Friday, January 22, 2010

Symbolism & Ownership

In class, we discussed the symbols of the "Old West," including the axe and the log cabin. Both were surprising to me. Along with many others I am sure, I would have thought that the rifle would replace the axe. However, I can see how an axe would be more fitting.
This was a time when the settlers were coming into America and settling. They had to make homes for themselves, barns for their animals, etc. While a rifle would protect them, the axe would give them their living.
There was also some discussion of the log cabin, though I'm not so sure I understand the full significance of it as a symbol. I could somewhat understand it because of the popularity of the time. The log cabin was what they had to live in. They did not have the material for brick houses or such. They had wood and a lot of it. They had to clear away trees to make room for their homes, and I could see it as convenient to just turn those trees into homes instead of just piling them up somewhere else.
One interesting concept brought up in class was what some believed qualified people for ownership of land. Among the beliefs of John Locke was that of owning whatever one put labor into. The settlers came to share this belief. I must agree with them to an extent. If you work on something then you have placed your mark, so to speak, upon it forever. You share some ownership because you helped bring it into existence or helped to improve it. However, if you sell it, it is no longer yours.
The settlers decided to take the land from the Native-Americans with this belief as one of their justifications. The settlers believed that the Native-Americans were not using the land to its fullest. Therefore, under this belief (which may or may not have been shared by the Native-Americans), they claimed ownership of the land when they began the back-breaking work on the land, creating factories, railroads, etc. Looking at this, I find it a little ironic. Before the settlers came, the land was flourishing. It was a jungle and the people (the Native-Americans) lived in harmony with the land. However, once the settlers arrived, they started chopping down trees, burning forests, etc--killing the land. They changed the land completely from the jungle it once was and put it on the path to the world we see today with its ever-diminishing forests.

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