Thursday, April 1, 2010


Overall I thought Greed was an accurate representation of the book since only a couple things were added or changed. I would have liked to have seen the whole movie so I could watch the visual transformation of the characters at a more gradual pace. Coloring things of importance gold was a great way to draw attention to the particular items that were of high value to different people. Specifically, showing the canaries in yellow made me see it as something important to McTeague, not just as a symbol of family, and made the scene at the end stand out more to me than it did in the book.

I also thought that the movie did a good job of capturing the naturalism of the book, as in the specific ideas Norris had about naturalism. An example of this was near the end, when Marcus is talking to the men about chasing after McTeague, and he tells them that "it's my gold." I thought this was a great way to show the point Norris had about people getting attached to their desires, believing they deserve them, and the chase people will endure in pursuit of those desires.

I don't really consider the acting as "overacting" since at the time this was the only known style of acting, and it fit the medium of the stage. The method acting that we are so used to seeing today was still just an idea in Russia at the time this was filmed. Constantin Stanislavski's company, with its naturalistic acting style, actually did a small tour in the US in 1922-1923 but it would be almost two decades until enough people had been exposed to it, adopted it, and passed it on before it would be the popular form of acting. I thought the film was all that more impressive because of the fact that it was able to convey many of the facets of naturalism without using a naturalistic style of acting.

Overall I've enjoyed reading McTeague and the exposure to Norris' ideas about naturalism. It has definitely made me think about things such as environment and heredity vs divine involvement. I think of all the habits that Norris attributed to a certain ethnic group in McTeague, how this was the predominant school of thought back then. It seems laughable to me today to say that someone is more of a money saver, hot tempered, or drinks a lot because it is an intrinsic part of their heredity make-up. Relying on naturalism for an explanation of things seems to me to have been nothing more that doing just the opposite of the previously dominant school of thought that said all was determined by divine intelligence. Maybe the birth of individualism has its roots here? Has humanity looked to the skies, then to nature and now to themselves for the final authority of their lives?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I thought it was a great technique that Norris used when he would repeat almost word for word something he had written earlier. He used this in regards to the description of Trina and also with the story of the gold plates. I thought it really got the feel across of just how blase life on Polk street was. I felt the humdrum day to day routine that these people were living each time I picked it up. I also think that it laid down a sharp contrast for the completely crazy events that happened in the end of the book. Set the stage for the tranquil, peaceful ending and then blew it apart, which ultimately reflects what naturalism is all about.

Overall the main thing that intrigued me about this book was Trina's downward slide. She came into a large amount of money, what should have been an especially great thing considering her economic situation. It was like watching a train wreck! She goes from being a thrifty shopper, to not sharing her tea with Maria, to rolling around in her money, her only desire to possess something that has no intrinsic value in possessing it. It was a weird, strange trip. While I think it was an exaggerated example I can see what Norris was trying to say about human nature. Sometimes we cling to that thing that makes us comfortable, that deep desire that makes us feel good inside, even though it has gone well beyond being healthy and is actually ruining us. She was so caught up in just having the money that when the rest of her life fell apart all around her she didn't think anything of it. I couldn't believe how much of their stuff was sold and she didn't once crack into the five thousand. When the money is initially won she tells McTeague they would be foolish to waste it on buying more tickets yet she goes in the extreme opposite direction and doesn't use one cent of it to keep themselves from having to live in complete poverty. In the end the money was not used for anything which I see as a bigger waste. At least the man who bought more tickets was buying the chance to win more money.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Iola Leroy

This story brought up so many points of interest I almost don't know where to begin when writing about it. Overall I liked the very personal touch it put on everything that was happening during that time period. Each of the characters, no matter how small, whether black or white, represented very well the fragmentation that slavery caused. I was really able to see how much this issue divided this country and how far its harmful effects spread. The whole time reading it I kept thinking about how to this day we are still dealing with these effects. I know that things are much better than they were but there is still a huge portion of our society that looks first at an individuals skin color to shape their opinion about them. For all the legal changes that have been made I sometimes wonder just how far exactly we have come as a society in regards to the social aspect.
On page 334 Captain Sybil states "We have been slow to see our danger and to do our duty. Our delay has cost us thousands of lives and millions of dollars." This made me think how slow this whole process has been. This country was founded in 1776 on the platform of freedom yet it took almost 100 years for the slaves to be freed and almost another 100 years for them to be granted civil rights. This seems ludicrous to me! To truly believe in what this country and the Constitution stand for one has to believe in its principles being put into place immediately for all its citizens.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


While I did want to see an ending with more of a clash between the forces of Murieta and those pursuing him I thought the book was quite cool. It was interesting to see Murieta devolve to the point where all his noble intentions and chivalrous attitude were a thing of the past. The scene towards the end where he waits until Three Finger Jack has killed all the Chinamen before he says "That's enough" was to me the final piece to his completely leaving behind any semblance of the man that was there in the beginning. He at this point had given himself over completely to a life of crime and violence.

This story brought up some very interesting ideas for me. Murieta was walking a dangerous road by always blaming others for the situation he was in. I think doing this slowly eroded away all aspects of his humanity and left him with nothing. All of his actions became about himself, about profit, about his grand plan that he had in the works. To me, continuing to focus only on blaming others for his plight left him stepping further and further into darkness with each violent action. He became consumed with the idea of doing nothing more than getting back at those who had harmed him.

I wonder how this story could have been different if he had become more of a Robin Hood type character? Take from the rich and give to the poor. The potential was there in the beginning but ended up being lost. If Murieta had possessed an ideal of that nature to keep him focused I think this story would have been much better and would have fulfilled the mythical aspect of his character that was introduced in the beginning. This would have allowed him to become more of a iconic figure that just the common criminal he seemed to become in the end.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I loved class today! Having worked for Half Price Books for three years at the Redmond store before coming to Pullman I've spent many hours around books exactly like I saw today. I love books in general but there is something about really old books that are just cool. The cover design, the bindings, type of paper used, etc are to me a very cool portal to the past. It's interesting to see the ones that aren't classics, that for whatever reason haven't been produced in a plethora of editions. Sometimes I think these are the more interesting books to read as I really get a reading experience that hasn't been flooded with information beforehand about the author, subject matter, or impact of the novel.

I had no idea the MASC was even there. I'm excited to use it. It has a ton of great information from the time period of the books we are reading that can be helpful in forming a better picture of the society that these novels emerged from.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Behind a Mask

So far my favorite book we've read. I really liked the pace and the style of writing. I was really intrigued by the character of Jean also both personally and as a symbol for new ideas. There were numerous things she did which I completely disagree with but at the same time I admired her spirit, focus, and dedication to going after what she wanted. I thought she was incredibly smart along with being quite cunning and devious.

Looking at her character and thinking back to the beginning of the story, I see now that she did the only thing she could do in that situation to get the financial security that she wanted. Being a woman of lower class in addition to an actress did not afford her very many opportunities during this time period. Without doing the things that she did what are the chances she would have become Lady Coventry? I think they would be absolutely zero. While I know a happy cheery ending would have been more appealing, I guess I liked the idea of someone looking around, taking stock of what they have and what's available to them, and then changing their life. In the end she didn't kill anyone so all that was really damaged were the feelings and egos of a few people. Plus I mean hey, she did the exact opposite for the vanity and ego of Sir John!

This story raised many questions and thoughts for me that I'm still mulling over. Probably can't answer them all here right now but I wanted to throw them out there.

One, I wonder how much of my not completely embracing this story and Jean has to do with the fact I've been raised on stories that place the emphasis of a marriage and relationships on love, specifically romantic soul mate kind of stuff. Would I have liked this more if this had been part of the story? If she had done the exact same things for the sake of love instead of money would I have been completely won over? I almost think I would be. Would the inclusion of love have led to that redemption of character as the attainment of money and position did not? I almost think it would have. I can't quite wrap my finger around this but just as I get the feeling that a story involving an atheist who lives a good life and dies a happy person will never be a sure fire hit in this country and neither will a story of a convenient marriage. I consider it that because Jean got what she wanted and I think Sir John was pretty pleased with the outcome also. Now if she had plotted to kill him for his money after marrying him that would be different but I didn't get that impression that she would do something like that.

Another thing it brought up that was also alluded to in Blithedale was the perception of the artist in society. The idea that being an artist was not a respectful profession. (we have writer and actress represented, I wonder what the view was of say a painter or sculptor...or composer?)
The Artist against society seems to be a common theme. Or rather against the idea that their chosen profession is not on the same scale of importance as say a doctor or banker. I did not realize that this was such a large idea back then.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Joaquin Murieta

I'm liking Joaquin Murieta so far. The style is completely different from Blithedale but I think it serves the content well. While it is loosely based upon a real person, telling the story in the form of a myth keeps it mysterious and exciting for me. I find myself reading many pages just to come across that little bit that may reveal to me what is happening inside the man behind the myth.

The circumstances that brought about the transformation of Joaquin are horrible. The fact that he endured this kind of treatment three times before he changed is amazing to me. I think it shows his strength of character and later, even though he has fully moved over into a life of crime, parts of this character still come out in how he treats certain people.

This book intrigues me. I've never read much about the west that was actually from this time period so I have to say most of my knowledge of it comes from western movies and the occasional history book. The picture painted is of the great rugged white cowboy taming the great frontier. This story about a bandit, reflecting the hopes and desires of a group of people that were a big part of what took place back then is very interesting so far.