue as a sign of baby steps in the creation of the “American” nationality.

Throughout the piece, I also noticed that the Indian’s role was much more composed than the Englishman. It seemed to me while reading the part of the Englishman as if he was the savage. Smith describes in College Dialogues how in this piece the “Indian demonstrates his social and intellectual superiority over the Englishman” (Smith 3). This in comparison to Rowlandson’s narrative seems to me as an indication of growth by society. I do not think during Rowlandson’s time that anyone would even think of portraying the Indians as equal, let alone superior to the Englishmen. In Rowlandson’s narrative we see a few instances where the Indians are not portrayed as savages vs in Smith’s piece, we see the Indian being superior to the Englishmen.

Overall, I believe this speaks a lot to college education at the time and for college dramatics programs that seemed to be developing at the time. To think that these institutions were not only educating Englishmen, but taking in these “savages” and turning them into young scholars to the point where they were surpassing their Englishmen counterparts was amazing at the time. I saw it as a start to this American identity that was developing within the colonies, and within some of the nations most educated men.

Lastly, as I read The Candidates I could not help but think of the U.S. TV series House of Cards. Both portray the world of politics and how candidates manipulate and sabotage one another in order to attain power. I thought it was interesting how the two works were very similar. I often times found myself associating characters from The Candidates to those in House of Cards. It was interesting to see how much modern politics resembled politics during the time The Candidates was written.

-Rodolfo Santana

Captivity and Restoration

As I read through the book, I could not help but notice the transition of Mary Rowlandson’s feelings towards the Indians. In the early removes, Rowlandson uses strong words to describe the Indians. The Indians at first were depicted as savages, animals, “black creatures” (Rowlandson 9). In the beginning there was a clear distinction of what was “good” vs “bad”.  When attacked, Rowlandson described themselves as a “company of sheep [being] torn by wolves” (Rowlandson 8). From the beginning you see how society is structured. As I kept reading the book, I noticed the word choice Rowlandson used to refer to the Indians softened up. There are instances where Rowlandson seems to be at the brink of defeat when one of the Indians gives her food or does something to allow her to continue to pray. Towards the end you see these “good” vs “bad” distinctions broken. All of a sudden it is unclear who is the good and bad. Rowlandson realizes there is more to the world than just black and white. She realizes there is much growth to be made not only by the Indians, but by herself and her people as well.

It is clear that faith and religion was a cemented part of society and vital for Rowlandson’s survival. There were numerous instances throughout the book where Rowlandson was ready to give up, but she would restore her faith just before throwing in the towel. This book showed how much religion meant to people and how it was a sacred part of their lives. It was interesting to see Rowlandson being torn emotionally, physically, and mentality, but somehow finding it within her to keep her faith and pray. This notion of everything happens for a reason and believing that God has a plan for us all cannot have been portrayed any better. It is amazing to see how despite staring death in the face, Rowlandson did not once question God and her faith.