Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gray Flannel Suit

In the past week, we did a book discussion in class. The book was The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. I actually liked the book a little. In my literature class, I learned that the literature reflects the times. There was some things reflected in here, I hadn't picked up on when reading. For instance, the children in the story play a very small role. They are seen in the story enough to know their names, and a few other little details, but they're "flat" characters. They don't have any deep background history. This could be seen as a reflection of the role children played in reality in the 1950s (the time the story takes place). In previous books we've read in class, authors say that the people of this time are all about family; yet, this book tells something completely different.
We did a slight character analysis and a lot of people thought that Mr Rath needed more conviction. Someone said that he needed to find something he is happy with and go for it. For instance, he was happy with Maria. Maybe he should have gone back to that relationship and let things blossom. However, I think this is another reflection of the time. Things were difficult. People weren't exaclty having the time of their lives. They had just gotten out of the World Wars, Depression, etc. They were still in recovery mode.
While I agree, it was kind of annoying that he didn't show any real passion for anything, I don't think he could have gone for simply anything and given up at the slightest unpleasantness he felt. Any choice he could have made would have its positives as well as negatives. Again times were tough. He was a paratrooper, set free from the horrors of war, and survivor of the Great Depression. I think the lack of conviction was partly due to he "shell shock". What the author could be trying to communicate through this character was the difficulty the soldiers had trying to fit in with the city folk and adjust to the life after the war.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Use of Religion

In reading these past chapters, I'm surprised at how religion crops up. In the chapter titled "Borderlands," Catherine Beecher tries to bring peace to the suburban family by telling them that it is "the home church of Jesus Christ." Women must "master efficient house design and gardening, as well as the spiritual nurturing of large families." She tells them that their place is in the house. While reading over this, it made me think of that infamous line: a woman's place is in the kitchen. Could this have been where that line originated? It was surprising to get this impression from a woman. However, to push her agenda, she says that the house is "the home church of Jesus Christ." This would give a home new meaning. A church is very neat, clean, peaceful, and beautiful. A church is where one would usually go to pray or attend to spiritual needs. When entering a church, most people believe they're entering the house of God. Beecher says that the home is similar to the church when she says that the home is the "home church of Jesus Christ." Women would want to keep their houses clean, neat, peaceful, and beautiful. They would clean for hours, then go out in the garden to create a flourishing garden of pure beauty, then cook for the family, etc. The list goes on. As for being cut off from the world because of all the work that had to be done at home, Beecher said that their sacrifice would be rewarded in heaven.
Religion crops up again when people were trying to sell homes. In a Sears catalog, they said, "to get the most out of life as Our Creator intended it to be, A HOME OF YOUR OWN IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY." This works in harmony with what Beecher previously said. If a home is like a church, then it's an "absolute necessity." They're trying to pull on people's spiritual sides to sell houses. It was interesting and surprising to see this method used in order to sell houses.
Again religion showed up after the sale for "mail-order and self-built suburban houses" began to drop. A lot of people chose to lvie in houses near churches and synagogues. Perhaps some people thought their house wasn't exactly "the home church of Jesus Christ" and wanted to be near the real thing.
In "Second Creation," Nye kept talking about the way people moved away form the church, or replaced it. Now, it's interesting to see the shift back to religion in Hayden's book.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In previous years, the settlers came to the New World and began hacking at trees to make room for their log cabins, trains, factories, etc. Now, around 1800, people didn't want to live in the stone cities. They wanted to be part of nature as well; thus, the coming of the suburbs. Unlike before, there was no making of a grid. They followed the land. There were winding roads and pathways. Nature wasn't too extensive, but it wasn't extinct either. When reading about this in Hayden's Building Suburbia, I was reminded of Thoreau's philosophy again. I thought it was interesting that people were looking back to nature for peace.
The suburbs were created as a way out for those living in the cities. They wanted to be near nature. This was a turning back from what the settlers began to do upon arrival. Rather than seeing nature as "in the way of progress," it was a natural temporary escape from reality. The people didn't like living in the over-crowded cities of the 1800s. The suburbs blocked them off from almost everything, but their familiy. Today, people tend to spend $10 at the theater, go to a bar, play video games, etc. just to find some alone time for themselves. I also think it is interesting to look at the methods we use today, which can actually cause us harm if used in excess, and the nature walk from old times, which can increase health benefits.
Of course, the block off from reality caused some people to complain because it felt more like an isolation. They were completely blocked off. One could look at this as the downside of the excess in the "nature walk" method for escaping reality.
I was also surprised to find all of the rules that one had to agree to inorder to live in a suburb. In her book, Hayden said that a person had to sign a covenant. People were not allowed to build fences on their property. They were limited to who they could sell the house to, if they chose to move--this is where race, gender, and religion differences came into play. Special care had to be taken concerning the lawn. I could understand that last one. The lawn was very prized at this time. The lawn was why people decided to move into a suburb. However, these rules are still going on today. Some of them are really strict. There was one woman I heard about who would get a ruler out and measure her neighbor's lawn to make sure it wasn't too high and make her neighbor cut it, if it was. Some of these rules seem ridiculous. If the lawn is over-grown and one could find a car buried beneath the weeds, then that's too much and something should be done. However, it seems rather ridiculous to get in trouble over an extra centimeter of grass.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

American History as Told through Paint

Dr. Reeve presented many paintings. Most of them were pretty astounding. One of the first few, by Albert Bierstadt, inspired some thought. His paintings were shown in a kind of "angelic" light, to borrow a term from another student. He painted a alot of landscapes with much attention to detail. The artist seemed to show this viewing for a purpose. It was not just for a pretty view. Most of his paintings showed a view of the land before it was changed by man's axe, log cabins, mills, and trains. Like Thoreau, the artist is trying to preserve nature. For example, in Bierstadt's "Valley of the Yosemite" painting, there is a kind of glow to it. He draws attention to the nature seemingly saying, "Forget about all the common trains, cabins, etc. and look at this." Nature is much more astounding than the mechanic works of man. The mountians and trees, untouched by human contamination, were beautiful in the paintings.
While looking at these pictures, I was entranced. Then thinking of what was was incredibly sad. Since humans have moved into the area, the lake has probably been drained. The deer have been hunted and are either completely gone from the area or hidden from site. It would no longer be a natural setting. Instead, there would be another log cabin made from the massacred trees.
Humans have changed the face of the earth so much. However, the question that is still debated is: for the better or for the worst? That painting seems to be from another world. There are recognizable characteristics from it; however, nothing like that scene could be found in today's world. Where ever one were to travel, one can't escape the touch of "civilization."
Another interesting quark about the paintings shown was that some artists captured the culture and their mixing. For example, the last painting Dr. Reeve presented depicted the Eve of St Francis at Rancho de Tao. This showed many different people of varying backgrounds (Hispanic, cowboys, Indians, etc) and their different cultures uniting at one spot for one purpose. They were united at a church. It was interesting to me to find that the church united them, when in the early days of America the settlers moved the churches aside for mills and other works of production. Yet, here, they held their candles in vigil and waited at the church. The artist also shows the different levels of devotion by manipulating the positions of the characters. While the white people were one of those appearing less devote, it was still interesting that it was through this ceremony that they were all gathered together.