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Week 5 Section. Paper reminders Office hours/availability Midterm review sheet is on the blog Focus: Gender, Language, and Power London— The Iron Heel , What Life Means to Me Grey— Riders of the Purple Sage Dreiser— Sister Carrie , “True Art Speaks Plainly”

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Week 5 section

Week 5 Section

Paper reminders

Office hours/availability

Midterm review sheet is on the blog

Focus: Gender, Language, and Power

London—The Iron Heel, What Life Means to Me

Grey—Riders of the Purple Sage

Dreiser—Sister Carrie, “True Art Speaks Plainly”

Crane—“The Open Boat,” “The Blue Hotel,” The Black Riders, War is Kind

First thing s first y our papers are due tuesday
First thing’s first . . . Your papers are due Tuesday!

  • Double-check your thesis to make sure it’s clear and represents/outlines the argument you prove in your paper.

  • Make sure each paragraph has a clear point that’s linked to but distinct from the others.

  • Introduce quotes and then analyze them (don’t drop them in and then assume they speak for themselves). Don’t end a paragraph with a quote. Unpack each author’s language, and tie your arguments back to the authors—emphasize the choices they make rather than focusing on what characters say/do as though authors aren’t driving those words/actions.

  • Don’t talk about authors “forcing readers” to do things; authors persuade rhetorically by using a number of tactics you need to analyze, but they can’t literally force readers to think and react in certain ways. Note that I take your words pretty literally.

  • Make sure your conclusion recaps your main points, doesn’t introduce a bunch of new issues, and isn’t woefully short. Make a strong final impression, not a rushed/messy one.

  • Proofread (aloud) for grammatical and mechanical errors.

  • Double-check your MLA/Chicago citation style—your Works Cited page or Bibliography and your in-text citations for quoted and paraphrased info.

  • Make sure your paper is at least 5 full pages long + Works Cited/Bib.—don’t toy with the page length. We’re more flexible if you end up going a little over 7 pages if you’ve avoided repetition and make necessary points.

Upcoming office hours availability
Upcoming Office Hours/Availability

  • Thursday from 10:00-11:45 AM in Lit. 238

  • Friday I have meetings and have to go to L.A.—but e-mail me.

  • Saturday and Sunday I’ll be working in L.A. but will have e-mail access . . . always.

  • Monday I should be back from L.A. and will plan on being in my office from noon until 6:00 PM.

  • Tuesday from 10:00 AM-1:45 PM in Lit. 238 (especially to talk about the midterm—it may be too late to do much with the paper at this point).

  • Tuesday at 2:00 PM—You’ll submit your brilliant paper and will destroy the midterm with all of your knowledge.

The iron heel
The Iron Heel

What do you make of the role of the footnotes in relation to Avis Everhard’s text?

The iron heel footnotes
The Iron Heel: Footnotes

  • To explain:

    • “In that day, it was custom . . .” (11n2); “During this period . . .” (22n1); “In those days . . .” (28n1).

  • To agree:

    • “There is no more horrible page in history than the treatment of the child and women slaves in the English factories in the latter half of the eighteenth century of the Christian Era” (31n2).

  • To critique:

    • When Ernest mocks the church for not speaking out against child labor, the editor says, “Everhard might have drawn a better illustration from the Southern Church’s outspoken defense of chattel slavery” (32n1).

  • To embroider:

    • “The rise of this [socialist] vote clearly indicates the swift growth of the party of revolution.” Followed by statistics (45n1).

    • “Even as late as 1912 A.D., the great mass of the people still persisted in the belief that they ruled the country by virtue of their ballots. In reality, the country was ruled by what were called political machines” (63n2).

  • To correct (expose potential biases?):

    • Ernest says people in the US living in poverty number “fifteen million people” and that “there are three millions of child laborers” (65).

    • The editor notes: “Robert Hunter, in 1906, in a book entitled ‘Poverty,’ pointed out that at that time there were ten millions in the United States living in poverty.” And: “In the United States Census of 1900 (the last census the figures of which were made public), the number of child laborers was placed at 1,752,187” (65n1, 65n2).

The iron heel1
The Iron Heel

What do you make of Avis’s discussions about Ernest’s character and her gendered relations with him, as they change over time?

The iron heel gender
The Iron Heel: Gender

  • First they meet toe-to-toe (gender and class tensions)

    • Ernest: “I’ll tell you what you do, Miss Cunningham. You investigate Jackson’s case.”

      Avis: “I had already determined to,” I said coldly. (36)

    • Her thoughts on Ernest: “[He left] me smarting with a sense of injustice that had been done me and my class. The man was a beast. I hated him, then, and consoled myself with the thought that his behavior was what was to be expected from a man of the working class” (36).

  • Emphasizes his masculine power/virility

    • Even his name: Ernest Everhard

    • “For never was there such a lover as Ernest Everhard” (56).

    • He engages in “battle” with the Philomaths (57). This is when Avis really changes her views.

  • The power he has over her, which she explains and justifies

    • “I had drawn closer to him again. He became my oracle. For me he tore the sham from the face of society and gave me glimpses of reality that were as unpleasant as they were undeniably true” (57).

    • “He swept me off my feet by the splendid invincible rush of him. He did not propose. He put his arms around me and kissed me and took it for granted that we should be married. There was no discussion about it. The only discussion—and that arose afterward—was when we should be married” (57).

    • “I trusted my life to it [her feelings for Ernest]. And fortunate was the trust. Yet during those first days of our love, fear of the future came often to me when I thought of the violence and impetuosity of his love-making. Yet such fears were groundless. No woman was ever blessed with a gentler, tenderer husband. This gentleness and violence on his part was a curious blend similar to the one in his carriage of awkwardness and ease” (57).

  • Her ownership over him

    • “I felt I must rise up and cry out to the assembled company: ‘He is mine! He has held me in his arms, and I, mere I, have filled that mind of his to the exclusion of all his multitudinous and kingly thoughts!’” (59).

Gender and power cont
Gender and Power Cont.

Consider Jane’s seduction of Lassiter in Riders and how it relates to issues re: gendered control that we also see in The Iron Heel (and so many texts):

. . . But the driving passion of her religion, and its call to save Mormons’ lives, one life in particular, bore Jane Withersteen close to an infringement of her womanhood. In the beginning she had reasoned that her appeal to Lassiter must be through the senses. With whatever means she possessed in the way of adornment she enhanced her beauty. And she stooped to artifices that she knew were unworthy of her, but which she deliberately chose to employ. She made of herself a girl in every variable mood wherein a girl might be desirable. In those moods she was not above the methods of an inexperienced though natural flirt. She kept close to him whenever opportunity afforded; and she was forever playfully, yet passionately underneath the surface, fighting him for possession of the great black guns. These he would never yield to her. And so in that manner their hands were often and long in contact. The more of simplicity that she sensed in him the greater the advantage she took.

. . .

. . . Whatever the power of his deadly intent toward Mormons, that passion now had a rival, and one equally burning and consuming. Jane Withersteen had one moment of exultation before the dawn of a strange uneasiness. What if she had made of herself a lure, at tremendous cost to him and to her, and all in vain!


Week 5 section


That night in the moonlit grove she summoned all of her courage, and, turning suddenly in the path, she faced Lassiter and leaned close to him, so that she touched him and her eyes looked up to his.

“Lassiter! . . . Will you do anything for me?”

In the moonlight she saw his dark, worn face change, and by that change she seemed to feel him immovable as a wall of stone.

Jane slipped her hands down to the swinging gun-sheaths, and, when she had locked her fingers around the huge, cold handles of the guns, she trembled as with a chilling ripple over all her body.

“May I take your guns?”

“Why?” he asked, and for the first time to her his voice carried a harsh note. Jane felt his hard, strong hands close round her wrists. It was not wholly with intent that she leaned toward him, for the look of his eyes and the feel of his hands made her weak.

“It’s no trifle—no woman’s whim—it’s deep—as my heart. Let me take them?” “Why?”

“I want to keep you from killing more men—Mormons. You must let me save you from more wickedness—more wanton bloodshed— . . . Lassiter, if you care a little for me—let me—for my sake—let me take your guns!”

As if her hands had been those of a child, he unclasped their clinging grip from the handles of his guns, and, pushing her away, he turned his gray face to her in one look of terrible realization, and then strode off into the shadows of the cottonwoods.

. . .

. . . Jane Withersteen, in fear and sorrow and doubt, came finally to believe that if she must throw herself into Lassiter’s arms to make him abide by “Thou shalt not kill!” she would yet do well. (120-22)

[NOTE: We’ll revisit Riders next week to discuss androgyny and gendered ownership.]

Gender and power cont1
Gender and Power Cont.

Consider Carrie’s relationship with Charles Drouet in Sister Carrie:

  • He has “[a] strong physical nature actuated by a keen desire for the feminine . . . A mind free of any consideration of the problems or forces of the world and actuated not by greed but an insatiable love of variable pleasure—woman—pleasure. His method was always simple. Its principal element was daring, backed of course by an intense desire and admiration for the sex” (589). Then Dreiser outlines Drouet’s strategies for picking up woman.

  • “Now she felt that she had yielded something—he, that he had gained a victory. Already they felt that they were somehow associated. Already he took control in directing the conversation” (591).

Masculinity and violence
Masculinity and Violence

  • The Iron Heel

    • As Ernest’s verbal warfare with the Philomaths grows more intense, Miss Brentwood falls into “hysteria”: “Her hysteria became violent, and she was helped, weeping and laughing, out of the room” (68). Colonel Van Gilbert doesn’t gain much ground, as Avis describes Ernest: “Sometimes he exchanged the rapier for the club and went smashing amongst their thoughts right and left. And always he demanded facts and refused to discuss theories. And his facts made for them a Waterloo” (72).

  • Riders of the Purple Sage

    • Note the continual references to Lassiter’s guns, as well as Venters’s—especially when Jane takes his guns from him (guns seem to be a recurring phallic symbol throughout the text).

  • Of course, the gambler uses a knife to kill the Swede in “The Blue Hotel”—a more personal, physical kind of violence, like slicing through “a melon” (637).

Transformations of women
Transformations of Women

  • Avis in The Iron Heel goes from questioning Ernest to championing for him, taking up her own investigations. However, the transformation may be limited—she perhaps goes from parroting the ideas of the many men around her to parroting Ernest’s ideas (and reacting to the excitement of all the controversy).

  • Riders of the Purple Sage

    • While Jane’s goal is to transform Lassiter so he’ll relinquish violence and vengeance, his goal is to transform her so she’ll abandon her Mormon faith and not be blind anymore (note the repeated references to her blindness).

  • Carrie in Sister Carrie wants to transform herself with adornments that would mark her as high-class:

    • “A flame of envy lighted in her heart. She realized in a dim way how much the city held—wealth, fashion, ease—every adornment for women, and she longed for dress and beauty with a whole and fulsome heart” (597).

  • We see an adherence to stereotypes with the women who briefly appear in “The Blue Hotel”:

    • “The daughters of the house when they were obliged to replenish the biscuits approached as warily as Indians, and, having succeeded in their purposes, fled with ill-concealed trepidation” (628).

    • “The sad quiet was broken by the sudden flinging open of a door that led toward the kitchen. It was instantly followed by an inrush of women. They precipitated themselves upon Johnnie amid a chorus of lamentation. Before they carried their prey off to the kitchen, there to be bathed and harangued with that mixture of sympathy and abuse which is a feat of their sex, the mother straightened herself and fixed old Scully with an eye of stern reproach. ‘Shame be upon you, Patrick Scully!’ she cried. ‘Your own son, too. Shame be upon you!’” (633). Note the rare instance when a woman talks in this text and how this moment is contextualized.

Language knowledge and power the iron heel
Language, Knowledge, and Power: The Iron Heel

  • Editor: “The people of that age were phrase slaves. . . . There was a magic in words greater than the conjurer’s art. So befuddled and chaotic were their minds that the utterance of a single word could negative [negate?] the generalizations of a lifetime of serious research and thought. Such a word was the adjective Utopian. The mere utterance of it could damn any scheme, no matter how sanely conceived, of economic amelioration or regeneration. Vast populations grew frenzied over such phrases as ‘an honest dollar’ and ‘a full dinner pail.’ The coinage of such phrases was considered strokes of genius” (62n1).

  • Ernest to the Philomaths: They will be dragged down “by power. We of the labor hosts have conned that word over till our minds are all a-tingle with it. Power. It is a kingly word” (74).

  • Repeated phrasing:

    • Mr. Wickson to Ernest: “We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched” (73). Ernest to the Philomaths: “in that day, I say, we shall answer you; and in roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns shall our answer be couched” (74).

    • After Avis interviews the upper-class women about Jackson’s case: “I remembered Ernest’s expression that they were bound to the machine, but that they were so bound that they sat on top of it” (55).

  • Ernest’s nonchalant language always seems to have a tremendous amount of power behind it:

    • “the gown you wear is stained with blood. The food you eat is a bloody stew. The blood of little children and of strong men is dripping from your very roof-beams. I can close my eyes, now, and hear it drip, drop, drip, drop, all about me” (34). Avis: “I remembered Ernest’s charge that my gown was stained with blood, and my flesh began to crawl underneath my garments” (43).

Language cont in the iron heel
Language Cont. in The Iron Heel

The rhetoric of those in power reinforces itself through different agents:

  • Avis on the women she interviews about Jackson’s case: “They aped their husbands, and talked in the same large ways about policy, and the duties and responsibilities of the rich. They were swayed by the same ethic that dominated their husbands—the ethic of their class; and they uttered glib phrases that their own ears did not understand.” And the women parrot each other: “The astounding thing is that they refused in almost identically the same language, and this in face of the fact that I interviewed them separately and that one did not know that I had seen or was going to see the other” (55).

  • But Mr. Wickson finally critiques this: “I am disgusted with you, gentlemen, members of my class. You have behaved like foolish little schoolboys, what with intruding ethics and the thunder of the common politician into such a discussion. You have been out-generalled and outclassed. You have been very wordy, and all you have done is buzz. You have buzzed like gnats about a bear.” He continues: “We will not reply to the bear in words. Our reply shall be couched in terms of lead” (72). [Note animal imagery, which is a repeated trope throughout this text.] Though he critiques language in this moment, however, he still falls back on words: “There is the word. It is the king of all words—Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power” (73).

Language knowledge and power cont
Language, Knowledge, and Power Cont.

  • What Life Means to Me (London)

    • “But there was no way of replenishing the laborer’s stock of muscle. The more he sold of his muscle, the less of it remained to him.” “I learned, further, that brain was likewise a commodity. . . . So I resolved to sell no more muscle, and to become a vender of brains.” “Then began the frantic pursuit of knowledge” (584).

    • Sounds like Everhard: “I was in touch with great souls who exalted flesh and spirit over dollars and cents, and to whom the thin wail of the starved slum child meant more than all the pomp and circumstance of commercial expansion and world empire. All about me were nobleness of purpose and heroism of effort, and my days and nights were sunshine and starshine, all fire and dew, with before my eyes, ever burning and blazing, the Holy Grail, Christ’s own Grail, the warm human, long-suffering and maltreated, but to be rescued and saved at the last” (584-85).

  • “The Open Boat” (Crane)

    • Silence: “the ethics of their condition was decidedly against any open suggestions of hopelessness. So they were silent” (605). “But no one said that it was so. No one mentioned it” (607).

  • “The Blue Hotel” (Crane)

    • The characters don’t seem to fully understand each other—Scully can’t figure out why the Swede thinks he’ll be killed; the men repeat and shout over each other; the men don’t listen to each other, or they blurt out words in fragments (629); the storm carries their words away (630); Scully’s language is “a combination of Irish brogue and idiom, Western twang and idiom, and scraps of curiously formal diction taken from the story-books and newspapers. He now hurled a strange mass of language at the head of his son” (627); Scully slips “into sudden brogue” when he thinks of how he’d like to beat the Swede (634); the Swede’s boasting and demands to drink with the men in the saloon both lead to the fight and his death (635).

    • “We are all in it! This poor gambler isn’t even a noun. He is a kind of adverb. Every sin is the result of a collaboration. We, five of us, have collaborated in the murder of this Swede” (638).

  • As you contemplate Riders for tomorrow’s lecture and next week’s section, consider the seductive power of language and also the ways that Mormon men like Bishop Dyer silence and even seem to mesmerize Jane with their speech. Consider how Bess has to essentially learn how to form sentences again as she heals from her bullet wound and begins talking to Venters. Think about how Bess gets renamed and how Venters names the landscape he explores. Consider the role of secrecy and what goes unsaid.

Dealing with inevitability and power lessness
Dealing with Inevitability and Power(lessness)

  • The Iron Heel

    • Editor: “Primitive communism, chattel slavery, serf slavery, and wage slavery were necessary stepping-stones in the evolution of society. But it were ridiculous to assert that the Iron Heel was a necessary stepping-stone. Rather, to-day, it is adjudged a step aside, or a step backward, to the social tyrannies that made the early world a hell, but that were as necessary as the Iron Heel was unnecessary” (7).

    • Editor: “It was not necessary, and it was not inevitable. It must always remain the great curiosity of history—a whim, a fantasy, an apparition, a thing unexpected and undreamed” (7).

    • Mr. Wickson: “The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power” (73).

    • Ernest Everhard’s response: “You cannot escape us. . . . Just as your class dragged down the old feudal nobility, so shall it be dragged down by my class, the working class. If you will read your biology and your sociology as clearly as you do your history, you will see that this end I have described is inevitable. It does not matter whether it is in one year, ten, or a thousand—your class shall be dragged down. And it shall be done by power. We of the labor hosts have conned that word over till our minds are all a-tingle with it. Power. It is a kingly word” (74). Interesting use of passive voice in this quote, and he again appropriates Wickson’s language re: relishing the word “power.”

  • Riders of the Purple Sage

    • On Jane: “[T]he waiting for a balance to fall on either side was almost as bad as suffering. She had a gloomy expectancy of untoward circumstances, and with it a keen-edged curiosity to watch developments. She had a half-formed conviction that her future conduct—as related to her churchmen—was beyond her control and would be governed by their attitude toward her. Something was changing in her, forming, waiting for decision to make it a real and fixed thing. She had told Lassiter that she felt helpless and lost in the fateful tangle of their lives” (130).

Inevitability and power lessness cont
Inevitability and Power(lessness) Cont.

  • “The Open Boat”

    • Repetition of words and thoughts suggests an inability to fully process them: “If I am going to be drowned—ifI am going to be drowned—ifI am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble on the sacred cheese of life? . . . It is preposterous . . . The whole affair is absurd. . . . But, no, she cannot mean to drown me. She dare not drown me. She cannot drown me” (609). [Note how Fate is feminized as an “old ninny-woman.”] The first 2 sentences also repeat on p. 612, and the first sentence is repeated again on p. 614.

    • More repetition: “I am going to drown? Can it be possible? Can it be possible? Can it be possible?” (618).

    • “A changed tide tried to force them southward, but wind and wave said northward” (610). Nature is personified and the people have no power/say.

    • People don’t help: “Funny they don’t see us!” (608). “He don’t mean anything. He’s just playing.” “Well, if he’d just signal us to try the surf again, or to go to sea and wait, or go north, or go south, or go to hell—there would be some reason in it. But look at him. He just stands there and keeps his coat revolving like a wheel. The ass!” (611). People help later, but the oiler is already dead (619).

    • Man at first feels like rebelling once he learns nature doesn’t care about him; then he accepts this as an “actuality—stern, mournful, and fine” (614, 615). In the end comes understanding: “the wind brought the sound of the great sea’s voice to the men on shore, and they felt that they could then be interpreters” (619).

  • “The Blue Hotel”

    • On this landscape: “One viewed the existence of man then as a marvel, and conceded a glamour of wonder to these lice which were caused to cling to a whirling, fire-smote, ice-locked, disease-stricken, space-lost bulb. The conceit of man was explained by this storm to be the very engine of life. One was a coxcomb [a fool or something obsolete] not to die in it. However, the Swede found a saloon” (635). Note that the Swede dies in the saloon, not in the storm.

Inevitability and power lessness cont1
Inevitability and Power(lessness) Cont.

  • Crane’s poetry

    • The Black Riders

      • Being “forever rudderless” “[b]efore stupid winds.” “[T]here were many in the sky / Who laughed at this thing” (638-39). The futility of a man running after the horizon, not admitting that it’s futile (639).

    • War is Kind

      • Mocking tone re: trying to convince maidens, children, and mothers: “Do not weep, / War is kind.” Repeated phrase bookmarking descriptions of war—pomp and “a thousand corpses” (639-40).

      • Universe not obligated to care that humans exist (641).

  • Sister Carrie

    • “The gleam of a thousand lights is often as effective, to all moral intents and purposes, as the persuasive light in a wooing and fascinating eye. Half the undoing of the unsophisticated and natural mind is accomplished by forces wholly superhuman” (588).

    • “With her sister she was much alone, a lone figure in a tossing, thoughtless sea” (593).