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LH 

1 

.B56 

S61 

1992 

copy 2 



Southern 

Academic 

Review 



A Student Journal of Scholarship 



No. 6 
Spring 1992 




John Mark Allen 

Molly Brewer 

Amy Dingier 

Wesley Edwards 

Amorak Huey 

Natalie Meyer 

Stephen Nickson 

Michael Peacock 

Chip Trimmier 

Dr. Roger N. Casey 



BIRMINGHAM-SOUTHERN COLLEGE 



5 0553 01026458 5 



Southern 

Academic 

Review 



A Student Journal of Scholarship 



No.6 
Spring 1992 



Southern Academic Review is published annually m. the 
spring by students of Birmingham-Southern CoUege^ it is 
funded by the Student Government Association and 
operates under the supervision of the Student Publication 
Board. It seeks to publish material of scholarly interest to 
students and faculty at Birmingham-Southern, and its 
editorial scope encompasses all academic disciplines. Fully 
annotated research papers and shorter essays alike are 
considered for publication. It accepts submissions from 
any currently enrolled student at Birmingham-Southern or 
any alumnus of the College (although no submission may 
be considered if it has previously been submitted as 
academic credit at an educational institution other than 
Birmingham-Southern College). Although most of the 
Review's content is to consist of student work, submissions 
from Birmingham-Southern College faculty and guest 
lecturers will also be considered for publication. 
Manuscripts (preferably a graded copy, if class work) 
should be sent to the Editor, Southern Academic Review, 
P.O. Box A-46, Birmingham-Southern College, 
Birmingham, Alabama 35254. 



(c)Copyright 1992 

by Southern Academic Review and 

Birmingham-Southern College 

Printed by Ebsco, Birmingham, Alabama 



Editor-in-Chief 




Ellen Schendel 


1 




.fbSL. 


Field Editors 


56/ 


Michelle Andrews 




Leslie McFall 


^ ' c:^ 


Russell Rice 




Faculty Advisor 




)r. Ronald J. Rindo 





111 



Contents 



Articles 

"The Birthmark": 

An Allegory of Scientific Endeavor 

and Spiritual Conflict 

John Mark Allen 



Castles of England and Wales 

in the Middle Ages: 

A Unique Combination of Home, Fortress, 

and Administrative Center 

Amy Dingier 



Straightening a Turn: 

A Response to V.S. Naipaul's 

A Turn in the South 

Wesley Edwards 32 

The Sacred Hoop: Four in One 

Stephen Nickson 48 

Habermas and Lyotard as a Means 
of Reading the Cultural Conflict 
in Momaday's House Made of Dawn 

Michael Peacock 62 



IV 



The Debt Crisis 

and Development in Latin America: 

Are Debt for Nature Swaps an Answer? 

Chip Trimmier 74 



Gender Issues Section 

The Varying Characterizations of Women 

in A Doll 's House 

and Death of a Salesman 

Molly Brewer 100 

Wolves and Women: 
The Sexual Fears 
of the Male Protagonists 
in Bram Stoker's Dracula 

Amorak Huey 112 

The Incompatability 

of Marxism and Feminism 

Natalie Meyer 131 



African-Americans 

and Automobiles in Fiction 

Dr. Roger N. Casey 148 

Notes on Contributors 161 



"The Birthmark": 
An Allegory of Scientific Endeavor 
and Spiritual Conflict 



John Mark Allen 



Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" is a tragedy. 
Hawthorne narrates a tale that describes what originally 
seems to be an idyllic marriage. A famous eighteenth- 
century scientist of lofty spirit and intellect fmds a noble 
and beautiful wife. But, as Hawthorne states early on, his 
devotion to science will make their relationship difficult. 
As he says, "His love for his young wife might prove the 
stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining 
itself with his love of science, and uniting the strength of 
the latter to his own" (268). This is, indeed, what occurs 
in the story. Aylmer, the husband, becomes evermore 
obsessed with the singular mark of imperfection on his 
wife's cheek. He sees this birthmark, a "tiny hand" (269) 
of discoloration so small as to be covered "with the tips of 
two small fmgers" (270), as a badge of Georgiana's 
mortality and her liability to sin and death. He begins to 
think of applying his scientific genius toward removing the 
mark. In this way, the story proceeds allegorically along 
the path of a scientific endeavor. In keeping with this 
logic, the plot progression parallels the scientific method 
used in such endeavors (at least as it was thought of then). 



2 Southern Academic Review 

The points of the scientific method, as delineated by 
Francis Bacon in his Novum Organum and other works, are 
observation, measurement, hypothesis, experiment, and 
verification. All of these points are present within "The 
Birthmark. " 

The significance of this scientific underpinning is the 
insight that it gives of Aylmer's motivation. Why should 
this highly intelligent man risk the life of his loving wife 
for a small blemish? How does his scientific train of mind 
factor in his philosophy and actions? The vein of the 
scientific method in the story leads to the very heart of 
these matters. The final destination is the mind/soul of 
Aylmer, wherein there lies unconscious spiritual confusion. 

Even "very soon after their marriage" (268), Aylmer 
begins to observe Georgiana's blemish. To him, her 
exceptional beauty makes the mark all the more 
unbearable. In his opinion, the mark stands out as a stamp 
of her human finitude, and it causes "...him more trouble 
and horror than ever Georgiana's beauty, whether of soul 
or sense, had given him delight" (269). As the narrator 
relates, other people have seen the mark differently, both 
positively and negatively. To her male admirers, it was a 
romantic adornment. To her female competitors, it 
rendered her ugly. In the story proper, however, only 
Aylmer's observations dictate the action. These 
observations represent the first stage of the scientific 
method, and, as such, the beginning of the scientific 
endeavor. Once Aylmer has focused on this fault, 
Georgiana is reduced to the place of a machine that is 
working at ninety-nine percent efficiency. The one percent 
becomes the focus of attention. For instance, most of us 
have had some little something wrong with our cars. The 
noise that the slightly-leaking "piffle valve" makes may be 
unnoticeable to others (i.e. mechanics), but the 



Allen 3 

owner/observer can pick it out in a few seconds and, 
henceforth, hear none of the proper workings around it. In 
a similar fashion, Aylmer becomes focused on the blemish 
till he can see little else of Georgiana. 

Observation quickly leads to measurement. Aylmer 
sizes up the mark for shape and intensity. In this case, the 
reader can safely assume that Aylmer has noted all the 
points of the external description provided by the narrator: 
"The mark wore a tint of deeper crimson.... When she 
blushed it gradually became more indistinct.... Its shape 
bore not a little similarity to the human hand, though of the 
smallest pygmy size" (268-69). Given the grasp that this 
mark holds on Aylmer, it is remarkable to note that "he 
[had] thought little or nothing of the matter before" (269). 
It is as if he saw a diamond without a microscope, and 
later, upon seeing it under such, he found a tiny but 
devaluating flaw. To Aylmer, the flaw seems to increase 
with every passing day. That which requires only the 
smallest caliper for its measurement is subjected to the 
scrutiny of the electron microscope that is Aylmer' s mind's 
eye. 

As the story progresses, it becomes more and more 
obvious to both Georgiana and Aylmer that something 
needs to be done about the mark. For he thinks of nothing 
else, and she is tormented by the knowledge of his 
obsession. By this point, Aylmer is "convinced of the 
perfect practicability of its removal" (270). Aylmer has 
thought deeply on the subject. [In fact, he claims that he 
might now possess enough knowledge to even create a 
"being less perfect" than Georgiana (271)]. His 
hypothesis, then, is complete. He believes he understands 
the chemical nature of the blemish and how he can erase it. 
Although Georgiana is able to voice feelings (unlike an 
object!) her unequivocal assent to have the mark removed 



Southern Academic Review 



does nothing to change her position in the story. For 
sake of the scientific endeavor, her reality as the noble, 
loving wife or the stable and yet pliable object is 
immaterial. Unfortunately for both of them, Aylmer does 
not possess the necessary knowledge to accomplish its 
removal. What is more, he is unwilling or unable to 
recognize this truth. The narrator, possessing an 
understanding that Aylmer does not, reveals to the reader 
the nature of the story's enigma. In essence, Mother Nature 
"permits us, indeed, to mar, but seldom to mend, and, like 
a jealous patentee, on no account to make" (271). 

The next section of the story is analogous to the long 
period of experimentation and reevaluation that is the 
mainstay of science. The experiments carried out by 
Aylmer are unusually discrete. The perfumed vial may or 
may not be one of these. The gold-colored 
poison/cosmetic is one that he does not wish to use. Both 
Georgiana and the reader are unsure as to which of 
Aylmer' s tricks are actually experiments. Nevertheless, 
she conjectures from his inquiries that the air she breathes 
and food she eats may indeed be a part of his scheme. By 
whatever means, the presence of experimentation is 
confirmed by her sensation of a "stirring up of her system" 
(274). 

The setting and events of this section are as important 
as the experiments themselves. First, the setting holds a 
special significance for the couple's relationship. The 
redecorating of the laboratory and words such as 
"threshold" indicate that the consummation of the scientific 
endeavor will be the consummation of their marriage (271). 
Second, his laboratory assistant Aminadab functions as a 
counterpart to Aylmer. Hawthorne quite bluntly states that 
he represents man's "physical nature" while Aylmer is the 
spiritual (272). Third, the event with the quick flower. 



Allen 5 

dying at Georgiana's touch, carries the continuing theme of 
Nature's beauty and secrecy. The flower, like humanity, 
is finite. It should not be plucked and examined lest it 
wilt. It will neither reveal all its secrets nor blossom long. 
Lastly, it is ironic what he says of alchemy, because he has 
cdready "attain[ed] too lofty a wisdom," such that he cannot 
stoop to reality (273). More will be said on this last point 
shortly. 

The last part of the story is, in method, the point of 
verification. Here, as in many actual scientific endeavors, 
success or failure rests upon the results of a final 
experiment. After Georgiana demonstrates her unswerving 
faith to him, Aylmer reveals that the mark does indeed 
have a strong grasp on her. There is, in fact, only one 
thing left to be tried. He and Aminadab meticulously 
distill this ultimate concoction, and then he takes it to her. 
Aylmer says (famous last words), "Unless all my science 
have deceived me, it cannot fail" (277). Georgiana, 
despite the fact that she has read his experiment folio and 
knows that "his most splendid successes were almost 
invariably failures" (275), drinks the liquid without 
apprehension. She, both nobly and naively, wants nothing 
more than to please her husband. Ironically, she perceives 
herself, not Aylmer, to be at a moral impasse. Having 
drunk the liquid, she quickly passes into a deep sleep. 
Thereafter, a scientific and physical reversal occurs. 
Aylmer is, once again, in observation, but this time it is to 
watch the mark disappear. Tragically, the other reversal 
is a physical one affecting Georgiana. As the birthmark 
fades into nothing, so too her overall pallor becomes that 
of death. Before she passes into the ether world, however, 
she makes a remark that partially redeems her for wisdom: 
"'Do not repent,' she says, 'that with so high and pure a 
feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer'" 



6 Southern Academic Review 

(278). 

As a scientific endeavor, therefore, Aylmer's work is 
a failure. According to the scientific method, it has failed 
at the point of verification. But what then is within the 
mind/soul of Aylmer to drive him to and through all this? 
It is confusion, but not of a small or everyday sort. His 
confusion is between the spiritual and scientific. Georgiana 
had noticed that he had a "strong and eager aspiration 
toward the infinite" (275). Yet, as the narrator states at the 
end: 

Had Aylmer reached a profounder wisdom, he need 
not thus have flung away the happiness which would 
have woven his mortal life of the selfsame texture 
with the celestial. (278) 
Quite unrealistically, he was trying to "find the perfect 
future in the present" (278). 

Even more specifically toward matters at hand, Aylmer 
has violated modern scientific methodology. His 
philosophical problem is, then, among other things, rooted 
amidst a scientific error. The error is to set up a purpose 
or final cause as a target for science. Both Francis Bacon 
and Renes Descartes, two founders of modern science, 
were in firm disapproval of this error. This teleological 
method, more or less a deductive one, was popular among 
both ancient and medieval scientists. To make a long 
method brief, they decided the way they thought things 
should be and managed to reason their way to like 
conclusions. (In all fairness, deductive reasoning has been 
and still is an important philosophical and scientific tool. 
In fact, deductive reasoning without a predetermined target 
was Descartes' modus operandi). This method brought two 
problems: it created incorrect conclusions by amassing 
assertions, and it prompted scientists to think about things 
that were only known to God (Baillie 16-17). As John 



Allen 7 

Baillie states, "This did not mean, however, that there are 
no final causes, but only that natural science has no 
business with them" (17). In other words, these are things 
that theologians should ponder, and not scientists. 

Aylmer then, has created within his mind notions of 
perfection and beauty that do not apply to the very nature 
that he is to study. Thus, all his experiments are grand 
efforts in futility that produce only the tiniest gems of what 
he is after. Unfortunately for Georgiana, Nature is not 
something with which to be trifled. When Aylmer applies 
his odd brand of science to her person, there are "truly 
remarkable consequences and a deeply impressive moral" 
(268). The mystery of God's work is left intact. Aylmer 
would have done well to have read one of Bacon's 
aphorisms: 

The subtilty (sic) of nature is far beyond that of sense 
or of the understanding: so that the specious 
meditations, speculations, and theories of mankind 
are... but a kind of insanity, only there is no one to 
stand by and observe it [—or perhaps there is!] 
(Bacon 12). 



8 Southern Academic Review 

Works Cited 

Bacon, Francis. Novum Organum. Ed. Joseph Devey. 
New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1902. 

Baillie, John. "Natural Science and the Spiritual Life." 
British Association for the Advancement of Science. 
Edinburgh, 12 August 1951. 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark." The Bedford 
Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 2nd 
ed. New York: Bedford-St. Martin's, 1990. 268-278. 



Castles of England and Wales 
in the Middle Ages: 
A Unique Combination of Home, Fortress, 

and Administrative Center 

Amy Dingier 



"...and they filled the land full of castles..." 

-The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1132 
(qtd. in Muir 93) 

Perhaps the most fascinating and compelling legacy we 
have from Medieval England is the castle. Our curiosity 
about this edifice is not idly provoked, for the castle was 
the focal point for medieval British society. Castles were 
crucial to lords of the middle ages, for they served as 
home, fortress, and administrative center all in one— a 
unique combination that has not been duplicated since. For 
this reason, it is only appropriate that these massive 
structures and the life that revolved around them should be 
carefully studied. 

William Duke of Normandy invaded England in 1066 
from Saint Valery, just to the north of Normandy, France, 
and immediately began constructing castles. However, 
William was not the first to fortify England. Sometimes 
his castles were built on the ruins of earlier fortifications, 
such as Roman fortresses, which themselves may have been 



10 Southern Academic Review 

built on old Iron Age ruins, as those at Dover were (Brown 
11). The Anglo-Saxons, after the Romans, built "burhs," 
which were fortified towns, but not true castles combining 
home and fortress. The idea for William the Conqueror's 
castles came from Byzantine Greece, where the "eastern 
Romans" (Brown 12) built poliginal walls with comer 
towers, one of which was the ultimate refuge of the 
garrison. 

When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, he 
brought the castle with him to England, where it would be 
developed from the original crude motte and baileys to 
perfection in the sophistocated concentric castles of Edward 
I in Wales. William's early fortresses of wood and timber 
as well as their stone descendants served as the "primary 
means by which a new and alien military aristocracy 
established themselves in England and Wales" (Brown 
217). Then, once the Normans had securely ensconced 
themselves over their subjugated people, castles served to 
protect them from successive foreign waves of would-be 
conquerors, and, within the country, to guard one lord 
against the schemes of another. 

However, each and every castle was meant to be a 
residence as well as a fortress, and when we speak of 
castles we refer to only those buildings that combine the 
two functions with defensive fortifications given 
predominance over domestic aspects of the structure. The 
earliest such structures were the simple motte and baileys 
consisting of a mound of earth, the motte, surrounded by 
one or more baileys, or courtyards. The bailey as well as 
the motte was protected by a deep ditch and an inner 
wooden palisade wall, then atop the motte within its 
palisade was a wooden tower which was the strongest point 
of this castle. Occasionally, however, in the simpler 
"ringwork" castle, the motte was ommitted from the 



Dingier 1 1 

enclosure (Davison 35). 

The wood and earth materials necessary for 
construction of motte and baileys were easily come by and 
no special skills were necessary for labor. Therefore, this 
type of castle was the most plentiful of all types because it 
was the quickest, easiest, and cheapest to construct. 
However, timber was weak, and susceptible to attack, 
especially by fire. So, motte and baileys were useful 
against surprise attacks, but not in longer sieges. Also, 
timber decayed quickly and had to be replaced continually 
in motte and bailey castles to keep them strong. 

For this reason builders began to use stone, when it 
was available, in castle construction as soon as possible 
after the invasion. Stone, like wood, had its advantages 
and disadvantages. It was longer lasting than wood and 
stronger as well—therefore better able to withstand sieges. 
However, stone was difficult to transport, and took more 
time to quarry, as well as more time to build with. Stone 
also required skilled labor for construction, and was 
therefore a more expensive building material than wood. 

Construction of stone castles required greater 
investments of time and money than motte and baileys, and 
stone castles were more permanent once completed. For 
this reason, they were not as randomly constructed as motte 
and baileys. Since the castle's first consideration was 
defense, lords chose building sites as naturally secure as 
were available. Castles were generally built on the highest 
and rockiest ground possible to guard against an enemy 
being able to tunnel under (undermine) the castle. Water 
surroundings like a lake, river, or moat also precluded 
undermining. Further, some sort of internal fresh water 
supply was essential for internal use in every castle, 
especially during times of siege. So a good underground 
water supply was necessary to tap into with the one or 



12 Southern Academic Review 

more castle wells. 

Castle architecture was developed and changed much 
in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, always with the 
main purpose of strengthening defense. Often changes in 
stone construction developed in direct response to new 
siege tactics. However, those studying castle development 
should also remember that its history is not a 
straightforward progression from timber to stone, or from 
one stone characteristic to the next. In fact, timber 
constructions persisted alongside stone even into the 
fourteenth century, and many stone innovations of the 
various centuries could be seen in a single castle as it was 
modernized and expanded over the years. 

In the twelfth century, one of the first changes to be 
made in castles was the replacement of the wooden palisade 
atop the motte with stone to form what is known as a shell 
keep. Also, the wooden palisade surrounding many 
castles' baileys began to be replaced with stone to form a 
curtain wall just inside the outer ditch of the castle. When 
wooden keeps began to be built in stone, they had to be 
removed from the motte and located in the bailey, or have 
the motte leveled off to accommodate them. Without this 
change, the packed earth of the motte would settle and shift 
beneath the concentrated weight of a stone keep, causing 
the keeps walls to crack and crumble. Clifford's Tower in 
York suffered from this fate. The keep atop its motte 
began to crack even before construction was finished. For 
this reason, a planned third story was left off the tower, 
and even today the remaining structure requires 
underground supports to keep it from falling. 

Stone keeps dating from the late eleventh century 
onward were the inner core of all successive fortifications. 
These "donjons," such as the White Tower of London, 
combined the fortified stronghold and residence of the lord 



Dingier 13 

in one structure. Early stone keeps were rectangular, and 
their thick walls were crowned with battlements having the 
early addition of crenelations— tooth-like projections 
designed to afford some cover to defending archers. The 
base of the walls might have a sloping or splayed plinth 
which had a double function of making attack using 
battering rams more difficult, while causing rocks and 
other missiles dropped from the battlements to ricochet out 
among the attackers. 

Almost all castles since the first motte and baileys had 
surrounding ditches to make attack more difficult. In stone 
keeps, the ditch outside the surrounding curtain wall served 
to prevent attackers from bringing siege towers up to the 
side of the castle. If not a ditch, castles would have a 
moat, which might be made by diverting a nearby stream. 
At least one castle, Kennilworth, was surrounded by a lake 
that had been enlarged for the purpose of defense. In any 
case, water defenses, like ditches, prevented the approach 
of siege towers and also made undermining almost 
impossible. 

In the later twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, lords 
began to intersperse rectangular towers, called mural 
towers, along the curtain walls of their castles. Then, in 
the mid-thirteenth centuries, lords discovered that the 
comers of rectangular towers made them more susceptible 
to undermining, and gave "dead ground" for cover to 
attackers, so they began to make mural towers round or 
polygonal instead of rectangular. Furthermore, stone 
overhangings called machicolations were extended out from 
the battlements so that defenders could drop rocks or shoot 
down to the base of the wall into attackers without 
exposing themselves to fire. 

Another defensive innovation was the gatehouse, which 
reached its apex in the latter thirteenth and fourteenth 



14 Southern Academic Review 

century Welsh castles of Edward I. Experiments in 
fortifying the entrance to castles began by the end of the 
twelfth century, according to Davison (132). The purpose 
was to transform the castle's entrance from the weakest 
part of its defenses to the strongest. Gatehouses might 
consist of huge gate towers flanking the opening, which 
itself had numerous layers to penetrate for entry. These 
layers included heavy doors and another new type of gate 
called a portcullis, which differed from an ordinary gate in 
that it did not open in or out, but lowered from above 
possibly impaling attackers on its bottom spikes on the way 
down. Leading up to the gate there might be a walled 
passage or barbican, which functioned to limit the attackers 
approach to the gate. And finally, there were murder holes 
and arrow loops lining the interior walls of the gateway, so 
that each series of passageways and guard chambers 
became separate death traps for the attackers slowly 
penetrating within. 

Castles reached the apex of their strength with the 
concentric castle, of which the best example is probably 
one of Edward Fs castles, Beaumaris, in Wales. 
Concentric castles consisted of the buildings of the castle 
protected by two closely spaced curtain walls. The inner 
curtain was the taller of the two so that archers atop it 
could fire beyond the outer curtain wall, or even onto it, if 
it fell to the enemy. Concentric castles also had 
surrounding water defenses, and tons of masonry in the 
form of mural towers overlooked by even larger and more 
formidable inner towers. 

Though we generally consider castles for the military 
functions mentioned above, they also served as homes to 
the great lords. To neglect this aspect of their use would 
be to ignore how the inhabitants of castles passed most of 
their time-in peace, rather than in war. R. Allen Brown 



Dingier 15 

comments that 

at no period in its history was the castle filled only 

or always with the tramp and clatter of armed men: 

the sound of revelry in the hall, the rustle of ladies' 

dresses in the chambers of the queen, even the 

laughter of children in the garden, are as authentic 

a distant note for our ears to strain after as the 

shouts of battle and the clash of arms. (210) 

It is, therefore, important to consider the domestic 

arrangements of the castle in order to be able to visualize 

the setting in which lords, ladies and their retinues passed 

their days of peace. 

Without a doubt, the great hall was central to castle 
life. It was the largest room of the castle, and thus the 
logical site for carrying out daily business, eating meals, 
gathering to celebrate and entertain, and even to sleep. In 
the earliest motte and bailey castles, the great hall might 
have been contained in a donjon atop the motte. Or, if 
there was not enough room there, the great hall could be a 
building within the bailey. In the stone keeps of the 
twelfth century, the great hall often occupied an entire 
floor, usually the first (as opposed to the ground level, 
which might be used for storage of food or livestock, or as 
another hall, perhaps for the servants). By the thirteenth 
century, with many baileys secure behind curtain walls, 
more apartments, including the great hall, could be located 
in the bailey. 

These great halls would not be considered very great or 
comfortable by modem standards. Cleanliness was 
minimal. Carpets were not generally used on the floor 
before the fourteenth century. Instead it was strewn with 
rushes and sometimes herbs. Apparently these were 
supposed to be changed often, but instead were usually 
simply covered with new layers. Underneath these layers 



16 Southern Academic Review 

"lay an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments of 
bone, spittle, excrement of dogs and cats, and everything 
that is nasty" (Erasmus qtd. in Gies 60). 

Lighting and heat were also scarce. For defensive 
reasons, castle windows had to be long, narrow, and few 
between. Sources differ regarding how often windows 
were "glazed" after the appearance of glass in the thirteenth 
century. Norman Pounds holds that glazing was relatively 
expensive, and was not commonly found in secular 
buildings before the sixteenth century, except occasionally 
in the halls of the greatest royal and baronial castles (188). 
However Joseph and Frances Gies and Margaret Labarge 
propose that glazed windows were common by the 
fourteenth century (Gies 59; Labarge 22). 

In any case, if not done in glass, windows from the 
eleventh century onward were covered with wooden grills 
or shutters secured by an iron bar, or by oiled linen 
coverings. Unfortunately, these methods of shutting out 
the cold shut out most of the light as well. So, castle 
rooms might have warmth or natural light, but not both at 
the same time. 

Alternately, there were several types of artificial light 
available to castle occupants when the shutters were closed 
in winter or after the sun had gone down. They could light 
their halls with candles, rush lights, oil lamps in the form 
of bowls, or fires on the hearth— this last choice having the 
added advantage of heat. Yet, all of these methods of 
artificial light had drawbacks. Wax candles were expensive 
and therefore could not be used in profusion, while rush 
lights, which were made using grease or tallow (animal 
fat), were inefficient and probably smelled bad. 

Fires, as always, smoked, but this was a greater 
nuisance in medieval halls where most fires were built on 
open hearths. Smoke from these fires sometimes simply 



Dingier 17 

rose and drifted around the room, producing a sooty mess 
and stains such as the ones that can still be seen in the hall 
at Stokesay manor. However, sometimes castle buildings 
had louvers in the roofs or walls to facilitate the escape of 
smoke (Davison 82). In the late twelfth century, fireplaces 
built into the walls began to replace central hearths in 
castles such as Rochester and Hedingham (Pounds 189). 
But even then, as Burke points out, the chimney as such 
was not thought of until the latter thirteenth century; 
inhabitants had only flues piercing the walls for the smoke 
to exit through (33). So, with all the inconveniences and 
difficulties of heating and lighting a great hall, it often 
remained dark and cold, sometimes damp, and generally 
cheerless. It is little wonder that people of this age went 
to bed so soon after nightfall. 

All these inconveniences aside, lords in the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries made their halls as comfortable and rich 
by contemporary standards as they were able. This 
included the best furnishings and decorations they could 
afford. Probably they could not afford to furnish each 
individual castle, since so much of their possible 
expenditures were devoted to defense. For this reason, 
lords carried their furnishings with them from one holding 
to the next. Since furnishings had to travel well, they were 
usually as light and sparse as possible. Furnishings for a 
typical household might include a bed or two, a few trestle 
tables, benches, stools, a couple of chairs, and a few sturdy 
chests for the transport of linens and any cooking and 
eating utensils. Later, probably around the end of the 
thirteenth century when lords began to emphasize a castle's 
domestic amenities over defense, furniture such as beds and 
tables became more permanent and increasingly large and 
ornate (Labarge 34). 

Decorations may have alleviated much of castles' 



18 Southern Academic Review 

inherent gloom. Doors, windows, and fireplaces could 
have attractive arches and moldings. Walls were plastered 
and whitewashed inside and out, and often painted further 
or hung with strips of brightly colored cloth, tapestries. 
Eastern embroideries, or cheerfully painted cloths. These 
rich wall hangings all depicted scenes of battle, biblical 
history, romances, or legends, and so were flamboyant and 
bold. For example, Davison's Observer's Book of Castles 
tells us that Henry Ill's favorite design for wall paintings 
was gold stars on a green background (89), no doubt a 
striking combination. Further decorations for especially 
wealthy lords might include cupboards in which to display 
any gold and silver cups and platters they possessed. 
Then, after the introduction of carpet to England, it, too, 
might be found covering the walls, benches, or chairs. 

Not all castle activities were carried out in the great 
hall. Fairly early in castle development the kitchen was 
given its own building apart from the great hall— probably 
because of the smell and potential fire hazard. And larger 
castles might have a bakehouse and brewery in buildings 
separate from the kitchen. Castles also had a buttery, 
where drinks were kept, and a pantry, for the storage of 
dry goods. Wardrobes, for tailoring and storage of cloth, 
spices, jewels, etc., were generally inside the main donjon, 
while the grange for hay storage, the granary, the stable, 
the dairy, the larder, and the forge were all scattered in the 
bailey, as were miscellaneous lodgings for clerks, 
chaplains, and constables. Then, in the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries, the houses of the castle came to be 
more consolidated within the inner defensive shell itself, 
which was, by that time, the strong inner curtain wall of a 
concentric castle. 

Castles sometimes had a jail/gaol for the keeping of 
prisoners, as did the Tower of London, where a great many 



Dingier 19 

royal prisoners were kept. Interestingly, its function as a 
prison has contributed most toward making the castle what 
Brown calls "romantically notorious"— thus the 
transformation of the word for the lord's noble residence, 
donjon, to the vile, dark, and terrible dungeon (Brown 
212), of torture chambers and horror stories. 

Having a rough sketch of the layout of the buildings of 
castles provides a rich setting in which to picture what we 
know about everyday life within castles. Daily meals were 
somewhat different then. Occupants of medieval castles 
rarely ate the meal we call breakfast. If they did, it 
consisted of little more than a hunk of black bread and a 
pot of ale. The main meal of the day was at ten or eleven 
o'clock, and was usually the social event of the day. 
Supper at about four or five o'clock was a lighter meal and 
more intimate than dinner unless there were guests. 

The meal itself began with the spreading of a tablecloth 
before eating. An especially wealthy household might have 
platters, cups, and spoons made out of precious materials 
with which to eat. Otherwise, a thick slice of bread called 
a trencher served as a sort of platter with the meal, often 
a stew or paste, served on top. During the meal, two 
people ate off one dish with the younger serving the older 
or the man serving the lady (Labarge 124). 

The actual diet of our subjects was not as limited as we 
have sometimes been led to believe. It was continually 
improving and becoming more varied in the thirteenth, 
fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries as a greater number of 
vegetables and spices came into use. Lords and ladies 
generally had meat (or fish on non-meat days of 
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) at both meals of the day, 
and eggs and poultry as ingredients in other dishes. Meats 
served included beef, mutton, pork, bacon, veal, and 
venison, as well as poultry, geese and capons (77), 



20 Southern Academic Review 

starling, pigeon, gull, peacock, and heron. These meats 
were sometimes served to the lord and lady in elaborate 
and complicated dishes, such as larks-tongue pie, which 
was quite a delicacy (Burke 39). However, since meat was 
usually from wild animals, giving it a tough, stringy 
consistency, it was most often boiled into a stew to soften 
it. 

Medieval meals consisted of more than just meat. 
Thick and coarse bread was a staple of the daily diet, as 
was cheese. Other fare which could be provided by the 
castle's own garden included common fruits like apples and 
pears as well as vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, 
onions, peas, beans, leeks, and cabbages. All dishes of the 
lords table could be seasoned with herbs like sage, parsley, 
fennel, and hyssop as well as spices like pepper, ginger, 
cloves, cinnamon, and sugar, which was considered a spice 
because it was so dear (Labarge 96). 

Salt was a commodity necessary in the middle ages for 
more than flavoring. Because it was rarely known when or 
for how long a castle's lord would be in residence, castles 
had to stock food supplies as much as a year in advance. 
Foodstuffs could not have been stored in such great 
quantities for such long periods of time were it not for salt 
which could be used as a preservative in the drying of 
meats and fishes and in brine for pickling. 

Although wine had to be imported, it was not 
uncommon to fmd it accompanying the meal. According 
to Burke, "wine from the barrel was poured into jugs and 
served at the top table, while the lower orders contented 
themselves with ale" (43). Beer and cider were also 
common everyday drinks, while water was seldom drunk 
due to possible pollution (102). 

Because the days were so short in winter, a large 
amount of people's time was spent in bed, asleep. Sleeping 



Dingier 2 1 

arrangements changed as castles developed throughout the 
middle ages. Initially, the lord and lady as well as 
attendants and certain household servants, slept in the great 
hall together, with the lord and lady secluded behind a 
curtain on the raised dais at the end of the hall. Later, 
there were stairs leading to a private room, sometimes 
called a solar, for the lord and lady above the hall, and 
cooks, grooms, stable-lads, and other help slept in the 
buildings where they worked. By the time of concentric 
castles, a whole suite of rooms would be set aside for a 
lord, and perhaps a separate one for his lady. There might 
be other suites for visiting nobles and their staffs in the 
castle's gatehouses and wall-towers, so that their upper 
stories functioned as what Davison labels, "high-rise 
apartment blocks" (78). 

Few castles had large permanant garrisons because of 
the expense of maintaining them on a regular basis. Even 
in times of war, the defense of a castle did not usually 
require a large number of men (although the number of 
defenders needed varied with the size of the castle and 
differing circumstances). For these reasons, there was 
often no separate provision for the housing of a garrison in 
the design of a castle. When present, garrison soldiers 
slept in towers or basements, the hall, or "lean-to" 
structures in the bailey (Gies 69). 

Many castles were equipped with separate "garderobes" 
or privies for use in answering the call of nature. These 
latrines may have emptied into a pit which some 
unfortunate servant would have to clean regularly. More 
often, though, they drained into the castle's moat or other 
water defenses, so were limited to rooms of the castle 
where an outside vent was possible. Sources differ on 
whether there were alternatives to the privy. For example, 
in regard to chamber pots, Davison says they "do not seem 



22 Southern Academic Review 

to have been used" in the middle ages (91). However, 
Labarge states that chamber pots were used in lieu of 
latrines, according to purchasing accounts (25). 

On the subject of other sanitation and cleanliness it 
should be noted that the only soap cheap enough and 
readily available to castle occupants was an unplesant 
concoction made on the premises out of meat fat, wood ash 
and soda (Burke 46). Considering the nature of soap and 
the cold and inconvenience involved in baths, it is little 
wonder how rarely full tub baths were taken. However, 
certain medieval books on etiquette advised individuals to 
wash at least their face, hands, and teeth in a basin of 
water every day. 

When the knights and lords of castles were not at 
war, they and their ladies enjoyed quite a large and diverse 
selection of activities and entertainments. For both lords 
and ladies, the favorite outdoor pastime was the hunt, 
which fulfilled the important function of providing food as 
well as passing the time. In the Dialogue of the Exchequer 
around 1179, Richard Fitz Neal proclaimed that in the 
forest, lords "laying aside their cares... withdraw to refresh 
themselves with a little hunting; there, away from the 
turmoils inherent in a court, they breath the pleasure of 
natural freedom" (qtd. in Poole 2:617). 

However, there was not much freedom involved in 
medieval hunting, which was governed by numerous 
regulations of etiquette elaborated in books like Le Art de 
Venerie and The Master of Game (618). Hunting was also 
governed by strict laws. Lords wishing to hunt had to 
apply to the king for grants of "vert and venison" (Labarge 
167) which allowed them the administration of private 
forests. There, the huge game preserves with their quarries 
of deer, wild boars, rabbits and hares, etc. would be tended 
and guarded from poachers by foresters, warreners, and 



Dingier 23 

even officers of forest courts. Most hunting was done 

with hounds trained to scent specific prey. Indeed we are 
told that Edward IV had a pack of hounds strictly for 
hunting otters! Another form of hunting, falconry or 
hawking, was an even more scientific and highly technical 
art than hunting with hounds. Remember that there were 
no guns at this time, and contrary to ground animals which 
could easily be cornered or worn out, flying birds were 
elusive, and almost impossible to get at with arrows. For 
this reason the falcon or hawk was revered. Yet these 
hunting birds were difficult to train and very delicate and 
expensive to maintain. Thus, much was written on the art 
of hawking, with the skilled falconer of the middle ages 
being lauded as "the aristocrat of huntsmen" (Burke 46). 

Other outdoor entertainment for the nobility included 
the tournament, which came from France in the twelfth 
century. At that time, specifically in 1194, the tournament 
was imported and legalized by Richard I in order to 
improve the prowess of British knights. Early tournaments 
were a confused melee of knights randomly charging one 
another, and were consequently often dangerous- 
resembling a battle more than a game. But tournaments 
evolved into more civilized events of individual competition 
in jousting, tilting, and even wrestling, where ladies would 
overlook the competition. These "round table" events were 
great social occasions lasting several days accompanied by 
spectating, feasting, drinking, and dancing. 

Indoors, there were a number of board games like 
tables—similar to backgammon, and merels— an elaborate 
form of tic-tac-toe, and chess— a war game between two 
armies on the board. Two forms of chess were known in 
the middle ages. One version, like the modem game, was 
dependant on skill, while the other was played by rolling 
dice (Labarge 175). Other games using dice were 



24 Southern Academic Review 

common, and were often gambled upon to great extremes, 
"whole estates being stacked on a single throw" (Salzman 
104). For the entertainment of children there were games 
like "hoodman blind," also known as "blind man's bluff," 
or "hot cockles," and pets like squirrels, monkeys, and, of 
course, dogs. 

In fact, pets of various sorts were kept by all nobility. 
There were lap dogs as well as hunting dogs, and also 
birds like larks, nightingales, and popinjays, in addition to 
the hunting birds which were always kept on a special 
perch in the lord's or lady's private chamber. Performing 
bears, dogs, and monkeys were not uncommon, while 
kings kept everything from lions and leopards, to camels, 
porcupines, and elephants. 

During and after meals, entertainment might be 
provided by "joculators," which were mimes or jesters 
performing acrobatics or juggling. Also, traveling actors 
might perform plays in return for hospitality (food and 
shelter). And always there were minstrels to play 
instruments and sing, and storytellers whose repertoire 
ranged from bawdy tales to epics and romances about 
Arthurian legend or such notable characters as Robin 
Hood. In any case, music was ubiquitous and additionally 
accompanied by staged dancing or dancing by the company 
itself. 

Religion was very important to medieval people 
because they believed their souls would be judged after 
death according to their conduct during this life. Because 
of this emphasis on the spiritual, every castle had at least 
one private chapel for the morning mass and the several 
others of the day. Some castles had separate chapels for 
the lord and lady of the house, another for visiting nobles, 
and yet another for servants and retainers. These castles 
had a resident chaplain, and may have had more than one, 



Dingier 25 

although in this case, the extra chaplains may have 
performed more administrative and secretarial duties than 
spiritual ones. 

This medieval emphasis on spirituality extended beyond 
the castle chapel. Rarely could a castle be found without 
an accompanying parish church to see to the spiritual needs 
of the villagers. Also, the foundation of most monasteries 
was due to the munificence of some castle's lord, who gave 
the land on which it could be built. Monasteries served the 
lord in return by furnishing a burial site for him and his 
family, providing intercession for their souls, and supplying 
chaplains and priests to the castle. 

Yet another function of the castle besides home and 
fortress was as place of business. Castles were the 
administrative sites for the lord's estates, as well as for the 
local town or village. With the possibility of several 
holdings, a lord had a very large and scattered estate to be 
managed. The castle's steward fulfilled the job of 
administering and managing the estate, supplying the table 
and keeping the household rolls, or accounts. There were 
also auditors to travel and oversee far-flung baronial lands, 
and a bailiff to collect rents, enforce owed labor, and 
maintain order. Finally clerks, and perhaps even 
chaplains, assisted castle correspondence and the keeping 
of castle accounts. 

The role of the lady of the castle needs mention here, 
for she often took responsibility for administration of the 
castle and its lands, including making financial and legal 
decisions, in the absence of her lord. Women of the 
middle ages could even inherit castles or land, and some 
ladies took an active part in defending their castles in 
sieges, and even led armies into battle. For example, 
William the Conqueror's grandaughter Matilda led an army 
in person against her cousin Stephen of Blois in England's 



26 Southern Academic Review 

twelfth century civil war, and Dame Nicholade la Haye 
heroically defended Lincoln castle against prince Louis of 
France and the rebel English barons shortly after the time 
of King John's death. 

Aside from trained and often highly educated retainers, 
castle staff included a large number of common indoor and 
outdoor servants with various functions. Inside, there was 
a cook, a pantler in charge of the pantry, a butler in charge 
of the buttery, a baker, a butcher, wardrobers with 
seamstresses and laundresses, barbers, nurses, and chamber 
lads and maids. Outside, there was the watchman and/or 
gaoler, the marshal or groom, who cared for the horses, 
the smith or farrier, messengers, and carters for the 
transportation of goods. 

The steward, in addition to running the castle, presided 
over manorial court, where decisions and verdicts were 
made for the townspeople by a jury. Baronial courts were 
the scenes of elections and marriages, as well as exchanges 
of land and registration of titles gained by succession or 
sales. Boundary disputes were settled here, and village 
agriculture was regulated. And equally important, 
manorial courts dealt with criminal justice in regard to 
petty crimes, assault, infringement on common roads, etc. 
In royal castles, which were held by the crown rather 
than a baron, a constable or tenant-in-chief was appointed 
by the king to fulfill many of the same functions as the 
steward of the baronial castle. He was to collect the king's 
revenues (taxes), manage the estate including its lands, 
mills, staff, and servants, and was even responsible for 
entertaining guests of the crown. Royal castles also or 
alternately had a sheriff to carry out those functions. In 
addition, the sheriff was responsible for doling out the 
king's justice at the courts of the shire, guarding any royal 
prisoners, leading the local militia, and enforcing royal 



Dingier 27 

laws. 

Officials residing within castles were, in general, 
responsible for administering to towns and villages, so that 
castles were the administrative centers of the land. For 
example, Caemafon was built in Wales specifically to serve 
as its center of government. This regulatory function of 
castles is only one example of the close tie between a castle 
and its surrounding countryside, village, or city. A castle 
also needed the work force provided by the surrounding 
inhabitants, who, in turn, needed the castle for protection 
from outside attack. 

Considering the castle's important connection to towns 
and churches and its unique role as home, fortress, and 
administrative center, it is understandable that castles 
flourished during the middle ages. What may be surprising 
to learn of is the gradual decline in building and 
maintenance of true castles in the latter fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries. However, innovations of the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries made for huge, complex structures 
that were massive undertakings when built from scratch. 
For this reason, fewer and fewer completely new castles 
were begun in successive centuries. Even undertaking 
additions and renovations to already existing castles was 
expensive. So, as Norman Pounds states, "the history of 
most castles in England is one of gradual decay punctuated 
by short periods of frantic repair and rebuilding" (Salzman 
126). 

Yet, there was more behind the tapering off of castle 
building than the high cost in terms of time and money. 
Changes in society in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries 
were making the castle obsolete. One great change that 
took place was the decline of feudalism in conjunction with 
the rise of a wealthy merchant class. Remember that the 
lord of the castle was the overlord of the land. So with the 



28 Southern Academic Review 

rise of trade, when fewer and fewer people were tied to the 
land, fewer were under the shadow of castles' control. 
Thus, the castle lost administrative power. Another change 
in society was the strengthening of medieval kings. This 
growth in royal authority meant that there was less need for 
powerful strongholds to preserve internal order in the 
countryside and to protect it from threats from abroad. 
Finally, the nature of warfare changed. Lords discovered 
that many mercenary footsoldiers could be maintained for 
the price of one mounted knight. Since the use of 
mercenaries supplied the larger numbers necessary for 
pitched battles, sieges were used less and less, making the 
castle militarily obsolete. 

As castles gradually ceased to be militarily important, 
lords began to devote more thought and money to 
improving their residential side. At the end of the 
thirteenth century, the extensive rebuilding of castles often 
focused as much on interior comforts of hall, kitchen, or 
sleeping apartments as on exterior defenses. Then around 
the middle of the fourteenth century, domestic amenities 
began to be allowed actually to limit the castles military 
capabilities. Castles such as Nunney and Queenborough in 
Southern England were still substantial strongholds, but 
were typical of the transition in the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries from true castles to the more comfortable 
"fortified manor", which was "strong enough to resist a 
casual raid but not built to withstand a siege" (Salzman 92). 

Castles of the fourteenth and fifteenth century were 
sacrificing defense to appearance as well as to comfort. To 
the "nouveaux riches" who had made their money in trade 
or in the wars, the castle was a status symbol of the 
lordship and nobility they aspired to. These new families 
built structures like that at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, and 
Herstmonceaux in East Sussex that have been called "cult 



Dingier 29 

castles" (Thompson, Rise 164), "sham castles," and "toy 
fortresses" (Muir 125). Builders duplicated the look of real 
castles using decorative crenelated battlements and 
machicolations, narrow moats, and tall towers. However 
these devices were only to enhance appearance, so that 
"their military pretensions were generally slight, but they 
presented... a very bold front" (Pounds 260). 

Not all castles of the fifteenth century sold out to 
comfort and appearance. Personal strongholds had to be 
maintained along the Scottish border region since Edward 
I had failed to conquer Scotland as he had conquered 
Wales. The pele towers of the northern border were scaled 
down versions of twelfth century keeps. Also, some 
castles continued to be inhabited and maintained in good 
condition, such as John of Gaunt' s Kenil worth Castle, and 
royal Windsor and Winchester. 

Still, the gradual evolution of the castle in the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries produced a complete split 
of home and fortress by the early sixteenth century. At 
this time Tudor costal forts, which were for defense and 
not habitation, were being constructed along the southern 
coastline to guard against invasion and raids from the 
French. At the same time elsewhere in the country, the 
elaborate and luxurious Tudor country houses of the period 
were springing up. No longer was the lord's home 
combined in a single structure with his fortress. Great 
castles of the twelfth, thirteenth, and even fourteenth 
century like Dover and the White Tower of London 
continued to be used, even into the twentieth century. 
However, the day of castles had passed, and there has not 
existed before or since another such unique combination of 
home, fortress, and administrative center contained within 
the same structure. 



30 Southern Academic Review 

Works Cited 

Bagley, J.J. Life in Medieval England. London: 
B.T. Batsford, 1960. 

Brown, R. Allen. English Castles. London: B.T. 
Batsford, 1976. 

Burke, John. Life in the Castle in Medieval England. 
Essex: Anchor P, 1978. 

Davison, Brian K. The Observer's Book of Castles. 
London: Fredric Wame, 1979. 

Gies, Joseph and Frances. Life in a Medieval Castle. New 
York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974. 

Labarge, Margaret Wade. A Baronial Household of the 
Thirteenth Century. New York: Barnes and Noble, 
1980. 

Muir, Richard. 77?^ National Trust Guide to Dark Age and 
Medieval Britain 400-1350. London: George Philip 
in association with the National Trust, 1985. 

Myers, A.R. England in the Late Middle Ages. Middlesex: 
Penguin, 1952. 

Poole, Austin Lane, ed. Medieval England. 2 vols. 
London: Oxford UP, 1958. 

Pounds, Norman J.G. The Medieval Castle in England and 
Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. 



Dingier 31 

Renn, Derek. Norman Castles in Britain. London: John 
Baker, 1973. 

Rowley, Trevor. The Norman Heritage 1055-1200. 
London: Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1983. 

Salzman, L.F. English Life in the Middle Ages. London: 
Oxford UP, 1927. 

Simpson, W. Douglas. Castles in England and Wales. 
New York: Hasting House, 1969. 

Smith, Leslie M. The Making of Britain. London: 
Macmillan, 1985. 

Thompson, M.W. The Decline of the Castle. Cambridge: 
Cambridge UP, 1987. 

— . The Rise of the Castle. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 
1991. 



Straightening a Turn: 
A Response to V. S. Naipaul's 
A Turn In the South 

Wesley Edwards 



Included on the reading list for one of my first classes 
at Emory University was a book called The Enigma of 
Arrival by the Trinidadian author V.S. Naipaul. I was 
impressed by Naipaul's elegant prose and his meaningful 
use of detailed observations. He writes at length in The 
Enigma of Arrival of his move from his native Trinidad to 
faraway England. His careful treatment of the topic of 
moving and maturing was particularly profound because, as 
a new college student at the time, I found his themes quite 
relevant. I wrote one of my first college papers on Naipaul 
and personal growth. 

I have not forgotten that challenging course or that 
incisive author, V.S. Naipaul. He helped me understand 
my Interim in Service-Learning to Zimbabwe two years 
ago through his book about the Ivory Coast (and the Third 
World in general), Finding the Center. I was quite 
anxious, therefore, to read one of Naipaul's latest works, 
A Turn in the South. V.S. Naipaul had visited the 
American South and had trained his formidable powers of 
observation on a culture unique to the United States. In 



Edwards 33 

particular, I was interested in reading what Naipaul~a 
writer who has traveled extensively in Africa and Asia and 
who has written provocatively about many of their cultures- 
-wrote about race relations in the modern South. 

As it turns out, Naipaul offers several theses dealing 
with the post-Civil Rights Movement South. However, as 
with any Naipaul work, these theses are not explicitly 
stated. Naipaul' s effectiveness as a writer is found in his 
ability to piece together loosely a series of vignettes, 
conversations, and observations that suggest common 
meanings. These meanings are open to wide interpretation 
and are well worth discussion. I will present what I 
believe to be the three central themes of V.S. Naipaul' s A 
Turn in the South, especially as contained in its chapter on 
Atlanta. After I set forth these themes, I will discuss their 
validity. 

A Turn in the South is V.S. Naipaul's account of his 
brief visit to the region. He begins his journey near 
Greensboro, North Carolina, then moves on to Atlanta, 
Charleston, Tallahassee, Tuskegee, Jackson, Nashville, and 
Chapel Hill. Along the way, Naipaul characteristically 
presents scores of conversations with politicians, writers, 
lawyers, businessmen, and others. Much of the book is 
their response to this visitor, their pride in showing him 
their home, their ease of conversation about people and 
places they love. (One eager businessman even escorts 
Naipaul to Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, 
Mississippi.) Naipaul extracts from this wealth of 
encounters—each carefully and lovingly presented— an 
important essay on modern Southern culture. 

Naipaul is at once interested in race. When he visits 
a black church in Greensboro, he describes a sanctuary 
painting of Christ's baptism in which "[t]he whiteness of 
Christ and the Baptist was a surprise" (14). When he 



34 Southern Academic Review 

arrives in Atlanta, believing it to be the capital of the New 
South and a place run largely by a black elite, Naipaul is 
nonplussed when his first interview leads him to conclude: 
I had felt that the grand new buildings of Atlanta one 
had seen in so many photographs had as little to do 
with blacks as the buildings of Nairobi, say, had to 
do with the financial or building skills of the Africans 
of Kenya. I had felt that the talk of black power and 
black aristocracy was a little too pat and sudden. 
(26) 
After surveying Atlanta's substantial suburbanization, 
Naipaul concludes that "[t]he white suburbs could get by 
quite well without the black-run city center" (28). 
Naipaul 's conclusion in the Atlanta chapter is that race is 
badly misperceived. He notes a separation of black and 
white, "a formal society, private lives, a formal view" (27) 
in which the only substantial connection between races is 
commerce. Inaccurate stories of a black Atlanta elite lead 
to a popular misconception of the state of race relations in 
the city. In fact, black- white separation in areas beyond 
commerce hampers city leadership and slows progress in 
what Naipaul believes to be a more pressing issue- 
economic enhancement of the impoverished. Naipaul 
offers an example: the 1985 Walk for Brotherhood into 
all-white Forsyth County, Georgia, in which demonstrators 
marched for open housing and stood against the Ku Klux 
Klan. 

The march is Naipaul' s cause celebre. It represents the 
turns Naipaul sees the South as having taken in its recent 
history. The forces that oppress black people have turned. 
The focus of Atlanta leadership has turned. The 
accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement 
notwithstanding, blacks largely still have not fully turned 
from a segregated society to a more egalitarian one. They 



Edwards 35 

still struggle—not against discrimination so much as against 
economics. Meanwhile, community leaders try to build 
commerce. [Of Atlanta's formidable convention business, 
Naipaul writes, "It was hard to think that these hotels could 
all be full at the same time" (38).] Naipaul seems to want 
Atlanta's black community to turn fully— their leaders from 
their drive for commerce to a greater understanding of real- 
life issues; the black community itself from a 
misunderstanding of the nature of the powers that oppress 
them. 

Naipaul's assertion is not quite that simple, though. 
He notes that there is a divergent black leadership at work 
in Atlanta: one old-style protest leadership that Hosea 
Williams, a lieutenant of Martin Luther King, Jr., 
exemplifies; one modern leadership more interested in 
bringing new wealth to the city (i.e., Michael Lomax, 
Chairman of the Fulton County Commission; and Marvin 
Arrington, President of the Atlanta City Council). The 
Forsyth County incident shows the futility of the old 
leadership and the difficulty of the new. 

Williams interceded when he found that a small group 

of protesters was planning to march in all-white Forsyth 

County, northeast of Atlanta. Williams led this first group 

of about fifty in a protest against segregation in housing. 

Upon reaching the county seat of Cumming, Williams and 

the marchers were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan. A week 

later, Forsyth County drew international attention as twenty 

thousand people marched against Forsyth's all-white status 

and the attack on the first marchers (36). Naipaul's point 

is made clear in his visit with the Forsyth County sheriff: 

And though [the sheriff] didn't say so, there came 

out from his talk the idea of two sets of people 

looking for attention [at the march] . The civil-rights 

groups, their major battles and indeed their war won 



36 Southern Academic Review 

long ago, now squabbling, and looking for causes; 

and the white supremacists looking in almost the 

same way for publicity and patronage. The great 

Forsyth march, as the sheriff described it, was like a 

ritual conflict, played out before the cameras, and 

according to certain rules. Out of this formalizing, 

the issue had died. (53) 

To Naipaul, the march was a failure: "The county 

remained all white" (54). He quotes Andrew Young, then 

mayor of Atlanta, as saying after the Forsyth march, "What 

we are dealing with in Georgia now is a problem of the 

underclass—black and white.... You can march until your 

feet drop, but you ain't going to change [economic 

problems] that way" (qtd. 54). 

Naipaul 's assertion is clear: Race relations in Atlanta 
are misconstrued. Racial harmony is limited to a common 
desire to make the city a profitable business community. 
In the absence of the fabled black elite, progress on 
economic development issues is slow. Further, within the 
black community, leadership is especially difficult as some 
leaders, such as Hosea Williams, cling to Movement-style 
efforts such as the futile Forsyth march while others, such 
as Michael Lomax and Andrew Young, struggle to make 
the city and its businesses economically powerful. Thus, 
there is a lack of unified black-black as well as black-white 
leadership on issues of concern to the entire community- 
issues of poverty, the underclass, crime, and others. 

This thesis leads Naipaul into a second one— that of the 
larger culture that surrounds these patterns of leadership. 
Naipaul suggests that within Southern culture the debility 
of community leadership as exemplified in Atlanta 
heightens the importance of status groups and religion. 
Throughout the book, Naipaul asserts that religion is a 
source of personal and community identity. Naipaul 



Edwards 37 

comments after a conversation about ministerial work with 
a religion scholar: 

In the United States, and especially in the South, 
religious faith was almost universal, and a religious 
vocation was as likely as any other. It was 
something a man could turn to for a number of 
reasons; and what I heard from this scholar was that 
some of the people he was in touch with (and he 
meant white people) had turned to the religious life 
in order to be confirmed in their identity: people 
from poor families who felt racially threatened by the 
new developments in the South, people who, in the 
booming new South, had gone into business and had 
then felt themselves drifting so far from the Southern 
world they had known that they had given up, to 
return to God and the life they felt more at ease in. 
(34) 
Later, a theology student reinforces the point in telling 
Naipaul of her upbringing: 

The way my identity was formed was by my family 

and by who we were in Jackson and in Mississippi. 

In the Presbyterian church we had our own pew. 

And that was your identity. My aunt was shocked 

one day when she went to church and found a 

stranger in her pew. (47) 

Naipaul' s conclusion is that "[rjeligion was like something 

in the air, a store of emotion on which people could draw 

according to their need" (69). To some, it is piety and 

correctness, to others, emotional ventilation, but to all, a 

primary molder of the culture and a solid institution that 

leads when other institutions cannot. 

However, Naipaul does not leave religion as the only 
element to fill the vacuum of community leadership in the 
South. In a near-comical tone in the latter half of the 



38 Southern Academic Review 

book, Naipaul becomes fascinated with "red culture," that 
is, the culture of the Southern redneck. When Naipaul 
talks with a liberal white matron named Ellen in Jackson, 
Mississippi, he is suggesting a contextual class structure—an 
awareness of class that surrounds Southern culture. Ellen 
recalls an aunt telling her, "'Ellen dear, there are some 
things we just don't do. ' There were some people we just 
didn't go around" (qtd. 159; italics in text). The people 
Ellen's aunt is referring to include Naipaul' s rednecks. 
Naipaul views red culture as a sort of religion, an identity, 
and thus an organization providing community leadership 
of some form. For instance, in describing a poster of Elvis 
Presley, the hero of redneck heroes, Naipaul notes that it 
is "religious art of a kind with Christian borrowings: the 
beatification of the central figure, with all his sexuality. 
Graceland like a version of the New Jerusalem in a 
medieval Doomsday painting" (227). Naipaul makes the 
relationship even clearer in equating the Presley cult with 
the "black political adulation" in the post-British West 
Indies (227). 

Naipaul further describes the red culture—its tendency 
toward violence, its particular folk music, and so on. 
Naipaul is more general in expressing the culture's 
uncertain relationship with the intelligentsia. He notes in 
his conversations (especially with Atlanta novelist Anne 
Rivers Siddons) a discouraged role of intellect, not just by 
rednecks, but by the larger Southern culture as well. 
Siddons says of her grammar school, "I spent twelve years 
trying to hide the fact that I was a bright child. Intellect 
has had no place here" (qtd. 38). In Naipaul's mind, this 
discouraged role of intellect is part of what makes 
leadership difficult in the post-Civil-Rights South. Some of 
those who can lead do not (not to say that intellect and 
leadership are always joined). This Southern culture— with 



Edwards 39 

its diverse population of blacks, rednecks, religious zealots, 
and other groups—is almost impossible to lead, especially 
on matters of race. 

Naipaul weaves this thesis of religion and culture 
together with his thesis on race and community leadership 
to form a third and fmal point. In simple terms, Naipaul 
argues that history is a burden that cultural and political 
leaders strain to lift. History— a history marked by civil 
war and reconstruction and, a century later, perhaps a 
second civil war and reconstruction—has turned the South. 
However, to many poor Southerners, black and white, 
making the turn seems to have brought the South to a more 
difficult and ambiguous era. The burden of this cultural 
sentiment hobbles effective leadership. Naipaul sees in the 
South a glorification and romanticization of history and an 
unwillingness to turn fully away from segregated days past- 
-a turn the Civil Rights Movement would seem to demand. 
Naipaul returns to Anne Rivers Siddons to define on a 
personal level the magnitude of this stifling burden of racial 
history in the South: 

I deal with race in some form in every book I've 
written. It's my great war, I guess. I write to find 
out where I am now, what I think, to make order and 
simplicity in my own world. It's an impossible task. 
You can't simplify that. You can only clarify bits of 
it. (qtd. 41) 
Earlier, during a conversation about racial identity with a 
white Atlanta lawyer, Naipaul comments: 

It was there, then, as [Atlanta Constitution columnist] 
Tom Teepen had told me, at the back of everything, 
however unspoken: the thought of race, the little 
neurosis, the legacy of slavery. (29-30) 
Even though the Civil Rights era has passed, even though 
the final shots of the Civil War were fired over a hundred 



40 Southern Academic Review 

years ago, they still capture a culture and draw attention 
that might otherwise be focused on the future, on progress 
away from what Naipaul calls the South 's "unmentionable 
past" (18). 

Naipaul 's work is both fascinating and challenging. A 
Turn in the South offers some weighty arguments about the 
nature of race relations in the post-Civil-Rights-Movement 
South. Naipaul 's commentary presents a South struggling 
for change. This change— this turn—must be understood. 
How valid are Naipaul 's arguments about the turn in the 
South? 

First of all, any book about the South is limited by 
logic. It is virtually impossible for a writer even of 
Naipaul' s ability to test a sample of people or places that 
is representative of the region. The South, however it is 
defined, does not lend itself to easy categorization. It is 
not a homogeneous place. Atlanta is obviously different 
from Jackson, Charleston from Chapel Hill. However, 
Naipaul— a brilliant observer— resists overgeneralization. 
He presents a deep and diverse set of observations. His 
trained eye and graceful pen catch astounding details of 
personality, place, and time. Naipaul does not pretend that 
these details are uniform across the South. For instance, 
when interviewing Anne Rivers Siddons at a downtown 
Atlanta hotel, Naipaul notes that fashion designer Gloria 
Vanderbilt is across the street in a department store on a 
promotional tour. Naipaul places this detail about Atlanta 
into his larger characterization of the city and its 
simultaneous affluence and poverty without generalizing 
across the entire region. (His details about Tuskegee are 
much different, but equally vibrant and telling.) Valid 
conclusions about Southern culture come from the pattern 
of details and insights Naipaul offers. 

Now a brief treatment of the three specific theses 



Edwards 41 

outlined above. Naipaul's assertion that commerce is the 
only substantial link between whites and blacks in Atlanta— 
a narrow link that hampers leadership in other areas of the 
community (namely, coping with the underclass)~is 
certainly notable. One may ask, though, in a city that bills 
itself as a city too busy to hate, a city in which commerce 
is supreme, what greater measure of new racial harmony 
there is than a black-white partnership at high levels of 
commerce? Naipaul should develop his more reasonable 
argument that, regardless of race, Atlanta's leadership is 
preoccupied with making Atlanta the business hub of the 
nation at the expense of serving all the city's citizens. It is 
difficult to believe that a city preparing to host the Olympic 
Games is unable to muster enough community leadership 
to deal with matters of race in spheres other than 
commerce. 

In rightly pointing out the need for stronger urban 
leadership to deal with the underclass, though, Naipaul is 
pointing out a need not exclusive to the South, for no city 
in the United States has been able to check the problem of 
the underclass. In the case of Atlanta, however, former 
President Jimmy Carter recently launched the Atlanta 
Project— a program designed to bring together community 
leaders and volunteers in an effort to develop new 
partnerships to deal with Atlanta's staggering social 
problems (i.e., homelessness, crime, drugs, inferior 
education, etc.). Naipaul probably would applaud the 
effort. 

Race in Atlanta is not as misperceived as Naipaul 
thinks it is; rather, the urban world is misperceived. The 
problems in leadership that Naipaul says are typified in the 
Forsyth County march owe more to a complex process of 
suburbanization and center-city decline than to a 
misunderstanding of the depth of racial cooperation in 



42 Southern Academic Review 

Atlanta. Of course, race does contribute to 

suburbanization. Naipaul does not suggest this point. He 
argues that black power in Atlanta is overestimated. What 
he fails to consider is that Atlanta itself is overestimated. 
Blacks have solid control of the city, an unbreakable elite 
included. Meanwhile, white suburbia, which dwarfs 
Atlanta in physical size and population, is beyond their 
reach. Therein lies the misconception. 

Naipaul 's point about a divided leadership within the 
black community is well taken. Further, his point about 
the failure of some in the South to turn fully from the 
struggles of the decades-old Civil Rights protests to an 
understanding of the new economic struggle of the 
underclass is indeed the base of the divided leadership, 
though Naipaul does not emphasize the point as strongly as 
he might. 

Finally, Naipaul almost completely discounts the 
relevance of the March for Brotherhood. I disagree with 
his interpretation. Even though the march was 
unsuccessful in opening Forsyth County to blacks, it was 
a symbolic success. To a new era of Americans who know 
little of the Civil Rights Movement and even less of the 
pre-Civil Rights South, the Forsyth march was a new 
testament to the futility and backwardness of the group of 
white supremacists that attacked the first band of marchers. 
The twenty thousand who marched a week later showed 
them they were anachronisms, ludicrous holdovers from an 
era now dead. If Naipaul had stopped in Montgomery at 
Morris Dees' s Southern Poverty Law Center to learn of 
that organization's effort to stamp out hate crimes and 
punish those who commit them or if he had been in 
Louisiana to witness David Duke's dastardly campaigns for 
statewide office, he would not have so quickly discounted 
both the presence of old-fashioned racism and the necessary 



Edwards 43 

symbolism of the Forsyth County march, a reaction against 
everything white supremacists represent. Both symbolic 
measures like Forsyth County and concrete work such as 
that done at the Southern Poverty Law Center are timely 
and necessary. 

Naipaul's second thesis is more accurate than his first. 
Religion and mass culture do indeed hold influential 
positions in the South. They influence the culture as agents 
of socialization. Religion is powerful. Likewise, red 
culture is powerful. And one has to look only as far as the 
isolating gates of Birmingham-Southern College to fmd 
evidence (at least symbolic evidence) of the distance 
between the intelligentsia and the larger community. (Anne 
Rivers Siddons seems to be as graceful an observer of the 
South as the Trinidadian Naipaul.) On the whole, 
Naipaul's assertions are well-founded. In the absence of 
strong leadership (for whatever reason it is absent), other 
cultural organizations and institutions hold a more 
meaningful influence on the larger culture. At this point, 
Naipaul shifts from discussing modem race to discussing 
larger patterns of sociology. He conveys a fascination with 
religion and with red culture; however, it is ultimately 
unclear what Naipaul's underlying point is, other than the 
fact that subcultures such as the redneck's and religion are 
important. Unquestionably, they are. 

As for the burden of Southern history, Naipaul's thesis 
is well-grounded. His work is similar to the arguments in 
C. Vann Woodward's collection of essays titled, oddly 
enough, 77?^ Burden of Southern History. Perhaps Naipaul 
toured the South as a means of proving what historians 
such as Woodward have been writing for years: that the 
South has a unique and captivating history. Naipaul 
modernizes, personalizes, and ultimately ratifies the 
Woodward thesis. Southern history remains a singularly 



44 Southern Academic Review 

important history. The context it sets for the modem South 
is crucial. I question, though, the extent to which Naipaul 
takes the point. Is the South transfixed by its history to the 
point of narcissism? Does it hinder a movement into the 
future, especially in terms of race? I think not. 

It is not a simple love of days past that inhibits the 
Southern leader. Leadership has become more difficult— 
not just in the South, but across the nation—as our culture 
faces more difficult and seemingly uncheckable problems, 
especially in the area of race. The theme of Common 
Ground, J. Anthony Lukas's brilliant, Pulitzer-winning 
study of Boston's busing crisis, supports Naipaul's notions 
of leadership. Culture and community do influence 
leadership in striking ways, not just in terms of the tangible 
results of leadership, like school busing in Boston, but in 
terms of the style and measure of leadership. Judge Arthur 
Garrity, a central leader in Common Ground, is insulated 
by judicial robes, yet he still feels the powerful forces of 
his community directing him. This point is obvious to both 
Naipaul and Lukas. 

However, there is more to be said. Common Ground 
also exhibits the unthinkable complexity of modern societal 
problems in ways A Turn in the South does not. There are 
obviously community pressures at work on leaders. More 
importantly, though, there are also pressures borne by a set 
of problems that offer virtually no easily obtainable 
solutions. In the South, these run the gamut from 
agricultural subsidies to urban decomposition. Naipaul 
places the blame for the failure to progress on a fascination 
with a rosy, nostalgic revision of history and a popular 
unwillingness to turn away from Civil Rights-era problems 
and problem-solving. Perhaps, though, blame is 
impossible, even unnecessary, to place. The problems that 
Naipaul suggests are important—such as economic 



Edwards 45 

development—are simply too large to break down so easily. 
As Lukas and the story of Common Ground would suggest, 
some problems are too complex to offer easy answers. 

In closing, perhaps in V.S. Naipaul's next book, he 
will discuss Selma. There he will fmd black councilman 
Ed Moss and white mayor Joe Smitherman in a productive 
if often contentious coexistence. Progress like this is what 
we should consider— whites and blacks in valuable 
interaction; constructive conflict; meaningful, yet painful 
engagement. That Selma is filled with antebellum homes 
and proud statues of Confederate heroes and that it 
periodically hosts a Civil War battle reenactment seem to 
rebut Naipaul's point. As does Atlanta. A few miles from 
the site of the Civil War Battle of Kennesaw in Georgia is 
Atlanta, where in four years people from all over the world 
will congregate in peaceful athletic competition in the 
Olympic Games— the product of the leadership of a 
sincerely devoted biracial community. 

V.S. Naipaul's observations in A Turn in the South are 
proof of an undeniable, ongoing struggle for community's 
coexistence with equality— the same coexistence hoped for 
in Common Ground. Even though I disagree with parts of 
Naipaul's argument in A Turn in the South, I still admire 
his writing and his ability to ask difficult questions gently— 
the same ability I saw in The Enigma of Arrival several 
years ago. If nothing else, A Turn in the South 
constructively argues that race still affects most aspects of 
the post-Civil Rights Movement South. 

It also describes a monumental turn: a turn from the 
narrow South of Robert E. Lee and George Wallace; even 
a turn from the South of Martin Luther King, Jr. and 
Hosea Williams. Wherever the turn leads, one unalterable 
fact will remain for the South: race matters. Race is an 
undying element in the region's future. It is important on 



46 Southern Academic Review 

personal as well as community levels. Thus, I return to 
Anne Rivers Siddons's comment with a new emphasis: "It's 
an impossible task. You can't simplify [race]. You can 
only clarify bits of it" (qtd. in Naipaul 41). If Siddons and 
Naipaul are correct, the issue of race must be continually 
confronted and clarified. That is an honorable struggle 
indeed. It is the struggle to turn the South. 



Edwards 47 

Works Cited 

Lukas, J. Anthony. Common Ground: A Turbulent 
Decade in the Lives of Three American Families. New 
York: Vintage, 1986. 

Naipaul, V.S. A Turn in the South. New York: Alfred A. 
Knopf, 1989. 



The Sacred Hoop: Four in One 

Stephen Nickson 



The sacred hoop. East: daybreak-spring-red-peace pipe- 
buffalo-birth. South: noon- summer-yellow-flowering stick- 
elk-maturity. West: sunset-fall-black-cup and bow- 
thunderbird-old age. North: darkness-winter-white-healing 
herb-goose-death. The sacred hoop. 

These words were the Uteral curves of the sacred hoop, 
which was the holy circle of the Native American culture. 
These were the symbols, both literal and metaphorical, that 
dominated the culture of the American Indians. In many 
respects, the sacred hoop was the culture of the American 
Indians. It was the molding force of every aspect of their 
society, from the way they practiced their religion and 
educated their children to the way they built their lodgings 
and remembered their ancestors. It was the Ojibwa way; 
it was the Sioux way; it was the Native American way. 
But the hoop was broken and the ways were almost lost 
with the coming of the white people. We took away their 
land, killed their animals, and tried to make them forget 
their own culture. So the hoop was broken, but not 
forgotten. It only lay dormant, waiting to be restored by 
its people; ironically, this has been done with the 
traditional weapon of the white imperialist society: the 
written word. 



Nickson 49 

It has been through the written word that the hoop has 
also been allowed to mend. The first major work came in 
1932 with Black Elk Speaks. This spring in a vast literary 
desert, which formed a weak stream, was fed by later 
works such as Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions and Night 
Flying Woman. Through these works, we can trace the 
cycle of the sacred hoop and begin to understand the 
importance of this concept to Indian society and its 
survival. 

The sacred hoop: East: daybreak-spring-red-peace pipe- 
buffalo-birth. 

The first cycle is that of birth and development. Soon 
after birth, a child had to be named. Names are very 
important to the Indian people: 

Words, too, are symbols and convey great power, 

especially names. Not Charles, Dick, and George. 

There's not much power in those. But Red Cloud, 

Black Elk, Whirlwind, Two Moons, Lame Deer— 

these names have a relationship to the great spirit. 

Each Indian name has a story behind it, a vision, a 

quest for dreams. We receive great gifts from the 

source of a name; it links us with nature, to the 

animal nations. It gives power. You can lean on a 

name, get strength from it. It is a special name for 

you and you alone— not a Dick, George, Charles kind 

of thing. (Lame Deer 105) 

Each narrator tells the story of their names; Black Elk 

received his from his father, a great medicine man; Ignita 

Broker's grandmother was named Ni-bo-wi-se-gwi, which 

means Night Flying Woman, because she was bom during 

an eclipse. During Lame Deer's first vision he saw the 

death of Tacha Ushte (which is Sioux for Lame Deer), his 



50 Southern Academic Review 

great-grandfather, and because of this it was interpreted 
that he should take his name. 

So even the names of Indians are from a cycle of their 
ancestors or of nature, and such was their education. They 
learned by watching and listening to their elders. Oona, 
which was Night Flying Woman's nickname, "sat before 
her grandparents with eyes cast down, watching them do 
the many tasks of life and listening as they spoke of the 
animal ways" (Broker 42-43). Black Elk speaks of a 
different kind of education, one of a warrior: "We 
practiced endurance, too. Our advisor would put dry 
sunflower seeds on top of our wrists. They were lit at the 
top, and we had to let them burn down clear to our skin" 
(Neihardt 60). Lame Deer remembers that when he was 
left alone to have his first vision, he was sixteen and it was 
the first time he'd ever been alone in his life. All three 
narrators emphasized the heavy influence of the family 
during their childhoods; and no matter what the children 
did, a harsh hand was never raised against them. This was 
to inspire the children to interact and be part of the family. 
The Indian community was not divided into "separate, neat 
little families—Pa, Ma, the kids, and the hell with 
everybody else. The whole damn tribe is one big family; 
that's our kind of reality" (Lame Deer 34). But Lame 
Deer complains that the children of today are too overrun 
by white society's technology and entertainment. He fears 
that they are too preoccupied with "...television and stereo 
to hear a good old fashioned Indian story" (22). This is a 
modem day encroachment of white culture that limits the 
mending of the sacred hoop. 

This encroachment of white culture began long ago and 
was inspired by white greed for land. This lust for the 
already limited Sioux reservation tracts led to the virtual 
extinction of the most sacred animal of the Sioux, the 



Nickson 51 

mighty buffalo. Black Elk laments the white man's 

unforgivable disregard for the life of this awesome beast: 

As I told you, it was in the summer of my twentieth 

year (1883) that I performed the ceremony of the elk. 

That fall, they say, the last of the bison herds was 

slaughtered by the Wasichus [white men]. I can 

remember when the bison were so many that they 

could not be counted... but the white men killed them 

for the metal that makes them crazy.... sometimes 

they did not even take the tongues; they just killed 

and killed because they like to do that. When we 

hunted bison, we killed only what we needed. 

(Neihardt213) 

The white man took away the only reason that the Sioux 

had remained on the plains; an entire species was almost 

completely destroyed for more land. Lame Deer provides 

an explanation for why the white man's destruction 

shattered that part of the sacred hoop forever: "We Sioux 

have a close relationship to the buffalo. He is our 

brother... And the Indians are built like buffalo, too— big 

shoulders, narrow hips" (Lame Deer 119). The buffalo 

gave the Sioux everything they needed for living: food, 

shelter, and tools. No part was wasted. Their legends say 

that the buffalo even gave them their most sacred object, 

the peace pipe, which at the end of his narrative Lame 

Deer hides from his own people to prevent its 

commercialization. This was one gift of the buffalo that 

the whites could not take away. 

Black Elk begins his narrative with an explanation of 
the peace pipe's symbols: 

The four ribbons hanging here on the stem are the 
four comers of the universe. The black one is for 
the west where the thunder beings live to send us 
rain; the white one for the north, whence comes the 



52 Southern Academic Review 

great white cleansing wind; the red one from the 
east, whence springs the light and where the morning 
star lives to give men wisdom; the yellow for the 
south, whence comes the summer and the power to 
grow. (Neihardt 2) 
The pipe is an important part of each of the ceremonies 
and dances that Black Elk later takes part in or performs. 
In Lame Deer's narrative, the importance of the peace pipe 
is stressed as a distinctly native American article; it is not 
something to be tampered with. "At Pine Ridge they are 
building a new Catholic church in the shape of a tepee with 
a peace pipe next to the cross" (Lame Deer 205). This is 
very confusing for him. Why try to breed the religions 
into one? Lame Deer sees the peace pipe as "our [the 
Native American's] most sacred possession. All our 
religion flows from it. The sacred pipe is at the heart of all 
of our ceremonies, no matter how different they are from 
each another" (239). The central importance of the peace 
pipe was most evident in Night Flying Woman. Although 
the writer, Ignatia Broker, is an Ojibwa, and Black Elk and 
Lame Deer are Sioux, the peace pipe still dominates every 
ceremony or action in the narrative. The peace pipe is 
mentioned after every ceremony or act of significance, 
including her naming ceremony (14), the council of 
discussion (21), gratitude for safe travel (31, 35), 
celebration of the new home (41), treaty with whites (64), 
celebration of new life with old (85), to communicate with 
the Great Being in time of trouble (110), and to dream of 
ways to make the reunion of her family possible (128). So 
it is easy to see that the peace pipe was more than just a 
religious tool. It was used for times of celebration and 
meditation as well. For these people the smoke from the 
bark of the red willow was the breath of Wakan-Tanka; it 
was their way of communication with their God, for which 



Nickson 53 

they needed "the pipe, the earth we sit on and the open 
sky" (Lame Deer 2). 

The Sacred Hoop: South: noon-summer-yellow-flowering 
stick-elk-maturity. 

The second cycle is that of maturity, growth, and 

coming of age. The coming of age was very early for the 

Native American. Oona received her piece of charcoal and 

went into the woods for her vision at a mere thirteen. 

Black Elk had a great vision he could not understand but 

that still shaped his life when he was nine. He says: "The 

boys of my people began very young to learn the ways of 

the men, but no one taught us; we just learned by doing 

what we saw, and we were warriors at a time when boys 

now are like girls" (Neihardt 20). But Lame Deer was not 

ready for his vision until he was sixteen; he was bom in 

the time of the Wasichus, and therefore his spiritual life 

was interfered with by the white schooling and imposed 

regimen. Thus, Lame Deer came of age in a white society 

that rejected him; it even taught him to reject himself: 

When I was a kid, those schools were really bad. I 

envied my father, who never had to go through 

this.... so I played the dumb Indian. They couldn't 

make me into an apple, red on the outside, white on 

the inside. (Lame Deer 25) 

During this part of his life. Lame Deer rejected 

everything that society, white or red, had to offer him. He 

was, by white standards, a vagrant; he had no permanent 

job, he spent time in jail, and used every spare dime to get 

drunk. He was truly lost between two worlds: an Indian 

world where there was a conflict of old and new ways, and 

a white world which persecuted and discriminated against 

the Indian, whether he acted Indian or not. So Lame Deer 



54 Southern Academic Review 

chose the Indian way, because he realized that in the end 
the white world was just a green frog-skinned [money] 
dominated world, a "bad dream, a streamlined, smog-filled 
nightmare" (33). 

Such a world did not exist for Oona and Black Elk, at 
least not when they were growing up. But the 
encroachment of the white way of life did exist, for when 
Oona went to seek her vision, she could not stay the 
customary ten days. Because the white woman for whom 
her mother worked opposed such "heathen" customs, Oona 
had a much shorter "time of meditation and the beauty of 
isolation" (Broker 95). Oona's people had run from the 
whites while she was growing up, but the whites had 
caught up with them and were imposing on every aspect of 
their lives. Like Lame Deer, she had to make choices 
between white and red customs. But the difference was 
that she was choosing for her people, not just for herself. 
However, she was able to reach a compromise, mostly 
through the efforts of her mother. She accepted those 
things of the whites which were faster and easier, such as 
mason jars and iron kettles. But she learned to be wary of 
the white man's tongue, and often she had to rely on the 
old ways, in things religious and more practical, such as 
the dreaming power, her people's medicine, and their old 
system of crop gathering, because the white man often did 
not come through on his promises: 

When the payment was over and the people received 
their rations— the promised food that seldom came. 
Oona looked at their portion-the salt pork, the beans, 
the small amount of flower—and she said to her 
mother, "It is well that we plant and harvest and hunt, 
for this food given us by the White Father would not 
be enough." (Broker 99) 
However, it was the great vision of Black Elk which 



Nickson 55 

encompassed every aspect of the second arc of the sacred 
hoop: "From where the giant lives (the north) to where 
you always face (the south) the red road goes, the road of 
good, and on it your nation shall walk" (Neihardt 29). 
This was the road of maturity, the road on which the 
people could prosper. It was on this road that the flowing 
stick of the nation, the very center of the sacred hoop, the 
blessed cotton tree, had to be planted. Black Elk 
understood very little of this, but these signs made him 
realize that he had come of age, and he would soon be a 
great leader for his people. 

The Sacred Hoop: West: sunset-fall-black-cup and bow- 
thunderbird-old age. 

The third cycle is that of the setting sun: the back 
begins to slump, the teeth yellow, and time shows its 
wrinkled passage on the face. This is the arc of the 
thunderbird which comes from the west and brings rain. 
The main function of the elderly in Indian society is that of 
a teacher and storyteller. These narrators are true 
rainbringers, for their stories quench a thirst for knowledge 
in a desert of white imposed ignorance. 

It is for this reason that these books were written: 

The sun was near to setting when Black Elk said [to 

Neihardt]: "There is so much to teach you. What I 

know was given to me for men and it is true and it is 

beautiful. Soon I will be under the grass and it will 

be lost. You were sent to save it, and you must 

come back so that I can teach you." (xix) 

The cup and the bow that Black Elk then wielded were the 

cup of knowledge and the bow of wisdom. Black Elk 

realized that if the story of his people was not preserved, 

it would be forever lost. Without his story, there would be 



56 Southern Academic Review 

no Indian perspective on the defeat of Custer; there would 
be no massacre at Wounded Knee, just the battle. His 
story is the literary ghost dance: "I thought them on the 
wrong road now, but maybe they could be brought back 
into the hoop again and to the good road" (239). He said 
this in reference to the ghost dance, but it was the telling 
of his story, his remembrance of the old ways, which 
helped to accomplish the return to the good road. 

Ignatia Broker's story is much the same: "My 
grandchildren: I am glad that you, the young Ojibwa of 
today, are seeking to learn the beliefs, the customs, and the 
practices of our people, for these things have too long been 
alive only in the memories of the old ones" (8). These 
words, near the beginning of the narrative, are spoken in 
response to the very end of the novel, as the sad Oona 
believes that all of the Ojibwa young have not forgotten the 
ways of their ancestors, but even worse, they have never 
even bothered to learn them. But on the last page of the 
narrative, a child comes seeking these ancient ways, and 
through this act the book goes through the full circle. 

Black Elk Speaks and Night Flying Woman are teaching 
materials in that they speak of the old ways and traditions 
of Native Americans and reveal how the whites stole from 
them and therefore are not to be trusted. In this way, these 
books explain to Indians how they came to be in the 
cultural predicament they are in; Lame Deer, Seeker of 
Visions tells them what to do about it. He does not want 
every Indian to live their lives in a drunken state, revolt 
against every aspect of white society, and eat raw deer 
livers. He wants them, and the youth of other dissatisfied 
races, to question the environment they live in, to join 
together, and to fight for what they know is right. He feels 
that they are doing this: 

I guess it was not time for this to happen, but it is 



Nickson 57 

coming back, I feel it warming in my bones. Not the 

Old Ghost dance, not the rolling up—but a new-old 

spirit, not only among Indians but also among whites 

and blacks, too, especially among young people. It 

is like the raindrops making a tiny brook, many 

brooks making a stream, many streams making one 

big river bursting all the dams. Us making this book, 

talking like this ~ these are some of the rain drops.'' 

(Lame Deer 113) 

Lame Deer uses his book to dispel many of the 

stereotypes and misconceptions that non-Indians have about 

Indians. This book is the truth about Indians, and it is told 

in modem language. Although it is bitter, it is just the 

truth, and that is often bitter for whites to swallow. 

The Sacred Hoop: North: darkness-winter-white-healing 
herb- goose-death. 

The last arc of the sacred hoop can be looked at as the 
beginning of the end or the beginning of the rebirth. It is 
darkness, but it is white. It is death, but its physical 
symbol is the healing herb. It must be seen as both the end 
of one cycle and the beginning of the next: "These years 
were filled with love and laughter and this cycle was the 
cycle of life of our people, the Ojibway" (Broker 17). 
This cycle could not be broken as long as the trees stood. 
For 

the trees, as long as they stand, will give shelter to 
the Anishinabe and the Animal Brothers. They are 
a gift. As long as the Ojibway are beneath, the trees 
will murmur with contentment. When the Ojibway 
are gone, the forest will weep and this will be 
reflected in the sound of the si-si-gwa-d. (33) 
But it was the cycle which was broken later in the book. 



58 Southern Academic Review 

The white man had driven the Ojibway from the land in 
order to rip down the trees for lumber. Oona's parents 
were dead, and it seemed that she was losing all she had 
ever known: "Oona sat and dreamed. She saw Father and 
Mother smiling beside the lodges in the rainy country. The 
circle was around them. When Oona awoke, she heard the 
si-si-gwa-d. It had a weeping sound" (105). The 
significance of this passage is twofold. First, her parents, 
through death, have rejoined the circle. Ironically, in the 
same passage it seems as if the circle of this world was 
broken because of the destruction of the forest. But that 
part of the circle is experiencing a rebirth today. 
Environmental awareness is rising; we just have to hope 
that it's not too late. But the cyclical nature of Ojibway 
ideology that was expressed in the preceding passages is 
best summarized through Oona's own words: 

We believe in the circle of life. We believe all 

returns to its source; that both good and bad return to 

the place where they began. We believe that if we 

start a deed, after the fullness of time it will return to 

us, the source of the journey. If care is not used 

when the circle is begun, then the hurts along the 

way will be received in the end. Such is the belief of 

the true Ojibway. (56) 

This is the literary statement of the Ojib way's 

interpretation of the sacred hoop. This passage is also a 

warning to the white man, who stole the Ojibway land. If 

the hurts are to be received in the end of a circle with a 

bad beginning, the white race of America is in a bad way. 

Black Elk saw this coming of destruction in his great 

vision. But he also saw, and fully realized with the writing 

of his book, the mending of the nation's hoop. But there 

is circularity in more than just the symbolic language of the 

great vision. The sacred hoop is a part of the Sioux 



Nickson 59 

language. Where whites have sterile names for months of 
the year, the Sioux months are alive with the seasons: 

January-Moon of Frost in the Tepee 

February-Moon of the Dark Red Calf 

March-Moon of the Snowblindness 

April-Moon of Red Grass Appearing 

May-Moon when Ponies Shed 

June-Moon of Making Fat 

July-Moon of the Red Cherries 

August-Moon when the Cherries Turn Black 
or When the Calf Grows Hair 

September-Moon when the Plumbs Are 
Scarlet or of the Black Calf 

October-Moon of the Changing Seasons 

November-Moon of the Falling leaves 

December-Moon of the Popping Trees 
Even the last month of the year, December, the one 
that whites might associate with the north, darkness, and 
even death, is one that is alive with popping trees. In this 
way the circle is alive with more than just color and 
symbols; the sacred hoop is alive in the language. This is 
one of the reasons why the white educational methods of 
the early 1900's were almost irreversibly detrimental. If 
the Indians had totally forgotten their language, this would 
be yet another shattering of the sacred hoop by the whites. 
Unfortunately, the list of atrocities, and therefore the 
struggle, goes on. 

But Lame Deer shows us how he was resilient against 
the white man, how he fought to retain his identity as a 
Native American. Others weren't so lucky. They fought 
in the useless wars of the white man. They died for him, 
and for what? Freedom? No. They died for enslavement, 
restriction, and reservations. But how can whites make up 
for their wrongs? Will it be through mere apologies and 



60 Southern Academic Review 

consciousness easing financial pittances? After these are 
given, do we then leave the Indians to their own problems 
which were caused by our ignorance and greed? 

No, it is as Lame Deer says. We must all be part of 
the mending process. The whites caused this pain, so we 
should be the ones who aid in putting it right again. 
Perhaps the study of these books, the writing of this essay, 
even the very reading of these words are all part of the 
mending process, because with this knowledge we are all 
responsible. We must all be a part of "the one big river 
bursting all the dams." We must be the river of 
information, of learning, bursting the dams of 
misinformation and ignorance. Perhaps then the sacred 
hoop may be whole again. 

The sacred hoop: East: daybreak-spring-red-peace pipe- 
bujfalo-birth. South: noon- summer-yellow-flowering stick- 
elk-maturity. West: sunset-fall-black-cup and bow- 
thunderbird-old age. North: darkness-winter-white-healing 
herb-goose-re-birth. The sacred hoop. 



Nickson 61 

Works Cited 

Broker, Ignatia. Night Flying Woman: An Obijay 
Narrative. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society P, 
1983. 

Lame Deer, John (Fire), and Richard Erdoes. Lame Deer, 
Seeker of Visions. New York: Washington Square P, 
1972. 

Neidhart, John G. Black Elk Speaks. Lincoln: U of 
Nebraska P, 1932. 



Habermas and Lyotard as a Means 
of Reading the Cultural Conflict 
in Momaday's House Made of Dawn 



Michael Peacock 



The conflict between European and Native American 
culture dates back to initial contact between the inhabitants 
of the two continents. While Euro-Americans have tried to 
exert influence upon the Indians, they, in reaction, have 
desperately struggled to preserve their way of life. In 
Native American author N. Scott Momaday's novel House 
Made of Dawn this familiar conflict surfaces as a young 
Pueblo man returns from WWII and fmds it difficult to 
relate again to his culture. As a result of this trouble, he 
discovers, ironically, that he cannot communicate within 
the oral tradition of his culture. 

The root of this conflict rests deeper than the obvious 
differences between ways of life and custom. In his book 
on social theory, 777^ Theory of Communicative Action 
Vol.1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Jurgen 
Habermas addresses some of these issues by drawing 
attention to linguistics and the fundamental understandings 
of both narrative and scientific cultures. His discussion of 
the theory of communicative reason offers a very plausible 
explanation for the troubles of Momaday's protagonist, 



Peacock 63 

Abel. Jean-Francois Lyotard, a French philosopher and 
writer, also addresses these issues in his works 77?^ Post- 
Modem Condition, Just Gaming, and 77?^ Dijferend, but 
his ideas can be seen as comments on and direct arguments 
against the answers Habermas has to offer the reader of 
Momaday's novel. The theories of Habermas and Lyotard, 
when read in the context of House Made of Dawn and 
Abel's situation, not only supply some answers to his 
problems, but also serve to guide the reader through Abel's 
ordeal as he comes to terms with his culture. 

Habermas believes that communicative rationality is 
necessary for effective communication. He says: 

an assertion can be called rational only if the speaker 

satisfies the conditions necessary to achieve the 

illocutionary goal of reaching an understanding about 

something in the world with at least one other 

participant in communication. (11) 

That is, people in a society must be able to argue with one 

another about their interpretations of the world. In this 

way people will rationally reach truths about the world that 

they might not have considered before presenting them in 

argument form. For one to argue, questions about the 

validity of certain issues must be raised. These "validity 

claims" serve as a springboard for argumentation; once 

these claims have been presented, they can be determined 

to be either true or false. 

Habermas contends that while scientific cultures can 
easily raise validity claims about their beliefs, mythic 
cultures cannot. For a validity claim to be raised, one 
must be able to separate and draw a distinction between 
one's world view and the world, between one's 
interpretation and/or understanding of the world and the 
world that is interpreted and/or understood. For mythic 
cultures, there is no such distinction. The inseparable 



64 Southern Academic Review 

nature of the mythic culture's world and worldview as 
distinguishable from the separation of the world from the 
worldview in the white, European, world is best illustrated 
in the following example. 

In light of religion. Native American spiritual beliefs 
are very closely intertwined with their culture and their 
understanding of the world. In European or predominately 
Christian culture the social basis and understanding of the 
world are not so closely related. In European culture, it is 
generally accepted that a person can survive on earth and 
in "this life" without religion. That is, if someone rejects 
religion, they will still be able to function in the world. 
This involves a recognition that the world is not identical 
to any particular worldview and is open to different 
interpretations. A Native American, however, is unable to 
draw this distinction because, as Habermas alleges, "in 
archaic societies myths fulfill the unifying function of 
worldviews in an exemplary way— they permeate life 
practice" (44). He continues, "mythic worldviews prevent 
us from categorially uncoupling nature and culture" (51). 
If a Native American picks up a rock and even for a 
moment wonders if it actually does contain powerful spirits 
or doubts that they are there, as a nature worshipper whose 
culture and lifestyle is based on such beliefs, his/her world 
will be effectively ruined. That is, if the worldview is 
altered or, more importantly, questioned, then the world as 
he/she understands it is wholly destroyed. 

Without the ability to raise these validity claims, 
according to Habermas, no step can be made toward 
communicative reason. To say that narrative cultures have 
no ability to raise validity is not to say that they do not 
have the ability to think critically. One who lives in and 
believes in a mythic culture is certainly capable of 
understanding truth and falsity. They can understand 



Peacock 65 

honesty and lies and can be innovative technologically. 
However, Habermas believes that members of such a 
culture are not able to think rationally about their own 
culture and that they are not capable of understanding 
another interpretation of the world and of their beliefs. 
Because of the inseparability of their world and of their 
worldview, he says, they cannot think critically about or 
deny their fundamental beliefs. This means that they are 
unable to be rational about belief because they are unable 
to understand it as a belief which is fallible and subject to 
criticism. 

Habermas' s theory may help to explain Abel's situation 
in House Made of Dawn. Not only has his culture been 
quite literally invaded and forced to consider the European 
perspective, but Abel himself, after being exposed to white 
culture during the war, fmds himself separated from his 
own culture. When pushed into a culture where beliefs and 
worldviews are constantly being challenged and questioned, 
he fmds that his world and worldview have been separated. 
This separation is dramatically symbolized as Abel 
remembers a moment from the war when an enemy tank 
comes over a ridge: 

...he saw the machine. It rose up behind the hill, 
black and massive, looming there in front of the sun. 
He saw it swell, deepen, and take shape on the 
skyline, as if it were some upheaval of earth, the 
eruption of stone and eclipse, and all about it the 
glare, the cold perimeter of light... For a moment it 
seemed apart from the land; its great iron hull lay out 
against the timber and the sky, and the center of its 
weight hung away from the ridge. Then it came 
crashing down to the grade, slow as a waterfall, 
thunderous, surpassing impact, nestling almost into 
the splash and boil of debris. He was shaking 



66 Southern Academic Review 

violently, and the machine bore down upon him, 
came close, and passed him by. (Momaday 25) 
This sequence in which the tank imposes itself on the 
skyline, razing the landscape as it lumbers across, 
symbolizes the violence of the separation of Abel's world 
and worldview. Even as the tank passes Abel without 
physically harming him, it has torn through his beliefs 
leaving deep scars and plunderous tracks. Once he has 
made the distinction between his world and his beliefs it is 
very difficult for him to accept his beliefs rationally. 

Abel seems to reflect Habermas's insistence that 
someone in his situation cannot live in the culture of his 
birth after having experienced the scientific reason of the 
white world. Habermas maintains that "the 

demythologization of worldviews means the desocialization 
of nature and the denaturalization of society" (48). With 
this realization that his world has been effectively crushed 
and that he cannot accept what he has learned all of his 
life, his isolation seems complete. Abel's plight is 
described in House Made of Dawn as a forfeiture of his 
niche. Momaday says, "He had lost his place. He had 
been long ago at the center, had known where he was, had 
lost his way, had wandered to the end of the earth, was 
even now reeling on the edge of the void" (104). Unable 
to relate to his own customs he find himself symbolically 
caught in the trap set by Habermas's dichotomizing theory. 

The novel, in relation to this theory presented by 
Habermas, is about Abel's problems with communication 
and about his struggle to come to terms with his knowledge 
of both worlds and worldviews. As the rift between him 
and his native culture develops Abel falls silent, "not 
dumb... but inarticulate" (58). This silence and inability to 
communicate represent his inability to function in the 
tradition in which he was raised. His inability to function 



Peacock 67 

appears in the form of silence because his culture is oral in 
its tradition. 

Although the text of House Made of Dawn supports his 
theory of communicative reason, Habermas, in concluding 
that mythic cultures are ruined by the presence of scientific 
or "rational" ones, is treating them with bias. The 
separation of world and world view, he would say, that 
exists in the latter would cause a culture based on myth and 
oral tradition to fall apart if it were introduced. He means 
that it would fall apart not in the sense that it would cease 
to be a culture but that it could not continue as it had 
before; that it would "develop." In relation to the novel, 
Abel, upon exposure to white culture, is alienated from his 
own. He, according to Habermas, has reached this point 
from which he cannot continue in the tradition of his birth. 
Also Abel is "unable" to fit into white culture. However, 
Lyotard's understanding of mythic cultures may offer 
particularly pertinent insight into Habermas 's theory and 
explain Abel's means of escape from his predicament. 

Lyotard would argue that there is no justice in trying 
to judge the mythic culture in relationship to the scientific 
one. There is not only a multiplicity of lifeworlds (as 
Habermas did acknowledge), but also of language games, 
as Lyotard calls them. He expands his description, stating 
that "there are many different language games— a 
heterogeneity of elements" (xxiv). Further, because these 
language games are heterogeneous, not all follow the same 
(or even similar) rules. In the same way that one cannot 
play (or, more appropriately, referee) lacrosse by using the 
rules that govern chess, one cannot expect to play the 
language game of an oral tradition by the rules of a 
scientific one and preserve the integrity of the former. 

In The Differend, Lyotard addresses an even more 
complex issue. He points out that not only is there a 



68 Southern Academic Review 

problem in the varying rules of separate language games 
but also in the way they relate to each other. He 
introduces the term "differend" to delineate this problem. 
Lyotard thus begins the preface to The Differend: 

As distinguished from a litigation, a differend would 

be a case of conflict between (at least) two parties, 

that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of 

judgment applicable to both arguments. One side's 

legitimacy does not imply the other's lack of 

legitimacy. However, applying a single rule of 

judgement to both in order to settle their differend as 

though it were merely a litigation would wrong (at 

least) one of them (and both of them if neither side 

admits this rule), (xi) 

This theory presents an explanation for Abel's frustration. 

According to Habermas, a narrative culture cannot be 

rational as it has no separation of world and worldview. 

Abel's silence is forced due to the differend that separates 

the Euro American and Native American cultures. This is 

called a differend because there is no place for a fair 

litigation. There is a fundamental difference between a 

litigation and a differend. In the instance of a litigation, 

two groups argue according to a set of rules to which they 

both agree however, in the instance of a differend the two 

groups do not share the same rules of litigation so none is 

possible. In his theory of communicative reason Habermas 

demands that validity claims be raised so that 

communicative rationality be possible. However, neither 

validity claims nor communicative reason have a place in 

oral traditions. The differend is the result of Habermas' s 

insistence that narrative cultures must justify themselves in 

European terms. This, of course, is impossible in that its 

value cannot be justified in any language game but that of 

the Native American. 



Peacock 69 

When Abel was exposed to white culture as a WWII 
soldier he saw the difficulty to which Habermas alludes. 
Abel was presented with a differend and also with what 
Lyotard calls, in Just Gaming, pleonexia. This occurs 
"when a language game begins to regulate games that are 
not the same as itself" (Loytard 99). Abel's silence occurs 
when he is confronted with the separation of world and 
worldview that is unavoidable in the world of science. He 
is unable to justify his Native American beliefs in light of 
his new experience with rationality. Not only is he unable 
to justify these beliefs, but he is unable to even voice any 
defense of them because to do so he would have to enter a 
language game in which he could not operate and does not 
understand. Lyotard says that one caught in Abel's 
predicament is "divested of the means to argue and 
becomes for that reason a victim" {Differend 9). Without 
a voice, Abel falls silent. 

Pleonexia is manifested in the novel. House Made of 
Dawn, when Abel is tried for the murder of an albino. 
The differend becomes evident when Father Olguin, a 
white priest who knows Abel, tells the court that "in his 
[Abel's] own mind it was not a man he killed. It was 
something else." Abel believes the man to be an "evil 
spirit" that was justly killed {Momaday 101). Olguin 
continues defining the nature of the differend, saying, "I 
believe that this man was moved to do what he did by an 
act of imagination so compelling as to be inconceivable to 
us." Here, the white lawyers and the court commit 
pleonexia when they disregard the differend. "Yes, yes, 
yes" they say: 

But these are the facts: he killed a man—took the life 
of another human being. He did this of his own 
volition—he has admitted that—he was armed for no 
other reason. He committed a brutal and premeditated 



70 Southern Academic Review 

act which we have no choice but to call by its right 
name. (102) 
Olguin argues, "Homicide is a legal term, but the law is 
not my context; and certainly isn't his—" (102). Momaday 
notes what is taking place as he describes the situation, 
"when he had told his story once, simply, Abel refused to 
speak. . . . Word by word by word these men were 
disposing of him in a language, their language, and they 
were making a bad job of it" (102). Abel is helpless in his 
situation and has no defense against the white men who are 
forcing him to engage in their language game. 

However, in light of Lyotard's revelations that 
language games are heterogeneous in nature, that rules vary 
from game to game, and that pleonexia is occurring in 
Habermas's theory, there appears for Abel a way out of his 
plight. After being freed of the impossible task of 
justifying his culture in white people's terms he can focus 
on the value of the narrative tradition of which he is a part 
as it relates to itself under its own rules. 

Lyotard also analyzes the value of narrative in Just 
Gaming and The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on 
Knowledge. Lyotard insightfully points out that the 
importance of narrative in such a tradition does not lie in 
whether or not it is valid, that is, whether or not it is true 
that the events in the story or tale really occurred and can 
be proved. Instead, he realizes that the value of the 
narrative is its ability to bring members in. The bringing 
"in" is to initiate them in some way, to make them a part 
of the tradition. By referring to the Cashinhua, a South 
American Indian tribe from the upper Amazon, Lyotard 
points out these qualities of narrative. He notes that, "the 
narrator's only claim to competence for telling the story is 
the fact that he has heard it himself. The current narratee 
gains potential access to the same authority simply by 



Peacock 71 

listening" {Post 20). The exposure to the culture through 
narrative is its value. He continues, "it [the oral tradition] 
finds the raw material for its social bond not only in the 
meaning of the narratives it recounts, but also in the act of 
reciting them" (22). When he talks about the significance 
of oral tradition not lying in its validity, Lyotard goes one 
step further by recognizing, with another example from 
Cashinahuan culture, that even the words of the narrative 
are less important than the rhythm that permeates it. He 
notes: 

Narrative form follows a rhythm; it is the synthesis 

of the meter beating time in regular periods and of 

accent modifying the length or amplitude of certain 

of those periods. This vibratory, musical property of 

narrative is clearly revealed in the ritual performance 

of certain Cashinahuan tales: they are handed down 

in initiation ceremonies, in absolutely fixed form, in 

a language whose meaning is obscured by lexical and 

syntactic anomalies, and they are sung as 

indeterminable monotonous chants. (21) 

In light of Lyotard 's ideas and revelations about the 

importance of oral tradition, Abel is not at such a loss. He 

was told stories as a child that he remembers in adulthood, 

and in one passage Abel's thoughts reveal a kinship to 

narrative that closely parallels what Lyotard reports about 

sound and rhythm. Abel remembers "the prayer, and he 

knew what it meant—not the words, which he had never 

really heard, but the low sound itself, rising and falling far 

away in his mind, unmistakable and unbroken" (Momaday 

13). Narrative has been extremely effective as a vehicle 

for drawing him into the realm of the oral tradition. It is 

the prayer and its "meaning," not the words of the prayer, 

that bind Abel to his culture. It is the hypnotic rhythm that 

he recalls so vividly and that is what is necessary for him 



72 Southern Academic Review 

to make a connection with his tradition. 

Although Abel, throughout much of House Made of 
Dawn, does seem to be alienated from his world, the rift 
between him and his culture is closed by the end of the 
book. The solution to his problem is to realize that the 
heterogeneity of language games exists, that he is not 
required to justify his culture to the white way of thinking, 
and that he must re-enter his tradition by accepting it for 
the value it has to his language game. When he returns to 
ritual the bond to his culture is mended. Abel's re-entry 
appears on the last page of House Made of Dawn when, 
after dressing his grandfather's corpse for burial, he runs 
the ceremonial race of the dead. After beginning the 
healing process between him and his original beliefs by 
engaging in ritual, he has only one more thing to do. 
Momaday writes, "He was running, and under his breath 
he began to sing..." (212). 



Peacock 73 

Works Cited 

Gasch, Rodolphe. "Postmodernism and Rationality." The 
Journal of Philosophy. March 1987: 62. 

Habermas, Jurgen. The Theory of Communicative Action 
Vol. I: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, 
Boston: Beacon, 1984. 

Jahner, Elaine. "A Critical Approach to American Indian 
Literature." Studies in American Indian Literature. 
Ed. Paula G. Allen. New York: The Modem 
Language Association of America, 1983. 

Lyotard, Jean Francios. The Differend. Vol. 46 of 

Theory and History of Literature. Minneapolis: U of 
Minnesota P, 1988. 

. Just Gaming. Vol. 20 of Theory and History of 

Literature. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1989. 



. The Post-Modem Condition. Vol. 10 of Theory and 

History of Literature. Minneapolis: U of 
Minnesota P, 1989. 

Momaday, N. Scott. House Made of Dawn. New York: 
Harper and Row, 1968. 

Woodard, Charles L. Conversations with N. Scott 
Momaday. Lincoln and London: U of Nebraska P, 
1989. 



The Debt Crisis and Development 

in Latin America: 

Are Debt for Nature Swaps an Answer? 

Chip Trimmier 



Welcome to the '90s. This is a world where nothing 
stays secret for long. No part of the world is so remote or 
perilous that a CNN crew can't do a live broadcast 
announcing to the world that "this is what is happening. 
Stand up and be outraged." The public can receive easily 
digestible information on their cable TV sets for as long as 
they can take it. We learn about world issues; we relate 
them in our discussions. We talk about "The Debt," and 
a growing environmental consciousness has finally entered 
mainstream thought. These problems are perceived to be 
among the most pressing in our nation today. 

As bad as they are here, the problems of debt and 
environmental degradation are all the more pressing in the 
developing countries. The U.S. national debt is measured 
in the trillions of dollars. This may make a developing 
country's debt accumulation seem small in comparison. 
However, these states lack the economic power to absorb 
and manage the huge debt that they have accumulated in 
their quest for development. Because of this, short-term 
profits may be seen as a necessary goal to meet payments 
on the accumulating debt. Short term goals neglect long- 



Trimmier 75 

term planning. In the hustle for quick economic gains, 
environmental resources are often destroyed in order to 
maximize immediate profit. Unfortunately, the destruction 
may be permanent. More environmentally sound 
development seems to be far more profitable in the long 
term. 

This paper attempts to discuss not only the ecological 
arguments of why the biospheres of Latin America should 
be protected but also the economic arguments. Debt for 
nature swaps and other environmental policies tied to debt 
are examined as a means for achieving ecological 
protection in the developing countries of Latin America. 
A discussion of the effects of these arrangements and 
policies on the politics of the region is mandatory for a full 
understanding of the situation. Finally, an assessment of 
what must be done to stabilize the future of the Latin 
American rain forest will be offered. 

Within the past decade, certain ecological phenomena 
have become the topics of commonplace discussion. 
"Global warming" and the "greenhouse effect" are in the 
vocabularies even of school children in modem America. 
The slow increase in average global temperature has been 
predicted for some time, and some scientists have declared 
that it has already begun. The global warming trend is 
caused by a change in the gaseous composition of the 
atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and methane are the principal 
greenhouse gasses. As the percentage of greenhouse gasses 
increases, the average global temperature slowly responds 
as a result of the extra energy trapped by the atmosphere, 
according to this theory. This is the greenhouse effect. As 
the average global temperature rises, large amounts of 
water now stored in the polar ice caps will be released, 
raising the sea level by as much as two meters according to 
some predictions. There are serious consequences of this 



76 Southern Academic Review 

problem, especially for coastal cities. This could flood 
low-lying cities such as New Orleans and huge areas such 
as the Kingdom of the Netherlands without the protection 
of incredibly expensive engineering projects. 

The process of deforestation makes a two-fold 
contribution to the process of global warming. Large 
amounts of greenhouse gasses are being released into the 
atmosphere as a result of deforestation. As forests are 
cleared, the timber that is not used is either burned or left 
to rot. Both processes release greenhouse gas into the 
atmosphere. The forests are the principle recyclers of 
carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis. As the 
forests decline, so does the planet's ability to extract 
greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. After the trees are 
gone, the soil is usually too poor to support crops. 
Additionally, the added erosion clogs reservoirs and 
irrigation systems downstream, causing the need for 
additional capital investment. 

Most of the forests are already gone from the 
industrialized nations. According to the United Nations 
Food and Agricultural Organization, one half of the globe's 
forests have disappeared since 1950 (Hamlin 1066). The 
Third World remains as the largest store of standing forest 
on the planet. One third of the entire world's remaining 
rain forest is in Brazil. Amazonia contains one fifth of all 
the bird species in the world, and in its rivers swim eight 
times as many species as in the Mississippi and its 
tributaries. This rich biodiversity has led conservationists 
to concentrate on protecting this tropical ecosystem in lieu 
of individual species ("Costing" 19). The combination of 
all of these environmental issues has pointed to one 
conclusion for environmentalists: the rain forest must be 
preserved.^ 

Another phenomenon that became painfully apparent 



Tiimmier 11 

during the '80s was that the debt crisis had reached 
ludicrous proportions in Latin America and in the third 
worid in general. The debt crisis began with the huge oil 
revenues of OPEC countries being deposited in 
industrialized countries' banks flooded with funds. The 
banks made many large and often pooriy researched loans. 
In the early eighties, the industrial nations tightened money 
supplies to fight inflation. For the large debtor countries 
of Latin America, the foreign currency needed to repay the 
loans became more expensive, and interest rates rose. The 
debt problem became almost impossible to resolve. 
Because many loans were made at variable interest, debt 
payments increased exponentially due to this two-fold 
dilemma. By 1987, Brazil's national debt had become the 
equivalent of 34% of its GNP (Burning 35). It is not 
uncommon for 25% of a Latin American country's annual 
budget to be allocated to debt servicing. However, even 
with this sizeable share of the budget, the debt continues to 
grow. This was cause for extreme concern in the interest 
of world economics. A default of one or a few of these 
countries could lead to the bankruptcy of some of the 
world's biggest banks (Sweezy 1). 

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank 
are two Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) that lend 
money to developing countries. They are lenders of last 
resort, handing out money for projects that are ideally 
designed to promote economic recovery when no 
commercial bank will take the risk of loan failure. These 
MDBs, along with others, inserted new money into the 
region and helped to reschedule debt payments. Although 
helpful in the short term, the process sent the affected 
countries "further down the road to debt enslavement" 
(Sweezy 2). The IMF tended to view the problem as short- 
term, leading it to encourage more external borrowing 



78 Southern Academic Review 

rather than interest relief and internal austerity measures 
rather than a plan that could lead to economic growth 
(Kuczynski 120). 

When the IMF lends money to these debtor nations, it 
engages in what is called high-conditionality lending. In 
other words, there are several conditions that must be met 
in order for the country to receive the money. Common 
measures are cutting imports, reducing public spending, 
wage indexing, and enacting strict monetary policies aimed 
at combating inflation. However, the effectiveness of these 
measures has been limited (Sachs 275). Also, leaders of 
developing nations have charged that these conditions 
"inhibit flexibility in meeting developmental aims, impede 
growth, undermine stability and represent an incursion on 
sovereign powers" (Carvounis 69), Many Latin American 
authors are very critical of the IMF as being a North- 
dominated institution that unnecessarily imposes costly 
stabilization programs (Feinberg A)? However, many still 
argue that the economic cost of adjustment has been 
exaggerated (Lomax 125). Still, suggestions that 
constitutional changes need to be made to achieve economic 
reform, such as that from Jose Fajgenbaum, the former 
head of the IMF negotiating team in Brazil, fuel anger 
towards this institution ("Brazil's Tiff"). Upon hearing 
Fajgenbaum' s comment, Brazilian President Collor de 
Mello promptly requested and obtained the Argentine-bom 
negotiator's recall ("IMF Bows"). The opposition of Latin 
American countries to the austerity measures and failure of 
the measures to produce significant results caused the 
world's economists to do some rethinking. 

Recently formulated plans attempt to address the 
problem of obtaining real results and seem to be making 
some progress. In 1988, six debtor nations obtained more 
than 4% positive economic growth (Rohr 196). This is the 



Trimmier 79 

result of a new approach voiced by the Baker and Brady 
plans. The Baker plan was unveiled by United States 
Treasury Secretary James Baker in 1985. The premise of 
the plan is that sustained economic growth, not IMF- 
imposed austerity, offers the only hope of an improvement 
in the situation (Pastor 45). The Brady plan retains this 
premise and strengthens the strategy. The first point of the 
plan is that debtor nations must encourage confidence in 
foreign and domestic investors to stimulate the economy. 
Second, the creditor community must provide sufficient and 
timely support to facilitate economic growth.^ 

Debt-equity swaps began to be utilized as a means to 
reduce the banks' loan exposure, turning unproductive 
loans into equity investments. In a debt-equity swap, the 
country is allowed to pay the debt in its own currency. 
This payment is then invested in national industry. 
However, there are several problems with this exchange. 
First, it is an inflationary practice. Since hard currency is 
not demanded, the country does not need to devote any 
actual income to debt servicing. The payment can be made 
with cash hot off the press, increasing the money supply 
and causing inflation. The loss of the value of the money 
as it is reinvested in the country is taken as a loss by the 
bank. Secondly, the investment typically is made in the 
best capital resources of the country. Therefore, the best 
resources of the country for further economic progress are 
bought off by foreign investors. This "capital flight" can 
slow the country's already treacherous climb out of a debt 
emergency. 

An aberration of the debt-equity swap was first 
proposed by Dr. Tom Lovejoy in an October 1984 A^^vv 
York Times article. The idea came to him while he was 
participating in congressional hearings discussing the 
relationship between the debt crisis and environmental 



80 Southern Academic Review 

decline (Sun 1175). The idea led to what has been called 
the debt-for-nature swap. The mechanics of a debt-nature 
swap are similar to those of debt-equity. The debt of a 
country with sizeable commercial debt is likely to be 
partially for sale on the secondary market. A private, 
international conservation agency purchases this debt at a 
steep discount. After obtaining the debt, the organization 
approaches the debtor country with a proposal to set aside 
some area of land for protection. The agreements 
eventually negotiated are unique to the circumstances of the 
country but usually have some common elements. The 
international organization is made a formal part of the 
administration agency as technical advisor. Local 
environmental groups are brought into the process as well 
and may take the leading role as administrators and 
overseers. A fund is established to cover the expenses of 
the implementation and operation of the project. 

Conservation International (CI) reached an agreement 
of this sort with the government of Bolivia on July 13, 
1987. CI purchased $650,000 of Bolivian debt at a rate of 
15 cents on the dollar from a single Swiss bank.'* The 
right to repayment of the debt was waived in return for the 
promise to preserve 3.7 million acres in the Bolivian llano, 
or lowland plain, adjacent to the already-existing 1/3- 
million-acre Beni Biosphere Reserve. CI was made a party 
to the administration of all protected lands, and a $250,000 
fund was set aside for administrative costs, with $150,000 
coming from the U.S. Agency for International 
Development (US- AID). This agreement created a four- 
million acre "buffer zone" around an already existing 
preserve. The buffer zone could be utilized for economic 
purposes under a policy of sustainable development. The 
increased area under protection is important in light of 
discoveries arising from the ongoing Minimum Critical 



Trimmier 81 

Size of Ecosystems (MCSE) project in progress in the 
Brazilian Amazon basin near Manaus.^ Fragments of rain 
forest undergo changes at their perimeter: trees die, and 
bird and butterfly populations decline. What this "edge 
effect" shows is that the acreage necessary to preserve an 
area's biodiversity may be larger than previously thought 
(Sun 1175). 

The Bolivian agreement broke the ground for a similar 
agreement with Ecuador. On December 14, 1987, the 
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) finalized a one million-dollar 
debt-nature swap with a slightly more complex procedure. 
The WWF purchased $1 million in debt from a group of 
commercial banks. The debt was exchanged for 
Ecuadorian bonds repayable in Ecuadorian sucres. The 
bonds were donated to a local environmental group, 
Fundacion Natura. WWF and the government of Ecuador 
agreed to allow Fundacion Natura to use payment on these 
bonds to preserve undeveloped land. In April, WWF and 
The Nature Conservancy announced that another $9 million 
swap had been arranged under the same terms. The 
Ecuadorian debt-nature swap differs from Bolivia's in that 
the emphasis is on complete undevelopment rather than 
sustainable development. This plan, as the name implies, 
provides for reserving the land in its natural state to be 
protected from any development. Certainly, a plot of land 
is ecologically more valuable if it is free from human 
encroachment. The value of sustainable development is 
that it allows for use of the raw materials extractable from 
a plot of land while preserving a great degree of its 
biodiversity. 

The CI and WWF debt-nature swaps have several very 
beneficial outcomes. The swaps both reduce the debt of 
the debtor country and provide assistance in the long-term 
management of resources. However, as a proportion of the 



82 Southern Academic Review 

overall debt, the swaps are fairly insignificant. 
Nonetheless, they enable the conservation organizations to 
receive the maximum return for their investment, assuming 
the agreements are not violated. The agreements 
strengthen the influence and expertise of local 
environmental groups by including them in the 
implementation and policy-making processes and by 
channeling funds through them (Hamlin 1071). In the 
WWF agreements, the local agencies are signatory parties. 
This is more than a symbolic relationship; creating this 
formal linkage between government and local 
environmental groups may well be the most significant 
accomplishment to come out of the process (1072). 

The debt-nature swaps have been criticized for being 
weakly enforced or even for having negative outcomes, as 
well. Some criticize that the Bolivian "buffer zone" is 
being developed too much and that the 500 indigenous 
peoples living in the area were not taken care of. The 
same author complains that participation in the swap means 
legitimizing the system in which Western banks and 
governments control the resources and set the terms while 
third world elites "are rewarded by the North for pillaging 
their countries and repressing their people" (Rohr 247). 
Financiers have dim views of the swaps as part of a real 
solution because they take a loss on the deal. Still, some 
repayment is better than none, and the secondary debt 
market does exist, even though the banks would be 
reluctant to swap a substantial part of their debt holdings 
for such steeply discounted rates. 

In order to provide the countries with sufficient 
resources while securing the future of the rain forest and 
related fauna, an approach integrating policies of complete 
undevelopment and sustained development may be most 
beneficial. Whether in the form of a single agreement or 



Trimmier 83 

in separate agreements, a combined reserve area with a 
core of unencroached, undeveloped rain forest surrounded 
by a periphery of land to be exploited under a policy of 
sustained development seems to be the best case scenario 
for all concerned. Careful administration of the protected 
areas will be necessary to ensure the long term success of 
the project. 

Recently, the multinational development banks have 
attempted to enter the environmental arena. The World 
Bank has been attacked in the past for lending money for 
environmentally devastating, economically negligible 
projects. In order to address this problem, the World 
Bank's first environmental advisor was hired in 1969 to 
establish an Office of Environmental Affairs (Warford 5). 
Unfortunately, this did not prevent disastrous projects such 
as the Polonoroeste program of road building and 
agricultural colonization in the northwest Brazilian state of 
Rondonia. A 1980 World Bank survey concluded that the 
region could be successfully developed as long as the 
indigenous people were protected and the areas where the 
soil could not support agriculture were left alone. The 
funds were made available, but the project was not 
managed according to the plan ("Accounting" 72). The 
state of Rondonia can now be described as "completely 
devastated" (Waters 40). High-yield^ projects have turned 
into increased loan programs, destitute people, and useless 
land (Hrynik 150). On May 5, 1987, World Bank 
President Barber Conable apologized for these travesties 
and promised a new outlook for the future. 

Environmentally unsound projects continue to rise with 
the help of World Bank funds in spite of the "new 
outlook." Within the past few years, environmentalists 
rallied to defeat the Second Power Sector Loan, a proposed 
$500 million World Bank loan to Brazil that would 



84 Southern Academic Review 

resurrect a mega-dam project with 136 new dams, many in 
the Amazon (Adams 47)^. Although the United States has 
made sound environmental practices a necessary condition 
to further funding, the World Bank has yet truly to deliver 
much but paper policy ("Bank Balance"). 

When developing countries engaging in deforestation 
were warned by industrialized nations that they should 
consider the consequences of their development, their 
response was an understandable one. The pervasive 
attitude of the developing countries was that they were 
going through the same process that the industrialized 
countries did as they were developing. These countries 
fmd it difficult to understand why they are forbidden to 
pursue the same policies that the major economic powers 
have used to develop their countries (Rendall 7). Indeed, 
the development of the Brazilian Amazon has been likened 
to the opening of the American West ("Brazil Walks"). 
Another important impetus behind the development of the 
Amazon was the doctrine of National Security. National 
Security arguments were extremely persuasive under the 
post- 1964 military rule in Brazil. Amazonia represents 
over 50% of the Brazilian territory, is sparsely populated, 
and contains an unpatroled border with a history of 
annexation. In 1965, the first president under the military 
regime. General Castelo Branco, stated that "Amazonian 
occupation would proceed as though it were a strategically 
conducted war." The first post-coup body of legislation 
concerning the Amazon was entitled "Operation 
Amazonia," reflecting the military flavor of the project 
(Hecht 668). These projects set the tone for future 
attitudes about the Amazon and environmental protection. 

Many critics have charged that these new 
environmental protection measures are "eco-colonialism" 
and no better than outright colonization. Ambassador 



Trimmier 85 

Paulo Tarso Flecha de Lima, as Secretary General of the 
Brazilian Foreign Ministry, agrees that "this is the greatest 
international pressure that Brazil has ever felt in its history" 
("The World"). Placing such a degree of pressure on these 
nations carries with it certain inherent risks: 

To link the humiliation of debt with the case for 

conservation risks a nationalist backlash against 

busybody foreigners who cut down their own trees, 

and then go abroad and tell poor people not to cut 

down theirs. (Costing 24) 

Care must be taken not to shut the door on future 

negotiations by failing to recognize the dilemma of the 

present Latin American administrations. 

There is a great deal of misunderstanding in Latin 
America about the structure of debt-nature swaps that leads 
to some hostility in the debtor nation. Coming in the same 
context as IMF austerity measures, many people see debt- 
nature swaps as a threat to sovereignty. Brazilian Foreign 
Minister Roberto Costa de Abreu Sodre told reporters that 
"Brazil will not see itself turned into a nature preserve for 
the rest of humanity. Our most important goal is economic 
development" ("The World"). Former Brazilian President 
Jose Samey condemned debt-nature swaps as foreign 
interference ("Bravo"). Indeed, the problems in finalizing 
the Bolivian swap were primarily political. Press reports 
suggested that control of public lands had been given to an 
American conservation agency (Page 278). Although no 
title to the land changes hands, and there are no 
enforcement provisions contained in the agreements, a 
sovereignty argument still is created from the fact that a 
foreign agency has a great degree of control over the policy 
of the country, although in an extremely limited area. This 
is the reason that the participation of the local groups is so 
important. 



86 Southern Academic Review 

There are many Latin American people who stand to 
benefit domestically from the debt-nature swaps and rain 
forest conservation in general. The clearing of the Amazon 
has led to the creation of a large sum of what Thayer 
Scudder, an anthropologist and World Bank consultant, 
terms "development refugees" (Rich 88). It is clear that 
the present development policy takes little account of 
indigenous peoples and leads to increased urban migration. 
This neglect could lead to serious social unrest. Logging 
operations often have sparked violent protest (Repetto 205). 
The stakes are high in the protest battle against the cattle 
ranchers and agricultural interests. Rubber tappers union 
leader Chico Mendes was murdered on December 22, 
1988, as a direct result of the progress he had made in 
acquiring protected rain forest areas to be managed by the 
rubber tappers as "extractive reserves" (Rich 88). In the 
'60's, groups such as the Committee for Economic 
Development advocated clearing land for agriculture and 
cattle grazing because "such efforts promise high returns" 
(Committee 40-41). Brazil heeded this message and 
promoted this type of development with a system of tax 
credits and subsidies. As a result, these interests are strong 
and fighting to stay that way. 

Conservation of the rain forest proves to be a much 
more profitable scheme than the present development path. 
The concept of "sustainable development" retains the 
countries' assets over the long term rather than burning 
them out in a mad race for capital.^ The heads of three of 
the most prestigious scientific institutions within Amazonia- 
-the Emilio Goeldi Museum, the Federal University of 
Para, and the Centre for Agricultural Research in the 
Humid Tropics—all agree that "rational, sustainable 
development of the Amazon is the only way forward" 
("Fighting"). Unfortunately, less than 0.1% of the 



Trimmier 87 

remaining tropical forest is being managed for sustained 
productivity (Repetto 205). There are many products that 
can be extracted from the rain forest without its 
destruction. However, little information on the value of 
standing forest reserves in Latin America is available. 
Indeed, "for the world's 500m [sic] forest-dwellers, they 
are a source of food, fuel, and furniture. . . [but] when forest 
products other than trees are exported, statistics on their 
value are rarely collated" ("Costing" 20). Some studies do 
exhibit the degree to which standing rain forest is more 
profitable than clearing the land. Studies of the Antimari 
National Forest in the Brazilian state of Acre show the 
present per hectare revenue from rubber tapping and Brazil 
nut collecting to be four times as profitable as that of cattle 
ranching (Repetto 205). A New York Botanical Gardens 
study values the output of fruit, latex, and timber, on the 
basis of their local prices, at $9000 per hectare, as 
compared to less than $3000 per hectare for the production 
capacity of a cow pasture. Furthermore, the timber 
accounts for less than 10%, and this gain is erased if latex 
or fruit trees are killed during the logging process 
("Costing" 20). 

When the forestland is developed, it is often developed 
in an ill-conceived manner. In Brazil's process of clearing 
forestland by burning after extracting little timber, 
approximately $2.5 billion of resources are lost annually 
(Repetto 205). Cattle ranching in the region has been 
responsible for 60% of the land deforested (Leonard 113). 
Most of the area converted to pasture is only ephemerally 
productive, declining rapidly within a few years. Estimates 
of the area of already degraded pasture range from 20-50 % 
(Hecht 663). Countries must be able to fully use the 
resources available without permanently destroying them in 
order to insure sustained economic growth. 



88 Southern Academic Review 

Things are beginning to turn around for the 
environmental movement, but care must be taken to 
respond to the economic needs of the countries as well. 
Although his predecessors rejected debt-for-nature swaps 
outright, Brazilian President Collor de Mello has agreed to 
allow $100 million of debt to be swapped per annum 
("Bravo"). He also has abolished the tax subsidies that 
make it profitable to deforest the Amazon for farming and 
ranching (Brooke). Debt-for-nature is of minimal value for 
debt service but could help Latin Americans toward 
recovery by managing resources more efficiently. Given 
the hostile attitude Latin American countries currently have 
toward IMF and World Bank lending policies, it may be 
infuriating to attach environmental policy requirements to 
the high-conditionality loans. However, the goal of these 
measures is to prepare a fractured economy for long-term 
growth in order to insure repayment, and environmental 
policy requirements could serve as useful guidelines for 
sustainable development. It is unlikely that new policy 
could be accepted with more reservation than the current 
conditions. What is left to be done is the development of 
markets for rain forest products. Ben & Jerry's "Rain 
Forest Crunch" ice cream uses Brazil nuts gathered by 
rubber tappers in the Amazon and donates a portion of the 
profits to help establish a shelling cooperative to stimulate 
their production.^ Jason Clay, an anthropologist with the 
indigenous rights group Cultural Survival, has sent 880 
pounds of rain forest samples including 45 different fruits, 
nuts, oils, and flours to four different companies in the 
United States and England. Projects to use these products 
may help improve the economy for the poorest and most 
powerless of the forest dwellers. By bypassing the local 
elite who control virtually all trade in forest products, more 
profit can be returned to ecologically sound projects aimed 



Trimmier 89 

at diversifying and increasing production while capturing 
more value locally (Christensen 96). The agricultural 
research station in Belem, Brazil, has worked out how to 
spin-dry and powder some fruits produced exclusively by 
the rain forest for long-term storage ("Fighting"). The 
development of markets for these products would solidify 
sustained-use options for rain forest lands. The sustainable 
development of rain forest resources promises to help Latin 
America break the chains of debt enslavement while 
helping to preserve the fragile ecosystems so important to 
the world's future. 



90 Southern Academic Review 

Endnotes 

1 . The diversity of species must be protected for many 
reasons. Genetic diversity is important for agriculture 
and medicine. The genetic uniformity of cultivated plants 
makes them highly susceptible to disease and parasites. 
To protect the crops, plant breeders must constantly 
reintroduce wild varieties into the domesticated strains. 
Plants are commonly used in medications. Almost half of 
all prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. contain natural 
substances, and over 50% of these contain a plant- 
derived active ingredient. See: Plotkin, at 211. 

2. Although directly discussed on this page, this attitude 
is evidenced throughout the book. The book is a 
compilation of works prepared for the Working Group on 
Economics of the Inter-American Dialogue by Latin 
American authors. The papers were presented and 
discussed in a 1986 seminar held in Santiago, Chile, at 
the Corporacion de Investigaciones Economicas para 
America Latina (CIEPLAN). See also: Wionczek, 
Miguel. Politics and Economics of External Debt Crisis. 

3. Obviously, this is an incredibly simplified summary. 
For the first point, Brady calls for debtor nations to 
focus on adopting policies that encourage new 
investment, strengthen domestic savings, and promote the 
return of flight capital. The confidence of investors is 
crucial to these goals. For the second point, Brady 
advocates the cooperation of commercial banks and 
debtor countries "to provide a broader range of 
alternatives for financial support, including greater 
efforts to achieve both debt and debt service reduction 
and to provide new lending." See: Rohr, at 197 and 198. 



Trimmier 9 1 

4. The market rates on Bolivian debt were at the time 
fluctuating between 7 and 25 cents on the dollar. See 
Hamlin, p. 1069. 

5. The Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems (MCSE) 
Project is a 20-year study that was initiated in 1980 by 
Dr. Tom Lovejoy. The project aims at discovering the 
conditions necessary to sustain the ecological diversity of 
a piece of land. There is a debate as to the best strategy 
for preserving biological diversity between the "one- 
chunk" theories and the "numerous plots" theories. The 
patchwork of small and large plots created by 
development of the Amazon in Brazil is an excellent 
situation for testing these theories. 

6. "High yield" projects are designed to maximize return 
on the investment. They are often poorly planned and 
less sound than the other projects. They are usually short 
term because the natural resources they depend on are 
depleted faster than they can regenerate. 

7. It is worth mentioning here that hydropower, 
although a non-polluting source of energy, is not 
environmentally friendly. Hydropower poses a serious 
environmental threat to surrounding areas. The building 
of dams and reservoirs contributes to species decline and 
extinction as well as deforestation. The deforestation is 
easy to see: where there used to be great expanses of 
trees, there are now great expanses of water. The decline 
of species, not just aquatic, occurs due to what is called 
habitat fragmentation. According to the equilibrium 
theory of island biogeography, the sum total of habitat 
without interruption is what determines the number of 
species that can live on it. In other words, a piece of 



92 Southern Academic Review 

land the size of Cuba in the rain forest can support an 
exponentially larger number of species than can an 
undeveloped island the size of Cuba. The building of a 
dam and reservoir which supplies a puny amount of 
electricity for a power plant of its size (one must count 
the area of the reservoir as part of the plant, after all) 
can separate habitats by many miles. Flighted species 
may still interbreed, but certainly no land creature will 
go fifty or a hundred miles around the perimeter of a 
small reservoir to mingle with the others that used to be 
only a mile or two away. Of course, it is obvious that 
the fish upstream and downstream no longer can breed 
with one another. Another problem to take into 
consideration is the amount of stress put on species 
downstream due to erratic flow and excessive turbidity 
during the time of construction. In addition to the 
outright elimination of habitat, the future continuation of 
species in the area of the entire river basin is threatened 
due to stresses on breeding. For more information, see 
Lester R. Brown, Ed., The State of the World 1988. 

8. For more information on "sustainable development," 
see: World Commission on Environment and 
Development, Our Common Future. Also known as the 
"Brundtland Commission" after its chairman, the Prime 
Minister of Norway, the commission was established in 
1983 by the United Nations. 

9. For more information, write Ben & Jerry's 
Homemade, P.O. Box 240, Waterbury, VT, 05676. 



Trimmier 93 

Works Cited 

"Accounting for the Environment." The Economist. 21 
June 1986. 70-72. 

Adams, Patricia. "Saving Forests~With Debt." Rpt. in 
The Globe and Mail World Press Review. October 
1989. 47. 

Allen, John, ed. Environment 91/92. Guilford, 
Connecticut: Dushkin, 1991. 

"Bank Balance: Economy and Ecology. " Science News. 10 
October 1987. 

"Bravo, Brazil." New York Times. 2 July 1991. A16. 

"Brazil's Tiff With the IMF." Wall Street Journal. 23 
July 1991. A16. 

"Brazil Walks the Tightrope." Nature. 23 November 
1989. 356. 

Brooke, James. "Brazilian Leader Acts to Protect the 
Amazon." New York Times. 26 June 1991. A9. 

Carvounis, Chris C. The Debt Dilemma of Developing 
Nations. Westport, Connecticut: Quorum, 1984. 

Christensen, Jon. "Letting the Amazon pay its own way." 
Whole Earth Review. Spring 1990, 95-7. 

Committee for Economic Development. How Low Income 
Countries Can Advance Their Own Growth. New 



94 Soufhern Academic Review 

York: Inter-American Council of Commerce and 
Production, 1966. 

"Costing the Earth" reprinted in John Allen ed. 
Environment 91/92. Guilford, Connecticut: Dushkin, 
1991, pp. 13-26. 

Durning, Alan B. WorldWatch Paper 92: Poverty and the 
Environment: Reversing the Downward Spiral. 
Washington, D.C.: The Worldwatch Institute, 1989. 

Feinberg, Richard E. and Ricardo French-Davis eds. 
Development and External Debt in Latin America. 
Notre Dame, Indiana: U of Notre Dame P, 1988. 

"Fighting for the Amazon." Nature. 23 November 1989. 
362. 

Hamlin, Timothy B. "Debt-for-Nature Swaps: a New 
Strategy for Protecting Environmental Interests in 
Developing Nations." Ecology Law Quarterly. 16 
(1989): 1065-88. 

Hecht, Susanna. "Environment, development, and politics: 
capital accumulation and the livestock sector in 
eastern Amazonia." World Development. Jime 1985, 
663-84. 

Hrynik, Tamara J. "Debt for Nature swaps: effective but 
not enforcable." Case Western Reserve J 
International Law. Winter 1990, 141-63. 

"IMF Bows to Brazil in Dispute." Wall Street Journal. 25 
July 1991, A5. 



Trimmier 95 



Kuczynski, Pedro-Pablo. Latin American Debt. Baltimore: 
Johns Hopkins Up, 1988. 

Leonard, H. Jeffrey, ef al. Environment and the Poor: 
Development Strategies for a Common Agenda. New 
Brunswick: Transaction, 1989. 

Lomax, David F. 77?^ Developing Country Debt Crisis, St. 
Martin's: New York, 1986. 

Page, Diana. "Debt-for-Nature Swaps: Experience Gained, 
Lessons Learned." International Environmental 
Affairs, Fall 1989, 275-88. 

Pastor, Robert A, ed. Latin America's Debt Crisis: 
Adjusting to the Past or Planning for the Future? 
Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1987. 

Rendall, Carol W. "Global Environmental Threats" 6-12. 

Rich, Bruce. "Conservation woes at the World Bank." 
The Nation. 23 January 1989. 73-91. 

Repetto, Robert. "Deforestation in the Tropics." 6-12. 

Rohr, Janelle, ed. The Third World: Opposing Viewpoints. 
San Diego: Greenhaven, 1989. 

Sachs, Jeffery D. Developing Country Debt and the World 
Economy. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989. 

Sun, Marjorie. "How Do Yoii Measure the Lovejoy 
Effect?" Scietice. 9 March 1990. 1174-76. 



96 Southern Academic Review 

Sweezy, Paul M., et al. "The Two Faces of Third World 
DQbt." The Nation. January 1984. 1-10. 

"The World Puts the Heat on Brazil." Rpt. in Veja World 
Press Review. May 1989. 38. 

Warford, Jeremy and Zeinab Partow. "Evolution of the 
World Bank's Environmental Policy." Finance & 
Development. December 1989. 5-8. 

Waters, Tom. "Fall of the Rain Forest." Discover. 
January 1989. 40. 



Additional Bibliography 

Amin, Samir. Maldevelopment: Anatomy of a Global 
Failure. New Jersey: Zed Books. 1990. 

Beckford, George L. Persistent Poverty: 

Underdevelopment in Plantation Economies of the 
Third World. Morant Bay, Jamaica: Maroon 
Publishing House, 1983. 

"Brazilian Debt Plan Advances." New York Times. 19 
June 1991. D2. 

Goes, Donald V. "Trade, International Payments, and 
Brazil's Economic Growth." Latin American Research 
Review, 1991. 171-86. 

Copulos, Milton R. "The Environment: A North-South 
Conflict." Current. November 1989. 35. 



Trimmier 97 

"Environmental Rules for Development Aid." Science 
News. 1 1 January. 25. 

Fearnside, Philip M. "Extractive Reserves in Brazilian 
Amazonia." BioScience. June 1989. 387. 

Foster, Douglas. "No road to Tahuanti." Mother Jones. 
July-August 1990. 36. 

Harvey, Robert. "The politics of debt." The Economist. 
25 April 1987. 11. 

Hecht, Susanna and Alexander Cockburn. "Land. Trees, 
and Justice." The Nation. 22 May 1989. 695. 

Katzman, Martin T. "Ecology, Natural Resources, and 
Economic Growth: Underdeveloping the Amazon." 
Economic development & Cultuixil Chemise. January 
1987. 425. 

Kaufman, Robert R. "Democratic and authoritarian 
responses to the debt issue: Argentina, Brazil, 
Mexico." International Ori^anization. Summer 1985. 
473-503. 

Lawrence, Richard. "World Bank, IMF Propose New 
Goals." Journal of Commerce and Commercial. 
30 September 1987. lA. 

Meadows, Donella H., et al. The Limits to Growth. 
New York: Universe, 1973. 



98 Southern Academic Review 

Mesarovic, Mihajlo and Eduard Pestel. Mankind at the 
Turning Point. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974. 

"New light on Dependency and dependent development, " 
Monthly Review. January, 1983. 12. 

Pallemaerto, Marc. "Development, Conservation, and 
Indigeonous Rights in Brazil." Human Rights 
Quarterly. August 1986. 374-400. 

Pasca, T. M. "The politics of tropical deforestation." 
American Forests. November-December 1988. 21. 

Wionczek, Miguel S., ed. Politics and Economics of 
External Debt Crisis. Boulder: Westview P, 1985. 



99 



Gender Issues Section 



Each year, Southern Academic Review receives many 
outstanding submissions from a wide range of disciplines. 
This year, several students submitted articles which deal 
with gender issues in literature and political theory. The 
staff decided to combine three of these submissions into a 
separate section of the journal, as gender issues are much 
a part of classroom discussion on the Birmingham-Southern 
campus. 



The Varying Characterizations of Women 

in A Doll 's House 
and Death of a Salesman 

Molly Brewer 



The influence that the past exerts over the present is 
often overwhelming, and this type of influence is felt in 
drama as in other genres. Socially conscious playwright 
Henrik Ibsen affected the works of Arthur Miller, whose 
plays were put into production over 30 years after Ibsen's 
death. Miller himself acknowledged Ibsen's influence in an 
interview with Ronald Hay man, which is recorded in 
Hayman's book titled Arthur Miller. He said, "What 
[Ibsen] gave me in the beginning was a sense of the past 
and a sense of the rootedness of everything that happens" 
(Hay man 6). David Thomas, a lecturer in drama at the 
University of Bristol, acknowledges Ibsen's sphere of 
influence over at least two of Miller's plays. Thomas 
writes that All My Sons and Death of a Salesman "owe a 
clear thematic debt to Ibsen's work" (160). Although both 
A Doll's House by Ibsen and Death of a Salesman by 
Miller reveal an awareness of social problems on the part 
of the playwrights, their treatment of the main women 
characters in the two plays varies. While Ibsen boldly 
moves to make his protagonist and hero a woman, Miller 
marginalizes his main female character and does not 



Brewer 101 

develop her through the course of the play. 

Nora, the main female character of ^ Doll's House is 
considered by Carolyn Heilbrun to be the premier female 
hero in drama. In her book Toward a Recognition of 
Androgyny, Heilbrun writes, "The birth of the woman as 
hero occurred, insofar as one may date such an event, in 
1880, when almost at the same moment Ibsen and James 
invented her" (49). Nora's character develops throughout 
A Doll's House and becomes a separate and independent 
entity from her husband, Torvald, by the end of the play. 
By giving up all that has been important to her and by 
denouncing the role that has been defined for her in 
nineteenth-century society, that of the nurturing mother and 
wife, Nora is revitalized and "bom again" to be an 
individual as well as a woman. 

In Death of a Salesman, the sole woman characterized 

by Miller is Linda, Willy Loman's wife. Linda is 

characterized only by her relation to Willy, and in direct 

contrast to Ibsen's Nora, she does not develop into her own 

person. Critic Irving Jacobson, in his essay "Family 

Dreams in Death of a Salesman," comments on Linda's 

inability to change or influence her family. He writes. 

She can play no significant role in her husband's 

dreams; and although she proves occasionally capable 

of dramatic outbursts, she lacks the imagination and 

strength to hold her family together or to help Loman 

define a new life without grandiose hopes for Biff. 

(51) 
Miller focuses only on the male characters of the play. 
While Nora embodies change and moves through the 
course of A Doll's House toward a recognition of herself as 
a person, Linda remains static and helps to perpetuate 
Willy's fantasy as reality. Both of the characters live in a 
society in which the existing norms for women are 



102 Southern Academic Review 

inequitable when compared to those for men, but only Nora 
acts to break away from her husband and from society's 
expectations of her as a woman. Nora moves toward self- 
actualization, a concept of which Linda does not seem to be 
aware. 

Despite the varying ways in which Ibsen and Miller 
treat their women characters, similarities exist in the 
settings of the worlds in which Nora and Linda fmd 
themselves. Both are plagued with husbands who do not 
realize the women's potential to be individuals. Nora's 
husband, Torvald, is flawed by his egocentricity. In the 
first scene of the play, the reader recognizes how little 
attention Torvald pays to Nora and also how little he 
respects her individual choices. Throughout the play, 
Torvald seems concerned only with Nora's taking care of 
their family and domestic matters; he does not think that 
she is capable of thinking critically for herself. Not only 
does he constantly call her by "pet" names, but he also 
prohibits her from eating macaroons and other candies and 
pastries. Torvald 's opinion of Nora is well characterized 
in the opening scene during an exchange that occurs 
between them. Torvald says, "The squanderbird's a pretty 
little creature, but she gets through an awful lot of money. 
It's incredible what an expensive pet she is for a man to 
keep" (Ibsen 372). Torvald's reference to Nora as a "pet 
for a man" is significant to the play as a whole, as well as 
to Torvald's characterization. 

Miller characterizes Willy, Linda's husband and the 
main character of Death of a Salesman, in a way similar to 
how Ibsen characterizes Torvald. Like Torvald, Willy 
wants to advance in society and is very concerned with 
keeping the status quo. He cannot realize that the 
salesman's world has changed and that he no longer 
remains a viable resource in the new era. He, too, is very 



Brewer 103 

self-centered. His egocentricity varies from Torvald's in its 
manifestation: instead of directing Linda's actions as 
Torvald does Nora's, Willy tries to impress Linda by 
making his small successes seem larger and by lying to her 
to protect his ego. After having been fired from his 
salesman's position, Willy says to his sons, "I was fired, 
and I'm looking for a little good news to tell your mother, 
because the woman has waited and the woman has 
suffered. The gist of it is that I haven't got a story left in 
my head" (Miller 787). Willy has lied to his wife about 
his failures and therefore protected himself from full 
recognition of them for so long that he recoils from telling 
her the truth. 

Willy's focus on himself may also be seen in his 
relationships with mistresses and in his preparation for 
suicide. Willy gives his mistress new stockings but is 
unable to afford to give his wife any. Then he gets upset 
when he finds Linda mending her old stockings and tells 
her not to. When Biff goes to Boston to talk to his father, 
he discovers Willy with another woman and sees Willy as 
a fake. Biff accuses Willy, "You—you gave her Mama's 
stockings!" (791). Although stockings by themselves are 
a very small part of a woman's wardrobe and her life as a 
whole, in Death of a Salesman they represent the way in 
which Willy places Linda second to his mistress. 

Willy discounts Linda's feelings throughout, the play. 
One of the most obvious ways in which he does this is in 
his attempts to kill himself. The reader discovers that 
Willy repeatedly wrecks his car and that the insurance 
company suspects that his wrecks are not accidents but are 
pre-meditated. Willy has also connected a rubber pipe to 
the gas line in the basement of his house and has allowed 
Linda to discover its existence. Of course, Linda is not 
strong enough to confront Willy with an acknowledgement 



104 Southern Academic Review 

of the piping or of any of his suicide attempts, but instead 
she passively removes the piping during the day and then 
replaces it before Willy returns every night. 

Despite being set in a differing place and time, the 
society and the norms it places on women are comparable 
in Death of a Salesman and A Doll's House. A Doll's 
House was written and produced 70 years before Death of 
a Salesman, yet the similarities of the societal expectations 
of women are quite striking. Both Linda and Nora are 
expected to provide emotional support for their husbands 
and to raise their children. Neither works, and each 
depends on her husband for financial stability. Although 
one would think that Linda has choices in the twentieth- 
century United States seemingly not available to Nora, it is 
Nora who decides to leave her husband and her family. 
Linda remains in her subordinate position throughout the 
play. 

Nora's development throughout A Do// '5 House may be 
seen by the reader or the audience of the play. Although 
she has acted independently and has naively risked forgery 
to secure her husband's health, one does not know that at 
the beginning of the play. The reader observes her 
reaction to Torvald's pet names and at first thinks that she 
has no will of her own. In his book Henrik Ibsen, David 
Thomas writes, "She... always humours him and helps him 
to feel that he takes all the important decisions in their life" 
(71). In this way, Nora supports the facade that Torvald 
is in total control. In the first scene Nora appears to be 
very wasteful and also quite superficial, but one soon 
learns that this estimation of her is not correct. Although 
she appears to Torvald to squander money on frivolities, in 
actuality, Nora saves as much as she can of what Torvald 
gives her and also takes in copying work on the side to pay 
back Krogstad for the loan she secured. 



Brewer 105 

Throughout Acts I and II, the reader discovers the 
independent actions of Nora that have occurred in the past 
and also observes changes in Nora's attitudes. When she 
cind Torvald are speaking of a ball which they are supposed 
to attend, Nora says, "I can't think of anything to wear. It 
all seems so stupid and meaningless" (Ibsen 383). During 
the same conversation, she tries to convince Torvald not to 
fire Krogstad. Although she does not confess her 
transactions with Krogstad to Torvald, Nora speaks to 
Torvald on Krogstad 's behalf. Her attempts at influencing 
Torvald are thwarted when Torvald speaks of Krogstad' s 
crime, forgery, and of his moral failure. During this 
scene Nora begins to assert her individuality, while still 
remaining the woman she is supposed to be. 

Ibsen recognizes Nora's potential for individual growth 
in the fmal scene of the play. She renounces her life with 
Torvald and decides to leave him and their children. In 
this scene Torvald discovers her loan from Krogstad and 
her forgery to obtain the loan. He does not recognize the 
courage Nora displayed when she took the responsibility 
for saving his life, but instead, he thinks of himself and his 
reputation. Only when he receives the I.O.U. from 
Krogstad does he "forgive" Nora for her actions. He 
exclaims, "Yes, yes, it's true! I am saved! Nora, I am 
saved!" (399). When Nora asks her fate, he replies that 
she, too, is saved. Because he does not think of her until 
she questions him, Torvald once again demonstrates his 
self-centeredness and his inability to recognize Nora in any 
way except how she relates to him and his happiness. 

Torvald does not realize at first the great change that 
has occurred in Nora since his discovery of her actions. 
She had wanted him to tell her that they would face it 
together, that he would "step forward and take all the 
blame" (402) and then give her the chance not to let him, 



106 Southern Academic Review 

but instead, he denounces her as a wife and a mother. 
After Nora tells him what she had wanted, Torvald says, 
"But no man can be expected to sacrifice his honor, even 
for the person he loves" (402). Nora willingly risked 
everything important to her so that Torvald could regain his 
health, but he will not blemish his reputation in order to 
save her. 

When Nora perceives her true relationship with 
Torvald, she is unable to reconcile herself to her fate as a 
wife to him and as a mother to his children. She blames 
him and says, "It's your fault that I have done nothing with 
my life" (401). She attempts to explain the change that 
has occurred within her and tells Torvald, "I believe that 
I am first and foremost a human being, like you~or 
anyway, that I must try to become one" (401). In order to 
do this, Nora must break away from her domestic life and 
all that has defmed her as a woman and a person in 
nineteenth-century society. Joan Templeton explains this 
in her essay "The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, 
Feminism, and Ibsen." Templeton writes, 

When she realizes that she is unfit to do anything in 

life and announces her remedy— T have to educate 

myself. '--she expresses a nineteenth-century 

feminism's universally agreed-upon base for women's 

emancipation. (32) 

Through the course of A Doll's House, Nora has grown 

from a naive woman, independent enough to act on her 

own to help her husband yet not autonomous enough to 

confront him with what she has done, into a person able to 

take responsibility for her actions, despite their being in 

direct conflict with the norms placed upon her by her 

husband and by society. 

The change and development of Nora's character in A 
Doll's House directly contrasts the static characterization 



Brewer 107 

and lack of development of Linda in Death of a Salesman. 
Nora exhibits the potential for change throughout the play, 
but Linda never has this ability. Nora blames Torvald for 
suppressing her ability to grow as a person; Linda never 
even thinks to blame Willy. She seems content with her 
position as wife and mother throughout the production. In 
Willy's flashbacks ihrowghovX Death of a Salesman, Miller 
characterizes Linda as the stereotypical housewife; she puts 
the laundry out to dry. Linda does not assert herself as a 
person the way in which Nora does, and she allows Willy 
and his fantasies to control her life. 

Linda does not change into an autonomous person even 
when she is faced with Willy's suicide attempts. Instead of 
approaching Willy with the gas piping or with her 
knowledge that his car wrecks have not been accidents, she 
tries to placate him and make him feel better. She instructs 
her sons to do the same. When she tells Biff and Happy 
about finding the piping, she says, 

How can I mention it to him... How can I insult him 

that way? I don't know what to do. I live from day 

to day, boys. It tell you, I know every thought in his 

mind. It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell 

you he put his whole life into you and you've turned 

your backs on him. Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his 

life is in your hands! (Miller 773) 

Instead of taking any action on her part, Linda places the 

responsibility for Willy on Biff. Miller does not give 

Linda the ability to do anything but act as the nurturing 

wife; she cannot break out of this mold and change their 

lives. 

In the last scene of Death of a Salesman, Linda sits by 
Willy's grave. Even at this point in the play, Linda does 
not try to understand Willy or the role she took in 
perpetuating his fantasies. She speaks to Willy's grave of 



108 Southern Academic Review 

how their house mortgage has been paid and deludes 
herself in believing that they were "free and clear" (797). 
She allows herself to continue believing in the false hopes 
and visions of her life with Willy after his death. She has 
not changed from the woman she was in the first scene of 
the play. 

Both A Doll's House and Death of a Salesman may be 
termed "problem plays," for they both deal with social 
issues in the context of the societies in which they are set. 
While Ibsen focuses on the problem of women and their 
place in society in A Doll's House, Miller centers his play 
around the perception of the "American dream." The 
American dream has typically been a male one, which may 
account for Miller's marginalizing of his main female 
character. Miller's tragic hero is the male character, 
Willy, while Ibsen's hero is the woman, Nora. Nora 
seems on the surface to be typical for her age amd place in 
society, but as the play continues, it becomes obvious that 
she is a much deeper person than may be thought at first 
glance. Ibsen instills in her the ability to change and 
develop, while Miller pays attention to Linda only to make 
her a part of Willy's American fantasy. 

Perhaps Ibsen did not consciously create Nora in order 
to facilitate the feminist movement that was beginning to 
dawn in Europe and in the United States, but her 
characterization, and A Doll's House as a whole, has been 
used to show the plight of women in the two varying 
societies. Templeton writes, 

The universalist critics of ^4 Doll's House make the 
familiar claim that the work can be no more about 
women than men because the interests of both are the 
same "human" ones; sex is irrelevant, and thus 
gender nonexistent, in the literary search for the self, 
which transcends and obliterates mere biological and 



Brewer 109 

social determination... But to say that Nora Helmer 
stands for the individual in search of his or her 
self... is wrong, if not absurd. For it means that 
Nora's conflict has essentially nothing to do with her 
identity as a nineteenth-century married woman, a 
married woman, or a woman. Yet both Nora and A 
Doll's House are unimaginable otherwise. (31) 
Whether or not Ibsen wanted Nora to take up the feminist 
torch, she did and must be analyzed as an independent 
person in the context of being a woman in a male- 
dominated society. 

Linda also exists in a male-oriented society, but Miller 
does nothing to show that he believes women's positions in 
society should change. Miller focuses only on Willy's 
failed pursuit of the American dream and does not allow 
Linda to do anything separate from Willy. Does this lack 
of independent characterization make Miller a chauvinist 
and trivialize Death of a Salesman'^ importance in the 
American literary canon? Because Miller has written such 
a strong assessment of the failure of American culture to 
perpetuate the actual realization of the typical American 
dream by most citizens, his characterization of Linda as 
stereotypical does not make the play a failure. Although 
one may wish that he had done more to make Linda an 
independent woman. Miller and his play withstand this 
criticism. 

Ibsen did influence Miller's choice to write plays in 
which society and its ills play an important part, but Miller 
moves away from Ibsen in his choice of what problems to 
write about. In A Doll's House, Ibsen exhibits the 
problems women faced in nineteenth-century society, but 
Miller chooses not to focus Death of a Salesman on the 
same type of issue. In choosing to make his hero a 
woman, Ibsen breaks from the established norms of heroes 



110 Southern Academic Review 

as males, while Miller, 70 years later, does not. Although 
the plays differ from one another and represent a society 
foreign to the one in which we now live, both are still 
relevant in today's society. Neither the feminist movement 
nor the changes that have occurred in American society in 
the past decades have altered the world to such a great 
degree as to make either play obsolete. 



Brewer 1 1 1 

Works Cited 

Hayman, Ronald. Arthur Miller. New York: Frederick 
Ungar, 1972. 

Heilbrun, Carolyn G. Toward a Recognition of Androgyny. 
New York: Norton, 1964. 

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House. Jacobus 371-403. 

Jacobson, Irving. "Family Dreams in Death of a 
Salesman.'' Critical Essays on Arthur Miller. Ed. 
James J. Martine. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1979. 
44-52. 

Jacobus, Lee A., ed. The Bedford Introduction to Drama. 
New York: St. Martin's, 1989. 

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Jacobus 758-797. 

Templeton, Joan. "The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, 
Feminism, and Ibsen." PMLA 104 (1989): 28-40. 

Thomas, David. Henrik Ibsen. New York: Grove Press, 
1983. 



Wolves and Women: 
The Sexual Fears 
of the Male Protagonists 
in Bram Stoker's Dracula 

Amorak Huey 



With his dark cape, sharp fangs, and strange powers, , 

Count Dracula has become an archetype of evil in our j 

society. In Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, the Count is so I 

dangerous that five men chase him across Europe to j 

destroy him. To these men and to Stoker, the Count 1 
represents pure evil; of that there is little question. 1 

Jonathan Harker, Dr. John Seward, Arthur Godalming, | 

Quincey Morris, and Dr. Abraham Van Helsing band 
together to hunt down this evil and destroy it. They do so, 
as Dr. Van Helsing says, "for the good of mankind" (326). 
But why is it so necessary that Dracula be destroyed? 
What makes him such a threat to "mankind"? It seems that 
Van Helsing' s unintentionally sexist term is rather telling 
about the group's underlying motives in killing Dracula. 
Although the Count attacks only women in the novel, the 
men seem to be more afraid of him than are the women. 
The five men think that they, as men, have a duty to 
protect Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker, whom they see 



Huey 113 

as "their women." By biting the women, Dracula changes 
them into something menacing, horrible—and sexual. The 
men have non-sexual conceptions of women to which they 
expect Lucy and Mina to conform-conventional "feminine" 
roles of virgin, wife, and mother. Dracula and vampirism 
cause Lucy and Mina to reject their traditional roles, thus 
robbing the men of their masculine identities; this 
perceived emasculation is ultimately why the men are so 
threatened by Count Dracula. 

The first instance in the novel of a man's being 
threatened by a sexually aggressive woman occurs in Castle 
Dracula. Jonathan Harker wanders through the castle, 
venturing into rooms that the Count has forbidden him to 
enter. Having fallen asleep in one of those rooms, he 
awakens to find himself in the company of three female 
vampires: 

There was something about them that made me 

uneasy, some longing and at the same time fear. I 

felt in my heart a wicked^ burning desire that they 

would kiss me with those red lips. (46) 

That he is sexually attracted to these vampires is obvious; 

he even thinks briefly of Mina, his fiancee, feeling a 

momentary pang of guilt for his lustful thoughts. His 

desire is somewhat lessened by his fear, however, as one 

of the female vampires takes on an aggression that Jonathan 

finds simultaneously exciting and frightening: 

The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, 
simply gloating. There was a deliberate 
voluptuousness which was both thrilling and 
repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she licked her 
lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight 
the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red 
tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and 
lower went her head as the lips went below the range 



1 14 Southern Academic Review 

of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on 

my throat....! could feel the soft, shivering touch of 

the lips on the super-sensitive skin of my throat, and 

the hard dents of the sharp teeth, just touching and 

pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous 

ecstasy and waited-waited with beating heart. (46- 

47) 

Jonathan recounts the vampire's actions in language that 

describes not only an extremely erotic and sexual act but 

also an animal about to prey. Thus we see that in Jonathan 

Marker's mind (and the minds of the other men in the 

novel) a woman becomes like an animal when she becomes 

sexually dominant. 

In her biography of Bram Stoker, Phyllis Roth claims 
that Jonathan's part in the above scene is not only that of 
willing victim but also that of child (118). Jonathan says 
the female vampire's face seems somehow familiar to him, 
that he seems "to know it in connection with some dreamy 
fear" (46); Roth theorizes that this face is the face of a 
mother presented as archetype. Supporting her claim is the 
fact that as a substitute for Jonathan, Count Dracula gives 
the three women vampires a child (Roth, Stoker 1 18). If 
we accept that Jonathan sees himself as child in this 
situation, then we can see that the seduction becomes all 
the more frightening for a Victorian male who believes in 
an ideal of the maternal, nurturing woman. Jonathan 
becomes aware that the female vampires would have 
destroyed him without Dracula' s intervention, and he 
realizes with horror that they plan to destroy the child that 
Dracula gives them. The female vampire then is a mother, 
but a mother who rejects maternity, a mother who seduces 
and destroys her child rather than caring for it. 

Roth argues that the fear of the devouring female is 
combined with a twisted Oedipal fantasy in the above 



Huey 115 

scene. She claims that the situation conjures up: 

the mythic image of the vagina denrata evident in so 

many folk tales in which the mouth and the vagina 

are identified with one another by the primitive mind 

and pose the threat of castration to all men until the 

teeth are extracted by the hero. {Stoker 123) 

Roth seems to have an excellent point here. The language 

that Stoker uses to describe the vampire's mouth is quite 

evocative and sensual. At the same time, though, it is 

bestial and dangerous. This theory also explains in part 

Jonathan's dual response of arousal and terror. He is 

excited by the vaginal mouth but made wary by the sharp 

teeth that threaten him. 

Jonathan's attitude toward these vampire women 
changes between the time he first sees them and the time he 
leaves the castle. At first, he calls the women "ladies, by 
their dress and manner" (45),- and he certainly seems 
willing to let the one vampire have her way with him, but 
after this encounter he is repulsed by the mere thought of 
them, calling them "awful women... devils of the Pit" (61), 
with whom his beloved, chaste Mina has nothing in 
common. The fact that the woman's face seems familiar 
to him, however, shows that Jonathan does indeed identify 
these women with real women. In fact, if they did not 
represent real women, he would not feel shame and guilt 
when he thinks of Mina learning of the incident (Weissman 
74). He says that Mina is unlike the vampires,- yet 

the whole book reveals the fear that they do indeed 
have something in common. There is always the 
possibility that the Victorian wife will become the 
sort of woman that her husband both desires and 
fears. (Weissman 75) 
Jonathan wanted to kiss the vampires, and he submits 
himself to whatever the women have planned for him; he 



116 Southern Academic Review 

later judges and blames not himself but the women, despite 
his passive acceptance of the situation. 

This passivity becomes yet another threat for Jonathan. 
He is repulsed by the female vampires' aggressiveness, 
which robs him of his proper sexual role as a man. He is 
forced to play a submissive role, the part usually assigned 
to women in his society. As he lies waiting, he can feel 
the teeth on his flesh, and his part becomes even more 
feminine, waiting for penetration. In addition, the woman 
plans to draw out of Jonathan "the fluid necessary for life" 
(Roth, Stoker 121). Roth suggests that Jonathan seems to 
view this act as a form of castration (122). Certainly he 
leaves Castle Dracula to escape Dracula and the women in 
hopes of preserving his life, yet his manhood also seems to 
be at stake. Before he begins the climb down the cliff to 
safety, he writes in his diary that "the precipice is steep 
and high. At its foot a man may sleep—as a man" (62). 

Although how the female vampires came to be is never 
explicitly spelled out, Dracula' s control over them seems 
to indicate that he created them. In addition, he reminds 
them that they should know from past actions that he 
knows how to love (47),^ intimating that he once loved 
them, or perhaps had sex with them. They are all three 
quite physically attractive, and from Jonathan's responses 
to them, we can gather that they are relatively youthful. 
We do not know what these women were like before 
Dracula made them vampires, but we do know what the 
two women whom he attacks in the novel are like. Mina 
is newly married when she is attacked; Lucy is engaged. 
As critic Judith Weissman points out, Dracula does not bite 
"single women, preadolescent women, or old women. He 
attacks women who are desired by other men and who are 
becoming sexually experienced" (75). When Dracula bites 
Lucy and Mina, they seem to become even more sexually 



Huey 117 

aware, and as they turn into vampires, "they become too 
sexual for their husbands or fiances to endure" (Weissman 
75). 

Lucy is the first of the two women to be attacked by 
Dracula, and we watch as she deteriorates toward death and 
vampirism. During the daytime, she is quite languid and 
sad; at night "she becomes very sexual" (Weissman 75) as 
she comes more and more under the Count's influence. 
But even before the Count's attacks, Lucy seems to be a 
rather sexual being. She tells us directly that she is 
attracted to Arthur, Seward, and Quincey Morris, wishing 
that it were possible for a "girl" to marry three "men," or 
as many as would have her (68). In fact, even her 
sleepwalking, which seems to be a metaphor for sexual 
consciousness, precedes Dracula (Johnson 26). Sex is 
associated with sleeping, even by Mina, who says that men 
and women should be allowed to see each other sleeping 
before they marry (100). By sleepwalking, Lucy takes an 
active role in her own sleeping, an activity which should be 
passive. This active role, then, becomes a metaphor for 
Lucy's awakening sexuality. Lucy's nighttime excursions 
are quite frightening to the men, as are the mysterious bite 
marks on her neck. Metaphorically, these puncture wounds 
and Lucy's loss of blood can be taken to represent her loss 
of virginity—or at the least her loss of innocence. 

During the course of Lucy's illness, she requires blood 
transfusions from each of the four men. The literal and 
metaphorical significance of these transfusions is not lost 
on any of the men."* The blood transfused into Lucy must 
be from a man; women are too frail to provide enough. 
John Seward agrees to be her first donor, but both he and 
Van Helsing are relieved when Arthur shows up in time to 
take his place. It is fitting that her betrothed be her partner 
in such an intimate act. Eventually, however, all four men 



118 Southern Academic Review 

must give of their blood, and they all seem to agree with 
Seward's sentiment that "no man knows, till he experiences 
it, what it is to feel his own lifeblood drawn away into the 
veins of the woman he loves" (137). The transfusions 
seem to make the men feel like men—they all are proud to 
give of themselves in order to save Lucy, to whom they are 
all sexually attracted. Yet they also seem to fear Lucy 
more and more. There is something illicit about the 
transfusions that do not come from Arthur, and Van 
Helsing warns against letting Arthur learn of them for fear 
that he might be jealous or hurt. This attitude stems from 
the sexual nature of the transfusions and of Lucy, and this 
sexuality is closely aligned with her growing vampirism. 

While Lucy's health is declining and she is turning into 
a vampire, a wolf escapes from a nearby zoological 
gardens and appears at her window. From the very 
beginning of the novel, Dracula has been identified with 
wolves, and we assume that he is in control of this one as 
well. In an excerpt from the "Pall Mall Gazette," we read 
of an interviewer investigating the escaped wolf. The wolf, 
named Bersicker, has little plot value other than to show 
Dracula' s hold on Lucy, but his thematic value is 
significant. The interviewer talks to Thomas Bilder, a 
zookeeper, and Bilder says several things that serve to 
connect the wolf to Lucy on a metaphorical level. First, he „ 

says that Bersicker has always been a nice, well-behaved * 

wolf, never causing any trouble. Never, that is, until the 
appearance of a tall, gaunt stranger we know to be the 
Count. Bilder credits the wolf's disappearance to the 
creature's fickle nature. In a statement that seems to sum 
up the attitude toward women shared by all the men in the 
book, he says, "You can't trust wolves no more nor 
women" (145). With this statement, Bilder connects 
wolves, and thus, by association, vampirism, with women, 



Huey 119 

and he declares both of them to be generally untrustworthy 
and equally threatening to men. As one critic, Gail 
Griffm, says, this novel is largely "a novel about wolflike 
women" (145). Bilder further links Lucy and the wolf 
when he says that Bersicker is only a threat to small 
children, foreshadowing Lucy's later victims. 

Just before Lucy dies, she is openly vampiric in front 
of the men for the first time. In a voice hardly her own, 
a voice that is "soft and voluptuous" (168), she beckons 
Arthur to her: "Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come. 
Kiss me!" (168). Arthur begins to respond eagerly to this 
frankly sexual invitation, but Van Helsing prevents him, 
telling him that his life, his soul, and Lucy's soul depend 
on his resistance. The implication of this warning is clear: 
beware of sexually aggressive women. After Lucy dies 
and becomes a full-fledged vampire, it is even more 
important that the men avoid her sexual advances. When 
Arthur goes with the group to destroy her, she again tries 
to seduce (and therefore attack) him: "Come to me, Arthur. 
Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry 
for you" (218). Seward says that there is something 
"diabolically sweet" (218) in her voice, something that 
again is both attractive and repulsive to the men. 

Another aspect of Lucy's vampirism that makes her so 
fearsome to the men is that she attacks only children. Just 
as the three female vampires in Castle Dracula, Lucy 
rejects maternity, becoming a destroyer instead of a 
nurturer. In some ways, Lucy and her rejection of 
motherhood are even more insidious than the other three 
female vampires, because her vampirism is not limited to 
the animal-like savagery of Dracula' s castlemates. Rather, 
Lucy makes children attracted to her. The children she 
bites call her the beautiful lady, and they all want to be her 
victims. Lucy becomes at once seductress and mother; she 



120 Southern Academic Review 

uses the very feminine role that she rejects to further her 
vampirism. When the men confront Lucy in front of her 
tomb, she throws to the ground the child she held at her 
breast, proving that "Dracula has so completely polluted 
her femininity that she has lost all maternal feeling" 
(Griffm 143). This point is when the men lose all feeling 
for her, and her cold-bloodedness brings a groan even from 
her devoted Arthur (217). 

The next night the men follow Lucy into her tomb, and 
Arthur drives a stake through her heart, a symbolically 
phallic deed of great importance. Not only is the act of 
penetrating her with a stake sexually significant, her death 
is described in terms that very closely resemble a 
description of a woman having an orgasm: "The Thing^ in 
the coffm writhed; and a hideous, blood-curdling scream 
came from the opened red lips. The body shook and 
quivered and twisted in wild contortions; the sharp white 
teeth champed together till the lips were cut" (222). Here 
again we have the vagina dentata. Lucy's mouth is 
described in sexual terms, and the men are repulsed by it. 
But here Arthur becomes the hero and removes the teeth 
and the threat. 

That it is Arthur who destroys Lucy is meaningful 
because of the sexual nature of the destruction. Not only 
is Lucy's death evocative of an orgasm, but Arthur's own 
role is described in sexual terms: 

His untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper 
and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilst the blood 
from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around 
it.... Finally [Lucy] lay still. The terrible task was 
over. The hammer fell from Arthur's hand. He 
reeled and would have fallen had we not caught him. 
The great drops of sweat sprang from his forehead, 
and his breath came in broken gasps. (222) 



Huey 121 

Plainly, the act is representative of intercourse. But this is 
correct intercourse, as far as the men are concerned. 
Arthur is the aggressor in consummating his marriage with 
Lucy, and the language even suggests that he takes her 
virginity (the blood symbolizes the loss of her hymen). 
This act of sex restores Arthur to his proper role as a man 
and Lucy to her passive role as a woman. Lucy's 
salvation, as well as the men's, lies in her restoration to 
her correct role as submissive female. The men all breathe 
a great sigh of relief after this scene, grateful that, at least 
temporarily, things have been returned to their natural 
state. 

This "natural state" is short-lived, however. Mina and 
Jonathan Marker are already on their way to London, 
where Mina will become Dracula's next victim. The men 
view Mina somewhat differently than they do Lucy. As 
already stated, the men were all physically and 
romantically attracted to Lucy. They are also attracted to 
Mina, but not quite in the same manner. From his very 
first meeting with her. Van Helsing idealizes Mina. Before 
he knows her well, he compares her to an angel. Seward 
later calls her a "sweet, sweet, good, good woman" (313), 
and the other men seem to share these opinions. For the 
men, Mina becomes "the archetypal Good Woman" 
(Griffin 145), responsible for carrying out the role Lucy 
has abandoned. She is already married, so she becomes 
untouchable. Instead of being the desirable virgin, she 
becomes the loyal wife on her way to being the nurturing 
mother. She is somewhat less sexually threatening than 
was Lucy, and the men become symbolically her sons 
rather than her lovers (Roth, Stoker 121). In addition, 
Mina takes on the role of sister, asexual and caring. Then, 
when she meets Quincey Morris, he calls her "little girl" 
(237), so she takes on a third role, that of "eternal child, 



124 Southern Academic Review 

Dracula, and when Dracula leaves London, the men must 
chase him to save Mina and all "mankind. " Mina asks Van 
Helsing why they have to hunt down Dracula when he has 
left them and is no longer an immediate danger to them. 
His response to her is indicative of the men's fear of her as 
a woman and a vampire: "Because he can live for 
centuries, and you are but mortal woman. Time is now to 
be dreaded—since once he put that mark upon your throat" 
(319). In other words, the men know that once Mina dies, 
she will become as Lucy was: a female vampire who 
seduces and destroys men, rejecting the correct notion of 
femininity and womanhood. 

So, the men set off across Europe to kill Count Dracula 
and end this threat to Mina~and to themselves. But whom 
(or what) exactly are they chasing? In all that has 
occurred, we have actually seen very little of Dracula 
himself.^ In what we have seen of him, we discover that 
he knows perfectly well that the way to intimidate the men 
is through their women. In a face-to-face confrontation in 
one of Dracula' s London homes, he tells the men, "Your 
girls that you love are mine already; and through them you 
and others shall yet be mine" (312). This statement reveals 
a double threat to the men. First, he is attacking their 
society at what the men perceive as its weakest point—its 
women. But the second threat is more immediate and more 
terrifying: 

He can destroy this collective male unconscious 
symbolically, by transforming its ideal Good Women 
into sexual wolves. He is both a sexual competitor 
gloating over his superior prowess and a subliminal 
voice within our heroes, whispering that at heart, the 
girls they love are all potential vampires, that their 
angels are, in fact, whores." (Griffm 147) 
Dracula, then, represents to the men both their 



Huey 125 

shortcomings and their fears. They worry that they are not 
masculine enough to be men and that women can steal what 
masculinity they do have. In short, these men are worried 
that Dracula is a better man than they. 

That the men think of the Count as something of a 
superman is evident also in that they seem to project their 
own desires onto him. Although Dracula is the character 
associated with killing and destruction, most of the "on- 
stage" killing is actually done by the heroes (Roth, 
"Suddenly" 61). Their internal desire to destroy comes to 
the surface when Seward sees the Lucy-vampire. "Had she 
then to be killed I could have done it with savage delight" 
(217), he says. Such speech is hardly to be expected of the 
good guys. In addition, Dracula represents to the men 
power, sex, and immortality, all of which seem to be traits 
desired by men. 

As well as all that he stands for as a man, and rather 
paradoxically, Dracula is also associated with female 
sexuality. In the scene where Mina drinks his blood, the 
language used to describe Dracula' s mouth relates to him 
the qualities of the vagina dentata: 

The Count turned his face. . . .The great nostrils of the 

white aquiline nose opened wide and quivered at the 

edge; and the white sharp teeth, behind the full lips 

of the blood-dripping mouth, clamped together like 

those of a wild beast. (288) 

Again we have the evocative language and the reminder 

that if female sexuality is not destroyed, it will destroy its 

male victims. To the men, this scene is perhaps the most 

horrific they encounter, for it represents their worst fears. 

They know that they must track down Dracula and 

symbolically pull the teeth from the threatening mouth. 

When the men finally reach Transylvania, there are two 
things they must accomplish. Obviously, they have to kill 



126 Southern Academic Review 

Dracula himself, but they also must visit his castle and 
destroy the three female vampires. Van Helsing is chosen 
to kill the female vampires, and he does so, visiting the 
castle during daylight and driving a stake through each of 
them. The act of phallic aggression is reminiscent of 
Lucy's destruction, and these three female vampires die 
similarly, with appropriate orgasmic writhing and 
screeching. Significant in their destruction, however, is 
Van Helsing 's attraction to them. He finds them so 
beautiful, so sexually exciting, that he is hard pressed to 
kill them and is even momentarily entranced. He finds 
their sexual nature both revulsive and attractive, but in the 
end, it is too threatening for him to allow, and he kills 
them. 

In comparison to the deaths of the women vampires, 
Dracula himself dies rather peacefully. Jonathan beheads 
him, Quincey plunges a Bowie knife through his heart, and 
the Count crumbles away into dust (380). With this 
symbolic castration of Dracula, the men restore their world 
to its natural order, freeing Mina from the curse of 
vampirism and sexuality. No longer is Mina a wantonly 
sexual woman, and the men are no longer threatened by 
her. The men have not outgrown or overcome their fears; 
they have merely eliminated the source of those fears. ^ 
They can rest assured that they have fulfilled their 
masculine roles, protecting their Mina from vampirism and 
sex. Appropriately enough, Mina gives birth to a boy on 
the anniversary of Dracula' s death, and that boy is given 
the names of each of our men. In him rests the future; he 
is to be the embodiment of all the positive masculine traits 
the men see in themselves. The novel ends with Van 
Helsing 's words of praise for Mina: 

This boy will someday know what a brave and 
gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her 



Huey ni 

sweetness and loving care; later on he will 
understand how some men so loved her, that they did 
dare so much for her sake. (382) 
Mina has been restored to her position as ideed woman. 
She is sweet and good, maternal and nurturing. 

Dracula is a monster throughout the novel, but his 
threat is more serious than mere blood-sucking and murder. 
If he were simply a killer, the men would most likely have 
let him escape back to Transylvania. However, Dracula 
and vampirism represent a sexuality that the men cannot 
allow in their world—female sexuality. The men fear 
women, and to allow a woman to possess sexual aggression 
is to deny that aggression to men, unstabilizing their self- 
definition. The men see women with desires as menacing 
to their masculinity, and desires are released by Dracula' s 
bite. Therefore, they must chase down Dracula and end 
his power in an effort to save their own. But what is most 
despicable about the men's attitude toward women is the 
dual response to alluring women evinced by the men 
throughout the book. The men are not merely repulsed by 
sexual women; they are also attracted to them. Jonathan 
Marker wants the female vampires in Castle Dracula to kiss 
him, to bite him. Despite his revulsion, he is perfectly 
willing to be their victim. Van Helsing is also quite 
aroused by these vampires. Arthur must be prevented from 
kissing Lucy when she beckons him in front of her tomb. 
The men never stop to think about their own role in this 
attraction. To do so would be to admit weakness, and 
weakness is not masculine. Instead, the men blame the 
women entirely and kill them. It is bad enough that the 
men are afraid of sexual women; it is even worse that they 
want women to be sexual and then destroy them for it. 



128 Southern Academic Review 

Notes 

^Jonathan's use of the adjective wicked is telling. He 
clearly sees sex as something to be abhorred and sexual 
desire as wrong. 

^Critic Gail Griffin argues that the fact that Jonathan sees 
these women as ladies "makes them all the more perversely 
exciting, as only lower-class women were supposed to have 
sexual desires" (138). 

^Critic Clive Leatherdale suggests that the relationship 
between Dracula and the three female vampires has 
incestuous overtones, adding yet another sexual taboo to 
vampirism. According to Leatherdale, Dracula seems to 
represent the husband of one of the vampires and the father 
of the other two, which makes his statement that they 
should know he is able to love even more horrific (149). 

'^The significance of these blood transfusions is great. 
Dracula sucks blood from his victims; Lucy drains the 
blood of the men in these transfusions. The mingling of 
blood is clearly symbolic of sexual intercourse, as blood 
becomes an analogy for semen (Leatherdale 149). Thus, 
Lucy's sexual awakening is furthered by the blood 
transfusions. 

^That John calls Lucy "The Thing" at this point is telling. 
She is now so far removed from his Victorian male sense 
of femininity that he cannot identify her as a woman. 
Moments later, after her vampiric side is destroyed, he 
again calls her Lucy, noting that her "sweetness and 
purity" (222) have been restored. 

^The scar on Mina's head is further significant in that it 
serves to connect Mina with Dracula. Dracula still bears 



Huey 129 

the red scar on his forehead where Jonathan struck him. 
Now they are both marked, warning the world of the 
danger they represent. 

^Dracula's absence throughout a large part of the novel 
seems to reflect the fact that the true enemies of the men 
are women and sexuality. In fact, he himself never 
physically threatens the men, except in Castle Dracula, 
where he tells the female vampires that Jonathan Harker is 
his; this threat, however, proves empty. 

^This reading of the end of the novel is not universally 
shared. One critic, Alan Johnson, believes that by 
destroying Count Dracula, the men have come to terms 
with their fears of women. Johnson believes that Mina and 
Jonathan Harker wind up as equal partners in marriage, 
and that the New Woman triumphs in the person of Mina 
(36). 



130 Southern Academic Review 

Works Cited 

Carter, Margaret L., ed. Dracula: The Vampire and the 
Critics. Ann Arbor: UMI Research P, 1988. 

Griffin, Gail B. "'Your Girls That You Love Are All 
Mine': Dracula and the Victorian Male Sexual 
Imagination." Carter 137-148. 

Johnson, Alan P. "'Dual Life': The Status of Women in 
Dracula. " Sexuality and Victorian Literature. Ed. by 
Don Richard Cox. Knoxville: U Tennessee P, 1984. 
20-39. 

Leatherdale, Clive. Dracula: The Novel and the Legend. 
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Aquarian P, 1985. 

Roth, Phyllis A. Bram Stoker. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. 

— . "Suddenly Sexual Women in Bram Stoker's Dracula. " 
Carter 57-67. 

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. New York: Signet 
Classics, 1965. 

Weissman, Judith. "Women and Vampires: Dracula as a 
Victorian Novel." Carter 69-78. 



The Incompatibility 
of Marxism and Feminism 



Natalie Mever 



Within western industrialized culture, some feminists 
who view capitalism as an oppressive social, economic, and 
political structure have attempted to incorporate feminist 
thought into that of Marxism. In most attempts, however, 
this incorporation repeatedly has meant the compromising 
of feminist needs and aims. In contrast to Marxism, which 
places total emphasis upon the fight to destroy capitalism, 
feminism places as great or greater an emphasis on the 
battle against the forces of patriarchy. Patriarchy, the 
domination of women by men and the institutions among 
men that perpetuate this domination, pervades all areas of 
both the public and private spheres, and yet in spite of 
patriarchy's all-encompassing nature, Marxism gives it 
little attention, deeming it a manifestation of capitalism 
which will disappear after the workers' revolution. 
Although the male wage laborer experiences exploitation 
and oppression under capitalism, his experience cannot be 
generalized to a woman's experience under both capitalism 
and patriarchy. By denying the existence of patriarchy as 
an entity separate from capitalism, Marxism renders itself 



132 Southern Academic Review 

incompatible with the aims of feminism. 

Before turning to a discussion of the relationship 
between Marxism and feminism, it is helpful to examine 
the basic features of traditional Marxist thought. In 
building the case against capitalism, Marxism begins with 
a foundation of human nature as defined through an 
approach of historical-materialism. Unlike liberalism, 
Marxism holds that there is no one universal human nature. 
Instead, according to Marxism, human nature is historical 
in that it is created in the changing contexts of societies. 
The production of food, clothing, and shelter within society 
is what separates humans from animals, since human 
activity is conscious and has direction. This purposeful 
activity is what Marx calls 'praxis.' Through praxis, the 
first historical act is performed -in order to satisfy an 
existing need; in turn, this action creates new needs. In 
this way, humans continually create their own needs while 
at the same time creating their own nature (Jagger 53-54). 

According to traditional Marxism, human nature further 
is characterized by the mode of production in a given 
society. Individuals living in a hunting/gathering society 
differ in nature from those living in an agrarian society, 
just as those individuals living in a feudal society differ in 
nature from those living in a nineteenth-century industrial 
society. Societies are constituted by different modes of 
production, and these modes are fundamental to the 
character of a particular society, which is fundamental to 
the creation of human nature. It follows, in traditional 
Marxist thought, that there can be no abstract individual; 
the individual is constantly changing in response to his or 
her changing society. 

For Marxism, the importance of the mode of 
production in capitalist society lies in the fact that 
capitalism creates class distinctions, which are inherently 



Meyer 133 

hierarchical. Marxism regards class distinctions as creating 
certain categories of social types—the bourgeois and the 
proletarian—and individuals within these two types display 
different characteristics. Therefore it can be said that in 
addition to the combined influences of history and the mode 
of production, human nature is defined also by one's class. 

It is the place of the proletariat, or working class, in 
which Marxist thought is centered. According to Marxism, 
work is valuable. It is through work that humans realize 
their potential as creative beings. Forced work, however, 
is harmful to this potential. A worker's labor power (not 
the labor itself) is seen as property in the person, and this 
property is exploited by capitalism through forced work. 
Capitalism limits, or represses, an individual's creative 
identity because capital, in owning the means of 
production, alienates worker from both product and labor 
power. Workers do not instantly rebel because they are 
held in a sort of mental check by the dominant ideology of 
capitalist society which creates a "false consciousness" 
among the worker class, as well as the bourgeoisie. The 
belief in the inevitability of a class society is an element of 
this false consciousness, as is modem liberal 
contractarianism. Under liberal contractarianism, the 
worker contracts freely with the capitalist, and by definition 
individuals who voluntarily enter into a contract cannot be 
considered exploited. 

Marxism argues that if they are ever to reach their full 
potential, members of the proletariat must lay aside this 
false consciousness and rise up against capitalism, taking 
the means of production into their own hands. It is, in 
fact, the potentiality of humans to achieve their full creative 
powers that makes them potentially revolutionary. Without 
this potential, workers are merely exploited workers, 
lacking any sort of initiative for revolution (Eisenstein 7). 



134 Southern Academic Review 

With this initiative, though, workers will rise up, and 
according to traditional Marxist thought, their revolution 
will bring an end to their alienation and will create a 
classless society in which the state shall wither away. 

These are the basic tenets of traditional Marxist 
thought, and it is within these principles that feminists 
have, at times, attempted to create parallels between 
Marxist and feminist theory. It is not difficult to see how 
the doctrines of Marxism would have first attracted 
feminists. The idea of the relationship of the proletariat to 
the bourgeois as analogous to the relationship of women to 
men can appear ideal. The male gender, seen as holding 
the reigns of power, neatly fits into the category of 
"bourgeoisie," while the female gender, seen as laboring 
under the dominance of men, falls equally as neatly into the 
category of "proletariat. " Some feminists therefore could 
make the connection that woman, like workers, are unable 
to achieve their potential within the existing structures of 
society, and so become a potentially revolutionary body of 
individuals. 

More specifically, this relationship of worker to 
capitalist has been seen as analogous to the relationship of 
wife to husband. It is this analogy that has been 
particularly attractive to some feminists, for within it lie all 
the possibilities of a comparison of the employment 
contract with the marriage contract. The above-mentioned 
relationship between males and females is too broad in that 
it cannot be seen in the context of a contract, for women, 
as a group, do not enter a contract to be dominated by 
men. By narrowing the scope to the relationship of 
husband and wife, feminists have been able to argue that 
the marriage contract, like the employment contract, is an 
exploitative contract. 

The early feminists fought for civil independence for 



Meyer 135 

the wife, whose property and person passed form father to 
husband under the law; the wife had no "civic" personality. 
Women also fought for women's suffrage; enfranchisement 
is, like the ownership of property, one of the basic 
freedoms associated with the individual under modem 
liberal thinking, in which supposedly all individuals 
exercise rational thought, although, "all individuals" 
originally included only white male property holders. 
Women, as well as a number of minorities, were excluded. 
Having gained recognition as rational individuals, women 
continue to argue for more equal laws within the marriage 
contract. 

The liberal feminist argument based upon women as 
rational individuals, however, can be turned against itself. 
Opponents argue that the marriage contract is just that, a 
contract— 2ind implicit within the definition of contract is 
the idea that only rational individuals are able to "contract 
in." More importantly, a contract is valid only if these 
rational individuals enter into it voluntarily. Therefore, 
liberal feminists are caught in a theoretically-bound web. 
Their opponents argue that women, as rational individuals, 
by definition enter freely into marriage contracts of which 
they fully know the conditions, and for some, the 
conditions of the marriage contract seem fairly equal: the 
husband provides shelter and security in return for 
housework, childbearing an rearing, and sexual services 
from the wife. Further, marriage contracts are not 
compulsory, so those women who believe that the 
conditions are unfair are not compelled to enter into the 
contract. For liberal feminists to argue that women are not 
aware of the conditions or are not entering these contracts 
voluntarily is to undercut their own arguments that women 
are rational individuals just as are men. 

To counter these arguments, some feminists employ 



136 Southern Academic Review 

Marxist thought and its revealing commentary upon the 
exploitative character of the employment contract. 
According to traditional Marxist thought, capitalists, using 
the tools of modem liberal contractarianism, maintain an 
overarching belief system in which workers enter into the 
employment contract voluntarily, in which no capitalist 
forces any man to become a worker, and in which workers 
know the conditions of their contracts. In reality, Marxism 
argues, workers are forced into employment contracts 
simply because they have no other options. Capital owns 
the means of production which leaves workers no choice 
but to sell their labor power, for labor power, as property 
in one's person, is the only property workers own. 

Similarly, feminists are able to argue that the marriage 
contract, like the employment contract, is not really a 
voluntary venture. Men control women's economic 
opportunities, so women are forced to enter this "contract" 
because economically they are left no other choice. The 
argument continues that the rational individual as universal 
is simply a figment of false consciousness, an idea in which 
women as well as workers have been deceived. As 
Pateman points out, however, the marriage contract and the 
employment contract are not the same sort of contract; the 
employment contract concerns workers' labor power, but 
the marriage contract concerns women's labor {Sexual 
Contract 136). Labor power is something a worker can 
exchange for a wage. It is also something that can be 
exploited by capital through alienation. Marxism takes 
care to emphasize this distinction between labor and labor 
power. In contrast to a worker, a wife contracts out her 
labor (what she does), not her labor power (her ability to 
do what she does); in effect, she contracts out herself. 

In effect, women's oppression issues from the male 
gender as well as from the ruling class as purported by 



Meyer 137 

Marxism. Marxism does not explain this double 
oppression experienced by women, and herein lies the 
major failure of Marxism in regard to the needs and 
purposes of feminism. The inappropriateness of comparing 
the marriage contract to the employment contract is only 
one aspect of an examination of the incompatibility of 
Marxism and feminism; the more closely feminism 
examines Marxism, the more unsuitable the partnership 
appears. As mentioned above, traditional Marxism 
contends that woman's nature, like man's, is related 
historically to the developments of particular societies; 
there is no prior knowledge of woman's nature, nor is there 
a "universal woman" just as there is no "universal man." 
On the one hand, there is an attempt within Marxism 
to generalize the "place" of women to that of men's. 
Marxist categories are gender-blind; and individual is either 
a bourgeois or proletarian. One either owns the means of 
production, or one is exploited by the owners. There is no 
recognition in Marxist theory that woman's place is 
characterized not only by production but also by her status 
as a woman. A man is characterized and his nature created 
in reaction to his status as a member of the proletariat or 
the bourgeoisie. A woman also can be a member of either 
of these groups; her position within these groups, however, 
is characterized further by her status as a woman. In the 
essay "Women, Class and Sexual Differences," Alexander 
explains that 

Against Marxism's claims that the determining social 
relationship is between wage labor and capital, 
exploiter and exploited, proletarian and capitalist, 
feminism insists on the recognition that subjective 
identity is also constructed as masculine or feminine, 
placing the individual as husband or wife, mother or 
father, son or daughter, and so on. ("Women, Class" 



138 Southern Academic Review 

169) 
Marxism's gender-blind categories do not take this fact into 
account. Hartmann, in The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism 
and Feminism, maintains that, 

just as capital creates these places [bourgeoisie and 
proletariat] indifferent to the individuals who fill 
them, the categories of Marxist analysis, class, 
reserve army of labor, wage-laborer, do not explain 
why particular people fill particular places. (10) 
They do not tell why it is that women are subordinate to 
men. 

On the other hand traditional Marxist theory does 
recognize some distinction between the places of men and 
women; it does not, however, do so in a way that adopts 
this distinction as a central component of Marxist theory. 
According to Elshtain, in The Origin of the Family, 
Patriarchy, Property, and the State, argues that the first 
class antagonism coincided with the development of 
antagonism between man and woman in monogamous 
marriage; the first class oppression was that of the female 
gender by the male gender {Public Man 258). The family 
relationships of monogamous marriage arose in relation to 
the changing modes of production. Male domination was 
based upon the ownership of private property, and the 
subsequent dependence of the women upon the men. Men 
now had property which they wished their offspring to 
inherit. Only through monogamous marriage could men 
most completely ensure the legitimacy of their offspring. 
So, in this "class division," men assumed a place within the 
category of the propertied bourgeoisie and women were 
forced into a place in the proletariat. 

Engels appears to be sympathetic to the plight of 
women by comparing women to what he considers the 
oppressed class in a class society. He perhaps is 



Meyer 139 

sympathetic, but he is not overly concerned for he then 
proceeds to subordinate relations of reproduction inherent 
in the male/female class division to the relations of 
reproduction inherent in the traditional worker/capitalist 
class division (Eisenstein 12). The husband is the 
bourgeois and the wife is the proletarian, but only within 
the boundaries of the family, within the private sphere. 
Within the economic, public sphere of production, class 
division is based on different characteristics wholly 
divorced from any male/female distinctions. It is with 
these traditional class distinctions that Marxism is most 
concerned. Women's place is generalized to that of men's, 
yet she is not actually given full consideration. 

When Marxism does treat woman's oppression, it is 
seen in connection with production, just as is workers' 
oppression. Marxism hinges on the fact that capitalism is 
the prevailing mode of production. Women at the time of 
Marx and Engels were largely excluded from the work 
force as structured by capital. Marxists believed then, as 
they do now, that capital has benefitted from women's 
domination by men. Capital keeps women anchored in the 
home, providing free labor in terms of food preparation, 
childbearing and childrearing, cleaning, etc. In this way, 
capital, according to Marxism, ensures the continuation of 
the next generation of workers and the continued upkeep of 
the present workforce, and all at little cost to capital itself. 
The wives at home free the husbands to work. Marxism 
cites capitalism as an oppressor of women as a group and 
workers as a whole; however, Marxism does not fmd that 
men as a group oppress women as a group (Jagger 65). 
Therefore, although the domination of women by men 
results from the acquiring of property by men, this 
domination is now maintained by capitalism. 

The solution which Marxism offers to this problem is 



140 Southern Academic Review 

that women should join men in the revolution to end 
capitalism, for only through the end of capitalism will 
everyone be free to reach his or her potential. Women's 
entrance into public industry and wage labor will result in 
the equality of men and women, and at the same time, will 
aid in the overthrow of capitalism. This overthrow will 
effect the end of male domination because there will be no 
more private property. Until this overthrow, however, 
working women will be working wives with a double day 
of work, inside the home and out. Again, Marxism blames 
capitalism for this double burden, and moreover says that 
it is a burden which will last only as long as does capital. 

Some feminist arguments raise objections to these 
"solutions" as constrticted by Marxism. Elshtain contends 
that Engels fmds the source of women's oppression "both 
in their exclusion from the mode of production and their 
exclusive inclusion in the sphere of reproduction" (262). 
The distinction made between these two spheres by 
Marxism is an important factor in understanding the 
divergence of feminist and Marxist thought. The public 
and private spheres, for Marxism, are spheres of 
production and reproduction, respectively. The economic 
theory of exploitation which forms the basis for Marxist 
thought is seen as separate from and independent of 
domestic and reproductive life. There is a gender division 
of labor that arose in the first human realization that a child 
is the result of a specific sex act. This realization confines 
women to the position of reproductive individuals. Their 
position in society is created and limited by their biology. 
Human praxis is not the only constant in an equation of 
human nature; the gender division of labor also factors in. 

Marx could not have foreseen the future advancements 
of reproductive technology that are making it possible to 
remove women from the center of reproductive activity. 



Meyer 141 

Early Marxism had to assume that, even after the 
proletariat revolution and the advent of socialism and 
collectivized work, women would remain the childbearers. 
Such limitation would result in a "hierarchical sexual 
ordering of society" in the future socialist society 
(Eisenstein 9). Marx, however, did not envision a 
hierarchical ordering of men and women, for "the sexual 
division of labor as the sexual division of roles, purposes, 
activities, etc. had no unique existence for Marx" 
(Eisenstein 9). The idea that women might still feel the 
weight of male dominance in the new society due to a 
gender-based division of tasks was not rejected by Marx or 
even dismissed as unimportant; the thought simply did not 
occur. 

It is within present Marxist thought that the idea of the 
sexual division of labor, brought forward by feminists, has 
been dismissed as either secondary to the cause of Marxism 
or as a manifestation of the false consciousness promoted 
by capitalism. In the first case, Marxism places feminism 
in a subordinate position and places what it considers 
"women's issues" on the periphery of Marxist activism. In 
the second case concerning false consciousness, Marxism 
has accused feminism of falling under the influence of 
capitalism in its constant attempt to subordinate workers 
through the promulgation of false beliefs. Feminist ideas 
serve capitalism and the ruling class by obscuring class 
lines, and only solidarity between men and women in the 
working class will bring an end to capitalism and male 
domination. But is there any reason to accept such a rosy 
picture for the future? Eisenstein argues correctly that life 
under a communist state 

would still be structured by a sexual division of labor 
which would entail different life options for men and 
women. Sex roles would preassign tasks to women 



142 Southern Academic Review 

which would necessitate continued alienation and 

isolation. (11) 
The removal of capitalism as the prevailing mode of 
production would not ensure the erasure of the sexual 
division of labor and subsequent social equality between 
men and women. 

Presently, the sexual division of labor is not limited to 
the "private" world, but is also inherent in the "public" 
world. Marxism argues that women who are oppressed are 
those who are excluded from wage labor (Jagger 215). 
This would suggest that those who are in wage labor do not 
experience oppression, at least not in a manner that differs 
from the oppression experienced by the male worker. 
Since the time of Marx, women have steadily increased 
their numbers in the workforce. According to Marxism, 
this should have brought equality between working class 
women and men, but this has not happened. When women 
initially entered the workforce, it brought low wages for 
women and men. Men then fought to exclude women from 
unions, thus lessening women's chances to obtain and 
maintain higher wages. Men fought for the "family wage, " 
a wage on which a male worker should be able to support 
his family without the aid of other income, in order that 
their wives should remain in the home. The jobs and 
wages of those wives that did join the workforce were seen 
as secondary, supplementary incomes to that of their 
husbands. Today, with a few exceptions, women continue 
to receive lower wages for jobs which are usually gender- 
defmed—secretary, social worker, consumer, and restaurant 
services continue to be lower paid jobs reserved for women 
(Hartmann 21-22). In this way, work, which had been 
predicted to give economic independence and equality to 
women, has instead served only to further their dependence 
upon men and increase men's domination over them. 



Meyer 143 

Although both men and women are now in wage labor, 
feminism argues that the Marxist concept of alienation of 
the worker is male-biased. "Worker" almost invariably 
means "male worker." Alienation occurs when the male 
worker is forced to sell his labor power to capital and yet 
never receives any benefits of the product of this labor 
power. The worker is free from alienation only when he 
eats, drinks, and procreates. A wife, however, is 
compelled to provide food, drink, and procreative services 
and so fmds no "freedom" in them (Jagger 131). Working 
women are twice-alienated because of their "double 
workday." Their "defined sexual inferiority" allows 
society to pay these women lower wages and still expect 
them to provide maintenance for their working husbands 
and carry on as chief childbearers and childrearers. These 
women are not labelled "workers;" instead, the label 
changes to "working mothers," and as Eisenstein puts it, 
"the two jobs get done for the price of one" (29). 

A "working mother" spans both the private and public 
spheres, as labelled by Marxism, yet oppression, as defined 
by Marxism, occurs only in the public sphere. Marxism 
visualizes oppression in terms of wage labor, the public 
sphere, the economy, material conditions, and capitalist 
class relations. It does not see oppression in terms of 
domestic labor, the private sphere, the family, ideology, or 
the sexual division of labor (Eisenstein 6). It is this 
dichotomy to which feminism objects. Private and public, 
which Marxism views as separate worlds, actually are 
interrelated. Marxists assume that it is possible to reach an 
understanding of the public realm of economics and politics 
without including the private sphere (Pateman "Feminist 
Critiques" 118). It is the interaction, however, of the 
spheres of private and public life which shapes economic 
and political structures, and these two spheres are 



144 Southern Academic Review 

connected by the crucial "missing link" which has been 
eluded to throughout this discussion: patriarchy. 

Patriarchy is at the crux of the conflict between 
feminism and Marxism, between the marriage contract and 
the employment contract, between the female worker, the 
male worker, and the gender division of labor, in general. 
Hartmann has defined patriarchy as the "set of social 
relations between men, which have a material base, and 
which, though hierarchical, create or establish 
interdependence and solidarity among men that enables 
them to dominate women" (14). Patriarchy accounts for 
the fact that while some men have control over other men, 
all men, regardless of rank, have economic and political 
control over some women. Man is an "unfree master" 
because he is both master and subordinate (Pateman Sexual 
Contract 42). Patriarchy accounts for male domination; 
Marxist theory fails to account for patriarchy. In fact, it 
might be more accurate to say that Marxist theory denies 
the existence of patriarchy. Patriarchy, however, is a form 
of power, and despite any denial by Marxism, all power is 
political, even that which is exercised in the so-called 
private realm (Pateman "Feminist Critiques" 119). The 
problem of patriarchy should not be seen as a private 
"feminist issue," but as a public "societal issue." 

It is patriarchy which fills the theoretical gaps or 
assumptions of Marxism on issues concerning woman. 
Pateman observes that Engels, in his assertion that the 
solution to women's oppression is to bring women into 
wage labor, is assuming several points. One is that, once 
they have entered public industry, women will be equal to 
men. A second is that "men as men have no stake in their 
power over women. " A third is that gender is irrelevant to 
subordination and that the oppression of woman should be 
understood as identical to the oppression of the proletariat 



Meyer 145 

{Sexual Contract 134). 

The existence of patriarchy calls into question these 
assumptions. In reference to the first, Marxists have 
claimed that there will be a withering of male domination 
because women in wage labor would be equal to men. 
Women have entered wage labor, but male domination has 
not ended. Women have been incorporated into the 
workforce as women, not as workers. Marxism does not 
account for this; patriarchy does. 

Nor can Marxism account for why men did not fight 
for equality of women in wage labor. Why, instead, did 
men actively fight against women's entrance into wage 
labor, even though solidarity of all members of the working 
class would be the strongest weapon in the fight against 
capitalism? The answer is that men were guarding against 
inroads into their patriarchal power, their privilege as men. 

Women have not received the same treatment as men 
in the workforce. The sexual division of labor results in 
restricted opportunities for women. Assuming that 
women's oppression is identical to that of men's is failing 
to recognize men and women's different experiences under 
patriarchy. 

Marxists also claimed that the end of capitalism would 
bring the end of domination by both capital and men 
because capital would no longer be capable of exploiting 
women by using them as bargaining tokens. According to 
Marxism, one way that capital keeps working class men in 
a subordinate position is by making them unfree masters, 
by trading women for subservience. What Marxism fails 
to ask is why men accept this as a valid trade in the first 
place. Again, patriarchy is the answer to this question. 

Marxism and feminism's divergence on the 
fundamental issue of patriarchy makes the two 
incompatible. Marxism emphasizes the public sphere, 



146 Southern Academic Review 

assuming that the private sphere is separate and 
unimportant and that women's issues fall into this latter 
sphere. Patriarchy crosses into both the public and the 
private spheres, and yet it has no theoretical position in 
Marxist thought. Patriarchy, however, is found in all 
relationships, including those of Marxism. Patriarchal 
power makes the public dominant to the private; it makes 
the husband dominant to the wife; it makes the male 
worker dominant to the female worker. Marxism argues 
that feminist politics obscure class lines by drawing 
together women from both the proletariat and the 
bourgeois, and that in doing so, feminism is serving the 
interests of the ruling class and capitalism. Feminism 
argues that by failing to combat patriarchy or even admit 
that it exists, Marxism is serving the interests of capital by 
maintaining hierarchies among men. In fact, Marxism as 
201 ideology may actually be subversive to women's 
interests. 



Meyer 147 

Works Cited 

Alexander, Sally. "Women, Class and Sexual 

Differences." Phillips 160-75. 

Eisenstein, Zillah, ed. "Developing a Theory of Capitalist 
Patriarchy." Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case of 
Socialist Feminism. New York: Monthly Review P, 
1979. 5-40. 

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Public Man. Private Woman. 
Princeton: Princeton UP, 1988. 

Hartmann, Heidi. "The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism 
and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union." 
The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism. 
Ed. Lydia Sargent. London: Pluto P, 1981. 1-41. 

Jaggar, Alison M. Feminist Politics and Human Nature. 
Sussex: Harvester, 1983. 

Pateman, Carole. "Feminist Critiques of the Public/Private 
Dichotomy." Phillips 103-26. 

— . The Sexual Contract. Cambridge: Polity P, 1988. 

Phillips, Anne, ed. Feminism and Equality. Oxford: Basil 
Blackwell, 1987. 



146 Southern Academic Review 

assuming that the private sphere is separate and 
unimportant and that women's issues fall into this latter 
sphere. Patriarchy crosses into both the public and the 
private spheres, and yet it has no theoretical position in 
Marxist thought. Patriarchy, however, is found in all 
relationships, including those of Marxism. Patriarchal 
power makes the public dominant to the private; it makes 
the husband dominant to the wife; it makes the male 
worker dominant to the female worker. Marxism argues 
that feminist politics obscure class lines by drawing 
together women from both the proletariat and the 
bourgeois, and that in doing so, feminism is serving the 
interests of the ruling class and capitalism. Feminism 
argues that by failing to combat patriarchy or even admit 
that it exists, Marxism is serving the interests of capital by 
maintaining hierau^chies among men. In fact, Marxism as 
an ideology may actually be subversive to women's 
interests. 



Meyer 147 

Works Cited 

Alexander, Sally. "Women, Class and Sexual 

Differences." Phillips 160-75. 

Eisenstein, Zillah, ed. "Developing a Theory of Capitalist 
Patriarchy." Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case of 
Socialist Feminism. New York: Monthly Review P, 
1979. 5-40. 

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Public Man. Private Woman. 
Princeton: Princeton UP, 1988. 

Hartmann, Heidi. "The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism 
and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union." 
The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism. 
Ed. Lydia Sargent. London: Pluto P, 1981. 1-41. 

Jaggar, Alison M. Feminist Politics and Human Nature. 
Sussex: Harvester, 1983. 

Pateman, Carole. "Feminist Critiques of the Public/Private 
Dichotomy." Phillips 103-26. 

— . The Sexual Contract. Cambridge: Polity P, 1988. 

Phillips, Anne, ed. Feminism and Equality. Oxford: Basil 
Blackwell, 1987. 



African- Americans 
and Automobiles in Fiction 

Dr. Roger N. Casey 



A seeming norm in American literature finds the 
coupling of automobiles and African Americans leading to 
calamity: in Invisible Man (1952) the protagonist is 
expelled from college for driving a white trustee across 
"the white line dividing the highway" to the black side of 
town (38); in Native Son (1940) Bigger Thomas murders 
Mary Dalton ultimately as a consequence of his position as 
a chauffeur; and as early as Ama Bon temps 's "A Summer 
Tragedy" (1933) black sharecroppers use their car to 
commit suicide. White authors coupling blacks and cars 
have created equally disastrous results: Coalhouse Walker, 
Jr., of E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime (1975) loses his life over 
the restoration of his Model T Ford, for example. Henry 
Ford's dictum concerning paint choice on his Model T, 
"Any color as long as it's black," may identify the primary 
reason for these characters' travails—the color of their skin. 
These recurring calamities suggest that to these authors the 
automobile, the most visible technological machine in 
American society, embodies a larger machine— that of 
racism and its byproducts of discrimination, exploitation, 
and alienation. 



Casey 149 

"A Summer Tragedy" chronicles the final hours of Jeff 
and Jenny, aging black sharecroppers who decide to end 
their lives rather than continue with the infirmities of old 
age and the difficulties imposed on them by their hard- 
driving landlord. Their method of demise is their automo- 
bile, an aging Model T, which they drive off a cliff into a 
raging river. On several occasions, Bontemps parallels the 
increasingly decrepit bodies of Jeff and Jenny with the 
mechanical condition of "the little rattle-trap car," the Ford 
becoming emblematic of the couple's condition: 

The engine came to life with a sputter and bang that 
rattled the old car from radiator to tail light.... The 
sputtering and banging increased. The rattling be- 
came more violent. That was good. It was good 
banging, good sputtering and rattling, and it meant 
that the aged car was still in running condition. (139) 
Jeffs and Jenny's bodies correlate to the mechanical 
clamor of the car: "The suggestion of the trip fell into the 
machinery of his mind like a wrench.... When he took his 
hands off the wheel, he noticed that he was trembling 
violently.... A few moments later she was at the window, 
her voice rattling against the pane like a broken shutter" 
(139~emphases added). Jeffs heart beats like "the little 
pounding motor of the car," which "worked harder and 
harder. The puff of steam from the cracked radiator 
became larger" (145). Even the shed which houses the car 
is likened to the house of the old couple and metaphorically 
to the couple themselves; "miraculously, despite wind and 
downpour, it still stood" (139). 

Clearly Bontemps wishes us to view the old couple in 
much the same vein as the vehicle: both have existed for a 
service function, and both have been literally driven into 
the ground. Jeff comments how his landlord feels that one 
mule is enough to plow forty acres and how such a philoso- 



150 Southern Academic Review 

phy has resulted in the deaths of many mules, and many 
men, he adds. He is proud to have survived such a rigor- 
ous existence. Yet like the Model T, his and Jenny's 
radiators are cracked: he is partially crippled by a stroke, 
Jenny is blind, and both fear they will end up like a 
discarded mule, or a junked automobile. They therefore 
choose to do what they perceive they must do to die with 
dignity. 

Neither Jeff nor Jenny can bear the loss of each other: 
he is her eyes, she his hands. The old couple and the car 
also have a symbiotic relationship. Jeff and Jenny could 
have chosen a more passive role for the car in their 
suicides, for example, using it for carbon monoxide poison- 
ing. Instead, they have the car "die" with them, and 
Bontemps leaves us, not with the couple, but with the 
image of the torn car: 

In another instant the car hit the water and dropped 

immediately out of sight. A little later it lodged in 

the mud of a shallow place. One wheel of the 

crushed and upturned little Ford became visible 

above the rushing water. (148) 

The couple regards the car as "a peculiar treasure" (139). 

Like most farmers of the thirties, they fmd the car 

indispensable. The automobile is their one link to the 

outside world, their source of mobility, particularly since 

old age cripples the mobility of their own bodies. 

Ironically, in spite of the car, they are unable to escape 

from their condition, neither physically nor economically, 

and this compounds their desperate state. Before his death, 

Jeff remembers especially one event in his life: the time he 

took a trip to New Orleans, the last time he really left the 

farm behind. Now the old couple goes on one final 

journey, a journey to their deaths made possible by the car. 

The story of one old couple may seem insignificant, as 



Casey 151 

Bon temps relates in this image: "Chugging across the green 
countryside, the small, battered Ford seemed tiny indeed" 
(140); yet since their story is called a tragedy, the two are 
obviously meant to be seen as heroic figures. They 
exemplify the untold stories of countless lives worn out as 
cogs in a machine exploiting them for cheap labor and 
holding them captive in indebtedness. In the story's 
conclusion we are torn between rejoicing over the couple's 
ability to die in a manner they see befitting dignity and 
outrage over the harshness of a life which has led them to 
make such a decision. Like a Model T, Jeff and Jenny 
have been pushed to their limits and discarded, products of 
a cycle of exploitation. 

In another story from the same year, "Saturday Night: 
Portrait of a Small Southern Town, 1933," Bontemps again 
uses automobiles to illuminate racial oppression in his 
society. In this story the narrator speaks from his car as he 
drives through town on a Saturday evening. A white man 
has been killed by a hit-and-run driver, leading one charac- 
ter to remark: "We know right well that it was a colored 
man who was driving that car. . . .That driver refused to stop 
because he feard a mob" (164). On another occasion a 
political speaker remarks: "Take Macon County fer'n in- 
stance. Down yonder there's seven niggers to every white 
man.... Yet 'n still they got heap better roads 'n we got 
here in Madison County" (159). Both quotations clearly 
demonstrate prevailing racist attitudes, but by far the most 
prominent racist incident involving an automobile recounts 
the story of two black men helping a white driver: 
[A]t the turn of the Pike there is an automobile stuck 
in the heavy mud. We slow down. The white driver 
beckons to two blacks who are about to pass him 
without stopping: "Come here boys, give me a 
push." They do not speak but come quietly and set 



152 Southern Academic Review 

their muscles against the weight of the car. Presently 

it gets away. The driver does not pause or look 

back.... Apparently neither they nor the driver have 

been aware of anything irregular in the episode that 

summoned them to push a carload of able men out of 

the mud and left them ankle deep in the spot as the 

others drove away. Apparently there is no pang, no 

tragedy. (168-69) 

These incidents involving automobiles clearly show the 

second-class life of blacks in a small Southern town—they 

are left in the mud while whites use them and drive away. 

Bontemps would have us feel a pang and see these stories 

as the tragedies they are. 

Richard Wright's Native Son moves from Bontemps 's 
rural settings to urban Chicago, but the protagonist. Bigger 
Thomas, is also victimized, unable to escape. Again the 
automobile is connected to his plight. Early in the novel 
Wright uses passing cars to illustrate the restlessness of 
Bigger and his unemployed companions. Like Bontemps 's 
two men in the mud, Bigger and his friends are left behind 
as those empowered by the automobile drive by: "They 
waited leisurely at comers for cars to pass; it was not that 
they feared cars, but they had plenty of time" (31). Bigger 
has too much time on his hands, and in that time his 
growing sense of alienation and anger festers. He wishes 
he could escape. As a symbol of this desire, he steals auto 
tires, the wheels for his flight. 

Potential relief comes in his job as driver for the 
"philanthropic" Daltons, a position which allows Bigger to 
dream of escape. When he first gets the job, he imagines 
his vehicle: 

He hoped it would be a Packard, or a Lincoln, or a 
Rolls Royce. Boy! Would he drive! Just wait! Of 
course, he would be careful when he was driving 



Casey 153 

Miss or Mr. Dalton. But when he was alone he 
would bum up the pavement; he would make those 
tires smoke! (60-61) 
Peter Marsh and Peter CoUett write: 

For many individuals, driving a car is one of the few 
opportunities to escape from a life of routine sub- 
mission. . . .The car is, for them, a technological level- 
ler.... Challenges... can be taken up and symbolic 
battles won. (165) 
The car provides such an opportunity for Bigger; it fur- 
nishes the only real feeling of power he has ever had: 

He had a keen sense of power when driving; the feel 
of a car added something to him. He loved to press 
his foot against a pedal and sail along, watching 
others stand still, seeing the asphalt road unwind 
under him. (63) 
Bigger sees the automobile as a way out of his de- 
pressed existence, yet paradoxically, it is responsible for 
his plight. His situation represents the condition of many 
inner-city blacks after the automotive revolution. 
Economic opportunities increased because of the automo- 
bile, yet such opportunities were often located out of the 
reach of those without cars. Dan Lacy elaborates in The 
White Use of Blacks in America: 

The very ease of private automobile transportation 
led to a decay and abandonment of public transporta- 
tion even where it existed, and there was little 
incentive for the establishment of new transit or bus 
lines to serve the new areas. Blacks who could not 
afford to own and maintain cars in the city were 
hopelessly blocked from employment in precisely 
those types of plants in which opportunities were 
largest and most promising. (216) 
Unable to fmd good jobs, inner-city blacks like Bigger 



154 Southern Academic Review 

worked at unskilled labor or in domestic positions, if they 
had jobs at all. 

Digger's dreams of power through the automobile 
quickly crumble when Mary Dalton asks him to drive her 
to the black side of town: "It was a shadowy region, a No 
Man's Land, the ground that separated the white world 
from the black that he stood upon. He felt naked, 
transparent..." (67-68). Mary's request violates Rigger's 
sense of order, thereby making him vulnerable. Wright 
describes Bigger' s sense of losing control: "He was not 
driving; he was simply sitting and floating along smoothly 
through darkness" (77-78). This darkness engulfs Bigger, 
and ultimately it leads him to smother Mary in his panic 
over being caught in her bedroom, an act which eventually 
results in his execution. 

Like Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of Invisible Man 
is ruined by driving a white person. Wright tells of 
Bigger' s proximity to Mary that "never in his life had he 
been so close to a white woman" (68), and the invisible 
man fmds himself in the same position with Mr. Norton, 
the white trustee of the college, asserting: "I had never 
been so close to a white person before" (84). Like Bigger, 
the invisible man is initially elated by the power he feels in 
commanding an automobile, yet he also has a sense of 
impending doom because of his proximity to whiteness: he 
declares, "We were driving, the powerful motor purring 
and filling me with pride and anxiety" (37), and "Riding 
here in the powerful car with this white man who was so 
pleased with what he called his fate, I felt a sense of 
dread" (40). 

The invisible man fears the crossing of the white line: 
both entering into the territory of power and wealth which 
society has taught him is reserved for white people and 
taking someone from the white world into the true world of 



Casey 155 

the African- American community, the world of Trueblood 
and of the Golden Day. "I suddenly decided to turn off the 
highway, down a road that seemed unfamiliar," the 
invisible man narrates of the journey to Trueblood' s (40). 
Down this unfamiliar road they approach "a team of oxen 
hitched to a broken-down wagon," a clear contrast to the 
symbol of success and power of the automobile (40). The 
white line of the highway becomes the symbol for this line 
of division between black and white in society: "I wished 
we were back on the other side of the white line, heading 
back to the quiet green stretch of the campus," the narrator 
declares (49); and on another occasion he states, "The 
wheel felt like an alien thing in my hands as I followed the 
white line of the highway" (96). The trip to the Golden 
Day further compounds the crossing of the line, and 
symbolically the invisible man drives there on the wrong 
side of the road. As with Bigger, this act of crossing the 
white line leads the invisible man to lose control of his 
destiny: "I had a sense of losing control of the car and 
slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road...," he 
declares (97). The invisible man's fate is best represented 
by Ellison's description of an insect that "crushed itself 
against the windshield, leaving a yellow, mucous smear" 
(44). He is crushed, destroyed by the circumstances of this 
encounter, an encounter that demonstrates little real change 
in the social position of African-Americans since 
emancipation. Indeed, when we last see the car, it has 
stopped "in front of a small building with white pillars like 
those of an old plantation manor house," seemingly 
indicating times have not changed at all (98). 

Jean Rosenbaum asserts that the automobile "is more 
than a convenience; it is a symbol... of belonging to a 
group, and it brings group recognition" (2). The invisible 
man wants to be part of "the group." At one point with 



156 Southern Academic Review 

Mr. Norton he thinks: "[W]ith the car leaping leisurely 
beneath the pressure of my foot, I identified myself with 
the rich man reminiscing on the rear seat..." (39). This 
identification suggests that the invisible man wishes to 
appropriate whiteness, and his emulation of the hegemony 
of the white superstructure, as represented by Mr. Norton, 
leads to his downfall. Only after realizing he must em- 
brace blackness and not try to appropriate whiteness and 
objects connected to the white power structure, such as 
fancy cars, does the invisible man become self- actualized. 

Ragtime demonstrates that Caucasian writers also tie 
automobiles to the demise of African- American characters. 
Like the invisible man, Doctorow's character, Coalhouse 
Walker, Jr., also wants to belong to the power group. 
Driving a new Model T and wearing goggles and a duster. 
Walker appears at the home of a white family housing 
Sarah, the mother of his child. The family's father finds 
Walker's status exceptional: "It occurred to father one day 
that Coalhouse Walker Jr. didn't know he was a Negro" 
(185). Walker, however, knows that "as the owner of a 
car he was a provocation to many white people" (199). 
One of the people Walker provokes, the racist fire chief 
Will Conklin, asks Walker for a toll to pass his firehouse. 
Walker leaves to get a policeman and upon returning disco- 
vers his car muddied, torn, and defecated on. He demands 
reparation, but in the ensuing exchange the officer arrests 
him. The following day he returns to find the car thor- 
oughly vandalized, pushed into a pond, wires ripped from 
the engine: "Waterlogged and wrecked, it offended the 
sensibilities of anyone who respected machines and valued 
what they could do" (274). 

Walker becomes obsessed with justice over the restora- 
tion of his car, yet he is unable to obtain it because of 
Conklin 's judicial connections. Then, another incident 



Casey 157 

involving an automobile compounds his rage. Sarah 
attempts to plead Walker's case before the visiting U.S. 
Vice President, and as he exits his Panhard limousine, she 
bolts toward him. Suspected of being an assassin, she is 
mortally wounded by a blow from a gun. Ironically, an 
expensive automobile much like that which carried the Vice 
President bears her to her funeral: 

a custom Pierce Arrow Opera Coach with an 
elongated passenger compartment and a driver's cab 
open to the weather. . . .The car was so highly polished 
the boy could see in its rear doors a reflection of the 
entire street. (223) 
Walker then becomes a vigilante, burning down firehouses 
and leaving the demand: "I want my automobile returned 
to me in its original condition. If these conditions are not 
met I will continue to kill firemen and bum firehouses until 
they are" (243). He forms a gang that executes terrorist 
activities in quick strikes from automobiles, and these acts 
lead the New York legislature to enact an automobile 
registration law so that vehicles might be traced. Even- 
tually the gang takes over the J. P. Morgan Library, and 
Conklin is forced to restore the car on the street in front of 
the edifice. Walker ultimately surrenders, but upon 
exiting the building is needlessly shot and killed. 

To Walker, the struggle for racial equality begins with 
justice over the destruction of his Ford; he feels "with an 
enemy as vast as an entire nation of the white race, the 
restoration of a Model T automobile was as good a place 
to start as any" (337). That Walker owns a Model T is 
interesting, not only because of Ragtime's emphasis on the 
interchangeability of parts, as the Model T had, but also 
because of Henry Ford's dealings with black employees in 
Detroit. August Meier and Elliott Rudwick's Black Detroit 
and the Rise of the fMW addresses this association. At one 



158 Southern Academic Review 

time Ford was the largest employer of African-Americans 
in Detroit. He saw "in black America an eager reservoir 
of workers committed to the American system" (14); 
however, Ford viewed African-Americans and other 
minority groups as "social outcasts who needed and would 
appreciate his help" (11). Ford's patronizing attitude, like 
that of Wright's "philanthropic" Daltons and Invisible 
Man's Mr. Norton, does not promote equality and 
opportunity, but rather reupholsters the notion of the 
superiority of white society, positioning whites as saviors 
of the downtrodden black community. Walker's assertion 
that the restitution of his Ford is as good a place to start as 
any thus can extend beyond the car to Ford himself and 
particularly to the enterprises practiced by the white 
capitalist elite. 

Jeff and Jenny, Bigger Thomas, the invisible man, and 
Coalhouse Walker are all associated with the automobile, 
perhaps the most visible symbol of the machine age. They 
are also victimized by another machine—racism. All are 
victims of the alienation, discrimination, and exploitation 
of a racist system; and all die, except the invisible man, 
who recognizes the turnings of the machine before it grinds 
him to death in its cogs. Ragtime's Father "said it was 
ridiculous to allow a motorcar to take over everyone's life 
as it now had" (217); nevertheless, the car is the most visi- 
ble mechanical symbol of empowerment in our society. 
Jeff, Jenny, Bigger, the invisible man, and Coalhouse all 
want to have power, the power they feel society owes them 
as human adults. Owning, or even driving, a car gives 
them a sense of having made it, of being part of the 
economic power structure. Yet it is a short-lived and 
unfounded sense for all. In spite of the symbolic power of 
the automobile, it imparts no real economic nor political 
empowerment. Despite their car, Jeff and Jenny can 



Casey 159 

escape the system which ensnares them only in death; both 
Bigger and the invisible man's cars carry them on destruc- 
tive paths; and Coalhouse Walker pays for his Model T 
with his life. In the works of Bontemps, Wright, Ellison, 
and Doctorow, the automobile assumes a larger-than-life 
role as a precipitator of doom, an emphatic emblem of the 
injustices of the American system. 



160 Southern Academic Review 

Works Cited 

Bontemps, Ama. The Old South: "A Summer Tragedy" 
and Other Stories of the Thirties. New York: Dodd, 
1973. 

Doctorow, E. L. Ragtime. 1975. New York: Bantam, 
1976. 

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. New York: 
Random, 1972. 

Estrin, Barbara L. "Recomposing Time: Humboldt's Gift 
and Ragtime." Denver Quarterly 11. 1 (1982): 16-31. 

Lacy, Dan. The White Use of Blacks in America. New 
York: Atheneum, 1972. 

Marsh, Peter, and Peter Collett. Driving Passion: The 
Psychology of the Car. London: Cape, 1986. 

Meier, August, and Elliott Rudwick. Black Detroit and the 
Rise of the UAW. New York: Oxford UP, 1979. 

Rosenbaum, Jean. Is Your Volkswagen a Sex Symbol? New 
York: Hawthorn, 1972. 

Wright, Richard. Native Son. 1940. New York: Harper, 
1966. 



Contributors 1 6 : 



Notes on the Contributors 



John Mark Allen is a junior history major/religion minor 
from Columbia, Tennessee. His hobbies include rare book 
collecting, tennis, table tennis, and defending theism. 
After graduating from Birmingham-Southern, he hopes to 
attend graduate school and later become a history 
professor. 

Molly Brewer is a junior English major/political science 
minor from Athens, Georgia. In the fall she will be 
interning for interest groups in Washington, D.C. She 
hopes to one day work for a magazine or newspaper and 
perhaps attend graduate school m journalism or 
contemporary literature. 

Amy Dingier, a senior history major/political science 
minor, is from Newnan, Georgia. This summer. Amy will 
work in Georgia Senator Sam Nunn's office in Washington, 
D.C. in hopes of obtaining a permanent staff position there 
in the fall. She is also interested in moving. to Cairo and 
studying Arabic at the University of Cairo. 

V/esley Edwards is a senior political science major from 
Columbus, Georgia. His career interest includes working 
in higher education and in the public sector, especially in 



162 Southern Academic Review 

the areas of race relations and community development. 
Wesley will be attending graduate school on a Truman 
Fellowship. 

Amorak Huey is a senior English major/political science 
minor from Trussville, Alabama. After doing graduate 
work in literature and creative writing at Florida State on 
a University Fellowship, Amorak hopes to one day become 
a writer and a teacher so he never has to face the real 
world. 

Natalie Meyer is a senior double majoring in English and 
political science. An Air Force Brat, she spent most of 
high school in Germany, so attending college in Alabama 
provided quite a case of culture shock. In an effort to 
subject herself to further culture shock, after graduation she 
will head to Japan to teach English. 

Stephen Nickson is a junior from Gadsden, Alabama. He 
enjoys taking black and white pictures, fishing from an 
innertube, and brushing his teeth in the shower. In the 
future, he plans to read many different books on many 
different things so that he can write about the same things 
over and over again, only doing it better and better. 

Michael Peacock, a senior philosophy/English major, 
learned to write at a very young age in a dark, damp 
basement where his parents kept him chained. His paper 
covers both philosophical and literary topics which are, no 
doubt, very useful in every day life. Upon graduation, if 
he cannot decide which job to accept, Michael hopes to 
continue his education at the expense of others and with no 
particular goal in mind. 



Contributors 1 63 

Chip Trimmier is a senior political science major who tries 
to educate the public on environmental issues whenever 
possible. After graduation, he will study environmental 
law, assuming he chooses to remain an integral part of a 
society that has no respect for its own future. 

Dr. Roger Casey, Assistant Professor of English, teaches 
drama and contemporary literature, particularly American. 
He received his Ph.D. from Florida State University and 
was recently awarded the Russell Weaver Award for 
Outstanding Dissertation at Florida State. The article 
included in this journal is part of a chapter from his book 
77?^ Driving Machine: Aufomohilin' and American 
Literature.