Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adeventure Most Unto Itself

Part Five: The Single Hound
ADVENTURE most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be;
Attended by a Single Hound—
Its own Identity.

It is with this epigraph that I chose to begin my American Literature blog. Both seem to on a very liminal plain establish my plans and goals for both the blog and the quarter: an adventure in itself during the course of studying a defiant, persistent people and their words and stories, a “Single Hound” of the American pulse, searching for and trying to create its own “Identity,” it’s own oral tradition of story telling and writing, it’s own literature.
I find myself struggling in an attempt to tie all loose ends up; I’ve seen first hand the collective of an entire people struggling adjacent themselves, their gods, their demons and devils, and opposing forces and identities. They marched against indigenous beings, did genocide, almost fell to religious fanaticism, bore great guilt for their fathers, were held captive, conquered gender identity, became introspective and philosophical, survived slavery and redefined freedom, became lost at sea and survivors, wrote of fear and love. This is the essence of adventure for a quarter’s wroth of text. I begin to trace a thematic between the numerous works and find a single resolve: each of our readings is trying to retell a chapter of the American origin story, the “Single Hound” of an entire nation.
I can still remember our first reading, and how striking it was after discussion. Cotton Mather’s “On Witchcraft,” a devious dictionary of how to’s and what if’s should the God-Fearing Puritan find or encounter a witch. Of course, on first read, the document to me at least read as a religious nut’s propaganda away from the altar sermon, that kept those God fearing Puritans fearing God; after all the warning signs of witches were similar characteristics to that of a free thinker, and the open wilderness. Let’s think for a second, what are the inhabitants of the new world surrounded with? Wilderness and free thought! It was all starting to seem like a scam…from the prospective of a modern thinker. Luckily, discussion brought us back to the times of Cotton Mather, and we were able to embrace the terror, the real and genuine fear that the Puritan mind was faced with: true evil, Lucifer himself could come out of the untamed wild of the American continent. Thus begins an epic battle of good versus evil, and the people of New England are God’s frontline soldiers. This adds to a rich tradition of literary history: the beginnings of a motif of survival and self defense against insurmountable odds and evil. With “On Witchcraft,” which sets the standard for colonial thought, we are invited to take a glimpse at the original American survival story.
To follow, we read “Young Goodman Brown,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This text adds a new sensitivity to the feelings of American Literature: guilt. Hawthorne’s parable is deep with meaning and satire as he says my Puritan heritage is great within. However, he does not celebrate; he damns. He locates the distrust and fanaticism that comes out of the Witch trials he witnessed. Hawthorne is unique in having the opportunity to write about a generation of Americans as a newer breed; he is closer to a definite evolution of this new “America,” and its brand of writing. “Goodman Brown” is a cleverly written piece that begins a new chapter in the American story, a sort of build on the survival story comes an element of manliness and its struggle against evil. The pieces come together even further.
The next bit of American glory comes at an awful cost. We read a little further into our past from the eyes of the first Colonists to see an American war. It is not, however, the Revolution; but the genocidal betrayal of the Natives. In the context of both a moving documentary and “Woman’s Indian Captivity Narratives,” we witness the harm done to our land. Where the Natives are fighting to preserve their own oral tradition, we pave over it, forcing our culture in while desecrating theirs. Ultimately, the American Indian is irradiated, as is their culture. This conquest begins its own theme in the American origin story: a conquest, a power, an ultimate strength motif that never seems to disappear.
This is where I stop and consider: does this mean that in order to be “American,” I must bear the guilt of such atrocities done by the European settlers? I look at what is left of the Native culture: small reservations which are for the most part regarded as lawless and dangerous, dirty places. I have no real solution for what this means for us, just something I’ve been considering as the class ties together. Are these circumstances too grave to excuse with, ‘we learn from our mistakes?’
We move on throughout the year, and encounter a new kind of text: “The Conquest of New Spain.” Paired with an interesting and deep view of (a whole other brand of pure American entertainment) Wresting, the Conquest motif in the American story becomes all too prevalent, as does the importance of gender roles. Not only do we see this literature beginning to trace what an American is (powerful, conquistador, strong) but we begin to see what an American MAN is. Where the man is ignored, enter Eliza Wharton’s “Coquette,” which although does a poor job moving me as a reader, does an excellent job establishing the freethinking woman in both American literature and history. This important distinction will shape the rest of the class, as we no longer neglect gender roles in literature and culture.
Another interesting factor in “New Spain,” is the horrific gore and violence that we will later return too with “In The Heart of the Sea.” Our attraction to this is bizarre. On one side, you’ve got the butch American man and his need to do violence to assert his dominance, and on the other you’ve got a peevish sense of curiosity to try and understand the violence; particularly where it is embellished, exaggerated and loaded with hyperbolic symbolism. One must ask himself, how necessary is this gore? Hugely, if you want a piece of the American pie, apparently. Our story is soaked with blood and gore, and if you’ve seen the Patriot, you’d know that its heroic blood and gore. We celebrate a history of independence that was made of betrayal, genocide and a revolution. We nurture a history of violence, so it is natural to see the gore stories resurfacing and being retold in Americana.
However, this trend will take a moment to relax itself as we move into transcendental philosophy; the first time in our literature and history we find importance in embracing both our surrounding nature (instead of damning it, Cotton Mather…) and our own human nature as well. Emerson and HDT work leaps and bounds for the American mind; they alter our story from one of violence, conquest and rebellion to one of intellectual rebellion, mental conquest, verbal violence (in HDT’s case). They attempt to rewrite the myth of American man and woman, and although they fail to alter this tradition, they do create their own school of thought which warrants forever future students to read and study. They give academics a reason to examine the American Dream, and ask perhaps the most important question in the course:
What part of the American Dream is mine for the taking?
As we begin to watch everything fall into its right place, I sort of step back from pigeon holing my course work and ponder. How does it all relate? The struggles of a young American define what it is to be an American today. That is why we must study “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” because we have to be held accountable for our disastrous decisions, and we must make our own of what freedom is for us. We must invent our own form of hero story, one where oppression (be it sexual or political) is conquered and heroic blood is spilt on a virgin canvas. All of these stories and texts wrap together a ‘here’s what happened and here’s what’s next’ for America. And then we get Emily Dickinson.
She is the perfect way to conclude the class. She is in all ways an American woman. She, like Eliza has her own liaisons. She, like the conquistadors takes complete control over her life and is able to vanquish such things as being slave to the social conventions. She is wary of social convention. She is liberated. Perhaps she is engaged in a homo-erotic relationship with her best friend and sister in law. She is a poet, she is an American poet.
I look at ‘The Single Hound” again. How isn’t she talking about our nation? I can so easily see this stalking dog as a symbol for our nation. At birth, we are weak and feeble, afraid of oppressive forces, unknown cultures or demonic terrors. Then as we grow, we begin to scrap with other dogs, bearing our teeth and showing our dominance. Then we begin to age and lead a rich life, developing our own culture.
The nature of America is adventure, and this soul is forever ‘condemned’ to the wanderings of a “Single Hound,” an independent beast who at any time can survive, can bark at the moon and run and chase from adventure to adventure.
But above all, this creature has its own identity.

From this self aware, identity, the soul can flood with a self reliant pride: for it is aware of the culture it represents. American Literature is pure art; a collective of minds and thinkers that are all grasping at sweet repose, soothed by sleep and entertained by the idea of an American dream. She is a brave, curious mind to have such radical, revolutionary thoughts at time, yet timid to be so fair and just.
They say to let sleeping dogs lie, but I assure you, it is impossible to cripple her sense of adventure, most unto itself.

Boy Does Alice Look Like Emily Dickinson or is it just Me?

Wow. Just wow. What a way to end the course, with a little love poetry from Emily Dickinson, but like everything else we've looked at, there's a little bit more than meets the eye. Before I talk, maybe watch this. It's a little creepy, and a little cool.

So there's Emily 'doing' Emily; like I said, little creepy, but a little cool.

And that's the nature of Emily Dickinson: so much mystery, so much intrigue that it's just awesome to study and look at. She is without a doubt, the most interesting author I've closely studied in a class. On the surface, her poetry without looking at her life story is fantastic and interesting, but when you dive into her personal life and struggle of a life story, you quickly realize it's difficult to separate woman from mystery, poetry from life, &c.

You can also see a progression in hear earlier poetry to her later poetry. Although anyone can relate to this, it's fun to say "OH, me too! I wrote like this when I felt like that!" but readers are really able to detect what kind of mood Emily was in when she wrote. Which leads to my next sell.

At first, I totally wasn't buying the conspiracy suggestion that Emily was/had a lesbian affair with her brother's wife; but after it was proposed to us in class, I'm buying big time. It's so obvious that in the same way my poems from sixth grade are about how much I hate every girl in my class because 'flowers are corny,' you can see that her love poems from after her brother's marriage are bitter, disillusioned and even cruel towards the institution of marriage and romance.

Look at Poem 49 (XLIX)
"We outgrow love like other things
and put it in the drawer,
Till it an antique fashion shows
Like costumes grandsires wore."

We outgrow love?!?!?!? Holy crap Emily! We put it in the drawer!?!?!? If that's how you want to describe forever banishing yourself to your room! Emily locks herself in the drawer, her room more like. She let's it dust over like 'antique fashion;' this is awfully sad stuff. She is devastated over losing her friend and lover. I want to give her a hug, or something.

But not all her writing is sad, often, these short lines contain moments of sublime joy:
"If you were coming in the fall / I'd brush the summer by."
It is lines like this that reflect that Dickinson did in fact feel and enjoy real, true love. And she's great at it.

Her writing is full of delight, curiosity and tragedy. It's truly a shame she had to end her thoughts on such dismal, meek terms. One must wonder what Dickinson's poetic legacy would have been had it ended on happier terms?

Perhaps her and her friend lover would have ran off and been happy? What would this have done to her writing? To American writing?

Makes for a happy ending at least....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Edgar Allen Creep, Erm...Poe

As the weather turns for the better, I look out both my wide open windows, considering sun glasses as an alternative to shutting them so I can see my desk without squinting, I consider how reading Poe in the dead of winter would have felt. Probably awful, as I task back to Monday night, unable to sleep and reading "The Black Cat" just before sunrise instigated admittedly foolish, but all the same real, fright as I made one last walk down the hall for a sip of water. It's scary shit, Poe is excellent at what he does. The criticism of his work at large I will make, however, is sort of a big deal: it's all the same with a different melody. Look at "Cat," and "The Fall of the House of Usher:" a chick dies, two dudes go postal, it lives AND IT COMES OUT OF THE WALLS!" Let's not neglect "Tell Tale Heart" either. More of the same, noise, paranoia, &c.

But that's all good and fine; nobody's talking mess about Stephen King for his upteenth horror book, or Steph Myers' one in the same vampire books, or Nick Spark's repetitive works; because (except for Myers) they are good at what they do so they do it. Same is Edgar Allen Poe; he had an awful, horrific life, so why not channel that into his horrific, awful stories? It just works.

So here are the conclusions I have drawn, and if this were a paper, here is your thesis: "The Black Cat" and "Liegia," both stories of obsession contrast the sometimes lethal always devastating effects of unhealthy love." This idea, above all, is something Poe would struggle with considering his not so happy life, and can be found in a majority of his works; these two, I feel, work together the best. There both happened to be new Poe for me, so the exposure was nice, so...

Both read like Poe's, or any narrator's, very personal intimate diary. We also quickly become akin to two facts: one, our narrators are sociopaths, see quote "I cannot for my soul remember how when or even precisely where, I first became aquatinted with the lady Ligeia," which is sketch because the entire text is you know, about this Ligeia; or look at "I neither expect nor solicit belief [in my story]" says narrator of "The Black Cat." And second quick fun fact, the narrators cannot be trusted.

These two texts go on to establish powerful emotional connection to an opposite force in the respective texts.

The narrator's love of pets in "The Black Cat," is an immediately established driving force of his character: "Am never so happy as when feeding and caressing them," says the narrator. Similarly, Ligea's speaker in a 'Lolita' like fashion tells us of his obsessive love for the namesake woman, stating her name upwords of ten times in the opening paragraph. Obviously, these two forces are going to go awry, after all, these men are men of Poe's creation.

In the case of our cat man, the pet love turn sour. "The fury of a demon possessed me...my original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body" says the narrator of his favorite cat. He then gouges it its eyes. This seemingly out of character move, although pathetically excused by claims of "much intoxication" still shows something deep from inside this man's very soul. "It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself," he says. In this way, destruction, he is in control of the loving relationship he and his cat share.

Looking at this circumstance, that of "Ligeia" becomes all the more curious. This is unhealthy, obsessive love. And instead of killing it off to keep it forever, our narrator simply objectify, idolizes, makes this love into something of a deity. "Her presence...rendered vividly luminous the many mysteries...in which we were immersed." Poor Ligeia, throughout the entire story has no physical geography, save a wildly fantastic and sensational, dream like image he paints: "In stature she was tall, somewhat slender, and in her latter days even emaciated...I would in vain attempt to portray the majesty." One would almost believe that Ligeia is an apparition of sorts.

Not too far from the truth.

Oh that's right, the narrator of "The Black Cat" kills his wife. This detail is sort of dropped on readers in a really horrific nonchalant manner, remember, this is the narrator talking directly to us. This is where the narrative path begins to blend. Ligeia dies too. So sad.

So, these two men remain, both clinging to their awkward, pun intended, creature comforts: pet man and his pets, Ligeia keeps to his obsession.

What I think is interesting is how these are opposite reactions to the same tragedy: a loss of love. One route, violence and hidden insanity, the other route, passivity and overt insanity.

The two climaxes are great for this point.

Cat man is proud of his inner demons, points out his craftiness to the police who bust his murderous ass on the spot, because of the infidelity-wrought relationship with the new cat, fate curses this man to bear the guilt of a murder.

Ligeia man is devastated, and not going to hide it. He remarries although is lethargic around his psuedo replacement. She dies, and of this is, in his mind, born the reincarnate of his lost love.

Where one hides behind guilt, the other embraces it shame free. Both tango with death, and both are creepy.

At least we hit Poe on a sunny day as the dead rose and axes were buried in skulls.

In The Heart of the Sea; or Hungry Hungry Hippos

Here we are presented with a very interesting spin on an all too familiar theme: the American Origin story. Philbrick gives us an uneasy look into the tragedy of the whale ship Essex, and it’s fortuneless journey out of Nantucket in the early 1800s. Although on the surface, we are faced with an adventure of truly grotesque and horrific scale; reading the book was nothing less than nauseating. I consider for a moment, before delving into analysis: what drawls authors to such atrocious events. “In The Heart of the Sea” is Nate Philbrick’s modernization of the events, and Herman Melville wrote “Moby Dick” in response to the attack; question remains, why are we drawn so intimately to our histories most violent and even vile times?
I consider myself, even at a young age being drawn as an eleven year old to the events of September 11th. With a morbid fascination, I would stare blankly at the televisions playing and replaying the plane crashes on CNN. The gore, the horror of it all had some undefinable reliability that my young mind couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around. Several years later, after reading 9/11 lit (Like Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”) the films began to come out. There was Oliver Stone’s awful feature featuring Nick Cage of all people, and the movie did exactly what critics claimed a movie of this nature would do: exploit and waste. However, Paul Greengrass’ document of flight United 93, in the film of the same title was a subtle, dare I say work of art proposing the quiet heroism that is boiling in every American’s blood.
And here we circle back: quiet heroism. This may be the missing link, behind the gore, horror, everything, likes a singular theme that every American brings to the surface of our origin story. Heroism.
“In the Heart of the Sea” is no exception. To overlook the overwhelming circumstances these men were put in, one can see a real brand USA version of survival. We see this from the prospective of a 14 year old young man, talk about drawling on the heartstrings! The book itself is very well written, and easy to read; a polite mix of history, fiction and down right readability. I’m going to include a few favorite quotes, ones that I believe tie this story to the hidden morals behind the American story, and where it fits in this mess.
"Nantucketers saw no contradiction between their livelihood and their religion. God Himself had granted them dominion over the fishes of the sea." Chapter 1, pg. 9. This quote first indicates that God is on our side, on team USA. First mistake. We see faith pop up throughout the text, but at the end, the survivors are reliant on their sense of self, not faith.
“Finally, he made his way to the forward part of the quarterdeck, pulled off his jacket and hat, and stamped on them. "You scoundrels," he snarled, "have not I given you all the ship could afford? Have not I treated you like men? Have you had plenty to eat and drink? What in hell do you want more? Do you wish me to coax you to eat? Or shall I chew your food for you?"” Repulsive as it is, this quote makes me laugh out loud: here Pollard is able to assert his manhood, while almost comically foreshadowing how hungry their will end up. It’s sick, I know, but here is a man being a man.
What comes out of the story, and this attitude, is a very big lesson in naturalist philosophy: we are not rulers of nature, she rules us. What we can take out of this however, is not a hard lesson on not screwing with Mother Earth; it’s that as long as you’re an American Man, you’ll make it. Somehow.

Slave Girl

What a sad, awful, depressing time to be a member of the Fox News dubbed: "White America." I feel a lot of what our good old buddy Nate Hawthorne must of felt after seeing what a few generations earlier had done to innocent, free people. A lot of present day folks are willing to ignore, forget and even overlook the events of the late 1700s and 1800s in America, you know, when slavery was legal. Unbelievable. So there's the guilt in that, but then we pick up Harriet Jacob's book and boom. Look at what an American, who is TOLD SHE IS LESS THAN A NORMAL AMERICAN, does with and to get her hands on a piece of American freedom.

This book is a survival story and a tale of epic scale American freedom. I can see pretty easily how it fits in with the rest of the course: Harriet is a woman, put down by men and bigots, and must emancipate herself from detestable conditions and try to scrape together some sense of self in a big bad world.

Sounds like the original colonists escaping from England. It's too bad we didn't figure out we would do the same thing again (and no, I haven't forgotten the Indians.)

What I find fascinating, is that today "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," along with other texts of the era (Like Fredrick Douglass' "Narrative") have sense innovated their own genre and place in literary history. Unbeknownst to her, Harriet Jacob's created a subtheme in the greater scale of American Literature: African American Lit.

The most important collection of this text is without a doubt the Norton academic anthology. Said of this collection: "Andrews added that English and literature departments where faculty have not taught African American literature can no longer make the claim that no adequate anthologies exist." The question I pose is, why has there for so long been an excuse to teach this literature?

As if to answer my question, Roach's article continues: ""It took twice as long as we thought it would," McKay said. "It was exhilarating at times. But, on the other hand, it could be depressing."" And it is, we should be examining authors like Jacobs, not hiding them.

SO this thought prompted more research into African American lit, and I found a whole new version of the American story in an interesting text pitting a Haitian refuge intellectual and a Harlem working class man and war deserter. Together, their dialague creates a sort of independt study on what it means to be a man in Jacobs' version of America, more then the diluted and upper class White America we are most often faced with.

"Nonetheless, the friendship that evolves between Ray and Jake transforms both of them, as they each must confront the mutual prejudice--based on national and class differences--that makes their comradeship so unlikely."

This unlikely friendship is something more like what an honest, loving country (like America) would have meet Harriet in New York, instead of what she did...

She says:

"Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own."

She is independent, cannot stress enough how American this is....

"Reader, my story ends with freedom; not in the usual way, with marriage. I and my children are now free! We are as free from the power of slave holders as are the white people of the north; and though that, according to my ideas, is not saying a great deal, it is a vast improvement in my condition."

Without touching on the gender freedom lodged in this quotation, I just pity the world that would force a woman to define freedom with the bigoted world Jacob's lived in.


Lowney, J. "Haiti and Black Transnationalism: Remapping the Migrant Geography of Home to Harlem" African American Review, Fall, 2000.

Roach, R. "Powerful pages: Unprecedented Public Impact of W.W. Norton and Co's Norton Anthology of African American Literature". Black Issues in Higher Education, September 18, 1997.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Self Reliance

I have a personal narrative I'd like to share:

During my sophomore year of high school we tested for the AP English program, which I was eager to join, because of my life long passion for literature and English. This was the natural progression of classes that I would take on my pursuit towards English-ness as a professional writer and educator. As it stands, due to what I was later told as a matter of politics (some b***h's parent's bought her MY seat in the class) I did not make the AP English track at PSHS. Oh well.

So here I was, jaded to be in the general English class, which was a series of half year courses: drama, Am Lit, Brit Lit and Comp. It was the first week of junior year when I would start these unexclusive, non-elite courses. I was so removed from the program, I even forgot to register the class. So to say, I didn't even enter American Lit with Mr Daley until the second week of school.

Let's fast forward two years: I am getting ready to leave for Otterbein one warm September afternoon when I find a package in the mail, a parting gift from Mr Daley. I tear open the box to find a journal, plenty of letters of well wishes and a novel, I am reminded of the most striking educator I came across during my four years in High School. One of the most perfect moments in his teaching I will never forget, is on the Transcendental movement, which was, strangely enough, was on my first day of class.

I told you that story to tell you this, the Transcendental authors are important to me.

"What I must do, is all that concerns me, not what other people think," is such a fantastic quote to begin my discussion of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, 'Self Reliance." I think this is the spirit he embodies in the very writing of this text. After all, what today isn't all about 'believing in yourself?' Look at things like High School Musical, almost cramming a very Emerson-ish theme down the throats of young viewers; this might lead readers today to thinking, whatever Ralph, I'm the only thing I need, and I know it. But Emerson wrote this over a century ago. Hot damn.

If we take a look at the course as a whole and consider that until now, the American spirit has been one of repression behind the forces of a mighty god, you can see how revolutionary and romantic Emerson's ideas really were.

Pit this text against something Cotton Mather might preach from his pulpit: You need god for salvation, you need god for forgiveness and happiness and protection, whereas Emerson reminds us to "Trust thyself, every heart reverberates to that iron string." This is such an optimistic and empowering idea. The idea that our very introspective person holds the "oversoul," or whatever otherworldly supernatural power you chose to believe in, is incredible!

The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions.

I like this quote to, and its good for both the point of Self Reliance, and my conversation. I mean, you can only say it in so many ways, trust in yourself. This quote you will often find in support of students going off to college, its sort of the Oh the Places You Will Go in essay form.

This is sort of your punk rock interlude. Why? Because Ralph Waldo Emerson was a bloody punk rocker, and didn't even know it.

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."
"I am an anti-Christ, I am an anarchist."

One could easily say that Emerson's message of nonconformity, like his not so subtle heavy handed rhetorical lines: "Society everywhere is in conspiracy with the manhood of every one of its members," or "Travel is fool's paradise." Emerson is so totally over society. Just maybe not in a Johnny Rotten kind of way.

See: "Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not."

To sort of wrap up, Emerson was a really spiritual man. His writing reflected both his spirituality of religion and faith, as well as his intimacy with nature; albeit much less then writing to come like Waldon. His connection and ability to tap into this spirituality is what makes him such a fantastic and remarkable writer. The final passage I will leave you with, is what I believe to be some of the most beautiful writing to come out of Early American Literature.

"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

It is this passage, I believe, that helped me elevate to a level of self satisfaction, where I could just enjoy learning, wether it was general American Lit, or AP English. Moreover, this passage was sort of a confirmation block that no matter would, I would end up doing what I had always wanted to and loved doing:


Saturday, February 6, 2010

American Woman

American Woman – Lenny Kravitz Music Code

Okay, I'll say it, the Coquette wasn't exactly my cup of tea. I mean, I get it; epistolary format aside, the language created a serious barrier for me, the subject matter wasn't exactly interesting (which is bizarre, apparently this story was like, tabloid scandal in its time) so I usually don't make this conclusion, but I did not like the Coquette. However, I love a revolution story, and the Coquette was just that.

I liked the comparison to The Patriot.

Everyone knows the story of the Patriot. It IS the epitome of the American story we've been talking about in class; the origin story told through the lens of modern man's. Gibson's character, Benjamin Martin is an American. He defends his keep, his family and his home; and he is able to stay morally correct (despite hacking a Brit to pieces with an axe) because he waits until he is wronged, and must defend himself. And his manhood.

Speaking of the Patriot, let's talk revolution. The Coquette is about sexual liberation, the Patriot violent liberation, both the makings of social change.

Where Eliza and Mel Gibson differ is their methods.

The novel is delivered to us in the form of various back and forth correspondences between the cast of characters, while the topic is always in some way detailing the "promiscuous" lifestyle of Eliza Wharton and ill fate she ultimately suffers.
What the book does is tell a sort of interesting story about a famous Connecticut woman poet's much publicized death and birth to a stillborn at a crowded roadside tavern; it characterizes the fall from a relatively socially adept elite to a tragic demise. However, it does much more than convey this slightly soap operaish tale, it sets a new standard for a sexually liberated woman.
Where Eliza chose to pursue multiple love and sexual liaisons, the typical woman of that time would have immediately chosen Boyer and been stuck with him. Perhaps another woman would have chosen to try and tame Sanford, been betrayed and stuck to her own devices. The revolution in Eliza's heart however, lead her to chose neither, unfortunately for her, until it was too late.
But I ask, what flaw is there in living the life of a bachelorette? In modern times, Eliza would have lead quite a happy, exciting life. This character is far before her time, and in effect, sets the standard for modern women even today.
I found this quote...on wikipedia....but, it's quite useful to sum up for me:
"Eliza Wharton sins and dies. Her death can convey the conservative moral that many critics of the time demanded. Yet the circumstances of that death seem designed to tease the reader into thought. It is in precisely these interstices—the distjunctions between the conventional and the radical readings of the plot – that the early American sentimental novel flourishes. It is in the irresolution of Eliza Wharton’s dilemma that the novel, as a genre, differentiates itself from the tract stories of Elizabeth Whitman in which the novel is grounded and which it ultimately transcends"