Archive for February, 2009

Blog 8

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2009 by thumabr

In these chapters, how do dialogue and writing style affect your interpretation of the characters, plot, and themes of the text? Give specific examples.

Dialogue does a lot to clue us in on the personality of the characters in the chapters we read.  One of the best examples of a character developing through dialogue is that of Will Conklin, the Fire Chief of the Emerald Isle, the man who tore up Coalhouse’s car.  There is little said about Conklin, and most of what we know about him comes from dialogue, where we can see what kind of man he really is.  When he says to the police on page 218 that he wants to go to the black neighborhoods and clean out all the “niggers”.  This shows how blatantly racist he was.  He thinks that the world is white vs black when he says to the officers “Are we not in this together?”, where he thinks that all white men should take his side to teach the black men their place. He said to the police chief “Its a tragic thing”, like he did nothing to cause the bloodshed.
                          
Dialogue also goes a long way in helping us understand Coalhouse.  It wasnt his own dialogue that tells us about him, but the dialogue of the men who worked under him.  The speech of his hands is so radically different from his own speech that it goes a long way to show how different Coalhouse was, and why the way his speaks was such a surprise to everyone.  It has been well established that Coalhouse speaks very properly.  His followers on the other hand speak horribly.  On page 246 one says “Coalhouse gone to that coal and ice yard, Willie be dead man now”.  Another says “Naw, Brother, he better to us alive.  He keeping Coalhouse in the folk’s minds.  He a plague. Now we going do something so terrible bad in this town, no one ever mess with a colored man for fear he belong to Coalhouse”.  It is just grammatically terrible.  This is the typical speak I would imagine people would expect from a black man at this time.  Coalhouse, in the fact that he speaks so well, even with his extreme anger shows how different he is than what is expected of him.
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Blog 7

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2009 by thumabr

One of the things I have been wondering about this book is where Doctorow is planning on going by introducing all these different characters.  He seems to always have one or two chapters about a person then leaves them alone for a while while introducing new characters.  Why does he keep adding new people to the mix without fully developing them first?

I have seen a large trend in how Doctorow is organizing this book.  Every chapter is a seemingly new episode, and if its not every chapter, there are never more than two consecutive chapters about the same character or the same causual event.  He has his episode with one set of characters, then seems to completely forget them while he moves on to a new episode with another set of characters.  This creates a sort of plot confusion in this book because there are so many different story lines all going on and slightly interweaving throughout each individual episode.  It just seems strange that he would have a chapter involving Freud’s trip to America, then completely drop him from the rest of the book, at least up until this point, at least a dozen chapters later.

I think the reason he presents so many different story lines is to help us understand how many story lines there really are in the world, but at some point many of these story lines can intersect in different ways, whether they be minor like Freud seeing a woman posing for a silhouette (which turns out to be Evelyn Nesbit) or major like the romance between Coalhouse and Sarah which violently disrupts the quaint life of our fictional typical family.  There are so many different stories involved in this book but they all share one common element in them.  They all involve change of some kind, whether it is an acceptance of change or a resistance to it.

We see the change in the little boy as he grows older and becomes inquisative about the world around him.  We see the change in the father after his trip to the Pole.  We see how Sarah goes from a shy woman to one that wont see a man that comes calling on her every week, to one that eventually loses her life trying to seek justice for him.  We see the change in Coalhouse Walker as his injustice drives him insane to the point of murder.  We see Mothers Younger Brother change from a stalker, to a lover, to a depressed man who lost the love of his life, to a man who becomes passionate because of the actions of Coalhouse Walker.

Each story involves change, and as each story intersects another they affect each other in either minor or major ways.  I think that is the reason that Doctorow chooses to create small episodes chapter by chapter in the manner he has up until this point.

Blog 6: Dialogue

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2009 by thumabr

One of the narrative elements I looked at was dialogue.  One of the interesting aspects of Doctoro’s writing style is that he does not use quotation marks, making spotting dialogue a bit more difficult.  There are very few instances of dialogue in the chapters we have read so far, and the lines of dialogue are usually rather short.  One of the best examples of dialogue can be found in the interactions of JP Morgan and Henry Ford when Morgan invites him over for dinner and to talk about certain ideological ideas.  Even in this dialogue it really does not go back and forth like a typical conversation.  One character will make statements while the other listens, then the other will talk.

In chapter 20 where Morgan and Ford have their conversation the dialogue serves the purpose of not only telling the reader what is going on, as Morgan explains his plans and his work to Ford, but works to show the differences in the two men.  Morgan talks with large words talking about what he has bought and accomplished with his riches. On page 149 Morgan says “You of couse do not know of the writings of Giordao Bruno, of which here is a specimen page in his own handwriting”, talking down to Ford assuming that he does not know of that person because he is not as educated and scholarly as Morgan, he then shows off one of the rare artifacts his wealth has acquired. He even says “I hope you are following this closely” implying that Ford cant wrap his head around what Morgan is saying.  One of the best examples of Morgans high class language is found on page 150 talking about mechanist science where he says “…was a great conspiracy, a great devilish conspiracy to destroy our apprehension of reality and our awareness of the transcendentally gifted among us”. He uses large words and lofty sentences to show how mentally lofty he his.

Ford, on the other side of this conversation, after Morgan explains, in lofty language, all the things his heavily paid scholars have found, coming to the conclusion that smart and gifted people were really reincarnations of previous people, basically calls Morgan an idiot for wasting all this time and money on an idea he came up with early in his life from a cheap novelty book.  Ford says, on page 152, about his education “…I suffered my cGuffey like the rest of them.” and “…I had no patience with the two-dollar words” explaining how he is just a normal person.  He says he spent twenty-five cents on a book which set his mind that his genius comes from reincarnation.  He chastises Morgan’s waste of money by saying “..what you have spent on scholars and traveled around the world to find, i already knew.”  He shows his lack of complicated speech when he says “…you dont have to fuss with all these Latiny things..”. Doctorow uses this “conversation” between Morgan and Ford to show how, even though both of these men are rich and great businessmen, they are not all the same.  Ford is simple and efficient, evident in his assembly line and Morgan is extravagant and seeminly wasteful as he builds a cruise liner just to sail the nile.

Stanford White

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2009 by thumabr

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Stanford White lived from 1853 to 1906 and worked for the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White.  His work was very delicate in the 18th century style. He was noted for his decorative inventiveness.  His early worked conissted of monuments and houses, including an arch in Washington to commemorate George Washington’s first inaguration.  White also designed the 1890 version of Madison Square Garden.  In the 1890’s he was involved with over 70 projects.  He was married to Bessie Springs Smith and they had one child.  He was murdered on June 25th, 1906  at Madison Square Garden by Henry Thaw who believed White had seduced his wife.


Blog 5

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2009 by thumabr

What are your initial thoughts about Ragtime? So far, what do you think is the author’s primary subject? What key points have been made so far in the text? What personal connections do you have with this subject matter? 

I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting this book is so far.  The writing is a little hard to follow simply because of the archaic words used, and the old style.  I think its really interesting how the lives of all these different people introduced in the first chapter are woven together and how their paths cross at different points and time.  It is a little difficult to keep track of who is who, and who did what when, but reading slowly helps keep things straight.

I think one of the main points the author is trying to make is about how people can be very different in how they present themselves to others and how they really are.  There is the rich man who is insane, the rich woman who one would assume would be elitist and uncaring, but deeply cares about the poor jewish child, the Mothers Younger Brother who is a business man, but stalks Evyln 

I thought it was interesting how often sexual things came up.  We often assume of people in the past were very prudent and never had sex. Already there is talk about the parents sex being interrupted, oral sex to show devotion, penis flapping in jail, and a stalker masturbating in the closest during a girl on girl massage.  I guess people werent so prudent in the past as we all thought.