GROWING UP WITH AMERICA: MYTH, CHILDHOOD, AND NATIONAL IDENTITY FROM 1945 2011 By EMILY A. MURPHY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2014
Â© 2014 Emily A. Murphy
To my family and loving boyfriend
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Writing a dissertation involves long hours of solitude and an enormous amount of painstaking research and writing. For those who helped me complete this process, I am deeply grateful. My support team consisted of a number of family members, friends, and, o f course, committee members. I want to give a special thanks to my co directors, Dr. Phillip Wegner and Dr. Anastasia Ulanowicz, who both read multiple drafts of my dissertation and provided invaluable support and guidance. Together, my directors made a ph enomenal team that went above and beyond anything I have ever experienced in terms of mentorship. Dr. Ulanowicz listened in the early stages as I attempted to figure out what I wanted to write and she continued to foster my ideas at every stage of the diss ertation writing process . Her confidence in my ideas and my ability to write about them gave me the energy to keep writing even when things seemed hopeless . Phil, for his part, gave superb advice regarding professional development (from journals, to grants , to jobs) and never complained when I asked him countless questions about graduation or when I made a request for yet another letter of recommendation. especially the balancing act of dissertation writing a nd job searching. Each of my other committee members have helped shape my intellectual career, and their influences are imprinted on the pages of this dissertation project. Without their group effort, I would not have completed this work or have envisioned such an ambitious project. I als o owe much to my family, who have provided the emotional support needed to complete a PhD . Graduate students know that one of the greatest challenges are the emotional ups and downs that one encounte rs over the years, whether it is stress about that upcoming deadline or fears about lack of funding over the dreaded summer
5 semester . My boyfriend, especially, listened for long hours as I talked (or, rather, complained) about the work I needed to complete , and the seemingly insurmountable amount of work ahead. Friends, especially Marilisa Jimenez, Anuja Madden, Missy Molloy (and the ever cheerful Leo Molloy), provided laughs along the way. Marilisa, in particular, demonstrated what it means to be a friend and a colleague. I look forward to cheerfully say. vided friendship and support in the form of a dissertation group: Mariko Turk, Casey Wilson, Anuja Madden, and Poushali Bhadury (though we missed her during her year in India) all deserve mention. Although more deserve praise, these are the people who prov ided the most assistance and I am forever in their debt. I could not rightfully end my acknowledgements without mentioning my former committee member, Scott Nygren. In addition to being a valued committee member, Scott was also my professor and a generous mentor. Scott encouraged me to organize my first conference was a huge smile and a high five. H e was one of the few who always genuinely wanted to know how I was doing and what I was up to in t erms of my research. His generosity and kindness were constantly an inspiration to me, and he helped me learn to think about the world in ways I never had before. Without Scott, I could not call myself a filmmaker in addition to a research er . I will always y personal and professional development. My intellectual debt to Scott, in the words of will be evident on many pages; [but] more important and less evident is a debt to the man himself, to a wise and dedi cated teacher and an unforgettable friend
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 CHAPTER 1 IN COLD WAR CULTURE ................................ ................................ ...................... 10 Remaking America: Cold War Mythology and the Search for Identity .................... 14 Chapter Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 32 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 36 2 COLD WAR ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 37 The Beyond Innocence Debate: A Brief Overview ................................ .................. 41 For the Love of Innocence: R.W.B. Lewis and the American Adam ....................... 49 Growing Down: Henry Nash Smith and the Man Turned Boy Hero ........................ 58 .. 66 3 ................................ ................................ ................................ . 80 Dr ................................ ...................... 83 Building a Female Centered World ................................ ................................ ......... 86 The American Eve in Native Literature ................................ ................................ ... 94 American Eve in Crisis: Aftereffects of 9/11 ................................ .......................... 112 4 FROM VIRGIN LAND TO VIRGIN GIRL: NATURE, NOSTALGIA, AND AMERICAN EMPIRE ................................ ................................ ............................ 126 From Virgin Land to Virgin Girl ................................ ................................ .............. 130 Immaculate Deaths in American Suburbia ................................ ............................ 145 A Plague Shall Descend Upon Him: Power, Redemption, and Revenge .............. 161 The Many Roles of the Modern Virgin Girl ................................ ............................ 163 5 EXTRAORDINARY BOYS ON AN ERRAND: RACE AND NATIONAL BELONGING IN NARRATIVES OF FATHERHOOD ................................ ............ 183 Failed Adoptions and the Love/Hate Relationship with China ............................... 186 Fatherhood ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 200 Commies in the Caribbean: A Critique of the Reagan Administration ................... 211
7 Native Fathers, Oriental Others, and American Discontent after September 11 ... 221 ................................ ...................... 225 6 NEW US IDENTITY ................................ ................................ .............................. 238 The Child of Many Nations, or the Child of No Nation: National Identity in a Global Era ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 241 Globalizing the American Child: A Case Study of Chang Ta . 246 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 264 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 277
8 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy GROWING UP WITH AMERICA: MYTH, CHILDHOOD, AND NATIONAL IDENTITY FROM 1945 2011 By Emily A. Murphy August 2014 Chair: Phillip Wegner Cochair: Anastasia Ulanowicz Major: English Identity from 1945 2011 considers the deployment and renegotiation of American national myths in the period 1945 2011. In orde r to place larger changes affecting U.S. national identity into relief, especially the effects of globalization on domestic and foreign policy, my study expands beyond the temporal and national boundaries associated with the Cold War. I argue that childhoo d was for cultural and historical reasons integral to the articulation of competing narratives about U.S. national identity, a fact that few in American studies have previously acknowledged. I begin with a reassessment of landmark studies , including Virgin Land (1950) The American Adam (1955), where childhood helped literary scholars construct a national narrative that supported the existing order at the time. I organize later chapters around the literary response s to Cold War interpretations of American national myths like the American Adam, a figure that promotes fresh starts and a view of the U.S. as innocent, and its sister myth, the virgin land, which justifies U.S. westward expansion by depicting the land as a passive, beautiful young woman
9 who welcomes the arrival of the male explorer. I illustrate how dissidents such as Vladimir Nabokov ( Lolita ), Linda Hogan ( Solar Storms ), and Sherman Alexie ( Flight ) were able to challenge dominant interpretations of U.S. n ational identity by inverting views of children as voiceless, vulnerable, and obedient. Finally, I gesture towards new ways of interpreting U.S. national identity with a case study of Taiwanese author Chang Ta Wild Child ( 1996 ), a work whos e analysis of childhood in Cold War Taiwan society.
10 CHAPTER 1 WAR CULTURE That is the true myth of America. She starts old, old, wrinkled and writhing in an old skin. And there is a gradual sloughing off of the old skin, towards a new youth. It is the myth of America. D.H. Lawrence Studies in Classic American Literature As a native Floridian from the Greater Orlando area, I grew up hearing about the exploits of the Spanish conquistadors and the Northern homesteaders who attempted to conquer and tame the wild inhospitable land that I had learned to call home. Alligators and mosquitoes, swamps and sinkholes these were just a few of the natural dangers that any Florida child could easily come into contact with on a day to day basis. The Florida educational system instilled within us a healthy appreciation of our native state a child in Virginia might do , we clattered up the steps of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. Having reached the pinnacle of the elementary school ladder, we fifth aquifer. We started in the thick mud and ended in clear cool streams teeming with life. Outside of school, I had the chance to explore the local fort where homesteaders protected themselves from their indigenous neighbors. I peeked outside the same holes where men fired muskets in order to protect stolen land. In this way, I learned from tactile experience and from the mediation of both the public school curriculum and the state and national park service that Florida was more than alligators and mosquitoes , more than swamps and sinkholes , a nd certainly more than the place too far south to be considered part of the South.
11 I grew up knowing these thi ngs, but others who had grown up elsewhere did not. Although I could point my finger in any given direction and find an untamed area waiting for me, I regularly encountered th ose who assum ed that my Central Florid a home had been entirely paved over and pe rmanently overridden by tourists. My Northern friends and acquaintances in particular insisted that I had no culture. These friends and offer up a regional category for my home state. As a result of these conversations and my childhood experiences, I came to understand that I was living in a place that resisted clear demarcation. Florida was a place that existed as a colony before the thirteen is history resulted in an uncertainty regarding Florida identity. It was (and continues to be) a place of mixed heritage, in which the history of American Indians, Spanish conquistadors, and Anglo American settlers intermingle. The influx of immigrants fro m Spanish speaking countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America has further added to the tension in a space competing for a single, central narrative that its history seemed to resist. Even now, it remains difficult to explain what it means to be a Floridian. This difficulty in providing a cogent narrative of Florida history coin: a space shuttle, a Spanish ship, and an empty beach with palm trees. First established in 2004 as part o f conquer, control, and understand the space around us. The ship sails ever closer to the beach, always searching for new land, just as the shuttle searches the far reac hes of space for the lands of the frontier .
12 I begin with these personal anecdotes and images from my childhood precisely because they underscore the relationship between myth, childhood, and national identity that is the subject of my dissertation project. The personal, educational, political, and even national narratives provided about Florida parallel those that help to form and shape U.S. national identity during crucial historical moments of transition and crisis. Moreover, the use of childhood memories is not coincidental. As multiple childhood studies scholars, including Caroline Levander, Karen SÃ¡nchez Eppler, Carol Singley, Anna Mae Duane, and Courtney Weikle Mills, have noted the child has often served as a metaphor for the United States, both in th e years before and after its inception as a nation. In earlier years, political figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas imagined a nation state separate from Englan d, they drew upon the parent child metaphor, often depicting England as an irresponsible guardian incapable of caring for onal identity distinct from the British. As Carol Singley notes, such metaphors often helped to alleviate the anxiety attached to this separation and gave U.S. citizens an opportunity to consider the unique traits of their new nation (4). Childhood, as the se examples effectively demonstrate, is thus a key component of U.S. national identity. The way that childhood serves to narrate national identity often takes the form of literary narratives; indeed, during the Revolutionary period and into the nineteenth century, tropes drawn from adoption narratives helped U.S. citizens author their own nar ratives of national identity. This form of storytelling included personal and communal
13 forms that had the potential to reshape existing notions of U.S. national identity. U.S. citizens from a wide variety of backgrounds, including authors, politicians, and religious leaders, all found inspiration from the child, who helped them to think about the differences between England and America. In his famous Autobiography , Benjamin Franklin popularized the belief in self reliance as a defining trait of the American character, and he did so in part by expounding upon his familial origins and complicated relationship with his son, William. Writers like Harriet Wilson and Frederick Douglass similar ly used the autobiography form in order to challenge the hypocrisy of re ligion and to denounce the system of slavery in the U.S. They also found it constructive to write about childhood and to use the child protagonist to critique American ideology and thus contribute to future understanding of the value and limits of concepts such as liberty and freedom. What these earlier narratives have in common is a desire to answer the pressing question, first posed by J. Hector St. John de Cr Ã¨ 1 This question would continue to baffl e future generations, especially in those times when the nation underwent extensive changes. This search for national identity is especially evident during the period at the center of this dissertation, 1945 and the effects of world leadership. The Cold War marked the first uneasy steps into a new position of global power and dominance, and thus required a new answer to th e 1 I refer here to de Cr Ã¨ veco e Letters from an American Farmer (1782).
14 textured as those who set out to answer it in the first place, and it would continue to change in later years as the Cold War pressure to conform lifted. In an effort to map th e development of U.S. national identity during the second half of the twentieth century, I chart the deployment and renegotiation of multiple Cold War myths that drew heavily upon conceptions of childhood. These myths include most prominently, the American Adam, the virgin land, and the errand into the wilderness. The emergence of Cold War interpretations of these classic American myths launched a one of t he defining characteristics of this debate was the way in which childhood revealed itself Remaking America: Cold War Mythology and the Search for Identity In the Cold War period, scholars from the Myt h and Symbol school, who would in 2 refashioned classic American mythology in order to define, describe, and celebrate U.S. national identity. Perry Miller, Henry Nash Smith, R.W.B. Lewis, and others each set out H aving reached maturity right when the U.S. entered the Second World War, many of these scholars served in the armed forces and returned home with a new outlook on U.S. culture. R.W.B. Lewis, for example, spoke of the transformation he underwent during his The impact of the quintessentially American book [ Moby Dick ] in that Tuscan 2 Exemplary Elders (1990), Gregory Pfitzer observes that the leaders of American Studies, which include Perry Miller, R.W.B. Lewis, and Henry Nash Smit h, among others, of this criticism, see th e special thirtieth anniversary edition of American Quarterly (volume 31, no. 3).
15 an American, about American habits of speech and behavior as contrasted with the ( Literary Reflections xvi). earlier decision to turn his attention to American literature and culture. As a young man, Miller had sailed to the Congo and worked on an oil ship, unaware that in a few decades gainst narration of his describes in the preface to Errand into the Wilderness an epiphany upon reaching s etting for a sudden epiphany (if the word be not too strong) of the pressing necessity nd the Pacific. Henry Nash Smith, who refrained from military service, worked tirelessly to unravel uniquely American themes, traditions, and traits. As t he first theoretical school of American Studies, Myth and Symbol scholars organized their work around a set of uniquely American theme s or symbol s, such as the virgin land or the American Adam , and used them to explain the defining characteristics of U.S. culture. Popular studies that emerged from this school include Henry Nash Virgin Land: The American West as Myth and Symbol The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century Errand into the Wilderness The Machine in the Garden: Tech nology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964). While each of these
16 studies differs dramatically in terms of its organization collection of previously published essays each author subscribed to the methodology of the Myth and S ymbol school . T his method, as Smith himself famously described in his essay, foremost an interdisciplinary approach to literature (11 ). This is why studies like Virgin Land expand beyond traditional literary analysis in order to examine history, politics, and literary and popular culture. The other, and perhaps most important defining trait of this school, is the implicit understanding that myth is not only an obj ect of study but also a technique for analyzing U.S. literature and culture. To better understand how myth operates in these works, and why such a technique was so significant in the Cold War context, it is necessary to first review some of the basic defin itions of myth. In the Oxford English Dictionary myth is A traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon this definition suggests, there are two key aspects to any myth: its narrative structure, or story like qualities, and its ability to make sense out of complicated experiences or events. This understanding of myth is shared by Henry Nash Smith, one of the leading scholars of the Myth and Symbol School, who provides a very similar definition in the preface to his study of the American West. 3 3 essays that would eventually be published as Mythologies (1956), do es not have a relationship with . Barthes is concerned with contemporary myths in French popular culture, and he defines this not
17 Smit later revise this definition in the twentieth anniversary edition of Virgin Land , adding that more precise very far from the standard dictionary definition; his understanding o f myth was shared by his peers in the Myth and Symbol school, and did not become a source of scholarly debate until much later. The simplistic definition of myth that Smith provides, while deeply flawed, is useful as a starting point. It serves as a remin der that myth is indeed a storytelling mechanism, one that allows the author to take a series of events or experiences and translate them into narrative form. That is, myth allows the author to instill coherence on an otherwise incoherent set of data. The need for coherence was in fact a key concern for Myth and Symbol scholars, who wanted desperately to understand what it meant to be an American. Myths like the virgin land, the American Adam, and the errand into the wilderness allowed men like Smith to org anize their research around a single, central idea. In addition to enabl ing them to present prior U.S. history and culture in an organized fashion, myth also helped them to understand their contemporary experiences in the early Cold War. This is why author s like R.W.B. Lewis begin and end
18 together the past and the present, Myth and Symbol scholars utilized myth in a fashion similar to the authors they studied . They were, in a very real sense, storytellers, and their story was that of Cold War America. In order to tell their stories, Myth and Symbol scholars needed to diverge from the conventional understanding of myth. Rather than a way simply to make meaning out of complex experiences, myth was also a way to distort, or disfigure, th ese experiences so that they conform ed to the ideals of the Myth and Symbol scholars . Like a traditional narrative in Western literature , Myth and Symbol schol ars were looking for a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Richard Slotkin argues in his own landmark study of myth and the American West that a clear narrative structure is one of the most basic components of myth and imperative in order for it to achi eve its goals: Myth expresses ideology in a narrative, rather than discursive or argumentative, structure. Its language is metaphorical and suggestive rather than logical and analytical. The movement of a mythic narrative, like that of any story, implies a theory of cause and effect and therefore a theory of history (or even of cosmology); but these ideas are offered in a form that disarms critical analysis by its appeal to the structures and traditions of story telling and the clichÃ©s of historical memory . (6) effect that occurs when personal or societal experience is organized into narrative form. Such a narrative is certainly important, but it also requires the storyteller to remove any details that do not fit into the larger structure , th ereby ignoring controversial issues that e scholarship of the Myth and Symbol school it is rare to find extended discussion s of racial issues that were in fact central to the early history of the United States. Westward expansion, for example, i s simplified into a glorified quest into nature that is untouched by blood. Western heroes like Daniel Boone and Kit Carson might suffer, but their suffering never
19 becomes a pretext for launching an analysis of U.S. Native American relations, nor does it become a means for critiquing the violence that was a defining feature of U.S. imperialism. Something similar can be said in relation to gender. Myth and Symbol scholarship is filled with male characters, leaving little room for consideration of female experience. W omen s experiences in the burgeoning natio n simply do not factor into These critiques are by no means new, but they play a central role in my own story about the role of American mythology during the Cold War. 4 As more recent scholars in American studies note, it is important to recognize the narrative structure of Myth and Symbol scholarship. These myths, Donald Pease maintains , helped to support the fantasy of American exceptionalism. Pease explains in his book, The New American Exceptionalism (2009) , the ways the academy often collaborated with the U.S. policymakers depended upon the fantasy of American exceptionalism to authorize their practices of governance, but historians and lite rary scholars turned the beliefs embedded within the fantasy into the principles of selection through which they decided what historical events they would allow representation within the historical record and which literary works they would include within the U.S. canon. (11) Literary scholars like Perry Miller, Henry Nash Smith, and R.W.B. Lewis utilized myth in order to reorder and reorganize history in a manner that fit with what Pease, drawing 5 In the Cold War context, this 4 Since those who continued the story about Cold War America were primarily concerned with the lack of representation of women a nd racial minorities, the contemporary critiques of the Myth and Symbol school remain relevant in my own project. Additionally, age, a factor that has yet to be considered, is central to my interpretation of the progression of the national narratives that gained the status of myth in the 1950s. 5 In the introduction to her book, States of Fantasy understanding political identities and destinies without letting fantasy into the frame. More, that
20 reigning state fantasy was American exceptionalism for a larger framework that allows citizens to define, imagi ne, and interpret their relation to the state and the laws that enforce its power. Myths do not define the order; rather, they draw upon powerful images, themes, and symbols that support that order. Amy Kaplan makes a similar argument regarding the use of myth in Cold War prominent myth symbol scholars drew upon their adventures abroad in o rder to redefine unloading oil barrels in the Congo, but one might also include R.W.B. Lewis, whose war experiences in Italy prompted his writing of The American Adam . Myth sym bol scholars like Miller and Lewis, Kaplan argues , refashioned their experiences so that they conformed to the heroic model of the frontier tale , accounts where a white male stands nobly alone in the wilderness (9) . Even those who never left the shores of the United States found heroic models such as the frontier tale useful when it came to interpreting American experience. Such tales were the cornerstone of the state fantasy of U.S. the U.S. call a home away home structure, 6 allowed their authors to discover the key attributes of U.S. national identity that were previously hidden from them, presumabl y because Ros maintain order and rule over its citizens. 6 The home away The Hi dden Adult (2008) for a thorough discussion of this trope.
21 Symbol scholarship, myth is a way for U.S. citizens to imagine their relation to the state. Such imaginative acts are gi ven to privileged white males who already have the authority to authenticate national narratives and even contribute to these narratives by adding new stories or renditions of previous stories. Indeed, much of the work of the Myth and Symbol scholars entai more directly to a Cold War audience. Perry Miller maintains in the preface to Errand into the Wilderness that one of the most important tasks he under took in his study was rand was in the Cold War, and how this new mission In her recent study of conceptions of national identity in early American literature, Courtney Weikle Mills defines imaginary acts like th e ones I am describing here as producing Mills departs from the understanding of these imaginary acts by by restricting them to those not granted citizenship status. Imaginary citizens, writes Weikle in literary depictions of citizenship and were often invited to view themsel ves as citizens Mills is concerned specifically with imaginary citizens (16). African Americans, Native Americans, and other historically marginalized groups have each had rights removed from them because they were thought to have more in common with children than adults, and therefore needed the
22 care of a guardian who could make decisions about their lives for them. The distinction between full citizens, citizens in progress, and non citizens recognizes the differences between approved and non approved storytellers. T he Myth and Symbol school is an example of the former category, where white men attending Ivy League schools like Harvard University worked together in a patriarchal society that privileged white male authority. In many cases, they received the support of their university in order to publish works that would eventually define their careers, and were able to circulate their narratives to other similarly minded scholars who were also rethinking U.S. national identity. Thus, w hat we convention ally think of as were really story telling sessions, where one author swapped stories with another in order to continue the process of defining and describing U.S. national identity. In contrast to these approved storytellers, there were others who fell into the latter two categories , to be an Ame rican? , a citizen in progress is Vladimir Nabokov, who was legally a U.S. citizen by the time he began writing Lolita (1955), but whose status as a Russian immigrant would make him automatica lly suspect in the early Cold War. Authors like Nabokov play off this suspicion and use it to their advantage in order to challenge national narratives . T by u sing myth as a way of disorganizing rather than organizing cultural experiences. Such a shake up shocks readers familiar with the tropes of popular myths and challenges the order that these same myths are intended to support (e.g., American exceptionalism) .
23 What both approved and non approved storytellers had in common was an understanding of the symbolic power of childhood. In literary criticism and novels that span the period 1945 2011, a range of work appeared where the child helped to figure and these authors whether scholars or novelists think through questions of U.S. national i dentity. Carolyn Steedman argues in her study of childhood and human interiority that figures such as the child were S teedman notes, differ from symbols because they do not simply stand in for something else (e.g., a dove that symbolizes peace); rather, the figure is a way for a culture to give body to ideas that would otherwise be difficult to process. To figure, then, i s to put together an idea until it quite literally takes shape (Steedman provides the example of Mignon , Apprenticeship [1795 6] ). 7 The term is derived from its Lat in roots, figura , which means process, an act where both scholars and authors worked through a plethora of ideas regarding the nation by bringing them together in the bodily form of the child. The privileging of the child in Cold War texts is , as I previously noted , by no means unique. In fact, the Cold War use of the figure of the child continues a much longer history where the child was integral to the articulation of U.S. national identity. In 7 Steedman traces the emergence and development of this child figure in nineteenth century English culture.
24 Cradle of Liberty (2006), Caroline Levander explains that the very origin of the word 8 This connection between childhood and nation was not lost on early Americans, who often considered when speaking in religious terms . ch language allowed early Americans to think in terms of familial relations, and to manipulate these relations so that they worked to their advantage. Within the context of the Revolutionary period, Patriots depicted England as ental authority no longer held sway precisely because she had embrace] a mythology of fresh starts afforded by the genealogical break with the birth y 7). Courtney Weikle Mills adds that Patriots would also alternate during the Revolutionary War between identifying themselves as honest and obedient children and unruly ones (2). Weikle Mills adds that the influence of childhood on U.S. national identity , while not unique , identity . This occurred in part because Americans understood the relative youth of their nation in comparison to those in Europe as a defining factor of U.S. national identity (8 9). In these examples, the child serves and begin the process of defining U.S. national identity. This process did not end with the conclusion of the Revolutio nary War, but rather grew and developed , much as a real child. By the end of the Second World War, U.S. strongly with adolescent s . The adolescent became a useful transit ional figure, since 8 Christopher (Kit) Kelen and Bj Ã¶ rn Sundmark make a similar argument about the relation ship between (2013).
25 adolescence is understood as the moment when a child is perched between childhood and adulthood. A dolescents are still legally children, but they are beginning to look and behave more like adults, especially in terms of their ability to reason . A lack of reason was according to Enlightenment theory one of the primary reasons why children were excluded from citizenship. The figure of the adolescent also con n ects to history , as adolescence is commonly understood to be a ti me of rebellion. In popular Rebel Without a Cause (1955), adolescents are depicted as angst ridden , irrational, and even violent ; yet this violence is framed as being driven by the even more irrational behavior of the parent s, who fail to live up to the ideals of their off spring excused precisely because he or she understands what it means to be an American that is, to be willing to break the rules on occasion in order to uphold a higher moral standard and demands that his or her parent s live up to the same standards. The transition from metaphors of childhood to those of adolescence signal s the way in which the state of the nation dictates how U.S. citizens imagine themselves. In the 1950s, the figure of the adolescent allowed U.S. citizens effectively to articulate the . T his figure literally gave shape t o the many anxieties attached to this transition , and allowed U.S. citizens to consider what it might mean to be an American in a global era. As Leerom Medovoi observes in his study of 1950s youth culture, T hese [young rebel] figures emerged at the dawn of the Cold War era because the ideological production of the United States as leader of the free world character, whether in relation to the Soviet Union, the new nations of the third world, or even its own suburbs . (1)
26 While Medovoi is correct when he argues that the adolescent figured prominently in Cold War culture, the child did not immediately disappear as a status as a world leader. Rather, figures of childhood and adolescence would emerge at various moments when needed to depict varying issues relevant at the time. For the U.S., the figure of the child featured more prominently, precisely because people of color have historically been viewed as dependent and immature. The figure of the child also reemerges in times of crisis like the post 9/11 era as a way of represent ing the a time . Even though childhood does not follow an easy developmental pattern that maturity , I find the developmental metaphor useful as a way of thinking about the relationship between childhood and national identity. This is why I begin with in although these experiences do help to shape the figures that feature in my project than in ascendancy and decline describe U.S. national identity also grew up in the sense that they became more c omplex and sophisticated. What might have begun as a racial stereotype of indigenous people, for example, developed into a means of sensitive ly portray ing the multiple issues at stake in considering race in the United States. Even in moments where one might sense a regression, such as when children again come to dominate in literary
27 9 In orde r to examine the role that childhood plays in the making and remaking of professional and other studies, including those conducted by such notable figures as G. Stanley Hall and Havelock Ellis, I refer here to a very different history that begins specifically in the academic movement to study childhood. Anna Mae Duane sums up the thrust of the moveme nt in her introduction to (2013 ), the first comprehensive edited collection on the subject. Childhood studies, Duane maintains , field, chang Childhood studies is still relatively new and, as a result, does not yet have a fixed i dentity. H owever, there are a few aspects that set it apart from, say, the related study of combines methods of research drawn from across the humanities and social science s . Childhood studies blends a humanistic and social scientific approach in order to better represent the complexity around the world of ideas regarding childhood , as well as the experiences of children living in each of these nations. I nsofar as c hildhood studies is similar to American studies in fact, many childhood studies scholars are employed by American studies departments it seeks to gain strength by broadly defining its method 9 See, for example, the progression that occurs in my chapter on the American Adam myth. In works such Island o f the Blue Dolphins Solar Storms (1995), for example, one can see how the young adolescents portrayed in these novels are subject to increasingly complex allowing readers to see her as more than a conglomeration of stereotypes.
28 and scope. Additionally, by adding childhood to the metaphorical table of academic fields, childhood studies de centers already established fields and , as Duane notes , shifts the conversation in a way that produces new findings on topics that might otherwise appear exhausted. A similar decentering of an established field of study occurs in my project . While there is a wealth of scholarship on the Myth and Symbol school, especially critical pieces denouncing these scholars for ignoring race and gender, there has yet to be a comprehensive study of the role that childhood played in their work. I maintain that myth symbol scholars like Henry Nash Smith, R.W.B. Lewis, and Perry Miller were in fact deeply engaged with questions of youth, and that cultural conceptions of childhood helped shape the myths that allowed them to answer their own questions regarding national identity inaugurated a chain of retellings that would continue to draw upon the figure of the child in order to rework national mythology in respon se to the changes in the contemporary dominant order. As I mentioned earlier , myth draws upon powerf ul images, themes, and symbols in order to Because the U.S. changed profoundly during the period 1945 2011, the myths used to support the order changed as well. Donald Pease succinctly sums up this process o structures of disavowal are either suspended or, in the case of the cold war, discontinued, what remained unacknowledged under the aegis of the state fantasy Stories where childhood and national identity intersect can also take on a more subversive role, and help begin the process of dismantl ing an existing order even while it is still in place. A s with the flexib l e figure
29 culture, myth can also be reclaimed for a project of imagin ing alternatives to an existing order. In this case, myth is used to destabilize the existing order by revealing the flaws in it and the vision of U.S. culture it promote s . By employing a childhood studies app roach, it is possible to read changes in American mythology and the ways it helped to either support or challenge the existing order. The three moments of prime importance for my study are the periods 1945 1989, 19 89 200 1 and 2001 2011. Those familiar with these dates will immediately recognize the first and the last as being marked by wars that took on a global dimension (i.e., the ar more interesting for its function as a transitional moment. 10 suddenly became the subject of extensive criticism. In novels of th is period, authors return to the Cold War and critique the subjection of politically marginalized people , including American Indians and people of color in the Caribbean. The suburbs, too, are criticized with renewed zeal for their tendency to function as a restrict ive space that demands conformity and erases racial, class, and ethnic issues by denying access to people that fall in these categories or hiding them behind white picket fences. Those who grew up in the 1990s will understand the change that occurred in the 10 In Life Between Two Deaths , Phillip Wegner argues for a critical engagement with the 1990s, or the time between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the later fall of the Twin Towers in 2001. He writes before and after Cold War scholars, Wegner makes a case for expanding the traditional timeframe of the Cold War in order to include later periods that place these ear lier historical events into relief.
30 aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Suddenly, the enemy that the U.S. had lost with the close of the Cold War reemerged in the guise of a Middle Eastern terro rist. In his September 20, 2001 speech, George W. Bush set the tone by declaring, has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done. terrorist organization known as Al Qaeda and to demand that nations harboring this new enemy turn them over to the U.S. With speeches such as this one, the Cold War rhetoric of were initiated in an effort to stop terrorism. Terrorists could be hiding anywhere, just as earlier in the Cold War Communists could be hiding anywhere. Such rhetoric bred a new culture of fear that set in motion new revisions of American myths; 11 some U.S. citizens embraced the new order, but many more resisted since they realized the danger inherent in this kind of rhetoric. My reading of the Cold War as a much longer struggle that lasted well into the early 2000s builds upon the more recent work of post 1945 scholars. In the Oxford Handbook of the Cold War (2013), an edited collection that challenges traditional readings of t he Cold War as a struggle between two world powers, contributors insist that the Cold War is just one phase in a much longer movement of globalization, human 11 make it useful in Cold War studies. See, for example, the edited collection, Cultures of Fear: A Critical Reader (20 09) and Between Fear and Freedom: Cultural Representations of the Cold War (2010). The that instills fear within its citizens in order to contr ol them. In contrast, Between Freedom and Fear agenda. In short, this second text demonstrates how the state maintains a culture of fear through the u se of everyday objects (a book, a movie, a T shirt).
31 rights, and decolonization, among others (Iriye 22). It is for this reason that the crumbling of t unfinished Immerman and Petra Goedde, add a history that needs to be taken into account as both a comment and counter narrative to the domin ant story of cold war confrontations (8) . The Oxford Handbook is not the only one to suggest that the 1990s and early 2000s should be included in studies of the Cold War. Walter LaFeber makes a similar claim in America, Russia and the Cold War, 1945 20 06 (2006). LaFeber, a well known historian of the Cold War, updated his landmark text to include the 1990s and early 2000s. In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, LaFeber created a new Cold War narrative that traces the co nclusion of earlier struggles between the U.S. and Russia in the Middle East, particularly in Afghanistan, to e ber remarks that in the straight line runs from the U.S. Soviet struggle in the 1980s over Afghanistan (see pp. 316, 345), to the tragedies in New York City and Washing My own project, which revolves around narrative storytelling, would be incomplete without the inclusion of the final two important chapters in the Cold War narrative in terms of accou nt of the Cold War, the Cold War proper (1945 1989) is only the beginning in a much longer effort to define U.S. national identity during a period of increased influence in international affairs. Those who attempted to author narratives that either support ed
32 draw attention to the tensions that emerged from a single chapter in a larger narrative fraught with racial and gender issues. As the editors in the Oxford Handbook to th e Cold War alternative moments and milestones, rich also in exposing missed opportunities and War policy (both domestic and foreign), and those in the early 2000s turned to the Cold War with the help of a figure that most would consider voiceless, vulnerable, and incapable of enacting change: the child. By turning to the child figure, critics of Cold War policy , especially women and m inorities , that suffered during the Cold War proper in order to deconstruct national narratives that cast the child as a passive and obedient subject . Chapter Overview My study begins with a discussion of the origins of three Cold War myths: the virgin lan d, the errand into the wilderness, and the American Adam. My first chapter returns to the foundational work of Henry Nash Smith, R.W.B. Lewis, and Perry Miller , I argu e that the se founders drew upon cult ural conceptions of childhood in order to refashion classic American myths status as a democracy with a divine mission, was coming into vogue. Many of the prominent critics of exceptionalism in the field, including Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease, have addressed the destructive aspects of the myths that emerged out of what
33 this criticism , there has yet to be an extensive study regarding the relationship between Myth and Symbol literature journals such as The Lion and the Unicorn and rature Association Quarterly 12 Similarly, Americanists have attended to these myths even considering the implications of them in work s featuring children yet they fail to consider the relationship 13 This first chapter is therefore intended to address the limits in current scholarship on the myths associated with the founders of American Studies . My second chapter focuses on the literary response to th e American Adam myth during the Cold War. Understanding the destructive aspects of myths that erased from U.S. national narratives gender and racial conflict, authors responded with literary fiction that exposed the discrepancies in the mythology construct ed by the Myth and Symbol of the American Adam by considering the difference gender and race make in the American experience. These case studies including novels intended for children and adults imagin e a young girl in the place of the American Adam. The American Eve is like her male predecessor in that she too is a model of self relian ce and appears to come from nowhere. However, unlike the American Adam, this fem ale figure is haunted by her past and must come to terms with it in order to continue leading a n independent 12 13 See, for example, T. Christine Jespersen Solar Storms
34 life. Because the American Adam was often imagined as an explorer, these case studies touch upon the history of U.S. empire and explore the guilt a ssociated with these exploits. The girls in each case are either Native American or those pretending to be Native American. The se novels Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960), Solar Storms Swamplandia! (2011) thus seek to dispel the negative aspects of the original myth by restoring gender and race to the national narrative. In the third chapter, I continue my discussion of race and gender in the context of the virgin land myth. My central argument here is that the adolescent girl became a go to figure for novelists interested in critiquing the virgin land myth as a result of the pop ular interpretation of adolescence as a time of transition. As in nationally sanctioned narratives of U.S. expansion, the girls in these narratives are mythologized by male characters who are attracted by their beauty, and as a result, these girls frequent ly suffer emotional and physical abuse. The violence in these narratives serves as an illustration of the damaging effects of colonialism, and brings attention to the absence of empire in the reigning national narrative. I take as my case studies in this c hapter Lolita The Virgin Suicides (1993), and The Plague of Doves (2008), each of which challenge dominant narratives of U.S. expansion by underscoring the violence of the imperialist ic agenda. My fourth chapter Errand into the Wilderness (1956). son wonder if they
35 are living up to the foreign policies during the Cold War also turned to father son bonds as a way of Meindert The House of Sixty Fathers Rule of the Bone (1995), and Flight (2007) use the adoption trope in order to imagine new ties to foreign nations. This extends earlier uses of the trope in nineteenth century American literature, where it was my case studies, and man y are fraught with anxiety regarding U.S. intervention in foreign affairs. My final chapter shifts from works produced in the U.S. in order to imagine the the articu happens to this figure in a moment when this power is dwindling? What, for example, will this child look like when the U.S. finally becomes integrated into a global community? I use Taiwanese author Chang Ta Wild Child ( 1996 ) as a case study for explor ing these questions. Chang is a renowned critic of Taiwanese culture, and his dual interests in childhood and Cold War politics makes his work an especially rich case study for my concerns . Chang demonstrates the effects of globalization on his child characters, clothing them in American imports that are ironically made in enables him to rethink the role childhood plays in the construction of American national identity in a world where
36 reflexive analysis of the art of storytelling reveals the continued importance of myth in identity formation. Conclusion Questions regarding U.S. national identity have not fallen to the wayside in the aftermath of the Cold War . R ather, they have returned with a strength that proves that to concern future generations. While it is uncertain how new answers to this familiar question will reshape U.S. identity, it is certain that childhood will continue to be a central part of the stories the nation tells about itself . As Caroline Levander su ggests, he child tells an important story not only about how the United States emerged as a global force, but also about how it continues to endure in an increasingly postnational, The Cold War marked the beginning of this global consci ousness, with the figure of the child firmly at the center of debates concerning U.S. national identity. As the global experiences that define life in the twenty first century , the child once again becomes a central part of efforts to forge and reforge a national identity . For better or for worse, the figure of the child remains an integral part of U.S. storytelling practices .
37 CHAPTER 2 AMERICAN NATIONAL MYTHS IN THE EARLY COLD WAR In the early Cold War, several leading scholars in the emerging field of American studies traded their military weapons for ideological ones . Recently home from the Second World War battlefield, they hung up their uniforms and embarked on a mission to define, describe, and celebrate the United States . This new mission required tools that would capture the cultural climate during the post war years, a climate that was largely dictated by the pressure to conform to traditional family values. Drawing from their literary toolkits, these soldier scholars turned to the figure of the child, one of the and of its hopes and dr eams. The figure of the child, in a situation rife with fear of the spread of Communism and the possibility of nuclear warfare, made it possible to trace the literary traditions, and in doing so to identify key features of the national character. Children, as those who deployed this figure understood, were associated not just with innocence , but also childhood. Deriving from the Old English cild , unborn or newly Germanic kiltham , meaning represents a range of possibilities. It is a person in a state of becoming, with all of the possibilities associated with that moment of transformation and tra nsition. It was by way of these associations with childhood that these scholars also began to interpret their present moment. In a lengthy debate that revolved around the dialectic of innocence and experience, such notable literary critics as Leslie Fiedl er, Ihab Hassan, R.W.B. Lewis, and Henry May identified the centrality of innocence in U.S. national identity and considered the implications of what some
38 Hassan 315). Fears about the future of America were articulated through An End to Innocence The End of American Innocence Radical Innocence: Studies in the Contemporary American Novel (1961). As the titles suggest, there was a sense that innocence was no longer possible in the present age, and that some thing terrifying was Allen Skotheim to announce the followi ng in a 1961 review from American Quarterly : T win concerns, both with ascertaining prior American innocence and with pointing out paths which lead beyond innocence suggest a coming of age of attitudes toward the American past and present which can be identified as an important segment of the contemporary scholarly climate of opinion . (94) attempted to come to terms with frightening future, including the prospect that all history could be snuffed out with a single push of a button. Through the figure of the child, the se scholars attempted to recapture the sense of po ssibility and hope were more cynical, while others brimm ed with optimism. The scope of the beyond innocence debate extends even further than the meager documentation suggests Indeed, the turn to the figure of the child can be seen in the development of American studies, which originated in the 1920s and gained momentum in the 1940s after the The pioneers of American studies, including Perry Miller, Henry Nash Smith, and R.W.B. Lewis, addressed the concerns of the post World War II generation through the revival of several American national myths. The se included the American Adam, the virgin
39 land, and the errand into the wilderness. Men of their times, Miller, Smith, and Lewis ac knowledge d that the United States was in a moment of transformation from childhood to the status of a mature world power. The se men expressed th e anxiety surrounding this transitional moment through the deployment of the figure of the child in their studies culture. Miller, for example, depicted th e Puritan errand as shot through with a tension between fathers and sons, an intergenerational struggle marked by failure and a sense of incompetence. Smith, on the other hand, was drawn more to the heroes of the past, and he often described the m as young ruffians full of spirit and energy. Lewis, too, was an optimist, and identified several moments of renewal in American literature and history, although notably he did not extend the possibility for a re birth to his own generation. What each of these men h ad in common was a desire to understand their present through an extensive study of the America of the past. In their work, the past and the present began to collide in the bodily form of the child. This absence of any sustained scholarly attention to the central figure of the child is in part due to the marginalization of childhood studies in the humanities. Anna Mae Duane points out in her introduction to that scholars interested in younger dinner guests who are not yet mature enough to dine with the adults (1). The resistance to childhood studies in American studies is evident in the different responses to landmark essays published over the years in American Quarterly 1 tature of an article like Barbara 1 See Locating American Studies: The Evolution of a Discipline
40 The Cult of True Womanhood. Perhaps this is because the genre Kelly chose to explore is of less interest to American studies scholars than ldhood was seen as suspect with the : there are] powerful social forces now active beneath the surface of American life, forces which glorify immaturity and thus obscure an e ssential distinction between adolescent 2 assumption that childhood, or in this case adolescence, is a stage of life associated with immaturity, one that should not be returned to once passed through . It is only with the increase of childhood studies in the early 2000s that American ists more generally have begun to take seriously the importance of the child . This turn is evidenced in several recent book reviews in American Quarterly . Maude Hines notes Critical interest in childhood has grown in American studies in the last few continues , [ f ollow] a trend in recent scholarship that looks at the child, along with its treatment and figuration books help us to see the breadth of possibility for playing with the role of the child in American studies . (151) f ocus begun to gain the sustained attention of American studies scholars ; Mickenberg insists that childhood studies should matter to those in American studies of our society, revealing how American culture reproduces itself in the younger generat asserts, 2 Ame rican Quarterly in 1962.
41 explicit focus on childhood in U.S. culture is testament to the centrality of childhood in the construction of national identity, the subject of many of the books discussed in these reviews. While the attention childhood is now receiving is welcome, it does tend to skew the history of American studies. If, as I mentioned previously, we view the scholarship of several leading scholars in the field through a childhood studies lens, one will find that it was always already deeply concerned with childhood. In fact, it is not too much to say define, describe, and celebrate U.S. national identity. It is as if, returning from war, they Still in military mode, they obeyed, and made incredible contributions to studies of childhood, even if they were not consciously attempting to do so (after all, the academic study of childhood would not develop until much later) . 3 What follows, then, is a brief o verview of the historical factors that led to the beyond innocence debate, a conversation that frames the activities of the other leaders in American studies, most notably those from the Myth and Symbol school. The Beyond Innocence Debate: A Brief Overview During the 1950s, several factors contributed to the rise of the adolescent in American fiction and literary criticism: teen culture was rapidly expanding, the launch of new mass publication s challenged highbrow literature, and there existed a po st war 3 Much like the categories of gender and race, childhood was not considered a critical category of inquiry at the time. This is not to say that scholars did not think about these categories even a cursory glance at popular Cold War scholarship would refute this claim yet there was no formal support for such inquiry at the time. It was not until the 1970s, for example, that the study of childhood began to take shape through
42 Many s cholars felt that America must forgo its previous fetishization o f innocence if it was ever to mature. In re examining this period, some scholars believe that war time contact with the Old World was the spark that set scholars aflame. Most of these pioneering scholars were young men recently returned from the war, an experience that affe cted them to the extent that they began to challenge the worldviews of their older collea gues (Knowles and Skotheim 99). S cholars in the beyond innocence debate can be divided into two camps: those for and against the inclusion of the adolescent in America n literature. Of th ose that participated in these debates, Ihab Hassan , for example, defended the adolescent most persistently and eloquently , whereas Leslie Fiedler presented the Love and Death in the American Novel , where he insists that it is necessary to move ver to grow up . literature as a whole and identifying literary strains responsible for its current state. Others, however, limited their critiques to the visible changes i n contemporary American fiction. The Beats, not surprisingly, took the brunt of the criticism , and were often and adolescent antics made them popular with a burgeoning yo uth culture , but also a prime target for anxious literary critics. An example of this criticism is to be found in American Quarterly introduction, Scott remarks ,
43 T he Beat conception of the creative process, shot through with inconsistency and naivetÃ©, is an indirect yet almost inevitable result of powerful social forces now active beneath the surface of American life, forces which glorify immaturity and thus obscure an essential distinction between adolescent spontaneity and adult creativity . (151) Scott continues his tirade as he warns readers about le yet important change in the beyond innocence debate: by the early 1960s, critics were not only demanding a move beyond innocence, they were genuinely worried about the impact of teen culture on Love and Death in th e American Novel (1965). The teen had therefore moved beyond serving as a symbol of the growing pains of twentieth century writers and developed into the embodiment of the threat to further literary achievement. T he heightened anxiety and intensity of the backlash against the American teen threatened by youth culture. In Rebels: Youth and the Cold War Origins of Identity (2005) , Leerom Medovoi attributes some of this anxi ety to the changes in the book market. The increase in paperback sales meant that librarians and other traditional bastions of literary culture were losing control over the tastes of Americans. Teens in particular embraced the mass market paperback. As the number of paperbacks marketed to teens increased, the se youth quickly gained the power to choose for themselves what they deemed worthwhile reading. Medovoi notes that these changes had further ramifications for literary critics, who were equally concerned with the new what they perceived as a tendency toward literary conformity, driv
44 both of that th e se s were not entirely unwarranted. However, the backlash against mass market paperbacks, and the targeting of the adolescent in particular, were often exaggerated responses to new market trends (82). The increased visibility of youth cultures in the 1950s i s only part of the reason why participants in the beyond innocence debate turned anew to the figure of the adolescent. As the dialectic of innocence and experience suggests, the adolescent was a crucial transitional figure that promised adult maturity in t he near future. Younger children, while still central to the argument, were associated more with the America of the past , an , if it did, had little relevance for the war shocked scholars participating in the beyond innocence debate. In his summary of the intellectual fascination with adolescence, Leerom Medovoi explains , T hese [young rebel] figures emerged at the dawn of the Cold War era because the ideological production of the United States as leader of the free world character, whether in relation to the Soviet Union, the new nations of the third world, or even its own suburbs . (1) Medovoi stresses that ith rebellion and freedom was ideologically useful in the political climate of the early Cold War; however, there were other factors that led to interest in this transitional figure. The adolescent captured the fears that the nation was stuck in a state of arrested development, trapped forever in the pimply, serotonin ridden body of a teenager . Without some kind of decisive act, the nation might never realize its potential as the leader of the free world.
45 Such an overview might suggest that participants in the beyond innocence debate saw the adolescent only in a negative light ; however, for many , the adolescent also embodied an leaders of the debate, described the adolescent as a complex figure t hat deserves respect : experience. Behind it lies what we used to call the American Dream, the vision of youth, the most revealing comment in his innocence and experience, explaining how the adolescent fits in it : What went wrong with the American Dream, we all seem to be on the verge of asking, and our novelists, perhaps looking back to their own boyhood, write as if the adolescent knew the answer. And perhaps they are right. The adolescent is no longer simple or ignora nt since Innocence has come to be rejected in the favor of Experience, and the pursuit of happiness has made way for the greater elegance of damnation . (318) may seem cynical today , but in its own context, it expressed an enormous opti mis m about the potential of the adolescent to open up spaces for discussion of the fears and anxieties of the current age. constructively compared to the attitudes of other participants in the debate , including Leslie Fiedler and Henry May. Both Fiedler and May believed that the time of innocence was over, and that it was necessary to move half of the twentieth century. In the conclusion to The End of American Innocence (1 959), May remarks, The end of American innocence was part of a great tragedy, but it was not, in itself, an unmitigated disaster. Those who look at it with dismay, or those who deny that it happened, do so because they expect true stories
46 to have a compl etely happy ending. This is a kind of innocence American history must get over . (398) a myth of innocence fiction of innocence is reductive simply cannot persist because it will leave Americans in a perpetual st ate of naivety. Fiedler joins the choir championing a move beyond innocence in his similarly titled work, An End to Innocence , a collection of essays that features his achievement . While this essay previews ed in a state of boyish innocence, these writers strive to reach the maturity that Fiedler 50s literary scene revives the Old World/New World divide, positioning those writers in the New World as innocents. Even for the more critical scholars, the adolescent remains a valuable figure, as he/she enables them to frame the cultural tensions of the 1950s in terms of a coming of age story. Both Fiedler and May, despite their critic isms of innocence, are good examples of this use of the figure . In rejecting innocence, Fiedler and May both reach characteristic of adulthood ( May 393). One cannot help but t hink of the most iconic teenager of American young adult fiction, Holden Caulfield, who embraces these very emotions. Adolescent angst and the brooding cynical attitude of teen icons like Caulfield
47 embody the values that advocates of an America beyond inno cence embraced. Pamela Hunt Steinle notes that the cultural power of adolescent figures like Caulfield stemmed distant future (155). in his/her ability to transform into a fully fledged adult. Poised between innocence and experience, the adolescent has attributes associated with both of these states, and therefore has all of the potential , for eit her success or failure , that literary critics associated with Cold War America in terms of both its cultural and political power. The issues and concerns that led to the beyond innocence debate display how the figure of the child, especially child figures on the verge of adulthood , became central to the expression of post . Those identified as beyond innocence participants are not fully responsible for the deployment of the figure of the child at this pivotal moment, however. In order to grasp the depth of the reliance on child figures in the Cold War moment, it is necessary to turn our attention to the Myth and Symbol school. Proponents of th is approach , which included Perry Miller, Henry Nash Smith, and R.W.B. Lewis, turned to myth as a way of defining, describing, and celebrating U.S. national identity. The Myth and Symbol school should no t be seen as separate from the beyond innocence debate. Indeed, some of its members, such as R.W.B. Lewis , were a ffiliated with both groups. Lewis was deeply invest ed in the theme of American innocence and fear ed its loss, even as he advocated for a myth and symbol approach to American culture. Myth, for Lewis, was a method for approaching the topic of American innoc ence and experience, a more effective way to analyze the dialectic that fascinated many of the leading critics of the time. T he beyond
48 innocence debate and the Myth and Symbol school were like two pieces of a puzzle: the Myth and Symbol approach provided t he tools necessary to analyze the state of America as it teetered between innocence and experience. While not all of the proponents of the Myth and Symbol approach fascination with innocence, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that man y were equally concerned with the changes in American culture that were central to the debate. Myth and Symbol scholars recognized their moment as one of transition: America, it seemed to them, was at the end of one age and the beginning of another. In ord er to prepare for the challenges that Americans faced, these scholars turned to the figure of the child. The child helped them structure the messy history of the United States, and work through their own anxieties about the present age. For example, in the conclusion to The American Adam Lewis writes , We have had to get beyond such simple minded adolescent confidence, we suppose; we may even have got beyond the agonizing disillusion that unexamined confidence begets; and we sometimes congratulate ourselves austerely for having settled, like adults or Europeans, upon a course of prolonged tolerable hopelessness . (195) Miller, too, dwells on adolescence , in this case his own , in the preface to Errand into the Wilderness : T hese papers, along with three or four books, are all I have yet been able to realize of a determination conceived three decades ago at Matadi on the banks of the Congo. I came there seeking adventure, jealous of the older contemporaries to whom that bo on had been offered by the First World War . (vii) Youth, and particularly male youth, offer these scholars a means to frame their larger movement into a position of global dominance. Such a shift , Lewis indicates, requ support in his own narrative when he nostalgically describes his boyhood: these are
49 days to be remembered, he suggest s , not ones to be returned to altogether. While these two cases support a move narrative structure indicates the necessity still of a vigorous youthful character. The child figure provides a useful contrast to the shaky maturity that Lewis and Miller identify in the present. Such a figure helped to give bodily form to the anxieties expressed by the Myth and Symbol school and other literary critics who were bound together by a shared feeling that the nation must move beyond innocence. F igures at different stages of development, especially the child as the embodiment of the America n past and the adolescent as the present, began to populate the literary criticism of the early Cold War and continued into the 1960s. I offer close reading s of three landmark studies from the The American Adam Virgin Land Errand into the Wilderness (1956). My readings bear out the real value o f thinking about earlier scholarship in American studies through a childhood studies lens. Even though studies explicitly devoted to childhood may be a more recent phenomenon, childhood has and continues to be central to the development of U.S. national id entity. This is something that the early leaders of the American studies movement seemed to understand. The long standing division s ing important elements of American intellectual history. For the Love of Innocence: R.W.B. Lewis and the American Adam When R.W.B. Lewis returned from the Second World War and resumed his graduate studies at the University of Chicago, he turned his attention to the task of re defining U.S. national identity through a survey of nineteenth century American
50 contemplate the American experience and contrast the past with its current state . of war torn Europe reinvigorated his love of country, prompting him to return to the conversi on to American literature in the preface to Literary Reflections (1993): My immersion in American literature began in the spring of 1945, during the last months of the war, in an apartment in Florence commandeered for my small mobile intelligence unit. It was there that I happened upon a copy of Moby Dick in an Armed Forces edition and read it right through. completely around. The impact of the quintessentially American book in that Tuscan European environment led me to wonder for the first time about the phenomenon of being an American, about American habits of speech and behavior as contrasted with the European varieties, about American literature and its own characteristics and tradition s. (xvi) Lewis presented as on par with a religious clash of the New and Old World s . Th is clash was experienced by many s peers, and it was this defining historical moment that prompted them to search for the basis of a re new ed national identity in the literature of the past. study of the America n Adam myth, the subject of his dissertation and first book. The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century (1955) at once positioned Lewis as a participant in the beyond innocence debate and a Myth and Symbol scholar. recalls Carolyn
51 the figure D espite of the American Adam as a literary figure, he was still deeply invested in its mythical aspects. I earlier pointed out that myth is a form of storytelling with the power to help the storyteller understand cultural experiences. For Lewis, this is exactly t he way the American Adam functioned in the nineteenth century. In fact, Lewis myth, unlike the Roman, was not fashioned ultimately by a single man of genius. It was an various conversations concerning innocence and experience during the ninete enth century, a project that was a valuable means to unraveling the contradictions inherent in produced new works of art because they lacked inspiration (10). his fellow participants in the beyond innocence debates project is an attempt to return to a n imagined period of enlightenment and literary prosperity the American Renaissance in order to inject some life into what he perceives to be a languishing national literature. The literature of the twentieth century, e stirring impulsions, of greater perspectives W ith this claim , Lewis opens up a discussion
52 ng fathers , Vernon Parrington and F.O. Matthiessen. Recognizable figures such as Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman, Thoreau, and Emerson all enter into the discussion alongside theologians, politicians, and physicians of the day. particularly youth as it is conventionally understood: children, that is, are perceived as innocent and adolescents are perceived as experienced. discussions consists, on the one hand, of reviving the American Adam myth, and, on the other hand, of bringing attention to the youthful aspects of th e figure. While all of the myth symbol scholars were interested to varying degrees in childhood and adolescence, Lewis is more upfront about his dependence on the cultural conceptions associated with these two stages of life. For instance, rather than hide the nineteenth century fascination with childhood, Lewis embraces it indeed, he c alls attention to it on several occasions. One of the more notable references is to be found in at Walden Pond . Lewis likens experien ces to a search for renewal in the folds of nature : What he [Thoreau] was demanding was that individuals start life all over again, and that in the new world a fresh start was literally and immediately possible to anyone wide enough awake to attempt it. It was in this way that the experience coul d also appear as a return to childhood , to the scenes and wonder of that time . (26 ) Lewis returns again to th e t he me s of renewal and Leaves of Grass . The poet, Lewis insists, manages to take hereby become that
53 child (50). No longer encumbered by the constraints of adult perception, Whitman sted upon. 4 analysis; it is an urgent call to his readers. Lewis wants readers to return to these prior moments in literary history in order to better grasp that Lewis decides to use this as the name for the first section of his study indicates that actually achieves, is no longer viable for contemporary Americans. I n fact, attempt s to convince readers that not only is innocence no longer useful, but that experience is the preferable option anyway. The catch is that Lewis must strike a balance between the two , so that his ideal American enters maturity with just the right traces of innocence remaining concern with balancing innocence and experience aligns him with the beyond innocence approach , and he is indeed the only prominent Myth and Symbol scholar to receive recognition as a contributor to the debate. 5 ent in his descriptions of the American Adam variants that appeared during the nineteenth century. These range from the able to survive on their 4 Lewis observes that Wh propagated, and he is always going forth transformation to the child that Lewis suggests is the key difference between Whitman and his literary predecessor. 5 Rebels: Youth and the Cold War Origins of Identity (2005) and In Cold Fear: Th e Catcher in the Rye Censorship Controversies and Postwar American Character (2000).
54 own, relying solely on their own Leaves of Grass . One of these catalogues bears citing in full, for it is n this section but also of the underlying rhetoric of his entire project: There, in fact, is the new Adam. If we want a profile of him, we could start with the adjectives that Whitman supplies: amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary; especially unitary, and certainly very easily amused; too complacent, we frequently feel, but always compassionate expressing the old divine passion for every sparrow that falls, every criminal and prostitute and hopeless in valid, every victim of violence or and the exhaustive portrait of Adam would be composed of a careful gloss on each one of them: hankering, gross, mystical, nude; turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking, and breeding; no sentimentalist, no stander above men and women; no more modest than immodest; wearing his hat as he pleases indoors and out; never skulking or ducking or deprecating; adoring himself and adoring his comrades; af youth, but then takes a striking turn in its second half, where sudden ly the new Adam becomes sharp ly with the previous ones, which seem more applicable to a happy go lucky youth. In this way, Lewis effectively combine s characteristics that readers might associate with innocence with those of ex perience or maturity. In the short space of his catalogue, Lewis manages to compress the growing up process, so that by the end the new Adam is no longer a child but a mature male. Despite the fact that Lewis is still concerned with those nineteenth centu ry intellectuals who favored innocence, he gently direct s his reader towards the more
55 preferable state of experience, effectively blending the characteristics of the two states . In so doing, he embodies Cold War sentiment about the position of America in t he postwar period. As both Leerom Medovoi and Pamela Hunt Steinle argue, the a new global prominence precisely because it represented a transitional state. Moreover, i tendency to be associated with revolution, also enabled such a figure to capture some of the most beloved values of the nation founding during the American Revolution (1). Steinle similarly argue s that Lewis was attracted to the adolescent figure precisely because this figure is in th e process of coming of age. The fact that the adolescent is nearing adulthood suggests that full maturity will ultimately be reached (Steinle 155) . Since the emphasis in the early Cold War, especially for those adhering to the beyond innocence position , wa s on moving towards cultural maturity, it is understandable why they might turn to a figure that stressing the importance of maturity. Like many of his peers, includin g Fiedler and Henry May, Lewis believed that remaining in a state of innocence would ultimately hinder the nation progres s. American history, he found ways to stage the growing up process that he f elt was defines the fall as a process whereby the hero loses his innocence and is propelled into a state of experience th at is more conducive to his
56 survival in short, the hero is forced to grow up for his own good. In the section on the and Lewis provide s his readers with yet another e xtensive profile: The ritualistic trials of the young innocent, liberated from family and social history or bereft of them; advancing hopefully into a complex world he knows not of; radically affecting that world and radically affected by it; defeated, per haps even destroyed in various versions of the recurring anecdote hanged, beaten, shot, betrayed, abandoned but leaving his mark upon the world, and a sign in which conquest may later become possible for survivors. (127 128) The young hero faced with all t He is an outsider, Lewis asserts, but one who is distinct from his European predecessors , whom he refers to as ( 128). This Adamic figure is a redeemer of the likes of Billy Budd, a Christ like figure who is hanged for a crime he did not commit (but who, under the pressures of interrogation, commits one act of violence that seems to prove his guilt). The innocent is therefore thrust into a world filled with sin, one that in the end touches him but which he is able to touch as well through his sacrifice. Lewis effectively sketches for his reader the results of Adam in exile, the bleak and tumultuous events that occur a fter he has left the shelter of Eden and the state of innocence that it embodies . The juxtaposition of innocence and experience here is striking, and Lewis once again incorporates language that is intended to remind his readers of childhood. The faces extreme hardships at the hands of experienced adults, is literally beaten (or hanged, or shot, or betrayed, or abandoned) into maturity. As in the case of the nation as a whole , Lewis insists he must grow up if he is to survive in th e world outside of the shelter of the Garden (129). The juxtaposition here might very well derive from William
57 Songs of Innocence and Experience , a collection of poems where children are firs t sheltered in the warmth and safety of home only later to be exposed to the . thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, / Were all of them with tears that might represent joy or sorrow. For Americans struggling with their identity in the postwar period, this comparison was particularly relevant. Despite the fact that the nation was r apidly increasing its global influence, there was still a fondness for a prewar state that many associated with a time of innocence. While this feeling was not particular to the post World War II period, it did provide discussions of innocence with a force that they might not otherwise carry. By turning to the figure of the adolescent, Lewis effectively capture d the mixed feelings of the postwar nation . On the one hand, this figure is still young enough to lack full knowledge of the world around him. In ess ence, he retain s some of the elements of innocence that are traditionally associated with childhood. On the other hand, the adolescent has grown up enough to experience some hardship and have a hard won sense of the difficulties of life. He has captured a glimpse of what lies ahead. As Lewis balances in his text discussions of innocence and experience, he addresses the reader directly, stressing that the fall from innocence is imperative as America need s to be thrust into cultural maturity.
58 Growing Down: Henry Nash Smith and the Man Turned Boy Hero While Lewis was actually one of the younger Myth and Symbol scholars, his investment in innocence and the way this investment played out in The American Adam is useful, as it demonstrates how Cold War interpreta tions of American national myths began to draw upon the attributes of children. The transformation of these once adult figures into child ren became less serious or complex; quite the contrary, they consistently acknowledg ed the numerous challenges and difficulties of growing up . In their efforts to define U.S. national identity, many Myth and Symbol scholars turned to the adolescent in order to up and mature. The Myth and Symbol scholars, as Le effectively demonstrates, understood the essential role that innocence played in U.S. national identity. No matter how they might feel about their present age, they did not abandon innocence in their efforts to understand the way that histori cal events like the Cold War were changing the ir values and traditions. This is true even for scholars that do not fit as neatly into the larger debate about innocence and experience. Henry Nash Smith, a founder of American studies due to his pivotal role in the formation of the American Studies Association, is one of the Myth and . 6 Certainly , his landmark study, Virgin Land , is never read in relation to childhood. C ritics Virgin Land often speak about his lack of attention to the role of women and 6 It is worth noting that Henry May dedicated The End of American Innocence to Henry Nash Smith.
59 Native Americans in the history of westward expansion . 7 While these critiques have brought much ne eded attention to the shortcomings continue to overlook the importance of childhood in Virgin Land . The centrality of childhood in Virgin Land not only links Smith to other s more explicitly associated with the beyond innocence position , it also demonstrates that childhood was central to the reformulation during the Cold War of classic national myths. objector, Smith did not participate in the Second Worl d War, and as such his views of country w ere not influenced by contact with the Old World. Smith cultivated a deep fondness for the American West, an interest that developed out of his experiences both as a young man and eventually as a professor. A native Texan, Smith had a personal interest in advancing scholarship on the West. Smith began his studies at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Graduating at the age of eighteen, he returned to SMU as an instructor after a year of graduate work at Harvard Univ ersity. Smith soon became the co editor of the Southwest Review , inaugurating an intense period of his life that he SMU to continue his graduate studies at Harvard. He wo uld return there briefly after graduati on in 1940, but soon departed time in the Texan university system, and especially his editorship of Southwest Review , helped to define his identity as a regional scholar. Richard Bridgman notes that the early 7 1966 review of Virgin Land . Smith joine d in the criticism in a 1986 review of Virgin Land , Virgin Land for the oversights in his original study of the West, he claims that the influence of Frederick Jackson hesis shaped his vision of Western expansion in negative ways ( 28).
60 Questions of identity were central in the Southwest at that time. Like Americans in general, perpetually trying to separate their auth entic elements from patterns inherited from abroad, the Texan was cultivating an awareness of his immediate environment without cutting himself off from the larger world . (3) W hile beginning as a regional concern, developed t o the point that he tackl ed the se question s from a national perspective alongside contemporaries such as R.W.B. Lewis. 8 attempts to understand the importance of the West for identity. Like many of his peers, Smith found in the American West a stage wide enough to encompass a wide variety of characters . He was interested primarily in recovering some of the popular forms such as dime novels that were left out of earlier studies of American literature. In the process , Smith took the characters that populated his narrative, primarily rugged Western heroes like Daniel Boone and Kit Carson, and transformed these men into rowdy boys. His heroes were mischievous, to be sure, but they a lso had just a touch of innocence, enough to allow others to overlook their like qualities by describing the early stages of westward expansion. Y oung Americans imagined numerous possibilities as they beg an populating the land in the West. The new belief in manifest destiny was necessary to have a guide, someone capable of crossing the terrain and su rviving in isolated areas. These guides populated early American literature, primarily in the form of rugged mountaineers. Figures like Natty Bumppo, Daniel Boone, and Kit Carson 8 (1989).
61 dominated the American imagination during this period of expansionism. Celebr ated for their ability to understand nature, these men received both praise and criticism for their decision to separate from civilization. Smith explains that the ir separation enabled these Western heroes to purify themselves and attain some of the qualit ies associated with childhood , most notably innocence. The se heroes, especially those capable of navigating difficult terrain, encouraged other Americans to set out West in search of better prospects. Having populated the new lands in the West, Americans b egan considering what they could do with this immense natural resource. In order to spur production and entice was needed . This is the period where the yeoman became idealized, since it was he who was most bring wealth to the new nation, and the image of the garden suggested a never ending constantly renewable resource . Gardens, as Annette Kolodny not es, were traditionally a feminine space, a place of order and culture ( The Land Before Her xiii). The garden thus conflicted with previous views of the land as a natural source of bounty, since it now required cultivation in order to be fruitful. Smith ci tes Cooper as one of the first to articulate this conflict in a passage from one of his Leatherstocking Tales. Smith describes a passage in The Prairie (1827) where Leatherstocking encounters Ishmael Bush, a character embodying a reckless approach to natur has a natural virtue and an exotic splendor derived from his communion with untouched nature, Bush and his sons are at war with nature. They are the very axeman from whom 20). Smith thus discovers in
62 empire and a longing for the simplicity of life in the rugged American West. The conflicting images of the American West as a wild land o f lush beauty and a n unkempt plot of land in need of cultivation aligns Smith with fellow contemporaries such as Lewis who were also interested in the dialectic between innocence and experience. innoc ent state , like wor separate from the corruption that made its way to the cities and towns of the Northeast. Unlike Lewis, Smith was not explicitly concerned with innocence, and his project lacks direct references to the role innocence played in nineteenth century American culture. However, Smith returns to the dialectic of innocence and experience in order to describe the complexity of U.S. culture during a time when the nation was rapidly expandi ng its borders and increasing its wealth and power. Given the Cold War climate at the time, it is easy to imagine that a chord with Smith. Despite the fact that Smith never saw the battlefield , he still un derstood the impact of the Second World War on the United States. Like the earlier America of his study, the U.S. was a gain at a crossroads, faced with the decision either to cling to the past and the innocence that it represent ed , or to step forward into inev i table corruption that accompanied it. While Smith fails to exploit th e connection between America and childhood innocence as directly as Lewis , he continually returns to Romantic ideals typically associated with the child. Smith cultivates this relationship in underscoring
63 the continent, lay the West , a realm where nature loomed larger than civilization and where feudalism had never been established. There, evidently would grow up the truly a n innoce nt, free from the sins of the Old World. Smith finds the optimism of men of letters such as Walt Whitman particularly moving. He cites multiple passages of with never ith 47). While critics including Samuel Turner suggest 9 the fact that Smith finds in it the extended remains critical for u nderstanding the underlying structure of Virgin Land . This metaphor depends on the child as a way of grasping American empire. In the resources necessary to cultivate a thriving economy. Early pioneers lured out West uld not asserted that men should be allowed to till their own soil, and this ultimately led to the ally the image of the 9 In a hypertext version of Virgin Land known The Incorporation of America (1982) as one possible counter
64 state of innocence . In his that utopian spaces such as the garden lost supporters as chan ging historical circumstances made it evident that such space s w ere no longer viable. 10 However, in early America these possibilities appeared endless. The American garden, unlike that of young Mary Lennox, was not found in a state of disrepair, but rather in its original natural beaut y. Smith continues to address the desire for innocence though a bevy of mythical figures drawn from American p opular fiction, each of which contribute d to the view of the nation as a child. Beginning with Daniel Boone Smith explores the ies Leathe wide open spaces to the restrictions of civilized society. The bond with nature that Boone, Leatherstocking, and later Western heroes share depend s on the ir isolation from s ociety. While this isolation is a mark of purity, it also limit s the role of early Western heroes, who were unsuitable for the roman tic tales popular at the time. Chaste and incapable of romantic love, Leatherstocking thus fails to mature. Fiedler explores , situating the old mountaineer in the 10 Golden Age writers such as Lewis Carroll were openly suspicious of the beauty of the garden. In Alice in Wond erland (1865), Alice travels through Wonderland in order to enter the garden only to discover that it is a place of danger, ruled by an insane Queen and an incompetent King. Other iterations of the garden Treasure Island (1 883). In this adventure story, young Jim Hawkins discovers that Treasure Island is not a luscious garden but rather a barren wasteland. As more Americans settled out West, they too would discover that the garden of the world was not always so hospitable.
65 Love and Death 209). 11 forbid him from finding Leatherstocking a mate. Whatever the case may be, unbroken relationship with nature. 12 As the c ase of Leatherstocking demonstrates, attitudes towards nature helped shape the Western hero. These heroes, according to I younger and younger, and thus have a striking similarity to Later h eroes such as Buffalo Bill and Kit Carson lacked the spiritual connection with nature, but made up for it with their inne r sense of moral character and reckless disregard for the rules. Story of a Bad Boy The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1876). Remaining boy s at heart, Western hero es were hearted, fearless, 13 They used their intellect and strength to battle the natural surroundings a prairie fire might be taken just a seriously as an Indian in the dime novels featuring these denizens of the 11 In Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), Fiedler argues that James Fe nimore Cooper initiated [boyish] theme, converting a peripheral European ar chetype into the central myth of our culture. The consignment of his work, then, to the world of children is not, in a child centered world, a sign of failure he is the 12 The Lay of the Land 111). 13 This definition sounds strikingly similar to the one provided by Gillian Avery in her study of American spiteful as he seems to the modern reader, will fight to protect a smaller boy or a schoolgirl. There is no malice in the idealized Bad Boy; it is just that he is born to trouble, and he is resigned to the f act that the
66 Wild West. Smith notes that the dime novel distinguished between the domesticated space of the Middle Interior and the Far West ontinued to remain a suitable imaginary space for displays of masculine vigor, even though a few women infiltrate d this space by disguising themselves as young men. However, the heroine of the dime novel never fully abandon s her feminine charms, and could just as easily revert back to the domestic sphere once she decide s to marry. Western hero achieves masculine virility at the price of maturity. Ironic ally, he had to get younger in order to gain the sexual potency lacking in the original Leatherstocking. As with so many of his peers , Smith turns to the figure of the adolescent in order to solve g hero, Smith finds an American that is adaptable, competent, light hearted, and noble. out West in order to achieve himself and to begin anew. Spending time in the dirt and the gravel, the muck and t he mud, this hero searches for a new self amidst the American wilderness. It is this myth of renewal that wove itself into the land. Yet this promise of renewal, Smith concedes, is responsible for as members of a world community because it has affirmed that the destiny of this country leads her away from ned Cold War America on the verge of adulthood yet again.
67 seasoned of travelers from the Myth and Symbol school Perry Miller. An adventure seeker and staunch supporter of U.S. military servi ce, Miller traveled first to Central Africa on an oil ship, and later went to Europe as a member of the OSS division of the U.S. military during the Second World War. After the war, Miller continued his adventures as a sort of academic diplomat, traveling in all regions of the world. These experiences not only made Miller one of the most famous members of the Myth and Symbol school one who alongside Matthiessen help ed m they shaped the way he thought and wrote about American history and culture. Like the other Myth and Symbol proponents, Miller traveled backwards in order to understand his present. However, unlike Lewis and a time of innoce nce; rather, he saw in the early contact period, especially the time immediately after the generation of the Puritan Founders, an enormous amount of controversy concerning the future. This controversy prefigured that in his own time, and Miller took full a dvantage of these striking parallels in order to warn his readers about the dangerous path that the United States was following in the early Cold War, most notably through the decision to enter into a nuclear power struggle. e of America is most evident in the eponymous chapter of Errand into the Wilderness (1956). Miller begins his study with an overview of the jeremiads of the seventeenth century. The titles of these works, Miller suggests, children of the New England founders 3).
68 How did they arrive at this conclusion ? Miller answers with a fascinating etymolog y of sig nificance the purpose itself, t ambiguity of the word that captured the imagination of the sons of the Pilgrim Fathers. What they wanted desperately to know was whether they were errand boys or the inheritors of an erran d . And i f they were inheritors of a divine mission, were they their own incompetence? And, finally, how did their natural surroundings influence the errand bequeathed upon them by their f athers? As his H aving grown up , b oys must question their position in the New World, and determine may seem a natural process, yet Miller warns that the questions raised by New Englanders were serious business indeed. The answers offered would determine the fate of the nation for generations to come, up to and including the Cold War present . Originally delivered as a speech on May 16 his readers of the persisten ce of these questions in the present : What I believe caught my imagination, among the fuel drums, was a realization of the uniqueness of the American experience; even then I could dimly make out the portent for the future of the world, looking upon
69 way of coping with the problem except by going to the beginning . (ix) And to the beginning he goes. Miller leaves the Congo where he unpacks oil drums in order to embark on a mission, an errand if you will, to define the American experience this experience is wracked by the intergenerational s truggle between fathers and sons . I t is through youth, and especially the painful process of growing up, that Miller manages to capture what he believes to be the defining aspects of the American experience. By the time he wrote Errand into the Wilderness , Miller was no longer a young man ; he was in his early fifties and ready to grace the world with the knowledge he had gained through his experience. This is evident in Miller professor: T he one thing I am resolved never to say to a student is that any field of study is exhausted, that all the grain has been threshed. As for that interminable field which may be called the meaning of America, the acreage is immense, and the threshers few. Too often, as in my case, they are sad ly deficient in the several skills required for the gigantic labor . (ix) Through the metaphor of threshers laboring in a wheat field, Miller invites younger : implores ; as with the word bestowing upon the younger generation an errand, where the inheritor may choose how to go ab However, Miller also dwells on the metaphorical fields as a nod to his days as a young
70 erra the encouragement of his mentor , Percy Holmes Boynton , did Miller manage to endure. Miller writes, that Boynton encouraged him simply because he held th at a boy should be allowed to do what a boy genuinely, even if misguidedly, is up for the task. It is from his perceived inadequacy as a scholar and a metaphorical fath er that Miller speaks, and it is for this reason that he must pass on his errand to his In offering these words of advice, Miller twice defers to the father/son bonds that structure his study. Although the relationship is metaphorical , it speaks to the very circumstances that Miller finds himself in not only as an academic but also as a citizen. By 1956, when Miller wrote his preface, fear of nuclear warfare had laid on the nation for eight long years. The entrance of Russia into the s mall circle of nuclear powers meant that Armageddon, brought on by the ideological battle between the United States and Russia, was a real lly at the fuel drums to find not only the Puritan past, but also a portent of his own future and his own present in the nuclear 10 urgency regarding the fate of the nation advice to younger scholars, the future threshers, takes on new significance in this context. If something is not done s oon, he implores, there will be no fields to thresh , subsequent study, which is interspersed with prefatory comments that direct readers towards interpretations that
71 underscore the importanc the Cold War context . Miller, it seems, was not so different from the writers of New England jeremiads. Due to his status as a founder of American studies and a leading scholar in early American literature, Errand into the Wilderness has received a great deal of later scholarly attention known essay on the topic , is merely the tip of the icebe rg. David Scobey, Andrew Delbanco, and Theodore Dwight Bozeman each provide a reconsideration of the Puritan errand. Scobey maintains that d with liberal impotence in the face of fascism, and he developed as a consequence his animating respect for the neo Calvi nis m of 346). Bozeman observes thesis by subsequent students of early America thus marks a notable watershed in recent scholarship [it] of these scholars recognizes thesis, while also acknowledging its Cold War context . Subsequent scholars, including Randall Fuller, Nicholas Guyatt, and Murray the Wilderness: Perry Miller
72 America had been coopted by an imperial project that in turn led to intellectual away the books in times of war and head out to the battlefield caused him to join the military service during the Second World War, an experience that would shape his reading of the Puritan Father s. Miller saw the Fathers as men of action like himself, who fought on metaphorical battlefields for their beliefs and values. As Miller writes in his offered many opportunities for public prominence and even for academic success, but a much narrower space f or pure academic selfishness, or for divergent political However, t he pressure to conform did not completely control Miller, who does at moments the oil drums in his preface to Errand into the Wilderness , thereby acknowledging the horror of the destructiv eness of nuclear weapons. Yet his reverence for the Puritan Fathers also fit with the dominant national feeling during the Cold War. By constructing his narrative in relation to father/son bonds, Miller casts doubt on the actions of future generations rather than those of the Founding Fathers. His disgust is directed at those who have distorted the monstrous and unrecognizable, not with the original errand itself . This theme enables him to bring together ten admittedly disparate essays publi shed
73 throughout his career, from the early 1930s to the 1950s. While the title piece fits neatly considers them as responses to the genealogical crisis he identifies in his opening generations in Puritan New England, one that ultimately lies in the ir an errand (2 3). Puritan errand from the earliest founders, including Cotton Mather, Thomas Hooker, and Jonathan Edwards, up to nineteenth century Transcendentalists li ke Ralph Waldo Emerson. The occasional odd piece in the collection, such as the essay coherence to the errand of the earliest Founding Fathers. Miller writes : For the men of 1600 to 1625, the new land was redemption even as it was also riches; the working out of society and the institutions cannot be understood (and it has not been understood), except as an effort toward salvation. Religion, in short, was the really energizing propulsion in this settlement, as in others . (101) Miller identifies the way in which a religious mission drove leaders of the colonies up and down the Northeastern coastline, providing them with a sense that they were setting an important errand into motion. A closer look at some of later essays from the 1950s demonstrates the way in which he of the wilderness into account when 1952, Miller begins by stating:
74 At the risk of sacrificing every pretense to scientific respectability, but out of respect for the theme of this volume, I am ready to say that the Great Awakening was the point at which the wilderness took over the task of defining the objectivities of the Puritan errand. I am the more prepared to say this because Jonathan Edwards was a child of the wildern ess as well as of Puritanism. (153 ) acknowledges birth in Connecticut and his later exile in Stockbridge, a missionary village beyond the frontier line. On the other hand, it repeats the language associated with future explorers like Daniel Boone and Kit Carson, who were also described as dren of the forest . Miller uses this phrase in order to depict one of the Puritan Fathers as ruggedly masculine, a man of action who combats opposition and who possesses the surefire attitude that Miller admired. major theme of father/son bonds through a discussion of the halfway covenant. Just as in his opening essay, Miller presents yet another case where Puritan children cannot live up to the strong fierce example of the Founding Fathers. The second and third g (159). By turning to a discussion of the ha lfway covenant, Miller is able to map the way in which the wilderness shaped Puritan experience. It was in the wilds that the sons of the Puritan Fathers grew restless and unruly and began to deviate from the original religious mission. Un like a revolution ary figure such as Edwards, they could not manage to cultivate religious fervor and pass this inspiration onto the rest of the members of the community . H owever, if the church leaders were to exclude those who failed to meet the
75 qualifications of full memb ership, then the entire community would splinter and there would be no hope whatsoever of continuing the errand. David Scobey argues that the controversy over the halfway covenant was more than just a religious squabble; rather, it was rooted in the anxiety of the second and third generations regarding the Puritan errand: Here was a wellspring for the gloom concerning declension. The inability to reconcile the competing principles proved to the second generation divines not mere ly the depravity of humans in general but their own particular insufficiency vis Ã vis the errand with which God had honored them. In their self abasement they idealized the founding fathers of New England, enthroning them next to scriptural heroes to pass judgment on seemed so monolithic because its contradictions required the passing of time to come to ripeness. (10) piety infused the rhetoric of the younger generation, a rhetoric that was centered on the corruption of the sons of the Puritan Fathers. the halfway covenant and the way in which the wilderness prompted the establishment of this new category of church membership demonstrates the extent to which fear of failing the Fathers plagued the sons. These American born and bred boys needed to capture the qualities now attributed to the first generation through jeremiads that had the quality of myth. This fear of failure, Miller continues in a later essay , was intricately tied to nature and the emerging national ego. Here , the American theme . . . You can find it in the politics of Andrew Jackson, in the observations of foreign travelers, in the legend of Abraham Lincoln, in Stephen Douglas (205) . For Miller, recognition of the ubiquity of the Nature versus civilization theme is imperative, as it allows readers to see the connection
76 between eighteenth and nineteenth century America. The Puritan errand, Miller concludes, was thus still very mu ch alive in the nineteenth century (205). By tracing the evolution of the Puritan errand, Miller again frames his essay in terms of the central theme of father and son bonds. Writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson are inheritors of the Puritan errand, much dista nt sons who need to find ways to complete the Founders original religious mission. In develop ing his thesis in his later essay, Miller cites the common dichotomies associated with the division between Nature and civilization, the make reference to the saving grace of the wilderness, the scene in which Puritans believed they could best complete their religious mission because it was free from the corruption of the Old World. I n this sense, t he wilderness provided a layer of protection from the evils associated with civilization. As Miller develops his argument, he invokes the term , the association of the United States with childhood. It is through the American ress indefinitely into an expanding confidently to announce the ability of America to continue indefinitely the Puritan errand, since Nature will alw ays be at hand essay casts doubt on this optimism, most notably in its prefatory note, where Miller observes,
77 errand, even an errand into the wilderness, be run indefinitely? T o this question, it be asked, Miller bemoans, but he fears that the threat of the end of the world, particularly in the form of atomic warfare, leaves America with few America do what can America do with an implacable prophecy that there is a point in anxiety that is apparent in these lines fits with the somber topic of th e essay, the millennial belief in Armageddon. To recognize the possibility of an end, Miller notes, means to admit that the errand must end at some point it cannot continue indefinitely. making it evermore possible that the Puritan errand, in these moments of crisis, will be abandoned altogether. y determined at the crossroads of religion and science. In this way, Miller brings his collection of essays to notes end of the world] become precise: it was 0815 hours not 2400 on 6 August, 1945, atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Miller reminds readers that the scientific possibility of ultimate annihilation takes away the divine nature of judgment, as well as its promised renewal following destruction. With the human power to decimate the world
78 earlier despair becomes understandable. A former member of the Operation fo r shooting a German soldier do not measure up to the final chapter of the Second World War. Miller could defend U.S. actions in Europe and see them in terms of the fight first led by th e Puritan Fathers; he could even describe the Founding Fathers as soldiers like depicted the sons of the Founding Fathers as lesser, it is in this moment that he not only casts doubt on the actions of future generations, but on the entire concept of an errand. Perhaps, he suggests, the Fathers were wrong after all. Perhaps the errand lacked the redemptive qualities the Fathers claimed for it. concluding ambivalence about the Puritan errand thus follows a pattern in the Myth and Symbol scholarship. In each case, the author expresses doubt and strong enough to carry the U nited States through the turbulent times of the atomic age. A return to innocence, according Miller, Smith, and Lewis, is impossible because the United States is now heretofore is to determine how the nation will break from its history of celebrating innocence and enter maturity in a way that allows it to deal effectively with the new that appeared after the war involved a wilful [sic] return to innocence based upon a wilful ignorance, momentarily popular i n the market place of remarks indicate, there was a strong sense that the national feeling of hopelessness and despair was not sign of maturity, but rather of a melanchol y more associated with
79 adolescence. The United States was on the brink of something new, in between one age and another ; yet it was still too early for the Myth and Symbol scholars to see where the nation would go from here . For all their urging, it seemed that the United States really was still in the process of growing up. This developmental metaphor would continue to fascinate future intellectuals, who took their cue from early American studies scholars and gave the conflicts of their own generation the bodily shape of the child.
80 CHAPTER 3 It has been said that America is always coming of age; but it might be more fairly maintained that America has come of age in sections, here and there whenever its consciousness . R.W.B. Lewis The American Adam The adolescent, then, would seem to be particularly suited to the embodiment of the American Adam: passi ng through a developmental stage that allows idealistic rebellion against mature society, in full literary exploitation of this peculiarly American resistance, perhap s carry his idealism forward into society . Pamela Hunt Steinle In Cold Fear In his landmark study The American Adam (1955), R.W.B. Lewis identifies the This protagonist is an isolated hero who stands apart from the crowd precisely because a figure of heroic innocence and vast potentialities, poised at the start of a new history A male explorer who is both virtuous and re sourceful, and who is capable of surviving in the wilderness w ithout the aid of anyone else , the American Adam is a national myth that derives fro m the history of U.S. expansion. This myth expresses a deeply rooted desire for the U.S. to obtain and preserve innocence, to essent ially separate itself from the corruption of the Old World and begin anew. The American to secure the image of an innocent America by persuading citizens that past historical crimes such as the colonization of Nati ve American lands were in fact innocent acts . By establishing the renewing capabilities of the uniquely American landscape, the American Adam myth implied that one could err
81 and still preserve innocence since it was possibl e to be reborn again and ag ain. Under the sway of the American Adam myth, it was possible for Americans to ignore the conflicts that arose from westward expansion or other similar acts of co lonization precisely because there were no consequences to these acts they could simply be wa shed away with time. The distorting effect of the American Adam myth was not only intended to erase national narrative. Women, for example, receive scant attention of the American Adam myth, an oversight that has not gone unnoticed by Myth Symbol critics. A s the name indicates, the American Adam glorifies male youth, a position that is problematic because it encourag es gender binaries that position men as active and women as passive . In her 1976 landmark study, The Lay of the Land , Annette Kolodny suggests that this position was not uncommon among male scholars like Lewis, many of whom consistently feminized the Western landscape and reaffirmed the gender stereotype that women are passive in the process . As Kolodny early as the sixteenth century, in which her study begins (8). Whi le I will address the relationship between women and the land at further length in my chapter on the virgin land myth, it is worth noting the relationship here since the American Eve, the female counterpart to the American Adam that is later conceived by t wentieth century American novelists, also has a unique bond with nature. In her interrogation of this relationship, Kolodny brings to light the importance of this gender binary for early male settlers (and later for male myth and symbol scholars). The Amer
82 nurture, abundance, and unalienated labor within which all men ). As Kolodny suggests, the feminized landscape is present merely to support men and will carry out during their lifetimes. Lewis discussions of race and gender was not unique. Rather, it was part of the larger mission of the Myth and Symbol school to define, describe, and celebrate U.S. national identity. Determined to presen t a more unified version of America , Lewis and his peers revived celebrated national myths like the American Adam in order to build up moral and to combat the rising threat of communism. This is not to say that Lewis completely avoided considering how race and gender played a role in the shaping of the American Adam myth, but he did downplay these issues in favor of coherence. As the title of my chapter indicates, the American Eve was often placed into parentheses, more of a polite afterthought than a topic of serious consideration. Lewis, for example, makes several promising remarks about the American Eve, acknowledging that Adam, even in American variants, was never truly alone. Furthermore, he provocatively suggests that women might also have unique resou rces in which to stand up against the world, yet he never goes so far as to indicate American Adam. In one of the many lists of Adamic figures that Lewis provides, he includes Daisy Miller and Isabel Archer alongside the likes of Jay Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn, but again never explains why they appear in this list or how they differ from their male counterparts (128). Angered by the absence of women and racial minori ties from the national narrative, some began to revise the dominant national myth. These revisionist labors
83 involved the transformation of the male explorer into a young woman who retained many of the original traits of this hero but who likewise challenge d ability to separate himself from history. Moreover, many of the later retellings of the American Adam myth pay tribute to the colonial history of the United States, either by casting their heroine as Native American or else by weaving the history of U.S. transformation of the American Adam into his female counterpart: the American Eve. While the American Eve lacks the divine powers of the American Adam she is far more human values and traditions. The American Eve is therefore a step forward, a recognition of the us departs from her namesake in that she is not the one who tempts Adam to sin, but rather exposes the sin that existed all along. Island of the Blue Dolphins set t he stage for more rigorous revisions of a classic American myth that for so long ignored the participation of women and minorities in the history of the American frontier. In fact, part g ethnic women as protagonists in his historical fiction. Unusual for an author whose stories were primarily explorer setting out West in search of adventure. His heroines, while deeply enmeshed in Anglo American stereotypes about ethnic minorities, made a modest step forward by challenging the dominant belief that the American West was a space intended solely for virulent men. The protagonist of Island , Karana, is no exception, as she manages to
84 survive alone on the island of her birth after a series of catastrophic events that render her the sole survivor of her tribe. Displaying many of the traits of the American Adam, Karana must demonstrate a resour cefulness that will sustain her throughout her years of solitude. The inclusion of such a plucky, self sufficient heroine departed from r, as his publisher assumed that a female protagonist American Adam myth. As a white male hand the transforma tion of his California hometown from a small frontier post to a modern industrial city. Such a rapid change when he finally began writing historical fiction for children at the ripe old age of si xty, he had a thing or two about which to lecture his young consu merist audience fiction is notorious for glamorizing the past, especially the values associated with American pioneers, such as resourcefulness, perseverance, and virtuousness. His personal feelings of alienation D. Russell 173) fueled his fiction and his choice of marginalized peoples for his protagonists . tory , the t multiple points in his career. H is first efforts to portray the experience of the Native American people when California enlightening mix of the for children.
85 long been the source of heated debates among literary scholars, especially those in t (1992), and true formulas that are reworked. Even a casual reader can see the similarities between Island of the Blue Dolphins and Sarah Bishop 1 Tarr insists that these formulas are potentially harmful for young readers, since they tend to pass on stereotypes about ethnic minorities and simplify complex historica l events. Others, such as Melissa Kay is a result of notions about the ability of children to understand complex information. to contribute to feelings of white supremacy and justify American expansionism (Thompson 353). What Tarr, Thompson, an detrimental effect that conventional approaches to writing for children can have in the long run. The concerns of childre on the representation of race in Island of the Blue Dolphins , do not consider how 1 Phenomen Island of the Blue Dolphins
86 e a progressive step forward when he decided to write a novel to be sure, was likely not thinking of Lewis or the American Adam he never did like school and only attended college long enough to take the few classes he felt might be use ful in his career as a writer; y et he was most ce rtainly thinking about the West, and the myths associated with the West that Lewis engages with in The American Adam . Indeed, his decision to use resistance , indicates an investment in the female perspective that ran counter to the dominant contradict the belief that the Am erican West was a masculine space and questions the The American Adam that Lewis fails to in The American Adam : what is the di fference between the American Adam and the American Eve? Building a Female Centered World predecessor, but he does immediately begin to question assumptions about gender. Through the opening lines of Island of the Blue Dolphins spunky female protagonist by her gender and focuses instead on developing her character: I remember the day the Aleut sh ip came to our island . At first it seeme d like a small shell afloat on the sea. Then it grew larger and was a gull with folded wings. At last in the rising sun it became what it really was a red ship with two red sails . (1)
87 While the protagonist quickly reveals that she is twelve years il several pages later that she fully reveals the details of her origin. She declares that she is a member of a tribe led by Chief Chowig, that the Chief is her father, and that she is known by the name of Won a pei lei, or The Girl wi th the Long Black Hair (5). At this point , immediately establi shes a bond between the narrator and the reader. By initially withholding information about Karana ell is able to establish a sense of place and a sense of character that is free of preconcei ved notions about gender or race. female experience trumps male experience. As she describes her daily life before it is disrupted by the arrival of the ship with the blood red sails, Karana depicts her tribe as a patriarchal society where women gather food, watch children, and provide domestic comforts for men. Her initial tasks involve gathering roots and watching over her young brother, Ramo, an indication that such training begins early in her tribe. In such a world, to build a female person left to speak. foreigners, fur traders led by a Russian, kill most of the men in the tribe, including Chief introduc e readers to a society where
88 women take on duties traditionally bestowed upon men. In a speech immediately following the murder of the tribesmen, Kimki, the new c were never asked to do more than stay at home, cook food, and make clothing, now must take the place of the men ). Karana explains that one repercussion of this decision was a backlash from the few remaining tribesmen. Feeling that the women have usurped their rightful places in the tribe phenomenal success the women have achieved as hunters the men complain to the tribe leader and successful ly intervene so that the women must return to their original domestic duties (26). Such a reversal displays the tenuous nature of the newfound power of the female members of the tribe . Through the power struggles of the tribe, cult position of women and the way that tradition can often stifle those who are fully capable of carrying out male tasks. His presentation of these early scenes demonstrates sympathy for the plight of women and a deep desire to identify alternative social relationships where men and women are treated equally. whose lineage primes her for the role of sole survivor of her tribe. When the tribe decides that they must leave their homeland for the nearby shores of California, Karana jumps off the ship to save her little brother, Ramo, who was accidentally left behind on the island. tribe due to a storm. The storm p revents the tribe from safely returning to the island and ensures that Karana and her brother will remain alone on the island for a long period of time . The absence of the tribal leaders provides Karana with free reign of the island and opens up a space wh ere she can assert her wisdom and power without the judgment of
89 male leaders. If this were not enough to secure the female desires , Ramo . While these nu merous tragedies they also open up a space for Karana to exist without of his desire to rule over the island, a threat that Karana fails to take seriously due to her flourish, t he plot of Island is also largely dictated by the sparse record left by the San Nicolas woman . In her introduction to the 50 th anniv ersary edition of the book, Lowis Lowry provides a brief overview of the variations of the true story of the San Nicolas woman upon whom the novel is based , and who was left to survive alone on the island of her people after being left behind during a mass exodus to the shores of California. This woman, Lowry notes , was unable to tell her own story because those who found her could not understand her language. Her story was ultimately claimed by those who found her and changed with each re telling: The ve rsions of why this happened vary. The simplest: A storm was time. A little embellishment: The woman was with the group on the beach but ran off to find her missing child, and the crew, with a strong storm the ship when she realized her child was not among them, and she dived overboard and swam back. (vi vii) woman, with one noteworthy alteration that Lowry suspects was made with his young audience in mind : i young girl jump off the ship to rescue her younger brothe r (viii). However, it must be
90 ing that he was writing for adults when he initially crafted his story. The change in the relationship between the woman and the child does indeed also provides a link to the American Adam myth is just one of the many strikingly similarities that she shares with the American Adam. As R.W.B. Lewis writes in the introduction to his book, the American Adam is vast potentialities, poised at the start of a new histor . The youth of the American Adam celebrates the uniquely American landscape, suggesting that it is a space where one can continually renew oneself and return to the innocence generally associated with agonist, in light of this definition, is suitable for a novel bent on challenging traditional assumptions about women . retains the youthful qualities of the American Adam, especially his resourcefulness and self sufficiency, and focuses predominatel y on the choice to cast this hero as a male. Through the many twists and turns of his plot, he engages with the assumptions that the New World is a place of fresh starts and encourages readers to consider the contributions of women to the early history of the challenge of critics who claim that the American Adam presents the United States as a homogenous culture at the expense of women and racial minorities. s to the traits associated with the American Adam
91 complete other tasks necessary for her survival, but she is also haunted by t he with this knowledge and the memory of her tribe signal that she cannot live completely free of the traditions dictated by male leaders despite living completely alone. T he guilt Karana feels when completing male tasks differentiates her from the American Adam, a figure who is able to live dies, indicates the inability for Karana to begin anew. While she does in fact survive, the memory of the massacre of her people and the traditions of her tribe haunt her throughout her adventures. U nlike the American Adam described by Lewis, is deeply connected to her ancestral past, a connection that prevents her from appearing completely free of the trace of history like her male counterpart. freedom is predicated on her ability to confront and accept her origins, a task that indicates is deeply challenging for t his young survivor. This challenge is best represented by two pivotal events that occur in the barrow. Faced with the real ity of her abandonment, Karana must first decide whether or not she will live in her old village or find a new home somewhere on the island. While the village is a place of familiarity and potential comfort, the violent massacre of her people and her recen t abandonment render it unhomely. 2 Karana remarks that the village turned gravesite 2 , the uncanny is both heimlich (homely, familiar, etc .) and unheimlich (unhomely, strange, etc.) at the same time (132 134) . It is this tension between the familiar and unfamiliar that makes it impossible for Karana to continue living in the village.
92 her memories, Karana dest roys one hut after another until her entire village is nothing more than ash. The act of burning is cathartic for Karana, but it also recalls the violence that resulted in her initial isolation . Karana will again repeat these acts of violence when she vows to kill the wild dogs who murdered her brother (46), as well as when she tosses j ewels given in exchange for otter pellets into the sea (51). These acts of violence occur in rapid succession as Karana works through the grief she experienc es as a result of the recent murder of her father and the massacre of other tribal members . In fore ground develops a realistic picture of her suffering, he provides a means for Karana to break away from old tradition and begin an ew. performance of male tasks. When Karana begins to consider seriously what she must do to survive, she quickly realizes that she must make weapons to hunt for food and protec t herself from the wild dogs on the island. Yet the decision to make weapons is a s to construct or handle a weapon. In an oft quoted passage, Karana wonders what will happen if she makes a weapon: Would the four winds blow in from the four directions of the world and smother me as I made the weapons? Or would the earth tremble, as man y said, and bury me beneath its falling rocks? Or, as others said, would the sea rise over the island in a terrible flood? Would the weapons break in my hands at the moment when my life was in danger, wh ich is what my father had said? (52)
93 The final warni ng from her father, more than the others, is especially meaningful for Karana, who is terrified that her weapon will crumble in her time of need (76, 78). The haunts Karana is relevant in a narrative that is bent on constructing a female centered world. In order for Karana to fully embrace her female power , she must find a means to circumnavigate tribal tradition while still retaining respect for her ancestors. This confrontation between present and past reaches its peak when K arana is trapped within a watery cave that serves as a barrow for her ancestors. Faced with these grotesque visions of the past, Karana turns away in fear and huddles with her one of human images haunt Karana much like the tribal traditions passed down by h er father. The se eyes seem to her eyes still emit an aura of power, the se effigies are in fact no more than decaying remnants of a lost tribal heritage. These sculpted human figures , meant to represent past tribal leaders , are marked neither as male nor female, and referred to with gender se genderless bodies may watch as Karana sleeps in the dark cave, a womb like structure, but they lack the powe r of the living. With the men of the tribe dead and only these moldering ancestral remains to keep watch over the past , Karana can now set out to construct a new tradition that not to look back at th e glittering eyes as she leaves the gravesite and her re naming of the cave asserts her
94 power over her situation and her reconciliation of the past with the present (124). Already in love with her island, Karana is now free to conquer and reclaim the land. 3 Island of the Blue Dolphins , including loneliness, self sufficiency, compassion, and a sense of betrayal. to an ancestral past, that ma ke his narrative a unique contribution and beneficial critique of underscores one of the key differences between the American Adam and American Eve: the American Adam has broken with his past while the American Eve is haunted by hers. Young American Eves, not yet fixed in their position within a dominant culture, are able to utilize their skills to not only survive but also challenge the very structure of th eir world. T hey challenge the Old World/New World dichotomy in order to effectively blend past and present. As my evermore crucial as women writers begin actively to challenge the silen cing eff ects of American national myths . This between state becomes a powerful symbol of the feelings of disempowerment experienced by women and eth nic minorities in U.S. culture. The American Eve in Native Literature Chickasaw author Linda Hogan returns to many of the concerns articulated in Island of the Blue Dolphins in her popular 1995 novel, Solar Storms . A 3 athetic, does mirror the more violent acts of colonization enacted by the Russian led Aleut tribe. For instance, Karana clips the wings of a few birds in s solitude. It is shortly thereafter that she befriends a female member of the Aleut tribe, Tutok, and then final scene.
95 Solar Storms addresses the societal tradi tions that limit female power and the negative impact of colonization . demonstrates the many traits of the American Adam self reliance, isolation, loneliness, and compassion while also creating a fem ale sanctuary where women can thrive and Solar Storms fictional world in that it takes place in a society in which women are in the dominant role as a result of white interference. Despite their many Island by delving more deeply into the racial issues that sets Island Native heritage and h er first hand experience of issues that shape the l ives of young Native girls is what in large part allows her to more accurately address racial and gender conflict, effectively avoiding the stereotypes that predominate in Drawing upon her experiences as a young girl and as an adoptive mother, Hogan reflects on the repercussions of . In her memoir, The Woman Who Watches Over the World (2001), Hogan explains that this caused the girls she gr if it was a way to kill the self or trade the pain of what resided w (56 ). violence (Vernon 41). 4 especially as it pertains to young women, inspired her to tell the story of a teenage girl 4 (41).
96 named Angela Jensen, a girl who is removed from her family as a young child and placed into the foster care system. 5 Through the adventures of her female protagonist, Hogan inverts Anglo American associations with self reliance in order to expose the negative effects of Euro Am erican colonization on Native children. As a result, she brings much needed attention to the racial and gender issues that are silenced through the myth of the American Adam. wat er was broken apart by land, land split open by water so that the maps showed places both bound and, if you knew the way in, boundless ; T he people who inhabit this land ar and are un happ y , scarred by their experiences with the fur traders who flocked to their land and abandone As Angel adapts to this desolate environment, she realizes that she is similarly spiritually empty, drained of cultural attachments as a result of her experience i n the U.S. foster care system. H er face, brutally scarred by her mother when she was a small child, reflects her traumatic past . 6 Li ke the 5 observes, began to think that it was really important to write the story of what happens to children when they go home and try to search out their family, or when they are taken away from family and brought into another Conversations with American Novelists 198 ). 6 Hogan scholars Christine Jespersen, Jill Fiore, and Irene Vernon have made similar arguments about ars .
97 lands drained of their bounty, Angel is also burned, scarred, and emptied of any capacity to love. What Hogan presents to readers is a garden and its inhabitants destroyed by the greed of white colonizers. By utilizing Adamic imagery , Hogan implies that this destruction is the result of Anglo American intervention. Christine Jespersen notes that mockingly calls ). Je spersen essay , which focuses to myths of westward expansion such as that found in Frederick thesis , addresses the colonization of Native tribes and the de struction of the American landscape. However, engages with the female protagonist is weighed down by her history, a history sh e must confront in order to gain her independence. However, independence. While Angel is self sufficient in the sense that she has the ability to care for herself and survive under harsh conditions, Hogan n ever indicates that such a lifestyle is preferable. In fact, she encourages readers to understand self reliance in a way distinct from its older interpretation. protagonist does not immediately achieve this unique form of self reliance upon renewing experiences that lead to her ultimate development into an American Eve
98 with her patern al great grandmother, Agnes Iron, and her great great grandmother, Dora Rouge. Angel declares, They [Agnes Iron and Dora Rouge] were my blood kin. I had searched with religious fervor to find Agnes Iron, thinking she would help me, would be my salvation, that she would know and remember all that had fallen away from my own mind, all that had been kept secret by the county workers , that had been contained in their lost records: my story, my life . (27 ) As she adjusts to her new life with her biological family , Angel learns that simply being with her blood kin is not enough to heal the wounds of the past. Yet she still believes that they are the key to unlocking the history stolen from her by the social w orkers. In the initial passages from the opening chapter in Solar Storms , for example, Angel eagerly devises ways to make herself valuable to her blood kin, mentally noting that her strength and youthful energy can be us (33 ). desperate desire to find a pl derives from her belief that Agnes can help her m ake sense of her past visually represented in the scars on her face. While Angel knows that her scars have something to do with her mentally distur bed mother, she does not know how she got them or what her life was like before entering the foster care sy stem. Her memories and so she must rely on her family members in order to recover them . Relinquishing her old ind ependent ways and learning to depend on others, senses this change even u t this new place constitutes for her : B ut I felt that I was at the end of something. Not just my fear and anger, not even forgetfulness, but at the end of a way of living in the world. I was at the end of my life in one America, and a secret part of me knew this end
99 was also a beginning, as if something had shifted right th en and there, turned over in me. (25 26) path t owards this new beginning bears some resemblance to the older masculine version of the American Adam myth. Angel, m uch like the youth in Walt seeks a new beginning , and this depends on her abil ity to connect with the is so much a part of nature, he boot (lines 1339 1340). His power also comes from his ability to identify with the diverse population s of nineteenth ability to reconnect with her tribe. Hogan further reinforces the path towards renewal espoused in Whit when she shows Angel being Fur Island with her step further step on her path towards renewal, one that is instigated by her bloo d kin who understand the complexity of her pain and the best remedies for healing it . On Fur Island, Angel begins to develop the survival skills she earlier lacked. Angel learns to fish, garden, canoe the waterways, and chop the wood needed to survive the harsh winters. With the guidance of her new mother figure, Bush, Angel begins to reform herself, growing in spirit as she learns the stories and cultural practices of her tribe: I hardly noticed how I grew strong, my hands rough, my arms filled out. It ha the body, in the stomach, in the heart. They ache and then they open . (89) As Angel opens up to her new mode of living, she begins to develop gifts that please
100 result of her openness, her a bility to see through the murk of past history. This same openness allows her to penetrate the mystery of her origins, and weave together a body grows alongside her spirit, s grandmother Agnes declares that her body is taking on a womanly shape (127, 135). The Amer ican Adam , including but not limited to also careful ly distinguish es her heroine from her male predecessors ntic notions of communion with nature , for example, have no place in stresses again and again that the destruction of th e land and wildlife is rooted in male desire for power and wealth. Even the Indian character, LaRue Marks Time, disrespects nature, and as a result is cur sed with bad lack while hunting. Christine Jespersen notes that e of nature: an unsettling echo of the pioneers who similarly ravaged the land. When fishing, Angel notes that she catches of the manners, styles, or techniques he in already sees what European pioneers who ravaged the land. Angel notes that she catches fish easily while LaRue fails to get even a bite, and that s
101 them before have never forgotten how LaRue left the fish on a slave of stone, without skin or flesh. exploitative view of nature denies the spirit th at Angel has learned to see in the world around her, even in inanimate objects like a fishing hook. His outlook, intended to represent the Anglo American way of viewing the world, is also aligned with the same perspective that male explorers used to justif distinguish between different interpretations of renewal. Angel quickly learns upon of great sucking circular patch in the natural waterways that consumes anything that crosses it (62). In addition to the occasional deer or drunk, the Hungry Mouth once consumed an entire beluga whale dragged from his Arc tic home by a n exploitative showman. The whale failed to attract paying customers. Exhausted of its economic worth, the whale is The decaying body of the white whale, Catherine Rainwater notes, alludes to the Moby Dick (105). Moreover, Rainwater compares the story of Eho, a . In this way,
102 romance (105). Rainwater c laims that Hogan achieves this by inserting the story of Eho within the narrative of Solar Storms , and then repeating her reference to Moby Dick gives a new way of understanding by its white owner in life, rem inds readers of the colonial venture upon which Moby Dick destruction only Ishmael lives to tell the tale. 7 These various depictions of the white whale demonstrate that whil e Angel and her female elders differ in their approach to nature, they are still circumscribed in the history of white masculine violence. Indeed, one of the first things Angel relates in the by women known as the children behind, as if they too were used fies with these fallen women : the scars on her face and her mysterious origins associate Angel too with Hogan indirectly refer s to the American Adam myth through the story o f the Abandoned Ones, conjur ing up images of Adam and Eve after their exile from the Garden of Eden. Recall too that Angel was once abandoned, lost in the U.S. foster care system. The 7 Rachael discovers him Biblical Rachael, or the woman whose only son J oseph became a leader of the Israelites .
103 gmented 27). Angel too vision . masculine versions of the American Adam myth have resulted in readings of her work within an e cofeminist framework, thus aligning her with such notable earlier feminist critics as Annette Kolodny. Christine Jespersen draws show how Hogan critiques white male adventurism in Solar Storms emphasizes the negative consequences of what Annette maternal Jesperse n 276). Silvia Schultermandl similarly read s Solar Storms within an ecofeminist framework. Schultermandl contends that Hogan a philosophy that draws a connection between the domination of sexual, ethnic and social minorities, and the ability to connect with her people and the land around her . I t is this need to discover a strong identity founded in Native culture that prope ls Angel on a quest to the land of the Fat Eaters where her ancestors originated, a task that is initiated when she learn s that the lands are now being threatened by a hydroelectric dam project headed by a company named BEEVCO. Th is plot thread , Schulterma
104 canon of Native American texts whose characters engage in identity formations that (67). However, these same plot devices align Hogan with e cofeminism, where a cannot complete their identity quests until they actively fight for the land (Schultermandl 69), their actions provide models for re pair ing the results of the colonial exploi tation in addition to providing readers with an alternative model of how to interact with the natural environment. is often predicated on their abilities to resist the t eachings of a patriarchal society. As I noted l. Jespersen maintains that maps are an beings who view nature and humans points toward one particular map in Solar Storms , where drawings of Indian slaves (281). Jespersen contrasts the tangible map that is intended to claim land wi which include indigenous knowledge of land and the stories that occupy that land. 8 Th e fact that the women must eventually learn to navigate the land without the aid of these alternative ways to interact with nature. Rainwater further She notes that in her previous novel Mean Spirit (1990), Hogan populated her narrative with male characters . Solar Storms thus 8 For more on maps in Solar Storms
105 functions as the counterweight to this male dominated story. Together, like the red and blue blanket common in Plains Indian culture (95), the novels work in harmony as Mean Spirit led with male energy balances Solar Storms referring to natural elements, distinguishing between male and female rain , the former being hard and sharp and the latter soft, st eady droplets. With her interest in finding balance and her knowledge of American myths that protagonist to develop into a strong character with attributes of an American Eve that challenges even the most romantic nineteenth century account of the American Adam figure populate the dying town, she begins to develop even more skills that identify her as a resp ectable adventurer. For instance, despite her fears about her impending journey to the land of the Fat Eaters, Angel rises to the occasion and carries heavy loads and paddles in turbulent waters. In one of the most riveting scenes on the journey, Angel des cends into her canoe and succumbs to the dangerous rapids. Rather than cut through the waters with her paddle, Angel settles into the canoe and lets her hips rock with the constantly changing waters: We were held in the hands of fighting water. We were at its mercy. Then I remembered John Husk telling me to catch the current and ride it like an animal, and finally, I gave up, giving in to gravity and to the motion of it, allowing my hips to move with it, not against it . (195) As she develops a stronger connection with nature, Angel begins to dream about second gift, like her ability to see and navigate through water, identifies her as a he aler,
106 a nurturer, a giver of life. Rejecting the Judeo Christian Hogan uses moments such as these to create a positive Americanized Eve. In order redefine the American Eve, Hogan must also challenge her non Native readers unde rstanding of traditionally lauded traits such as self reliance. Characters such as Bush are isolated lonely figures who parallel the isolated heroes in nineteenth The Last of the Mohicans The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). However, rather than celebrating the male navigating and relating to the land communally. D uring the early portion of her journey to the Fat E aters Angel describes the time alone with her grandmothers as one of healing: The four of us became like one animal. We heard inside each other in a tribal way. I understood this at once and was easy with it. With my grandmothers, there was no such thing as loneliness . Before, my life had been without all its ears, eyes, without all its knowings. Now we, the four of us, all had the same eyes, and when Dora Rouge pointed a bony finger and said, This way, we instinctively followed that crooked finger. (177 ) While Angel still feels pain, grief, and even longing for her boyfriend Tommy, she knows that she no longer has to face the world alone . T his differs from simply sharing these feelings w ith others; Angel does at times consult her grandmothers, but there are other times when she keeps her feelings to herself, such as when she cries upon her Her desire for privacy is respected, and Angel notes that if anyone In this way, Hogan shows that her characters can be together and still retain privacy. land and culture contrast s with tradition al U.S. conceptions of self reliance. To be self -
107 reliant in the nineteenth century variants invoked others, but he is ultimately fa ted to live his life in isolation. This time alone demonstrates net of civilization. It is also the means by which these characters preserve their innocence. Such a desire for inn ocence is absent in mutilated bodies : her maternal grandmother, mother, and one of her sisters are all also brutally scarred. Since her characters cannot escape th eir past, they must find alternate ways to move forward. Hogan presents readers with a form of communal healing in which characters sh are and interact with one another. Healing takes various forms, so that stories of the past are supplemented by the myths and legends of their native tribe. Since the preservation of these stories depends on interaction across generation al lines , self reli ance must take on a new form. In an essay on the representation of mourning in Solar Storms , Catherine Kunce sheds further light on nor isolationist sentiments. Ultimately, self reliant strength functions for communal good. Paradoxically, part of that strength rests in her willingness to relinquish all she possesses, including her self refers here to an earlier scene preced ing Rib : protect Angel from her mother and the social workers, she propose s a feast to mourn
108 the tribe as a whole. Kunce notes that this feast is not a tribal ceremony; rather, it is a n event Bush makes up in order to find a way to grieve living on her own and kee ping her problems to herself. The mourning feast, however, forces her to interact with others and them in turn to recognize and share her grief. As the feast participants leave , (18). In addition to sharing her grief, Bush gives away her material belongings. Because the feast occurs in the dead of winter, she must depend on others to avoid freezing to death. reliance similarly predicated on her willingness t does this by listening to the stories told by her elders, including those of her family in the land of the Fat Eaters. W hen Angel begins to dream about plants, she discusses thes e dreams with her grandmothers and then follows the advice of Dora Rouge, who recognizes the dreams as a gift that her mother, Ek, also possessed (171). When Agnes sickens, Angel once again listen s to her elders when they ask her to draw pictures of the pl ants she recently dreamed. These plants are believed to be the herbs needed to cure Agnes request is therefore not simply submi ssion to authority, but a way to work together and secure the medicine before she returns with the plants, the act of listening and responding to the needs of the group, of working t
109 to sacrifice her independence in order to survive together. In the treacherous waters of the Boundary Region, this collective mentality is the only way that the women might reach their goal of entering the land of the Fat Eaters and fighting the Canadian company, BEEVCO. The project of reliance in order to be self reliant is best understood integrate in to their tribe and establish the kinship relations that will help them overcome their painful history end up being controlled by th at one of the many female victims that Hogan presents to readers. Discovered on a log aft er a heavy storm, Hannah is adopted by Bush and taken into her home. Bush quickly realizes that the child is mentally disturbed, haunted by a traumatic past that has left its e first learns of Beneath all the layers of clothes, her skin was a garment of scars. There were burns and incisions. Like someone had written on her. The signature of torturers, I call them now. I was overcome. I cried. She looked at me l ike I was a fool, my tears a sign of weakness. And farther in, I knew, there were violations and invasions of other kinds. What, I could only guess. (99) and explains how Hannah chose to re spond to this pain by retreating from the tribal community. Bush relates how Hannah stole clothing and wore it like a body armor (98). Hannah also reenacts scenes of torture, molesting little children and murder ing were needles in his mo .
110 The repetition of these acts of trauma isolates Hannah from the rest of her community . Hogan describes this as the result of the mythical Native American creature called the windigo , an icy monster that does not have the capacity to feel emotions such as love. 9 and makes it impossible for her to participate in the healing process that Hogan sees as Hogan attempts to find a middle path between the cold harshne land of the Fat Eaters . L ike the male and female rain that occupies the narrative at alternating moments, Angel must also become hard at times in order to defend her way of life and the land that she has come to love. However, she must also avoid becoming before her . Angel must face several challenges in order to demonstrate her capacity to balance the hard and soft aspects of nature, becoming as valiant as any American Adam that came before her and as sensitive and compassionate as her American Eve predecessors. One of these challenges occurs when Angel must go and watch over her dying mother . H ardened by y ears of pain, Angel wants to remain distant from her mother so that she cannot hurt her again . Yet the stories told by Bush, Agnes, and Dora Rouge have taught Angel that there is no benefit in holding in anger, and that it is far better to share and releas e pain. As Angel watches her dying mother, she reflects : 9 See, for example, Laura Virgini Solar Storms Solar Storms Solar Storms
111 I would find it in myself to love the woman who had given life to me, the woman a priest had called a miracle in reverse, the one who had opened her legs to men and participated in the same life cre ating act as God. Yes, she tried to kill me, swallow me, consume me back into her own body, the way fire burns itself away, uses itself as fuel. But even if she hated me, there had been a moment of something akin to love, back at the creation. Her desperat ion and loneliness was my beginning. (251) Hogan contrasts this scene with others where Angel must harden herself in order to defend her people and their land. As a group of construction workers threaten s to destroy her family home in Two Town, Angel is sent out into the woods to escape from the imminent danger posed by the men . Angered by this, Angel drives to the local police station and ask s for help. Instead of finding aid, she is arrested for driving without a license in an unregistered car that the officer claims is stolen, despite th e fact that he must harden to face the threat s to her peop le and find ways of bring ing attention to the dam project and working with the anti dam activists. The lessons that Angel learns throughout her journey are predicated on her ability to morph into a heroic figure. Hogan rejects many of the traits associate d with the mythic American Adam. These dashing figures are enmeshed in the colonial ventures these mythical heroes cover over the wounds suffered by Native American tribes. Through the story of Angel, Hogan brings attention to this lost history. At the same time, s he speaks directly to her Native readers, encouraging them to come together to overcome the trauma of their colonial past. T he final lines in Solar Storms attest : Hogan is intent upon raising awareness of the atrocities of westward expansion, but also wants her readers to find ways to embrace the future. This desire is represen ted in
112 sister (318). 10 Karana must let go of her traumat ic past in order to move forward and survive on her island alone. Hogan supplement s understanding of Native history and bring s her own unique perspective. In its engagement with the tropes s beyond the creates is also populated by a group of strong women that work together rather than in isolation. The changes Hogan makes to the American Eve dovetail with her interests in ecological conservation and Native rights. Crafting a story about a child lost in the U.S. foster care system, Hogan searches for a corrective to the cycles of violence that shape the lives of Native children and their parents, as well as the homes that have been lost, damaged, or stolen throughout U.S. history. American Eve in Crisis: Aftereffects of 9/11 In her debut novel , Swamplandia! (2011), Karen Russell returns to the figure of the American Eve . in that it features an adolescent girl who must journey through dangerous waters in order to overcome her internal conflict about the loss of her way of life. Russell also underscores the destruction of natural ecosystems and th e culture of Native inhabit ants emotionally battered heroine, however, is absent in Swamplandia! , a reflection of 10 As Silvia Schultermandl notes, the name Angel chooses for her sister, Aurora, also symbolizes the future, since Angel associates the aurora borealis with the spider webs in matrilineal creation stories from Native culture (79 promise rather than pain and despair.
113 American cynicism in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn . Drawing heavily upon s innocence and mourns the loss of this innocence in the face of tragedy. While Russell manages to complicate th is masculine ver sion these achievements are ultimately overshadowed by an overwhelming sense of despair that is rooted land . called Swamplandia! Home to the Bigtree family, Swamplandia! is just one of many islands located in the swamp. The difference is that this island is commercialized, built a l li gators that the family advertises as Seths, and the Bigtree family dresses up as Indians in order to further advertise their gator wrestling show. By beginning with the commercialized island fake Indians and all Russell draws attention to several real problems that have shaped the history of the Florida swamplands. Home to the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, the natural wetlands of Florida and their native inhabitants we re threatened by white settlers during the land rush in the 1930s. Russell inserts many facts regarding this land rush through the youngest member of the Bigtree constitute t he Bigtree family history, including the story of how her Grandpa Sawtooth and Grandma Risa first arrived on Swamplandia!: Grandpa Sawtooth and Grandma Risa took the train from Ohio to Florida and then traveled by glade skiff to their new home. When they f irst docked before touching the limestone bedrock. Sawtooth cursed the realtors for
114 in the Florida swamplands. Much like the American West, poor Americans flocked to the Florida initiated these ventures. It is Sawtooth who decides whether or not the couple stays, and his cursing the realtors suggests that he was also the one to first hear about the lan d deal , and the one who signed for the little plot of water logged land. Moreover, the in Florida failed to live up to their expectations. The dreams of prosperity that brought settlers like Sawtooth and Risa to the Florida Everglades are also used to explain the rapid decline of the natural ecosystem. Ava explains that several efforts to urbanize the wetlands and make them profitable ended up destroying the ir natura l cycles. She complains about the melaleauca tree, which was planted in order to drain the swamp and make the land suitable for farming (7 8). Ava also repeatedly returns to a story entitled a ghost story about a young man named Lou is Thanksgiving. The story describes the journey of a dredge deep into the Florida swamp; the purpose of the dredge was to build a superhighway down the Florida coastline, yet another venture aimed at mak ing the swamp habitable. In this respect, Russell e filled with vivid imagery that bring s the swamp to life and helps build reader concern and combed the black mudfla ts. Mangroves hugged soil and vegetation into pond lily
115 explains in this long passage describing the natural cycles of the Florida Everglades, is and versus Ava identifies herself as a savior of this constantly changing landscape indeed, her name derives from the which is threatened by the encroachment of mainlanders who seek to control the wild cycles of nature. For example, when completing a routine round threatening melaleuca trees with one swoop of her pesticide coated paint brush (77). ment and destruction of the natural Florida is battered and bruised until he, too, is tainted by the sin of the world, the Fallen Adam must fight the evil forces of the w orld in order to inject a little goodness in the hell that surrounds him. Ava, like her male predecessor, is forced to grow up and face a series of tragic events that eventually lead to her downfall. She begins her narrative by declaring that hers is the s loss of her childhood and the innocence associated with this stage of life (8). Russell use the Biblical creation story, has her eyes opened to the troubling reality that shapes her present life. As Lewis attests in his study of the American Adam, the Fallen Adam is he remote or on the verges; its power, its fashions, and its history are precisely the forces
116 he must prior 129). Lewis identifies this variant of the American Adam as especially significant to U.S. culture, for whenever it However, the work , Lewis shows through their encounters with evil (e.g., Ishmael and Ahab, Pierre and Elizabeth, and so forth and they help produc e heroes in order to condemn innocence . W hile the great nineteenth century author did value (148). Characters such as Billy Budd, the Christ like adolescent hero from the novella of the same name, might therefore be destroyed by their innocence ; but this innocent state is also necessary to make positive changes in the evil world: they are, Lewis claims, Swamplandia! , while in part a critique of the colonial ventures that led to the destruction of the Florida Everglades and their native inhabitants, is also a paean to lost youth and the safety it represents. Rus before the death of her mother to contrast life before and after Ava enters the world that notes flash of orange paint behind the mangroves t hat meant the ferry had arrived and go
117 mother comforts her after she makes a mistake on one of her alligator wrestling moves: igtree wrestler? description of her life following contributes the eventual loss of the family business and her lifestyle i n the swamp to the death feelings that she has lost her place in the world. Previously an active member of the Swamplandia! staff and without a real sense of purpose. The island of Swamplandia! is also described as a safe haven, a place of refuge from both the wilderness that extends beyond its borders and the concrete jungle of the mainland. Unlike the swamp , which lacks clear pathways and is filled with dangerous he scariest thing on the island, Ava confesses, is an old brown bear named Judy Garland, who believe the animal is having a seizure (7). Despite the fact that the island is fi lled with dangerous creatures, including a because these animals are confined to s that might otherwise threaten its inhabitants. Threats also come from the mainlanders that dwell in Loomis County . Ava notes that following her mother
118 ed eyed men with no kids in tow started showing up at the Saturday shows. Solitaries. Sometimes they debarked the ferry with perfumed allows her to grow up in a bubble that preserves the traits of children most valued by adults. Ava remains uninformed about sexual desire and her language is cleaner than a : about sexuality is made apparent Ava is unable to understand that her sister moans and toss ing around in her bed are not indications that her ghost boyfriends are attacking her . that in fact such behavior s good foolishly flirts with a mysterious swamp gypsy known as the Bird Man, and will lie in his lap or hold his hand in order to feel the love that she associates with her parents (245 246, 248). Her nai vety also extends to her willingness to believe the lies that the Bird Man tells readily convinced that the swamp is the entrance to the underworld as her sister told her, and this leads her to decide to lea ve the island with the Bird Man in order to pursue her sister. These instances where Ava misreads the intentions or behaviors of others indicates the dangers inherent in innocence. As with innocence enmeshes her within a web of dangers, and she must forgo this innocence in order to overcome them . This occurs through
119 as one of the key features of the Fallen Adam myth (128). In order to defeat the dark and mysterious Bird Man and s urvive the pulsing life of the swamp, Ava must first learn to see the world around her through the eyes of an experienced adult. She accomplishes this by channeling the voice of her mother : Those men are alive, s in her ear (305). And later, after the The Bird Man is just a man, honey. He is more lost out here than you are. ell Ava, and I would run, honey, personally . (332) elders to guide her on her spiritual journey and teach her how to navigate the land, Ava is alone in the swamp. By imagining these conversations with her mother, Ava is able to find the strength she needs to let go of her childish innocence. This transition from innocence to experience is symbolized escape scene, where she flings her genetically mutated red alligator into the face of the Bird Man: I pulled her out and untapped her small jaws and flung her at him in one fluid motion. The Bird Man was surprised into reflex. His naked hands flew were hanging off the keel. He caught the Seth hard against his chest. There was something almost funny about watching this, hysterically funny, but terrifying, too, a bad hilarity that lights up eel bright in your belly. A next, if the red Seth bit him or clawed at him I was off. (333) The gator can be read as a reenactment of the rape scene that has just occurred ; however, in this case the roles are reversed and Ava is in control. She flings the red gator , a symbol of her virginity , in the face of the Bird Man, and thus willingly part s with the thing that separates children from adolescents. Her willingness to place her baby
120 alligator and favorite pet into danger symbolizes her willingness to disassociate herself that linked her to notion th at the sacrifice of her alligator represents the loss of innocence. The squeal can be read both as the sound of attack and the squelching, writhing squeal of pain that one might associate with a dying animal. 11 In addition to being associated with the red b lood of a first sexual experience, underworld. Ava, who up until this time has accepted swamp being the underworld, now fights her childi sh desire to believe these tales. In ancient Egyptian mythology, Seth kills his brother and chops him up; this violent imagery is fitting as Ava, too, dismembers her fantasy of the swamp and begins to accept the truth about it . Osiris, the brother that Set h murders, is also known as a fertility god; since Seth is associated with the infertile desert, their conflict can also be read as a battle between infertility and fertility. Ava thus flings the infertile Seth at the seed spreading Bird Man in an attempt to suck him dry and destroy him . Although this initial escape symbolizes must still complete a number of other ritualistic trials in her journey towards maturity. The first of these involves the conflict between Ava a nd a mythological woman named Mama Weeds. Mama Weeds is a ghost from Florida folklore, who haunts little children and other swamp dwellers. A black woman who fled to the swamp to gain freedom, Mama Weeds was later brutally murdered by the men in the area w ho were jealous of 11 to mind the cry of the infant in this mass episode of infanticide.
121 men, owing to the kind of damage that they reputedly did to her. For no other reason ma Weeds represents the violated female body, a woman wronged by greedy men. Having survived her traumatic the ghost of this violated female body signals the difficulty o f letting go of her pain, her past, and her innocence. Ava clings to a set of clothes that she recognizes as grass her scratching, clawing, and snarling demonstrate the extent to which she values the memories linked to her childhood. The one scrap of clothing that she rips from the dress of the ghost is thus representative of the lost youth that she turned her back on in her desperate escape from the Bird Man. s a cave that is home to a female alligator. womblike dark, round, and enclosed and it is also the home of the nesting female gator. Moreover, the cave is part of Seminole and Miccosukee mythology. A native creation myth story tells of the Indian people emerg ence from a cave: The ground shakes and the opening to the cave is exposed the People slowly walk to the opening and look out onto a strange new place this is the Mother that had been created for them but the cave represented security as a child can not resist the calling of birth the People could not resist the calling of the new place. T he cave now gave birth to the People
122 new life stepped onto the breast of Mother a beautiful new beginning was I n the cave , she must wrestle with another monstrous maternal figure, and it is here that she can fi nally let go of her past, symbolically represented by the clothes she carries in her arms. e incidents signal yet again the potential dangers of innocence, as the security that the cave represents in the Seminole and Miccosukee Indian creation myth is inverted. While the cave does protect Ava from her male predator, it also has its own set of ri sks. The climactic battle in the cave is filled with vivid imagery and laden with (382). This portal can be likened to the birth canal, which Ava desperately seeks to pass through in her efforts to return to the womb of her creation. As she nears her goal, she 383). Russell inserts vivid visual imagery in the wrestling scene in order to underscore it was too cloudy to see, although I tried my eyes stung inside a fo g that I realized alligator bite in this way : Petals of red pain shot through me until my ribs ached, the agonizing pressure expanding in my chest, as round as a sky, and I began to rise like one bubble in a chain. My skin, I thought, is coming apart . (383)
123 As Ava swims to the surface of the cave , her old body literally falls apart. In an earlier passage, she notes how her skin is peeling away from sun exposure (342), and here she repeats this visual image in order to capture the feeling of renewal associated with the wrestling scene. Ava is able to channel her memories of her mother and use them to move forward . R ather than be weighed down by the past , she let s go of the symbolic burden of , a sign that she is entering the final stages of grief and is ready to move f orward in her life. In classic American Eve style, Ava reaches hero status by confronting her past and embracing a new future. Such a breathtaking ending raises the earlie r female hero. The difference lies in the ending each author chooses. While Ava overcomes her haunting past and survives her tussle with the female alligator, her story lacks the hope that is so evident in the final chapters of Solar Storms . For instance, in her final triumphant speech, Angel exclaims T his statement is both a tribute to her personal growth and a message aimed at may also be controlled by feelings of shame. affirmative message. After returning to her family and losing Swamplandia! a loss that parallels Ava laments the recent changes in her life: Ossie and I attended public school in the fall where they made us wear uniforms in the dull sepias and dark crimsons of fall leaves, these colors in horizontal time and just beginning in the memory of that summer feels like a spore in me, a seed falling through me. Kiwi is sympathetic, but Ossie is the only one who I can really talk about this descent. (395)
124 of her time on Swamplandia! The same muted colors of her school uniform are associated with the season of fall, a time of death and change as the cold weather begins to set in . a fall rather than a rising up. Indeed, Ava declares that she understands this moment as also carries negative connotations, since unlike seeds for vegetative plants, a spore is associated with bacteria, fungi, and other forms of plant life associated with rot and decay . American The Snow Child (2012), Bonnie Once Upon a River Salvage the Bones (2011), present strong female protagonists that bear many of the distinctive traits of the American Eve figure, they are also destined for a terrible fall. The inevitable destruction of these female heroes due to obstacles such as pregnancy and rape are ironic ture story. Jespersen notes that the adventure story is typically considered a male domain: not only are the authors typically men, but their protagonists are usually male youth setting out into the world for the first time (276 277). The identification of this new crop of American Eves as fallen women suggests a more cynical outlook concerning plots for national expansion in terms of land and the potential for women to become part of the asse rtion that the
125 above mentioned set of novels , 12 the journey of these female characters indicates that adventure is so toxic as to destroy the prospects Each heroine, that is, either l oses their independence at the end of their journey or dies trying to retain it. As I will go on to show, the changes occurring in the American Eve figure dovetail with a very different literary figure, that of the virgin girl. Rooted in the virgin land my t h that was revived by American s tudies founder Henry Nash Smith during the 1950s, the virgin girl bears a striking resemblance to the American Eve at her lowest point, the moments at which beaten, shot, betrayed, [and/or] abandoned , Americ an Adam 128 ). 12 The Snow Child , but he touches on the relationship between this book and the other set of novels that I mention here.
126 CHAPTER 4 FROM VIRGIN LAND TO VIRGIN GIRL: NATURE, NOSTALGIA, AND AMERICAN EMPIRE Here was a magic fountain of youth in which America continually bathed and was rejuvenated . Frederick Jackson Turner, 1896 Virgin Land 1 If the American Eve is an attempt for authors to recognize the role women have played in the formation of the United States, then the virgin girl figure represents the havoc that men have wreaked on the land. Both myths concern themselves with aspects of westward expansi on, particularly with the male explorers who colonized the land beyond the frontier line ; but it is the virgin land myth that deals exclusively with the land loss that resulted from these early pioneer efforts. The figure of the virgin girl, a literary rei ncarnation of the original virgin land myth, returns to many of the same issues ies, the girls that appear in novels concerned with the virgin land myth draw upon the very same ideological constructions that made the original myth so powerful that is, they understand women as weak and vulnerable, pure and innocent, beautiful and allur ing. If a grown woman is perceived to have these traits by the men who desire her, then all the more so for the young girls that populate the se Annette Kolodny describes in relation to the land ( The Lay of the Land 22), these girls 1 The epigraph to this chapter was originally from an undocume nted speech given by Frederick Jackson Turner. It appears in his chapter, 254.
127 are seen as taboo. 2 To desire the virgin and to act on that desire is nothing less than scandalous. The virgin girl differs from the American Eve in other respects as well. Drawing upon the original associations with the virgin land my th, the virgin girl is often associated with nature, imperial conquest, and nostalgia. As Henry Nash Smith suggests in his 1950 study, the virgin land myth revolves around these very same issues. Smith charts the way in which the land beyond the frontier w as first imagined as a lush paradise akin to the Garden of Eden, and later as a prim and proper garden, perfect for farmers prepared to homestead and make a fortune off the fertile soil. In an effort to further develop these images of the West as a land of opportunity, Americans created tales about explorers, mountaineers, and other male figures who first charted and later settled these sparsely populated areas. Such men emerged as leaders and protectors, who could guide those less capable through the wilde rness and past the threats that it perspective of those most deeply impacted by the virgin land myth: Native Americans. The virgin land myth, as my brief synopsis demon strates, is a narrative that contributed to the power of white, male colonizers. Ultimately, it allowed U.S. citizens to justify westward expansion (i.e., colonization of Native lands) in order to expand their empire and increase the prosperity of the youn g nation. The primary purpose of the virgin girl figure is to dismantle the very myth that perpetuated the denial of U.S. citizens regarding westward expansion. While there is some acknowledgement of the U.S. 2 Kolodny notes that the land was often described as a woman, and more specifically a mother : t his mother land cared for her children and provided for their needs. To disturb th e balance between mother and child by attempting to collect more power constituted nothing short of incest.
128 the failure to uphold treaties, these concessions are often limited. This chapter charts the development of the virgin girl figure through three case studies. While certainly not exhaustive, my examples demonstrate the way in which this particular figure allowed U.S. citizens from the second half of the twentieth century to years, and which ultimately led to the publication of Virgin Land and des cription of the virgin land myth as a guide, I explore the way that nature, empire, and nostalgia the three defining traits of the virgin land myth according to Smith converge in this modern female figure. Just like her real life counterpart, the virgin gi rl is her both desirous and exotic. Drawing upon literary, educational, psychological, and political ideas regarding girlhood, the authors examined in this chapter fo rmulate scenarios that parallel the colonizer and colonized relationship between the United speak for herself, as well as the abuse that she suffers at the hands of her male that perpetuate values and narratives that privilege the few while disempowering the ma ny must be abolished. Such counter narratives are not inherently anti American; rather, they seek to find ways to accept past wrongs in search of a better future. What further marks each of my examples is a shared investment in the Cold War interpretations of the virgin land myth. Much like my previous chapter, each author is
129 responding to the specific political climate that emerged in the 1950s and that continue s t The Plague of Doves (2008), a novel that engages with post 9/11 desires for vengeance, is set in the 1960s, a time when many Native Americans began fighting for civil rights a nd combating Cold War policies that left them even more disempowered than they had The Virgin Suicides , returns to small town suburbia, a hallmark image of 1950s family life that und War, for they are indeed dark, desperate, and horrifying places for the characters that live in the m . While the ability to navigate the cultural expectations and social lim itations power. The virgin girl therefore becomes a potent figure for those conc erned with the that further hints at the dark possibilities as the U.S. rapidly widened its global influence following World War II. Despite the bleak nature of the no vels that appear in this chapter, they also share a sense of possibility. The girls that appear in the se stories demonstrate that, while beaten, those who suffer most are not necessarily destroyed. Moreover, it suggests that in order to rectify the wrongs of the past we must first shatter the myths created to cover over these wrongs. While these fictional gi rls do not always survive, it is their acts that allow them to regain control over their lives and ultimately dismantle the myths that surround them . The girls not only act out but speak out, challenging male authority and
130 causing readers to question the v ery narratives that they have come to accept. Even though there are distinct differences that distinguish the virgin girl figures that appear them together. From Vir gin Land to Virgin Girl In his 1955 classic, Lolita , Vladimir Nabokov captures the fears of the Cold War generation through the taboo romance of a middle aged man and an adolescent girl. First published in Paris in 1955, literary critics quickly interpre ted Lolita as a critique of American culture after its release in the United States in 1958. 3 Nabokov, who was deeply familiar with as a result of several road trips with his wife VÃ©ra, drew inspiration from the natural topography of the Am erican West and the myths brown limbs and dark eyes, and a honey colored midriff that makes Humbert sizzle with sexual desire. Moreover, she appears for the first time in the backyard garden of an expression of grounding in an earthly garden sexual potency, making her as desirable as the apple in the story of Adam and Eve. Additionally, her status as a young virgin is a final connection to the virgin land myth that Smith identifies in his work and Kolodny later critique s. Nabokov draws upon this myth in order to present a critique of 1950s US culture admittedly a critique he never acknowledged was present in Lolita 4 This myth is both culturally and historically specific, drawing upon the same psychological and literary tropes that informed the 3 As Pierre Berton notes in an interview with Nabokov , critics claim that Lolita Ã© of chronic Ameri 4 For more about the historical allusions in Lolita Lolita
131 work of myth symbol scholars. for a taboo romance between a grown man and a prepubescent child immediately associates him with the myth symbol Fiedler, one of the more active pa most forceful claims concerning the issue of American immaturity. In Love and Death in the American Novel regularity in American fictio wilderness with the aide of an older male companion (181). While Fiedler actually spends very little time considering the role of the child in US literature, 5 he does support his thesis that US litera ture has featured protagonists in a state of arrested development, that, in short, the characters (primarily men) are stuck in a permanent state of boyhood . that US literature is in the midst of a crisis parallels the anxiety present i n Lolita . Trapped as a result of his unrequited love for Annabel, Humbert is unable to move beyond his adolescent love and continues to be thwarted in his attempts to foster socially sanctioned adult relationships. While Lolita disturbing for many readers, it presents a narrative of maturation, albeit a brutal and forced one, that parallels the concerns of 1950s scholars. Lolita is only twelve when Humbert becomes a lodger at the Haze household, and the novel ends when she is se venteen. During this time, Lolita both 5 While I doubt Fiedler would have anticipated this use of his argument, Gillian Avery, in the first comprehensiv of explaining the bad boy movement in literature, which began with the publication of Henry Bailey The Story of a Bad Boy s serve as interesting moments of is only now that American studies scholars are starting to really band together and consider what erature might be able to do for them.
132 physically and mentally matures. When Humbert first meets her, he wonders if she has experienced shortly after Humbert has sex with Lolita sound with her lips, she started complaining of pains, said she could not sit, said I had menstrual cycle, an observation supported by the fact moody charge (472). In addition to physically maturing, Lolita must also learn how to outwit Humbert in order to extr icate herself from her terrible situation. As Lolita matures she grows increasingly crafty. Not only does she find friends and collaborators like her sexually experienced friend Mona, she finds ways to manipulate Humbert. Money, Lolita (and later Humbert) realizes, is a path towards freedom. Lolita takes advantage of earning money. 6 cash , she finds better ways to hide her money from her intru sive guardian. As a consequence of her duplicitous nature, later Nabokov scholars debate the known essay on Lolita and the woman reader, Sarah Herbold suggests that Lolita is no t merely a passive participant in sexual games that occur between her and Humbert but rather an initiator of th em: , but also as sophisticated and ly proposes that even before Humbert consummates their relationship , Lolita gains equal amounts of sexual pleasure from 6 Her actions, while clearly intended to suggest Lolita is like a prostitute, also pervert the middle class invention of the allowance.
133 their interactions : , [Lolita] gets to have fun at less risk and cost to herself, and at greater expense to (82). Herbold is not the only critic to have little sympathy with Lolita. Page Stegner , for example, 4). Leland de la Durantaye , on the other hand, challenges the claims of unsympathetic scholars, urging readers to recall that Lolita is terribly unhappy during her three year road trip with Humbert, something that Humbert himself reveals when he confesses in the night every night, every night Durantaye proposes that scholars are able to ignore this quote for two reasons: they insist that Lolita is not innocent; and they turn Lolita into a symbol for something else (180 ). idea of Lolita, it is Humbert far more than Nabokov who wants readers to forget that she is in fact a real child. He often speaks for Lolita and avoids considering her feelings, much more interested in his own desire and his fantasy of their forbidden love. Indeed, his first description of the child turns her into a fantastic mythical creature : the nymphet. Having just bombarded his reader with his academic credentials, Humbert give s a full description of the nymphet: Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched tr avelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as nymphets (16)
134 Vladimir Alexandrov notes that demon iac as a clarification is no accident, as it between the divine and the mortal ( qtd. in Durantaye 191). aged European well versed in psychology and literature (Humbert has a degree in English literature) allows him to incorporate popular 1950s myths into his novel. S pecifically t he virgin land myth enables Nabokov to complicate an already complex text further by alluding to US imperial power during t he Cold War. It was in 1941 that Henry Luce published his famous essay calling for the 65). The belief in American exceptionality was a staple of Cold War rhetoric. As many postcolonial theorists have noted, the relationship between colonizers and the colonized is often described as a paternal one, where the colonizer/father benevolently aids the colonized/children in the ruling of their domestic affairs. Using this parent child metaphor, empires justify the colonization of other nations, since these nations are deemed incapable of governing themselves. This very same mentality was adopted during the Cold War, as the US government attempted to remake the world in its own image. Myth contribution global dominance. Donald Pease and Amy Kaplan note in their studies of US imperialism that some in the university collaborated with the US government in developing a Cold War rhetoric that supported the writes : T he vast majority of the scholars working within the field of American studies cooperated with policymakers and the press in constructing a
135 mythology of national uniqueness out of whose narrative themes US citizens constructed imaginary relations to the cold war state . (11) Kaplan adds that the US emerged as a new kind of imperial power that challenged European models of imperialism ( 17). In her seminal essay, (1993), Kaplan argues that prominent myth symbol scholars drew upon their adventures abroad in order to redefine their world back home. Myth symbol scholars like Miller and Lewis refashioned their experiences so that they conformed to the heroic model of the frontier tale (9), accounts where a lone white male stands nobly alone. Such tales were the cornerst one of fantasies about American exceptionalism. Lolita in relation to myth symbol scholarship. Nabokov began his teaching career in 1941 at Wellesley College. Hired to teach compara tive literature, Nabokov would eventually In Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (1991), Brian Boyd describes this period in lenges. Due to the popularity of his courses, Nabokov often had trouble finding time for his literary pursuits (Boyd 170). In speaking of the long gestation period for Lolita possible to combine scientific research with lectures, belles lettres, and Lolita (for she was on her way Speak, Memory 47). The constant Nabokov immersed himself in academic culture. Furthermore, his founding of Wellesley it marks the emerging interest in Russian culture in an effort to protect US interests, a
136 development that might be likened to the increased interest in Arabic culture in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If Nabokov was not directly working with myth symbol scholars, he was likely well interest in the university . However, in order to turn myth symbol scholarship on its head and critique 1950s Cold War culture. He begins by infusing his work with popular psychological beliefs regarding female adolescence and using these as a way to link Lolita to the primitivism Smith originally associated with his male heroes. As I noted earlier , Humbert refers to Lolita as psychologists have long considered the teenag e girl to be monstrous. A n uncomfortable topic for early developmental psychologists such as G. Stanley Hall and Havelock Ellis. Much of this discomfort stems from the fact that psychologists traditionally used the girl as a point of reference for male development. While young boys go through various stages, including into mature womanhood. These myths of development held an enormous amount of power over psychologists, even when there was sufficient evidence to disprove them. Crista DeLuzio notes in her excellent study of the girl in child psychology that const ruct, was the primary difficulty faced by psychologists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (2). freeze her development ; but as readers of Lolita know, Lolita is constantly changing and moving away from her state
137 of nymphethood. In contrast to psychological myths regarding female development, Nabokov introduces the feral tale in order to draw yet another connection between Lolita and cultural primit ivism. Popularized through such famous case studies as the Wolf Man, the feral tale is about maturation gone awry. More specifically, it is about children who grow up outside of society and the affects that this has on their development. One of the earlies local Frenchman in Aveyron, the French government moved Victor to Paris for scientific study and placed him into the custody of Dr. Gaspard Itard, who was charged with the task of determining if the child could be socialized. Victor eventually escaped from his French captors, but remained a popular example in the nature versus nurture debates. Kenneth Kidd explains that cases like Victor are only one of several iterations of the fer al tale (87 The Jungle Book (1894) and Kim (1901), use the feral tale as a way of defending the colonial project. Kipling and other white authors depict colonized subjects like Kim as savage, and then suggest that these unruly children need a firm authority to oversee whom were boys. While the girl rarely figures in the feral tale, a few popular ca ses of feral girls did gain national attention, including the girl called Genie by scientists (Kidd 206 207) . make her Tattered T om (1871), the only book in his series fiction with a female protagonist, the narrator describes the eponymous hero in the following
138 redeemed by a pair of brilliant black eyes, which were fixed upon the young exquisite half humorous, half prospective benefactors, in appearance and course behavior are not so different from Lolita. On multiple occasions noting, for example, intoxicating brown fragrance of h ers, I really think she should wash her hair once in a He declares h er speech grimy limbs, Humbert cannot resi He this gets mixed up with the exquisite stainless tenderness seeping through the musk The use of psychological myths like the feral tale in an American setting provides a racial undertone to the text. Race, as many Cold War scholars have noted, was a delicate topic for the US government. Interested in winning over recently decolonized natio ns to democracy, yet still plagued by racism at home, the US struggled to present an image of itself that would satisfy its ambitions abroad while still appeasing racist policymakers and citizens back home. The entanglement of the domestic and the foreign in cases such as the US involvement in Vietnam signaled what Amy Kaplan order that empire aspires to impose on the world, an order reliant on clear divisions between m etropolis and colony, colonizer and colonized, national and international Anarchy of Empire 13).
139 Race was mostly ignored by 1950s myth symbol scholars. Nabokov utilizes myth to address th is silence, bringing to the forefront issues regarding domestic and foreign physical activity, for example, can be read as a reference to the Native American. A popular figure in early twentieth century literature, Native that was popular in literary works s Leatherstocking series (101). Native Americans were also the victims of US expansion, a fact that the myth of the virgin land attempts to repress. Nabokov further connects Lolita to Native American culture through her choice of brown moccasins (174, 187, 208). 7 She also begs Humbert to purchase little trinkets from a souvenir shop selling Native American wares (148). In portraying Lolita as an exotic brown body, Nabokov hints at the unseemly aspects of US empire. This motif al so positions Humbert as the colonizer. Perry Nodelman remarks in his essay on that adults often treat children like colonial subjects (29). Lolita is certainly cast into this double role of helpless child and colonial subject. 8 Because Humbert relies on commonly held assumptions about both the child and 7 I say Nabokov here rather than Humbert because Humbert never makes this connecti on, which is evident because he does associate another character, Jean Farlow, with Native Americans. Upon first 8 Clare Bradford critique s importantly, she argues, them. Nodelman, as so many scholars before him, therefore begins from the assumption that all childr en enjoy the privileges of white, middle class living. Moreover, the fact that many children have in fact lived under colonial rule distinguishes their experience from those who have never experienced such conditions. In the case of Lolita, her condition a s sexual chattel places her in a power relationship that racialization of her body also hints at her otherness and challenges the white privilege that a girl of her age and status would normally enjoy.
140 identity is mutable as she takes on the role s of orphan, Native American, and monstrous adolescent. Silence, of course, is one of the main techniques that colonizers use to reinforce their beliefs about the other. N ot allowing the other to speak makes it easier to believ e in the radi c al difference between the other and the self. are easily overlooked when compared to the authoritative voice of Humbert. Yet Nabokov constructs his narrative in such a way that Lolita does manage to make her voice heard. Her cutting remarks about her relationship with Humbert help diss olve the fantasy of the smissing these attacks by referring to her moody nature, it is easy to ignore these verbal assaults. However, Nabokov finds myths, most notably through bodily illness. Nabok ov incorporates scenes of sexual conquest that remind readers of the rape of the natural landscape during US westward expansion, and the exploitation of Native peoples. Perhaps the most explicit allusion to US colonization of Native Americans is the scene where Lolita develops a serious illness and has to go to the hospital. At first Humbert resists relinquishing his control over her ; however, ultimately he is unable to ignore the bodily signs of her illness: Hysterical little nymphs might, I knew, run up all kinds of temperatures even exceeding a fatal count. And I would have given her a sip of hot spiced wine, and two aspirins, and kissed the fever away, if, upon an examination of her lovely uvula, one of the gems of her body, I had not seen that it was a burning red. I undressed her. Her breath was bittersweet. Her brown rose tasted of blood. She was shaking from head
141 to toe. She complained of a painful stiffness in the upper vertebrae and I thought of poliomyelitis as any American parent would. Giving up all hope of intercourse, I wrapped her up in a laprobe and carried her into the car. (240) Humbert presents himself as the concerned parent, but his final statement that he must s acknowledgement of his real relationship to Lolita, his descriptions of her feverish body level ver, ring ciation with Native American women, who, like Lolita, suffered at the hands of colonizers. Like the s shortly after this, but not before revealing the f the color red and violence of his conquest. In this moment, Lolita, the mythical virgin girl, aligns with the US myth of the virgin land, and reveal s that both myths are rea lly sham s . instill panic in Humbert, who dreads losing power over his ward. Yet her vanishing and subsequent reappearance as a grown woman also compels Humbert to consider the n ostalgia that Lolita evokes for him. Nostalgia, a term that is broken down into its etymological roots of longing and return home , is often associated with a visceral ile war Europe and
142 his lost love, Annabel , US audience. These scenes invoke images of the American landscape in the few pl aces where one might still discover the beauty of the untamed countryside. very same past of American heroes like Daniel Boone and Leatherstocking. They are spaces, mo reover, that sharply contrast with the material culture that Lolita adores and Humbert despises, a world of commodities that 1950s Americans would find all too familiar. There are two scenes in particular that capture the nostalgia for the American past. The first is when Humbert attempts to make love to Lolita outdoors. This outing is nevertheless interprets this moment as one of beauty, worthy of reflection and nostalgia: lyrical, epic, tragic but never Arcadian American wilds. They are beautiful, heart rendingly beautiful, those wilds, with a quality of wide eyed, unsung, innocent surrender that my lacquered, toy bright Swiss villages and exhaustively lauded Alps no longer possess . (168) A few lines later Humbert bemoans the same wild beauty he has praised, concluding identified with his mistress : both are beautiful and dangerous at the same time. Indeed, just as easily be a description of Lolita.
143 Western heroes. In a time of revived popular interest in these tales stories that were ommunism and secure a vision of the world in which the US is always victorious (Engelhardt 70 71) the reference to the untamed wilderness of the American West would not be lost on place of the noble American hero. The substitution of the villain for the hero destabilizes the myth of the virgin land, placing the innocence of this lauded space into question. Even Humbert owledgement of the poison, coupled with the act of defiling the young Lolita, short fantasy of a pre industrialized America. Even this land is touched by sin, which Humbert poetically alludes to in his reference to snakes. The second scene that evokes a longing for an innocent America occurs in the , when Humbert attempts to reconcile with his misdeeds. Humbert claims that he finally understands how he has wronged Lolita. Yet this revelation only continues to do violenc e to the young girl memory. Humbert passionately cries, but the absence of her voice which combines in a musical symphony at one with the sounds of the nature in this small mining town. Nothing, it seems, is more natural than a child at play, and nothing
144 play is deeply s entimental , and children play and frolic and exist for the pleasure of their adoring parents. 9 Such an image ; y et it remains powerfully seductive as it invites the reader not only to imagine a simpler period of life but a simpler mode of living. post war readers. The happy cries of the children invokes an image of peace and And, like Lolita, the growing up was a painful process. Men went away to war and grew up because that had t o do so, and women helped run the US economy in their absence because they also had to do so. Europe robbed Americans of their innocence. This is the myth, at any rate, with which Humbert leaves his readers. The trouble with this myth is that it forgets the real pain and violence of the little girl that the entire novel is supposedly about. These moments drift away into the background as the more seductive image of a hurt and wronged America comes to the forefront. Yet there is a touch of irony to the ima ge of a vulnerable America after all, it is the perpetrator who procures the image. Nabokov thus leaves his readers with a final choice: accept the myth given by a man who has committed innumerable crimes, or reject this myth in favor of a less glamorous p icture of the nation . Through his transformation of the virgin land myth into the virgin girl figure, 9 at among his new hands (lines 86 90).
145 Nabokov manage s to counter the image of a unified America. Women and racial minorities, whose stories are often deleted from national narratives, return in the of Lolita is therefore best described as an anti mythological novel, a story that purges readers of the sickness associated with Cold War conformism and victory culture . This purgation is captured in t he closing Humbert, 1950s Americans also burned with a feverish desire in this case to combat Lolita could not guarantee a cure of this illness , but it a made heroic fir st consider the price of innocence and the rural playgrounds rendingly of the heroes of the American West. Immaculate Deaths in American Suburbia The Virgin Suicides (1993), revisits the American suburb s touched on in Lolita . While Humbert quickly flees suburbia after suggest that Nabokov, the master of style, deeply influenced Eugenides. Indeed, as one reviewer notes, there are uncanny similarities between The Virgin Suicides and Lolita (Franco). 10 For instance, the novel has an investigative style that closely resemble 10 I n an interview with 3am Magazine , influence of Nabokov in his writing in interviews with The Paris Review and Bomb Magazi ne .
146 confession. Furthermore, the male narrators attempt to construct a history of the five Lisbon girls, the virgins , yet only manage to create an elaborate myth. Like Humbert, the boys are too caught up in their own desire to hear the cries of the girls. Told in the first person plural, The Virgin Suicides questions the myth of the American Dream by using the same mythmaking tactics within the novel. Eugenides that he too critiques U.S. nationa l myths. Just like Nabokov, Eugenides invite s his reader to make an ethical choice that involves questioning the policies and practices of the U.S. government. Eugenides builds upon ternational attention during the Cold War: namely, U.S. racial politics and the policies intended to As in Lolita into a tale about young virgin girls. Yet his female characters. In fact, they each have distinct European features blond hair, blue eyes, light skin. Even their surn ame, Lisbon, denotes a European origin. Second, 1943 and 1967 race riots), provides the novel with a racial undertone. Seeing as how the 1990s were a time of heightened anxiety in regard to ethnic adolescent gangs, 11 and youth violence more generally, the selection of the Detroit suburb allows Eugenides to address many of the underlying issues that are erased through national myths like the 11 I am thinking, for example, about the numerous reports about L.A. gangs, and even policies implemented to deport deviant boys of Latino origins. See, for example, GusTavo Adolfo Guerra collection, Youthscapes (2005), for more on youth gangs and their depiction in the U.S. media.
147 virgin land. Third, a associated with the Cold War, Eugenides demonstrates that similar fears about the stability of U.S. culture appeared after the fall of the Berlin Wall. U nresolved issues , for example, return once again, sparking conversations about national narratives that supported U.S. imperial practices. U.S. into direct conversation with the issues underlying the virgin land myth. Eugenides alludes to the desire to contain violence most explicitly in two contrasting scenes. The first sc ene occurs when a dinner guest, Peter Sissen , enters 12 As he explores the bathroom, Sissen observes its mundane objects as if he were a devoted worshipper. One of the most prized objects in the bathroom shrine is a freshly used tampon, as In this passage, the tampon, a taboo obj ect, transforms into a work of art, a transformation that is in part due to the fact that it has literally been inside one of the girls. However, it is also an object of containment. Intended to hide blood, the tampon can be beautiful only because, as the rather than soaked with it. The tampon expresses a desire to contain the blood, and thus the violence, that the girls expose through their suicides, an act that becomes a 12 Sissen becomes an early example of the emasculating effect of the feminine space of the Lisbon home. A boy whose name is simi household, invites Sissen is also symbolic since Mr. Lisbon is regularly ch aracterized as a weak male figure.
148 metaphorical stain on the suburba n community. In contrast to this relatively clean and hygienic scene, Eugenides shows two dramatic suicide s involv ing the youngest Lisbon daughter, Cecilia. The first occurs when Cecilia cuts her wrists with a razor blade in the upstairs bathroom. Discove red in the graphic death in the novel. While her sisters choose less gruesome options such as gas or sleeping pills, Cecilia does not shy away from expos ing her pain in a wa y that will shock those around her. One of the narrators, Paul Baldino, first discover s body. Expecting to find a pleasing erotic image, Baldino is greeted by the spectacle of ay unconscious in the its uncontained conventional domestic scene. Eugenides links these intimate bathroom scenes to larger issues in the community : after, the Chamber of Commerce worried less about the influx of black shoppers and indicate a n anxiety regarding racial homogeneity in the suburbs, and might even be related to the fears of that fears about race suicide emerged during times of declining birth rates for white women and the increase in the immigrant population (6). Young girls who chose to buck tradition and forgo marriage and childrearing were perceived as contributors to the problem . As a result of these
149 decisions , Abate argues man Anglo bears out that the decisions of young girls were heavily freighted with social significance. A girl who chose to reject the promises of domestic , even before the suicide attempts , mark her as different from her more socially adjusted siblings. 13 In the early 1990 s , racial issues returned to the forefront of U.S. politics. Reade rs, in particular, might discern parallels between the racial division in the fictional Detroit suburb and the recent Los Angeles race riots. The riots ignited discussions about race relations in America. National news stations that covered the original Ro officers involved were acquitted on April 29, 1992, the papers turned from addressing senseless police brutality to t he racial biases of the white jury. In the New York Times , the jury members, all of whom hailed from the Simi Valley suburb, were described as living in a community whose very design revealed racial animosity : The very layout of the streets in this well t o do suburb speaks volumes about how unwelcome strangers are here, about how much safety means to the 100,000 people, most of them white , who have crossed the mountain range and then the Ventura county line to escape the chaos and discomfort of the people . (qtd. in Jacobs 116 ) ABC News quoted UCLA sociologist Dr. Melvin Oliver , who claimed they tend to 13 wardrobe is no doubt symbolic. The black underwear, only revealed as the young girl rides her bicycle, is akin to the dark underside of white suburbia, and place where African Americans are discouraged from entering.
150 be white ). The repeated referral to the tendency of white, middle class people to flee the urban center of Los Angeles spoke volumes about the structure and purpose of the American suburb. Indeed, the media coverage following the Rodney King decision made these racial di visions newly visible on a national and international scale. T he Encyclopedia of American Race Riots, Volume 2 (2007) describes the 1990s T he descriptions of the Simi Valley suburb, and later coverage of the Latinos and Korean Americ ans. The mainstream media chose to largely ignore the multiethnic nature of the riots and instead characterized the event as a moment of intensified racial tension between whites and blacks. Ronald Jacobs explains that reporters followed a rhetorical patte continued insistence on the failure to address racial tension between white and black Ame ricans led to discussions of how race s hapes the way one interprets racial violence. American informants interpreted the television images of the uprisings as legitimate protest against racial and economic injustice; white and Lati no informants, by contrast, interpreted the events primarily as criminal activities by anti While the events in Los Angeles reinvigorated discussions of racial division in to spotlight racial issues. For
151 example , the U.S. response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait renewed stereotypes of Middle Eastern ers that paralleled the negative criticism of young blacks. For instance, propaganda surrounding the war described the Iraqis a s cruel and callous, most famously in the Nayirah testimony, where a fifteen year old Kuwait girl described how the Iraqi soldiers removed twenty two newborns from their incubators and left them to die on the hospital floor. This testimony has since been q uestioned, and many agree his war. 14 It is cription of the Iraqi soldiers, reference to this testimony in later speeches re garding the Gulf War, helped reviv e stereotypes about Middle Eastern men. As Edward Said explains in Orientalism (1978), As I noted in my readi ng of Lolita , the virgin land myth was first instituted in order to erase issues related to race and gender, as were other national myths that were popularized in the 1950s. However, the virgin land myth stands apart from these other myths due to its relat ion to land loss during the period of U.S. westward expansion. Primary features of the virgin land myth, including an emphasis on the fertility of the land and the abundance of wide open spaces allowed Americans to colonize Native tribes without the guilt associated with such actions. Such myths remained popular as a way of assuaging white guilt, and continued to be invoked to reviv e American patriotism and instill within U.S. citizens American values. In the Cold War context, the virgin land myth aided in the project of creating a single unified narrative about the United States. 14 See, for example, the Canadian Broadcasting Cor poration (CBC) D ecember 1992 video report on
152 R eturning to the myth of the wide open spaces of the American West made it easier to d stains akin to those Paul Baldino part of what is at stake in the novel is territory, or land perceived as belonging to the white suburbanites. The theme of te rritorial wars becomes most evident in the reaction en appears an intense desire to contain the violence exposed by the death. This desire is made evident when the narrators attempt to recreate the rushing we decided later must have been caused by her wedding dress filled with air. and landing on the spiked fe nce outside, Cecilia ensures that her body will be beyond is not without its irony. Her body is ruptured by the phallic symbol of the fence post, 31). ; i nstead, they focus on the immaculate nature of her untimely end : no blood on it . It was perfectly clean and Cecilia merely seemed balanced on the pole the image of the Virgin that she is found clutching after her first suicide at tempt. No longer the monstrous, blood ridden body encountered earlier by Baldino description is the way that it inserts Cecilia a girl who fails to live up to Anglo American
153 expectations for young women into a narrative acceptable to white suburbanites. into a neat, clean narrative that retroactively tames her . Yet Cecil previously claimed was absent reappears. Like much of the narrative, the discovery of the blood has a mythical quality: fact. Some said it was on the third spike, some said the fourth, but it was as imp ossible as finding the bloody shovel on the back of Abbey Road where all the clues proclaimed that Paul was dead. (54) is almost comical in the way that it resemble s the exaggeration of American tall tales. depending on who is speaking. T his obsession with the blood is telling on a number of levels. First, the fear of blood re appe aring suggests a n anxiety that the repressed facts of will return to haunt the neighborhood. As the narrators suggest shocking death of one of the Lisbon daughters that the entire community is jolted into acknowledging th eir less than perfect lifestyle and its deteriorati on at pace with the demise of the Lisbon family. Second, the obsession with blood indicates that the h that these bloody stains rise to the surface. follow has clear parallels with the Cold War situation . Indeed, the fact that Cecilia is the
154 one able to tip the other girls o ver into depression and ultimately death is reminiscent of transmitted from one girl to the next. Even though the narrators dismiss this explanation they remark , M ore and more, people forgot about the individual reasons why the girls may have killed themselves, the stress disorders and insufficient in predicting decadence. People saw their cl airvoyance in the wiped out elms, the harsh sunlight, the continuing decline of our auto industry. (244) As the narrators indicate here, the community begins to see the girls as a symbol not only of their declining Detroit suburb but of the nation at larg e. The community members Eugenides intensifies the connection between the girls, death, and U.S. empire through multiple descriptions of a massive city project to control the Dutch Elm disease that is killing suburb an trees. One of the most crucial scenes in the novel occurs when the girls form a chain around the old oak in their front yard. Using their bodies, the girls refuse to acquiesce to the state mandate to cut down all infected trees. The girls recognize the absurdity of cutting down trees in order to save them, arguing th at in so doing , the city destroy s prediction proves to be correct, and the suburb becomes a barren lifeless place as the city workers remove all sickly trees. Lisa
155 is a document chronicling the isolation and illusion that exists in the postmodern is imagined immunity to the problems that plague urban Detroit. Recall scenario of the girls fighting to save diseased trees suggests the city is partly responsible for its own decline . distinction that Sunaina Maira makes in her study of Muslim American youth in post those who su ffer under its power. Speaking specifically about use in the United States, Maira explain s The discourse of empire has shifted and the meanings of empire are rewritten and revised by political conservatives as well as liberals, not just reintroducing and normalizing the term, but rehabilitating the concept of empire as a just, necessary, and benevolent force. Imperia lism, however, has been resistant to this makeover and has retained the taint of an undesirable form of power. (45) munity literally sees this death as foreshadowing the decline of the ir community , a connection that, as Maira indicates, is members of the community, who go to great lengths to regulate the influx of urban blacks. In seeing the suburb as a part of a nd a figure for a larger U.S. empire, the
156 suburbanites justify the power that they wield. Eugenides is able to critique the American Dream by presenting readers with one of its most iconic images: the suburb . H is d eployment of the tropes of the virgin lan d myth strengthen this critique. Like Nabokov, Eugenides introduces a male narrator who is fascinated with the lovely Lisbon daughters, and who, like Humbert, produc es an elaborate myth regarding the girls daily live s . Through the memories of the narrator s, now fully grown men, Eugenides captures the potential consequences of myth making. home in the middle of the night, anticipating a wild escape to warm and sunny Florid a. The boys, eager for an adventure and emanating with manly pride, are shock ed when discover the first body, a dangling, lifeless corpse that was once Bonnie Lisbon, th ey observe one by one the boys survey the destruction of the remaining Lisbon girls, they regret the y conclude after escaping from the coffin of a house (217). Although the hard lesson of death might seem to cure the boys of their selfishness, it does not stop them from trying to capture the girls even after they are gone in the mysterious t ale of the their life and death. As men, they admit that even now they long for the girls and imagine them when they are with other female lovers (147). Much like the adult members of the community, and like Humbert before them, the boys fail to see the p I ntent on fabricating an elaborate story where they play the role of the knight in shining armor, the narrators distort the
157 facts that they collect in order to create a cohesive narrative that will expla in the deaths. The girls, for their part, are acutely aware of the roles given to them by the narrators. Although the girls remove any opportunity for a clandestine union, they do fulfill this role succ essful suicide. Bonnie kills herself with a rope that she ties to the basement rafter; Mary successfully kills herself with sleeping pills; Lux slowly drifts away into oblivion while too cause s her demise with s to fulfill the roles given them by the male narrators reveal their acute understanding of their position as eroticized virgins. Their violent act preserves the myth the boys create, yet does so in a wa y that is disturbingly shatters any erotic image the boys harbor about her and her sisters. It is through the inclusion of violent acts such as these that Eugenides ultimate ly unravel s the myths used to justify actions such as racial segregation. Even prior to the mass suicides, Eugenides inserts moments of resistance where the girls voice their opposition to their roles as immaculate virgins. For example, Therese remarks, confinement following the Homecoming dance fiasco, the girls send messages to their male admirers using the same picture of the Virgin Mary that the medical team found on Cecilia aft er her first suicide attempt. In selecting the image of the virgin as a representation of their group identity, the girls at once and align themselves with Cecilia more radical subjectivity. On the se cards, the girls expre ss their innermost feelings. A card from Lux expresses her anger and resentment
158 Other messages range from frustrat ion to ang er uns 193). Having expressed their grievances, the girls revert to a more subdued tone in order to lure the boys to their home. T h is shift in tone expresses the conflict between male and female perception of the world. The girls understand their position in their community much more than the boys who control the narration, and they ultimately accept that they can only c ommunicate their message through a counter mythmaking. The spectacular nature of their final demise guarantees the girls a place in the her essay on The Virgin Suicides , Debra Shostak elaborates on the relationship between myth and history, an important distinction to make both for an understanding of the novel and the larger implications for the image of the American West. Shostak argues that the novel tional modes, that Lolita is not a part of t (826). Shostak inflicted injuries. However, Shostak concludes that the hubris of the boys need not be shared by the
159 readers: readers mus t make an ethical choice that involves siding with the narrators or rejecting their worldview. The ethical dilemma of the reader is a familiar one. Moments such as the end of the Cold War and September 11 shake the very foundations of the nation, putting into works to simplify the world by presenting a unity and harmony that is untrue to the real e xperience of Americans. In the aftermath of September 11, for example , there was a vision of itself (156). However, myth s are also potentially empowering. This is what Smith attempted to relate to his readers in his prefatory note to Virgin Land , where he t when they simplif y complex experiences ; powers (ix x). Myth becomes as much a way of working through fear and anxiety as it is a tool for erasing them . Francisco Collado and that of the Latin American author Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez. While Collado The Virgin Suicides ultimately empowers the reader through its mythical structure, he proposes an alternative view of myth by analysis of one or different aboriginal cultures that were subject to co lonization mostly by European countries, while they were frequently neo
160 (38). Collado RodrÃguez suggests that Eugenides uses the Lisbon girls to encourage restoration of the RodrÃguez situates the Lisbon girls as the colonial subject, and thereby RodrÃguez also underscores the way in which myth can function as a productive tool for working through complex emotions. In the case of Eugenides, one can see the way in which he draws upon the past in order to construct a critique of U.S. national narratives. Set in the 1970s, The Virgin Suicides testifies to the anxiety rooted in the instability of this period. In the ir final commemorative act, the suburbanites memorialize the sa e dying elm trees, expresses disillusionment with American myths , particularly the , like the dying girls , signals the decline of the town, a fate that the community comes to accept as inevitable. Eugenid similarly presents the decline of challenge the American Dream also places him within the tradition of novelists like Vladimir Nabokov , for whom myth becomes a tool for dismantling American myths rather than reinforcing them . Moreover, t he 1990s, as the novel indicates, was plagued by its own nightmares .
161 identification of the 1970s as t he beginning of a long and disastrous tumble for the American nation sets the stage for darker narratives. A crucial transitional figure, herself and escape the tragic end that befalls the Lisbon girls. A Plague Shall Descend Upon Him: Power, Redemption, and Revenge 15 a female antelope is captured by a male hunter and, in a fantastic turn of events, manages to escape being (lines 13 15). Shortly thereafter, she manages to confront her attacker and then leaves, wondering who might have the capacity to wound her , tha t overtakes the female speaker when she struggles to escape from her male captor. It is but one in many instances where Erdrich considers the power of women and their capacity to survive, even when the odds are against them. Erdrich has written numerous wo rks where women manage to overcome tragedy. Yet it is her more recent novel , The Plague of Doves (2008), that places her within the tradition of writers attempting to unravel the virgin land myth. Although Erdrich has long considered the impact of the gove expansion policies and modern legal relationship with recognized tribes, she pays especial attention in Plague to the way that women and the land are tied together. Moreover, as in the earlier works we have examined featuring the figure of the vir gin girl, Erdrich features young girls who challenge the authority of their male companions 15 Jacklight (1984).
162 in order to assert their power. However, i t is their ultimate success in doing so that separates from its predecessors . Plague returns to the famili ar landscape of North Da kota, the setting of many of novels, including Love Medicine (1984) , The Bee t Queen (1986) , and The Master Butchers Singing Club (2003) . The flat lands of Pluto, North Dakota serve as the site of a terrible tragedy, where a family is murdered by a mentally unstable neighbor . T he only survivor is a baby girl. This tragedy results in the hanging of four innocent Native American men who discover the child and are then charged with murdering the family. The history of death and tragedy haunt many of the characters in Pluto, including the young girl in the story, but it is the depiction of two girls in particular that places and Marn Wolde are each caught up in the cycle of violence that originates in the Pluto murders. Evelina, the granddaughter of one of the men wrongfully accused (but, who survive s the hanging ) is also related to a family called the Wildstrands, who participated in the l ynch mob. Marn is the daughter of a German immigrant family who struggl es to survive as farmers. Marn eventually marries Billy Peace, a melancholy descendent of one of the men who is executed for the murders . While both young women are connected to the tra uma of the murders, it is their subjection to this history , particularly through male figures , that construct s them as virgin girl figures. However , Erdrich finds ways to subvert the convention s of the virgin girl figure at multiple points in her narrative . B oth Evelina and Marn narrate their own stories, and Evelina goes to great lengths to challenge traditional interpretations of the murders, tracing the history of this
163 bloody tale and in turn becoming a storyteller of both the town personal history. The Many Roles of the Modern Virgin Girl Plague , Evelina and Marn are identified early on as desired and desiring beings. Evelina begins her first narrative section with a tale of young love , a childhood romance where she pursues her classmate and cousin, Corwin Peace. The obsessive and intense nature of this love is conveyed by Evelina when she declares, M y fingers obsessively wrote the name of my beloved up and down my arm or in my hand o r on my knee. If I wrote his name a million times on my body, I believed he would kiss me. I knew he loved me, and he was safe in the knowledge that I loved him . (9) her constant act of writing , a writing at on ce intimate , as it is literally on her bod y, and sexual , as she write s ( 10). W Corwin is intense, she insist s that this love be reciprocated. Evelina is not simply a prepubescent girl with a crush on one of her classmates; her love, she insists, follows a pattern of the ) and turning to her with when the two kiss . Marn explains that at the age of thereafter, she decides to act on her desires. Marn chases Billy much like Evelina chases Corwin ; however Marn differs from Evelina in that she has a host of admirers.
164 After the end of her relationship with Billy, Marn walks into the local restaurant called the 4 crushes on her. She had a faci Erdrich defines the two youngest female characters in Plague in terms of passionate and intense love affairs that consume those involved. Like the girls in Lolita and The Virgin Suicides , this love can become destr uctive . Evelina, for example, is whereas Marn is enveloped in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with her husband, whose desire to reclaim Indian land and rights obsess him. The status of victim is a familiar one for the virgin girl, who is often beaten, humiliated, tortured, or stifled by the rules of modern society until she ha s few options for escape. It is not coincidence that my previous examples b oth end in death . The death of these tormented female figures is a way for authors to demonstrate the intensity of the trauma experienced by the girls. It is often in the aftermath of these deaths that those responsible for their pain begin to consider the depths of the emotional lives. Likewise, readers are encouraged to consider the social patterns that precipitated these deaths and are at least in part responsible for them. Erdrich underscores the plight of her young female characters through viv id descriptions of physical and emotional abuse. During her childhood romance , Evelina begins to distance herself from Corwin after he humiliates her by sharing the secret of
165 (43). As Corwin continues to try and win her affections, Evelina describes the inner turmoil she ; ; As Evelina matures, she find s herself again victimized by Corwin. During a particularly raucous party, Corwin slips Evelina a powerful hallucinogen that causes her to lock herself in her room and eventually check herself into a mental institution. Erdric h similarly descri bes Marn life as one of pain. As she suffers various forms of mental and physical abuse, Marn describes her mixed emotions about her willed, a follower, never speaking up if I (160) ; ; re dist ur bing , of these scenes of violence are telling: as in the narratives examined above , these likewise emphasize the manipulation of young girls at the hands of men . The gendered nature of the abuse in Plague has led to a number of For example, i n an essay on nationalism and gender, Gina Valentino tique of a tendency among male critics such as Warrior, Weaver, and Womack to marginalize
166 es the tendency for male critics , including those of Native American descent , (126). W omen are persecuted due to their perceived tendency to either upset male power or to betray their culture altogether, especially through activities such as writing. pat riarchy : i t is also part of a much longer critical conversation concerning destructive national myths. While her presentation of abused girls place s Erdrich firmly within the tradition of virgin land criticism, the inclusion of historical and Bibli cal references strengthens this association. Erdrich includes past historical events such as the lynching of four Native American men and the reb ellion of Louis Riel as a way of expressing the suffering and persecution of Native American tribes. She likewi se includes discussions of ways that the U.S. government has tried to control Native people, including blood quantum, boarding schools, and land removal. Of the se , land removal figures most prominently, and this practice is most closely associated with th e myth that most interest s Erdrich. Throughout the narrative, her virgin girl characters decry the loss of land, albeit from radically different perspectives. At one point, Evelina overhears a conversation between her aunt, Neve Harp, and her grandfather M ooshum, where the latter land] was stolen rest is intergenerational, a pain that is passed down because no healing takes place loss does not have this same sense of large scale tragedy. While Marn loves the land, e
167 history of colonization : the Pluto area. Still, Marn fights to regain control of her land from her husband, Billy : after killing him . The girls are both defined by their love and loss of land, a fact that connects them to a key aspect of the virgin land myth. Since the main purpose of the virgin land myth was to bolster national pride and to encourage Americans to settle in the western frontier, it was necessary to create an image of this desolate land that would be attractive to prospective settlers. irgin indicated that the land beyond the frontier was unspoiled and more fertil e than that of the east . Moreover, as policies such as the Homestead Act of 1862 encourage d westward expansion, many left their homes in the East in search of propert y . Many who believed the propaganda about the unsettled l making clear that this land was already long occupied before the arrival of white settlers. While reference to historical events in th e struggle between Native people and white particular, becomes a potent image becaus e it not only refers to the tendency to depict roots in Judeo C hristian mythology . Because missionaries were often responsible for the cultural assimilation of Native children, and since the North Dakota a rea was influenced by French Catholics, Erdrich connects each of her virgin girl figures to this aspect of the virgin land myth.
168 Evelina very name connects her to the Judeo Christian Eve her family even m yth , Evelina tempts the men around her and encourages them to misbehave. In addition to instigating a series of classroom riotous behavior, even slipping him alcohol when he is not supposed to have it. Moreover, as with the biblical e knowledge denied her by her elders . She ruthlessly attempts to unravel the mystery of the Pluto murders, going so far as to draw up a g enealog ical chart for the town. Evelina explains that as she develops her underneath, and Mooshum was no help. He bore i nterrogation with a vexed wince and Pluto murders, and ultimately her own family history, marks her as a powerful and potentially threatening figure. Like the biblical potentially destroy the town of Pluto, as it would challenge the narrative that the town has accepted and used in order to survive past trauma s . Moreover, her search threatens to undercut the family hierarchy, as th e stories she has been told about the murders make her grandfather indeed victim ized by his history, he also had a hand to play in the murders since he betrayed his friends while in a drunken stupor by r evealing their connection to the family. Like Evelina, Marn also adopts traits of the biblical Eve. While Marn does not initially have the power to challenge male authority, she engages in alarming rituals with
169 her pet snakes that allow her to regain her sense of power and autonomy. In one such passage, Marn milks her two snakes , and then hides the poison behind an apple. Th e iconography of the snake and the apple link her immediately to the story of Adam and Eve. T here are other scenes in the novel that f urther cement the connection between Marn and the biblical Eve. Marn allow s her snakes to curl around her body while naked, and in one particularly sexualized scene, she invites Billy to join her in bed with the snakes. Similarly, when Marn is bit by one o sickness boil up, and the questions, and the fruit of the tree of power ). The snakes, she asserts behavior, particularly in the way she equates her snakes with the Holy Spirit, transform her from a victimized girl into a powerful temptress. Although Erdrich makes it clear that Marn is in an abusive relationship during her entire time with Billy, she also creates lust for power and vengeance is horrifying, as when she states 178). Erdrich often blurs the boundary between victim and perpetrator, reflecti ng her investment in issues that arose following the event s of September 11, 2001. In an interview with Jeff Baenen (also available in excerpts in the P.S. section of the novel), 16 than sitting back and allowing justice to be done over time, is really so much a part of further notes that and puni 16 e June 9, 2008 edition of The Associated Press .
170 perpetrator, Erdrich bring s past and present together. On the one hand, she frames her book with the murder of the Pluto family, an idea she developed after coming across a newspaper clipping about a similar incident; on the other hand, she relate s this historical incident to the present of her fictional characters, thereby encouraging her readers to a traditional status as victim and then puts this status into question. If we return to sly take later scene as she observes the embarrassment of her beloved teacher, who is shamed by a class joke that Evelina initiate s . These very same comments read in the context of 9/11 parallel the growing rage, fear, and anxiety that emerged after 9/11. As many critics have commented, those of Middle Eastern descent or whose skin color might cause others to incorrectly identify them as Middle Eastern were often under attac k, even suffering bodily harm. 17 This toxic environment, Erdrich suggests throughout her narr ative, is caused when adults let their emotions rule them. variety of scenarios where the line between victim and perpetrator are blurred. In so doing, she further destabilizes ea rlier depictions of the virgin girl as victim . If we read 17 Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11 (2009). In addition, the horrific misidentification of Kimberly Lowe, a Creek Indian, as a Muslim American demonstrated t he extent to which anyone with darker skin color was subject to racism and hate crimes in Radical History Review for
171 Evelina as a classic virgin girl, for example, she is understood as only a victim of hatred for Corwin and her de ep pleasure in tormenting him does not allow readers to read her as simply a Corwin stayed in love with character of Evelina, Erdrich demonstrates the wider implications of impassioned rage. When Evelina colors after one o play in these classroom pranks, as she was the first to compare her teacher with the Japanese monster Godzilla. when Corwin invites other children to participate in the taunting of Sister Mary Anita. While Evelina feels shamed for her past actions, especially after learning how deeply they hurt Sister Mary Anita, she continues to act impulsively and cruelly, even if she does not perceive her actions as such. In her attempts to protect her teacher, Evelina punches, kicks, and spits insults at Corwin, a tactic that is disturbingly similar to the actions that initiated the class jo ke in the first place. Marn similarly breaks down the binary between victim and perpetrator . While Marn does suffer enormously at the hands of her husband, she also plots vengeance in a way that does not leave her free of guilt. On multiple occasions, Mar begins to plot to put her intentions into
172 question. For example, as she prepares to stab Billy with th e poisoned needle, she enjoy power once it is hers, and she wields it in ways t hat brushes against the norms for women. continually troubles the all too encourages reader s to side with Marn, even as she construction as a windigo (153 154; 156 157 ) , or an icy monster from the mythology of Northern Native tribes. Erdrich includes many control and cause those around him to suffer. Likewise, his characterization as a windigo suggest that he is no longer human, and that killing him is in fact the only humane thing to do. By drawing upon Native Am erican mythology, Erdrich indicate s that are justified and even necessary. Most critics of Erdrich comment on her tendency to blur boundaries in relation to as victim and perpetrator that is more relevant here . As unconventional virgin girl figures, Evelina and Marn challenge stereotypes about girls as innocent, pure, and helpless. H istorically goodness has been associated with white, middle class girlhood , an d girls who failed to live up to standards, as is evidenced in literary examples such as Louisa Abate explains that
173 for white girls acting like a boy was acceptable only so long as the girl outgrew this stage in a reasonable amount of time. If she continued to demonstrate masculine behavior, she was chastised and marked as a social deviant. This form of discipline, . Abate suggests that this was due to the emergence at that time of a new phase of childhood: adolescence (28). Girls could be tomboys so long as they cast off their boyish behavior by the time they reached adolescence; those who failed to do so would be punished. Abate further explains that the wildness of little girls was often associated with Native Americans: girls ed boyish behaviors (142) . While Abate read s the white girl as raced due to her activity, this reading does not hold for Evelina, who, despite her white blood, would still be considered a Native American girl. Evelina is unique because she comes from a fam ily of privilege her father is a science teacher at the reservation school and the family lives in Bureau of Indian Affairs housing, along with many modern comforts that go along with town life (36) . This allows her to enjoy middle class status in a town w here most girls of her of boundaries thereby shows how race, class, and gender are likewise tied up in these acts of vengeance. her ability to challenge dominant narratives about gender and race, Erdrich in fact empowers her by upsetting Anglo American expectations regarding girlhood. From the beginning, Evelina engages in activities that are coded as masculine : she is outspoken, rambunctious, and
174 traditional Ojiwba notions of gender, which similarly blur the boundaries between male and female norms ark series, Don Latham as socially deviant. Girls who act like boys are not pressured to change their behavior because Ojiwba culture accepts the possibility for gen der variance, or the ability to change gender over time, as Jacobs, Thomas, and Lang attest in their study of Native American cultures (4). It is only when the behavior of gen der variants threaten the overall welfare of the tribe that they are punished. In the Birchbark series, a young exemplifies this description. Latham explains that Two not channeled in Despite her Ojibwa roots, Evelina is still subject to the social expectations of white culture, a fact that is made evident in the imagery in her stories. Eve lina channels her boyish behavior in order to discover answers regarding the Pluto murders. This determination to find answers requires her to rely on more masculine behavior she e elders. Both historian and storyteller, Evelina has the ability to reinterpret history , a power that was never granted to earlier virgin girl s . In the fictional town of Pluto, much like in Anglo American traditions, men tend to be the storytellers and i nterpreters of historical events. I n fact , i and these stories play a central 18 18 pose, since Evelina is very much witnessing the aftereffects of a town tragedy.
175 One of the very first images that Evelina shares is part of a story that Mooshum tells about his first meeting with his late wife. In the story, a plague of doves descends upon the town and destroys the town crops. This plague of doves also leads him to his future love: when the town women try to chase the doves a way, he is hit in the head by an escaping dove. Upon awakening, he sees his future wife, a young girl dressed in a beautiful white dress: I saw two beings the boy shaken, frowning; the girl in white kneeling over him with the sash of her dress gracefully clutched in her hand, then pressing the cloth to the wound on his head, staunching the flow of blood. Most important, I imagined their dark, mutual gaze. The Holy Spirit hovered between them. Her sash reddened. His blood defied gravity and flowed up her ar m. Then her mouth opened. (12) sexual overtones. Eveli readers can associate with the French word , the role of the sanctified young girl. Her frilly white dress, which is completely out of place in the chaos of the dove plague, also associates her with divine grace. Unlike the doves who flap around wildly , Junesse is calm and graceful. 19 She also acts i n a traditional feminine manner, nurturing the injured boy to health and even overlooking decorum by dirtying her white sash with the boy blood. class girlhood. Like lo American novels, Junesse is chaste, loving, and innocent. Her only flaw is that she allows her good reputation to be tarnished when she runs away 19 Gamber, it is likely that Erdrich intended this image to refer to white settlement of Native lands (143). down on the American landscape, overusing the land and starving out the indigenous population bears some slight simil
176 with her future husband. Evelina is clearly captivated by this story of young love, and she interprets her own love with Corwin in terms of it . Evelina, however, breaks from the conventions of romantic love when she rejects Corwin in favor of her teacher: As I walked I realized that my body still fought itself. My lungs filled with air like two bags, but every time they did so, a place underneath them squeezed so painfully the truth suddenly came clear. I love her now, I blurted out. I stopped on a crack in the earth, stepping on it, then stamped down hard, sickened. Oh God, I am in love . (47) orror at loving another woman arises from the fact that it falls outside the narratives she has come to recognize. There is, she later observes , no story about loving another woman (235). While in Ojiwba culture Evelina would be identified as a gender vari ant, in the town of Pluto she is still subject to American norms of female to re mark her, so that as she grows into a more mature adolescent she no longer plays th e role of the wily, highstrung little girl who torments potential lovers. Erdrich provides an example of this role reversal when Evelina returns as narrator. After experiencing horrifying hallucinations from the drug slipped to her by Corwin , Evelina volunteer s at a mental institution. Once there, she meets a young white Nonette invite s Evelina to love her, her mental instability makes this love impossible. Nonette taunt s Evelina and den ies their relationship, and she later checks out of the mental institution without so much as acknowledging the ir relationship. This cat and mouse game she becomes the victim of rejection. In her reading of the novel, Valentino argues that
177 dur ing her childhood, Evelina could not understand her love for Sister Mary Anita, and why her reaction is one of horror rather than pleasure. Similarly, Evelina is unable to understand how to react to Nonette, who does not follow the narrative patterns in th e stories she was told as a girl. While Evelina struggles to develop a new story by conforming to traditional gender roles Nonette has boyish characteristics while Evelina has girlish ones her relationship ultimately crumbles. is not simply gendered, but raced as well. In her history of the evolution of the tomboy, Abate explains that white tomboys were often by fear about the decline in white supremacy. Abate cites multiple historical episodes Americans. Abate, however, con cerns herself with white tomboys who not only desire girls, as in the case of Beebo Brinker in I am A Woman (1959), but also white girls who act like non white ones : Abate repeatedly draws parallels between white tomboys and African American girls and wome n. For Evelina, race plays a crucial role in the power underscoring how race, gender, and sexuality are tied up in historical acts of vengeance. When Evelina reflects on her rel ationship with Nonette, the dejected woman or family connection between her Ojiwba heritage just a nothing, half crazy, half drugged, half
178 , Marn. The juxtaposition of these two demonstrates the limitations of white female subjectivity, while simultaneously drawing attention to problems associated with the virgin land myth. If the virgin land myth was intended to make innocent the colonial exploits of the United States a nd then bolster national pride during the 1950s, it returned once more following 9/11 . During this moment, heated debates regarding race emerged as many Americans became suspicious of anyone that even vaguely resembled the hijackers responsible for the pla ne crashes in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. For Erdrich, 9/11 becomes an opportunity to return at least in terms of decisions driven by vengeance rather than justice, is apparent in the way she contrasts her two virgin girl figures. While Evelina Harp challenges gender, race, and class expectations, Marn conform s to the m . Marn comes from a blue col lar immigrant family who struggl es to make a profit from their farm. Because she need s to help on the farm, Marn exhibits behavior that others might interpret as tomboyish. However, o nce she no longer has to help with family chores, Marn succumbs to tradit ional ideals of femininity. For example, after running off with es her energy a model of domestic bliss, as she is constantly subjecte d to emotional and physical abuse. Marn even treated in a nineteenth century manner when her husband gains rights to her
179 family farm : property hark en s back to the days when women were treated raditional conceptions of Anglo American femininity contrasts sharply . Erdrich hint s background play in her behavior. When Marn determines it is time to return home for a family visit, she persuades her husband to accompany her by referring to her own upbringing: Your parents died when you were young, I tell him. Your sister raised you until you went into the army, then she went to the dogs, I guess. So up in that you want to return to. (148) Earlier, focused exclu sively on her desire for this mysterious man. Now, as she grows older and develops a sense of duty, she refers to these differences and utilizes them to gain a modicum of little und : her position rather than asking. Moreover, despite riffs in her own family, she nostalgica lly writes about her father and mother as they diligently tend to the land, feeling that will strengthen once she is overrun by rage at her abusive husband.
180 myth was family still owns a large plot of land that was obtained at a time when land speculation led many to being ). While involvement in this land theft much like the reddened sash of Junesse, is tainted with blood, and it is thi s stain that Erdrich forces her readers to consider within the larger history of U.S. colonization. Marn may be in the right when she is angered by his desire for the land is always cast in terms of the larger histo ry of U.S. colonization. and it is this history of land theft that drives him to reclaim what Marn see s as her own. Erdrich reminds her readers of through the narrative of Judge Coutts. In the town of Pluto , land rights should be interpreted as a st ruggle between whites and Indians, making any reference to them highly racialized. This struggle over land begins to appear as a driving force in the violence that behavior of her Uncle Warren, the man really responsible for the Pluto murders. Despit e
181 colonization, begins to possess her. Much like the rages that randomly take control of en able the submissive Marn to lash out at her husband. In the murder scene, Marn calmly prepares a poison, and places the toxic serum in a needle that she hides behind an apple. Later, as she flees the religious commune where she lived with Billy, Marn encou nters one of the other members, a white woman named Bliss. Marn tackles the woman and punctures her jacket with a steak knife that she has hidden in her hand. Such acts starkly contrast with Marn earlier to stri ke at her enemies seems fueled by a rage that precedes her, and is indeed linked to her crazed uncle. Such a genealogical connection places the conflict between Marn and Billy into dialogue with the embittered history of the Ojiwba tribe, who likewise suff ered at the hands of French fur trappers, and the white immigrants and settlers who later rushed into the west. maturation , Erdrich captures many of the issues that arose after 9/11 and places them into a broader historical context. By subverting the familiar tropes of the virgin girl figure, she is able to question the atmosphere of vengeance that quickly emerged in the aftermath of 9/11 , and to further unravel the U.S. national myths that regained popular ity at this moment in time. Erdrich challenges notions of the U.S. as native land to white settlers by returning to the broken treaties between the U.S. government and Native Americans, and by likewise reflecting on the long term effects of these decisions . She demonstrates that those who partake in acts of violence and vengeance are haunted by them. These acts balloon outwards and
182 envelope more than just the immediate victims and perpetrators . T hey have lasting effects that spread much like the plague of d central image in the novel. Just like the doves, whose ordinary associations with peace are inverted when they appear en mass, an act of violence initially committed in the name of justice can later blossom into horrifying act s of vengeance on a massive scale. Such acts, when placed into a global context, reveal much about the American character.
183 CHAPTER 5 EXTRAORDINARY BOYS ON AN ERRAND: RACE AND NATIONAL BELONGING IN NARRATIVES OF FATHERHOOD as this: which had New England originally been an errand boy or a doer of errands? In which sense had it failed? Had it been dispatched for a further purpose, or was it an end in itself? Or had it fallen short not only in one or the other, but in both of t he meanings? If so, it was indeed a tragedy, in the primitive sense of a fall from a mighty designation. Perry Miller Errand into the Wilderness It reminds us of a significant fact: that instead of capturing our past, we have got to transcend it. As for a child who is leaving adolescence, there is no going home for America . Louis Hartz The Liberal Tradition in America After such fathers, what sons? Indeed, what sons can there be? Richard Hofstadter The Progressive Historians The 1950s marked a growing debate concerning role on the global stage. As the epigraphs to this chapter underscore, there was substantial anxiety it founder wh en faced with the complicated policies that an expanded political arena would certainly introduce? At the root of these questions was a concern about national leaders and the continuing mission of America in the twentieth century, a feeling effectively cap Errand into the Wilderness (1956). A guiding national myth that allowed Miller, and those familiar with his work, to reinterpret contemporary political affairs within a longer historical tradition, the errand into the wilderness myt h postulated that the Founding Fathers of the nation came to the wilderness of the New World on a divine mission which they passed onto their sons. As
184 a war veteran, respected scholar, and US diplomat, Miller had the prestige needed to claims regarding the challenges faced by the Puritan Fathers and the ir s during the height o awareness of the questionable trajectory of the nation: what would be the logical conclusion of the Puritan errand? Had the nation in fact strayed from the guiding principles that motivated the erupt well into the early twenty first century, as numerous dissidents took up the pen in order to criticize the U.S. by a father son theme, so were the critiques of these later writers. Although Miller is primarily remembered as a supporter of the US government, his anxiety regarding nuclear warfare led to a number of stateme nts that suggest his feelings were far more ambiguous. This ambiguity appeared in the work of writers who, like Miller, questioned the future of America. Without a secure sense of the nation its future pro spects. Yet in the familiar theme of the father son bond they found some reassurance. Narratives of fatherhood allowed authors to express a mix of patriotic fervor and political anxiety as they explored issues pertinent to their respective generation. Duri Nationalist party in Taiwan led to an active China lobby that kept Sino American relations at the forefront of US foreign policy considerations . Many Americans were aware of the emerging im portance of Asia following the Korean War, as this region
185 became one of the new hotspots for the struggle between the US and Soviet Union . In subsequent years, other regions, including the Caribbean, gained political importance munism intensified and fears about national security increased. In this chapter, I chart the emergence of a critique of a US foreign policy , a critique rooted in anxiet ies regarding the new position as a leader of global affairs. Structuring thi s decades long critique was the father son narrative established by Miller . , later critics were suspicious of political leaders and demonstrated this distrust through narratives of filial rebe llion. By rejecting the so called Fathers, future writers opened up a dialogue such a critical conversation. Of central importance to these writers were issues revolving around race and nat ional belonging. At a time when the U.S. was urging non aligned nations to embrace democracy, concerns about who belonged in the national family were constantly being raised . The fact that most non aligned nations consisted of a non white peoples meant tha t the U.S. had to think hard about its own racist policies, including the mistreatment of its African and Native American communit ies . In an effort to achieve its political goals, the U.S. presented itself as a loving father ready to adopt others into its family. T his rhetoric was influential for those critiques of U.S. foreign policy. The authors that I focus on in this chapter consider the limits of national belongi ng and the extent to which race defines these limits. For example, i The House of Sixty Fathers (1956) and Sherman
186 Flight (2007) white fathers adopt ethnic boys and demand that their new sons assimilate into white culture. As the boys negotiate these demands, they confront not only the power of their adoptive fathers but also that of the U.S. government. Adoptees are not the only children to appear in narratives about father son bonds, but do play a prominent role in them. T he adoptee, because he or she must be chosen for inclusion in the family, becomes an apt metaphor for the Cold War political developments in U.S. foreign policy . In another move of political dissent, Russell Banks plays with the race of the father figures that appear in his narrative, Rule of the Bone . Banks takes an alternative position on the associations of power and authority inherent in Anglo American constructions of fatherhood by replacing white fathers with a black one. In so doing, he suggests that white males are not necessarily preordained for positions of leadership. Despite their varied approaches, each of the authors I discuss in this chapter share a concern about U.S. foreign policy, and they express this concern by staging struggles of power between fathers and sons. Failed Adoptions and the Love/Hate Relationship with China During the 1950s, Asia emerged as one of the most important arena s for the China in 1949 significantly undermined the media responded to these developments. The initial rhetorical strategy involved the time of the Vietnam War, propaganda about China had heat ed up. In the short documentary film Red China Battle Plan (1967), the U.S. government depict ed China as an evil war negative image of China in war propaganda like Red China Battle Plan took time to
187 cultivate, since China was only a few year s prior critical role in the Second World War, its sudden conversion to Communism was difficult to negotiate. Such popular documentaries as the Why We Fight series, which the celebrated Hollywood filmmak er Frank Capra directed, included films devoted to U.S. activity in China. China was presented as a nation much like our own, with plenty of land and resources to care for its vast population. T he Japanese, bors, needed to be stopped if American ideals were to prevail. China needed U.S. sympathy in the years of the Second World War, and the U.S. needed China in order to assert its power. It is hard to believe that such a union would go sour so quickly. The U which reinforced Communism. In addition, an active China lobby during the 1950s raised awareness in the general public a bout issues in Asia and urged politicians to take them seriously. South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, there were earlier developments that would set the tone for future investments in the Pacific region. This began with what Nancy Bernkopf further problematized by the C hinese civil war, which lasted from 1927 until 1950. As China split due to political differences, the US would also become increasingly divided about its position in Asia. Ultimately, the US would side with the losing Kuomintang
188 (KMT) forces led by Chiang Kai Shek, and would funnel enormous amounts of US aid to steel Taiwan against a possible invasion from mainland China. While China was not the only Asian nation of interest to the US during the 1950s, in the Pacific region. As the rhetoric regarding China evolved, the Chinese were often cast as children in need of help, and the United States was the confident and clever father who could best care for this troubled nation. This was true for mainland Chi nese during the Second World War, and then later for Chinese refugees in Taiwan. Father son rhetoric permeated some of the most popular materials being disseminated to U.S. citizens about China even the very youngest citizens . One popular novel that receiv ed wide acclaim was Meindert The House of Sixty Fathers (1956). DeJong, a world author, received the Newbery Honor book award for this particular book. He would later receive the coveted Hans Christian Andersen Award, an intern ational award given to an everal foreign countries. A Conversation ). Of the many books that DeJong wrote during his lifetime, The House of Sixty Fathers is soldier during the Second World War, and his subsequent efforts to adopt a Chinese cared for and that De J ong himself attempted to adopt officially after returning home, the novel
189 provides a fictional account of Panza and De J invasion of China. What is most striking about this account is the way that it romanticizes the unio n between the U.S. military and the Chinese people . In the novel, where he is reunited with his parents through the efforts of a US soldier. In contrast to the happy ending significantly darker: dumped in an orphanage when De J boy was never again in contact with DeJong due to growing tensions between the US andonment of little Panza had less to do with his DeJong gave up his efforts at this point and left the boy to his fate. tion s with Panza are difficult to trace with real accuracy the story is primarily used by publishers to promote the book and yet it casts some important light on the fictional narrative that DeJong constructs in The House of Sixty Fathers . The novel, like the real life story of DeJong and little Panza, is about an adoption gone awry. In this case, however, it is the child unwillingness to give up on his family and accept his impending assimilation into U.S. culture is a theme that is unusually complex for a 1 biological and adoptive fathers in order to question the father son relationship that propaganda efforts during its war campaign in China. do 1 literature for children was staunchly conservative.
190 De J ong wrote his novel while still serving in China, although it was not publi shed until the mid 1950s. 2 The delay in publication allowed De J ong to make correlations between the Cold War atmosphere and his experiences abroad. Having observed interactions with the Chinese people , and the subsequent breakdown in communications between US citize ns and Chinese institutions, De J ong status. Most importantly, we need to recall the rhetoric that appeared shortly after the culmination of the Pacific War, when millions of o rphaned children became subjects of citizens to do their part and provide a loving home for these children, thereby placing them in the protective fold of the US nation. Accord ing to Christina Klein, these donating as little as ten dollars a month (46). Advertisements such as these, Klein adds, he idea of the family becomes a child thus fulfilled the new demand for US citizens to do their part on a world stage . This approach to adoption, while flawed in many respec ts, is an example of the United believed that Asia had become the new battleground in the war against Communism. The adoption rhetoric that appeared in the 1950s may very well have influenced De J ong. While much could be said of the personal impact of the images of Chinese war 2 In a commemorative piece in The Horn Book during wartime, Mick tried to send the manuscript from China to his editors at Harper in 1945. It was aid and comfort to
191 orphans that flooded the US media, a similar rhetoric of family ties also compelled other ing that Chinese children, and returns us to the familiar territory carved out by the metaphorical adoption of the Chinese, oth ers reasonably considered the nature of Was the US still staying true to its founding principles? What was the logical conclusion critics, these questions inevitably led to an engagement with the issues of race and national belonging. In The House of Sixty Fathers his strained relationship with his biological father and his fascination with a white American soldier, who serves as his father substitute and eventually his adoptive father. The rift between Tien Pao and his biological father begins when the boy disobeys the man in order to fulfi by the Amer ican soldier (11), will be forgiven once his family sees the money he white fat her) is initially taken as infallible. Young Tien Pao initially mistakes the soldier for a river deity . While his own father has done much to be admired, risking his life to keep his family safe from Japanese bullets, Tien Pao quickly forgets these actions as he
192 was golden, and his face was white. In that white face were pale blue eyes. People had scinated with the . This first encounter between Tien Pao and the white soldier serves as a modified really adopted and that somewhere a better family wait s for him. DeJong uses this fantasy narrative as a way of returning to his concern with U.S. China relations. Even in this first encounter, DeJong already cast s doubt upon the viability of such a happy union. Tien Pao, the child who stand s entrance of this new white father upsets what had been previously a happy, albeit ts in misfortune for the young child, and launches a train of events that will involve both the American soldier and the Chinese boy. As the narrative progresses, the suffering of both parties casts further doubt on the benefit of a union between the Unite d States and China. The soldier suffers from a terrible wound after crash landing during a Japanese air raid, and he must depend on Tien Pao in order to escape from the enemy. Such a reversal of power deflates the image of the once invincible American sold ier; it also draws attention to the risks of involving oneself in foreign affairs. Carol Singley maintains in Adopting America (2011) that adoption is a common trope in American literature, which dates back as far as the contact period when the first Euro pean Singley notes
193 and culturally the severed ties to Great Britain and the construction of new forms o f adoption narrative that span from the Puritan era to the end of the nineteenth century. ell , Singley 24). Eighteenth century adoption narratives still contain some practical advice reg arding adoption, but some, Autobiography (1791) , also use adoption to raise questions relating to roots and national identity. Nineteenth century adoption narratives continue to use adoption as a metaphor for the nation. In all these Singley 152). Singley demonstrates the way that these various narratives responded to t he immediate concerns of the nation, both in terms of social life and in terms of national politics. Yet, with the exception of her final chapter, Singley does not explore in much detail the relationship between the adoption narrative and empire building p ractices. Authors, as she notes in passing Little Men (1871) Our Nig (1859), at times used the adoption trope in order to depict who was not allowed into the national family. Moreover, narratives from the early Summer (1917), address the limitations of adoption and include portraits of unhappy adoptees. The shift in the adoption narrative at the beginning of the twentieth century, I would argue, occurs as a response
194 foreign nations. Post The House of Sixty Fathers , share with prior adoption narratives a concern about the reorganization of social ties and governmental institutions; however, they add to this an awareness of the U.S. as a major player in the global scene and attempt to understand the repercussions of these new ways of relating with the rest of the world. The House of Sixty Fathers is devoted to questioning the father that best exem growing tension between the U.S. and China. When Tien Pao is rescued by another American soldier and carried off to his base, he happ il y succumb s to the strength of his of the soldiers was holding him in big, steady arms and carrying him down the steep the American soldier support s base and is overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the white men. The boy is when a Chinese interpreter informs him 133; erful relaxes.
195 While the U.S. airmen feel a special bond with Tien Pao, they are not yet his legal guardians. As the interpreter notes they are not his fathers in actuality. However, DeJong already initiates a dialogue about U.S. re to bring Asian powers such as China into the national family. Christina Klein argues in her essay on the U.S. that the 1950s taking place in Asian countries. This interest, as Klein contends, was in part a response to a demand for the s to support U.S. responsibility was often articulated in terms of family ties, and U.S. citizens were encouraged to think about Asia as part of the ir inter national famil y. W ith the image of the powerful U.S. soldiers cradling the wounded Tien Pao, DeJong reflects popular attitudes regarding Asia. His representation of the interaction between soldier and war orphan supports the rhetoric popular at the time and indicates th at the relationship between the two is mutually beneficial: the soldiers are able to fulfill their duty as world leaders and Tien Pao is protected from the bullets of the Japanese and the dangers of starvation. DeJong contrasts this scene of warmth, safety , and comfort with the fear and anxiety associated with an unwanted adoption. As the U.S. soldiers shift from being father figures to adoptive fathers, the once happy union between the boy and the
196 airmen goes sour. Tien Pao, although initially thrilled wit h the idea of having sixty interpreter, Tien Pao rejects his new fathers and the privi lege that goes along with being an American adoptee: understand? I have a father and mother, and I must find them and t he 147) DeJong depicts a situation in which U.S. intervention is in fact harmful, and thereby calls into forming with his new fathers was only satisfactory so long as it was temporary , so long a become legal guardians , the child is outraged and defends his old family ties. imperial undertones of U.S. involvement i n foreign affairs. Tien Pao, the weak and helpless Chinese boy, is dependent in almost every way upon his white fathers: they feed, clothe, and shelter him. Moreover, as a child, he has no legal control over his body. On a whim the airmen gain legal contro l of the boy, with no thought for his real family. Perry Nodelman points out a disturbing relationship between the way children and colonial subjects are treated. nati on under the influence of a powerful world leader, Tien Pao is an example of new newfound mission. As me, but once the new
197 adoptee interpreter demands that the boy conform to U.S. expectations regarding child behavior: va rying moments, Tien Pao is scolded and told how to eat, dress, and act. A good American adoptee does not cry nor refuse s the gifts from his new fathers, he is told, nor does he allow his pet pig to sleep inside with him. familial love without national boundaries, which became popular in the United States fatherhood, DeJong demonstrates the dif ficulty of navigating cultural differences. The airmen must rely on the doctor and the interpreter to communicate with Tien Pao, and incidents provide some much needed comi c relief for the dark narrative, such as when Tien Pao swallows a piece of gum and rubs his belly as a sign of satisfaction despite his confusion about the candy purpose (128 129). At other times , however, they are heartbreaking: when Tien Pao first wake s in the barracks of the U.S. military base, he is presented with a tray of food only to have it quickly taken away. The soldier who handle the rich food, but the child cann ot understand and cries hysterically out of rage and frustration (139). These moments of miscommunication show that familial love does indeed have its limits, and that it is not always possible to overcome cultural differences through love and goodwill alo ne.
198 is not simply to critique the Japan war, but rather to seek out a possible solution to the political and cultural differences that threat ened successful U.S . China alternative to adoption. In a surprising turnabout, DeJong ends with Tien Pao being returned to his biological family, while his favorite U.S. soldier, Lieutenant Ha msun, narrative convey a hopeful image of ies being brought together . Reflecting on these final words, 233). The ending evokes the sentimental discourse that DeJong rejected earlier. Rather than finding a rational way to overcome cultural differences, DeJong resorts to a solution that involves the heart. The end ing of The House of Sixty Fathers Yet it is important to keep in mind that DeJong is drawing upon the well worn formula of the adop tion narrative. Even though adoptees in nineteenth and twentieth century American novels often suffer greatly before finding happiness, they are rewarded in the
199 of the na rrative form . Early accounts of adoption in such popular nineteenth century The Wide, Wide World The Lamplighter (1854) depict a journey of spiritual renewal that involves the g: many tears are shed over the loss of the biological family and the painful process of integrating into a new family. Tears become the pretext for spiritual cleansing as the young girls that star in these domestic novels learn to conform to what Barbara not white, female, or middle class , his happy ending has a very different set of suggesting that some middl e ground between adoption a process that appears too and abandonment might be possible. As can be seen from my analysis of the novel , the adoption trope became a al mission during the Cold War. Framed in terms of the father son bonds first used by Miller in Errand into the Wilderness , authors like intervene service experience, the nati the helpless Chinese, and only later as imperialistic, as they then abuse their power and begin to coerce those placed in their protection to assimilate. Revealing the anxiety that many felt abou The House of Sixty Fathers dramatizes the power dynamics between the US and foreign nations. It raises questions about the risk s to both parties, and poses a scenario in which US invention might in fact stray from the ideals espoused by policymakers. If as the popular rhetoric of the time suggested, Asia could be a part of the national family, then how might this adoption process play out?
200 What are the limitations of the familial relationship, and how might they in turn trouble the or iginal mission passed down by the Puritan Founders? While DeJong does not offer a viable solution to the problems facing the US as an emergent world power, he does contribute to a growing te Guilt, Illegal Aliens, and the Problems of Black Fatherhood where the errand into the wilderness took on a renewed relevancy for citizens : it presented an avenue for honori , while also probing into the historical events like the bombing of Hiroshima in recent memory, authors such as DeJong understood the potential con sequences of US decisions and the effect that they had on the world community. This new consciousness continued in the years after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, a period that led to renewed possibilities for The actions of the recent Reagan administration became a major target for these critics . Reagan ushered in a new era of Cold War conflict, ending the period known as somet imes inciting harsh international criticism. For example, when he consulted British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher regarding the New Jewel Movement in Grenada, Thatcher suggested that Reagan stay out of the situation. Reagan would ignore her advice and i nva ded the island on October 25, 1983. Actions such as these preserve democracy in oppressed nations. Likewise, the se actions resurrected old a nxieties about the limits of US intervention in foreign affairs,
201 US involvement in international crises. Military initiatives such as the i nvasion of Grenada were symboli conceal that I am deeply disturbed by your latest communication. You asked for my advice. I have set it ou t and hope that even at this late stage you will take it into account might characterize homegrown dissent, as in Rule of the Bone (1995). As one of the leading novelists of the 1990s, Banks emer involvement in Caribbean affairs. The novel follows the adventures of fourteen year old Chapman Dorset, a troubled youth who r uns away from home and ends up involved in the drug trade in Montego Bay, Jamaica. In the process of escaping the drudgery of his daily life, Chapman , aka Chappie and Bone , meets a series of father figures, the most important of which is a black Rastaman k nown as I Man. 3 Banks utilizes this relationship to underscore the corruption inherent in white patriarchy, and also suggest the Drawing upon the popular myth of the s f errand. In the case of the Caribbean, a concern about the spread of Communist regimes led to a series of interventions with a large impact. By returning to the figure of the 3 Book of Jamaica (1980), also involved the movement of the white protagoni st (in this case an adult) between U . S. and Jamaican culture.
202 father, Banks investigate s the p ower associated with fathers in the American tradition. generations, he institutes principles intended to guide his family and secure the survival of future generatio ns. The survival of his progeny is determined by their ability to continue to carry out the errand bestowed upon them. As a figure often associated with bestowed upon m en as a result of their gender, race, and class. In Rule of the Bone , Banks probes the complex relationship between power and whiteness through the coming of age story of an adolescent white boy, who rejects his biological and adoptive fathers and accepts instead a black father substitute. By introducing a boy who challenges his relationship with his white fathers, Banks suggests that those in positions of authority are not necessarily qualified to lead. Rather than using such a scenario to critique parenti ng, Banks turns to issues related to imperialistic actions in the Caribbean . These critiques are most easily noticed in the relationship that protagonist Chappie develops w ith a black Rastaman known as I Man. Readers are first introduced to I Ma n after the young boy runs away from home and completes a series of adventures with his best friend, Russ. Disgusted with his sexually abusive stepfather Ken and his weak willed mothe r, Chappie determines to lead a life of crime rather than subject himself to the authority of corrupt adults. After weeks of wildly gallivanting with his best friend, Chappie is forced to continue his adventures alone. return home a decision he interprets as abandonment Chappie searches for a new living situation and settles on an
203 abandoned yellow school bus in the local junkyard. It is at this point that Chappie literally trips over the man that will guide much of his r emaining journey. I Man, much like the American Adam, appears as if he comes out of nowhere. 4 In fact, the only details Bone provides about I 156). Although he knows little about I quickly come s to view this mysterious character as a father figure. In creating a situation in which Bone comes into contact with a black father figure, Banks is able to question the authority associated with fatherhood and its racial connotations . Often described as irresponsible, black fathers are frequently at the center of contemporary discussions of fatherhood. In an emotional speech during his abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of n). Banks reverses these assumptions, and i father figure appears ideal . Banks carefully crafts I Man as a positive role model by withholding details about his former life as a poor man in J amaica, who, in search of a source of income, is driven to drug dealing. By focusing on the present, Banks is able to underscore I nurturing others. Like the garden that he grows in t he junkyard, I Man nurtures the weak 4 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn f
204 and abused Bone and teaches him valuable skills. In addition, he provides spiritual guidance and instructs Bone in the Rastafarian way. Such lessons require Bone to learn about black history, particularly about how the slave trade led to many of the rules of Rastafarianism . The most important of these rules requires practitioners to abstain from (155) . Banks places the budding father son relationshi p within familiar terms by drawing upon middle class conventions of fatherhood. I of the narrative, particularly his nurturing disposition, depict him as a version of the ideal father figure that emerged between the Simply being a breadwinner under this new logi c was insufficient to make men good fathers. The turn away from more authoritarian models of parenting had a lot to do with the increasing popularity of psychological theory in the United States, along with the child studies movement of the 1920s. Inspired to accept that their presence in the household was not only important but necessary for properly develop their personalit ies role . By drawing upon these older conceptions of fatherhood, Banks is able to trouble
205 Ch stepchild ; and his young son . Neither of the two white fathers that appear in the novel therefore fulfill middle class standards of fatherhood, a fact that challenges the racial coding of these standards. In contrast to these white fathers, I Man fulfill s the criteria of a good father. He listens rvive in a world where corruption is rampant. I Man provides valuable guidance in areas such as emotional and spiritual development that are seen as imperative to the growth of a well adjusted child. Under his care, Chappie gains confidence and begins to c ontrol his anger and desires. Chappie even notes these changes when he declares how his new chores (162), and he views the days he spent with I Man during his days in the junkyard garden as the happiest ones of his life (164). C realization parallel s that of the reader, who can recognize the deep contrast between s . Even though Chappie lacks a traditional home, he has the love that his parents failed to provide him in his former life. In his presentation of the loving bond that Chappie forms with I Man, Banks suggests the possibility of overcoming the racial issues that dominated during the Cold War. As areas around the world began rapidly to decolonize in the 1960s, a large populati on of non white people were experiencing the possibility for the first time of forming their own governments. This proved to be an especially jarring change for the United States, whose concerns about the susceptibility of emerging nations to Communism mot ivated many of its actions in developing nations. In an effort to prevent
206 them on a path towards democracy. At a time when fears of the spread of Communism were high, rhetoric that promoted familial love and the inclusion of others within the family circle became critical. Not only was the family a central building block for smaller fami lies might adopt a war orphan from impoverished and war torn nations and pass democratic values onto this child, so too might the US government involve itself in world expa nding US sphere of influence . The problem with th is family rhetoric was that it overlooked the fact that race was often a roadblock to national belonging. As much as the media attempted to present the contradictions between the national rhetoric and lived experience. Thomas Borstelmann notes in The Cold War and the Color Line (2001) that the continuing mistreatment of the African American community was a terrible embarrassment for the US government, whose authority to intervene in the affairs of recently decolonized nations was limited due to its racist domestic policies. The fact that foreign diplomats of color could not even visit the US without bodyguards, due to the very re al possibility of being attacked due to their skin color, was testament to the pervasiveness of racism in the 1960s. struggled to inter vene in the politics of brandished every report of racial discrimination in the United States as evidence of
207 American hypocrisy and the hollowness of Allied rhetoric about democracy and committed their own human rights crimes, the propaganda was effective need to enter the realm of fiction to weaken American claims to moral su As stories of racism in America reached the ears of the nonwhite majority abroad, the importance of racism in US Cold War politics. Von Eschen argues that f ollowing the onset of the Korean War, US policymakers began to concern themselves more with racism might cause Asian and African peoples to seek closer relations with the Soviet that begin to form between I Man and Chappie, and are further cemented as the characters expand their makeshift family. While the primary focus of the n ovel is on the relationship between Chappie (who now refers to himself as Bone) and I Man, the two also include in their family circle a little abused girl named Froggy. Froggy, sold into the sex trade by her mother, flourish es under I Chappie. However, even in this idyllic picture of racial harmony, there is some acknowledgement of the challenges that race poses when forming alternative kinship bonds. As Chappie indicates on multiple occasions, the appearance of a black Jamaican with t wo young white children is an unusual sight, especially for the nearly all white community of Plattsburgh hink we
208 As Banks explores ways to bridge the racial divide that marke d the Cold War period, he relies on the familiar trope of the garden in order to create a safe space where a new family might form, a family not defined by genealogical bias. I garden becomes a racially innocent space, where the white child embraces the black on a memory of I Man holding hands with Froggy. As Bone watches the two traverse the garden hand in 160). The picture that Bone observes is one common in nineteenth century American literature, a connection that Bone does not fail to make as he recalls a book he read for a seventh Uncle Cabin , a novel whose main characters, Uncle Tom and Little Eva, continue to be acial division rather than breaking down this barrier. Since innocence has historically been coded white, the white child became a useful mechanism for nineteenth century Americans who were interested in either justifying slavery or ignoring it altogether: performing obliviousness, was not only whiteness but also racial difference constructed opting innocence in order to forget ra cial difference continues to influence authors who write about interracial friendships. These
209 children, because they have yet to grow up and understand racial difference, can be friends as long as It is this very conceit o f racial innocence, or the process by which his narrative. He does this first by rejecting conventional notions of childhood, particularly the belief that children, especially white children, are inherently innocent. Banks has spoken publicly about his views of childhood innocence. In an interview for The Paris Review , Banks remarks t whereas he does not: that I believe in innocence. Salinger thinks of childhood differently than I do, as if the main threat to ch ildhood is knowledge of adult life. Whereas I think that the main threat to children has more to do with power, adult power and the misuse and abuse of it . (66) Banks is quick to call attention to the fragility of the happy family he creates in the garden. Even Bone, who still wants to believe in childhood innocence, negates his claim the recognition statements signa ls that despite his wish to the contrary , racism will Man was a Jamaican illegal alien trying to get b y and eventually get home without getting busted by the The Paris Review interview, it is power that threatens children more than knowledge of the world around them. Even if Bone were innocent enough to be unaware of the government agencies that had power
210 over the bodies of his family, these same agencies would eventually find and break up his family unit. Bone inadvertently becomes an agent of destruction. Disheartened by their chances for survival, Bone decides to return home . Before he can do so, however, he must first care for his new family members and, to the best of his ability, secure their safety. His concern for the others, especially Froggy, results in a reversal of power simil ar to that which The House of Sixty Fathers . Because I Man refuses to assert his authority as adult and father figure, Bone steps up of the taking up of the mantle of power will e nd up being both liberating and destructive. Like his adoptive father, Ken, in fact, F roggy and I failures to further develop his thesis on power. Each time Bone fails and hurts a member of his idealized interracial family, he confront s a system of power that privileges white males. In this system, Bone can grow up to be the authority figure, something neither Froggy nor I Man can manage to do . This is why, as Clare Bradford remarks in Unsettling Narratives (2007), comparing (white) children to colonized subjects is problemati c: white children grow up and gain power as full citizens, whereas the colonialized subject will never have access to this power (7). Th e first half of Rule of the Bone is largely dedicated to dismantling older American conceptions of family. In addition to portraying the white family as broken, Banks suggests that alternative family models, such as those grounded in kinship
211 relations, might be possible. Although this vision of an alternative family ultimately dissolves, it provides an alternative to the s ystem of authority in the white middle class family. Importantly, a black father figure rather than a white one leads this family, demonstrating that the family can survive without the leadership of a white male. Countering both racist stereotypes about bl ack fathers and the assumptions undergirding US imperialism , Banks shows how deeply engrained are racial assumptions s to rand, and further examine the Cold War iterations of th e ongoing mission to expand the reaches of democracy. The removal of Chappie from his home in upstate New York to the predominately black community of Montego Bay, Jamaica War policies, particularly those of the Reagan and first Bush administration. Commies in the Caribbean: A Critique of the Reagan Administration As Banks continues to develop his critique of Cold War Ameri ca, he draws upon associations of power inherent in the figure of the white association with power and authority are rooted in the complex father son relationships that appear in the novel. In her study of early American childh ood, Anna Mae Duane provides some contextualization to the multiple meanings of fatherhood in the Anglo Patriarcha standing hypothesis that equated fathers w ith rulers and Suffering Childhood 29). Other forms of literature, including the 39). John Lock e also weighed in on the 130). Duane
212 making the pat riarch more guardian than In the second half of Rule of the Bone , Banks continues to draw up on the associations of father son bonds in the Anglo American tradition. Much like the more authoritarian and overbearing father in early American li terature, the white father in U pon arriving in Jamaic a, Chappie discovers his biological father, a development that will challenge his sense of loyalty to his father substitute, I Man. As h e struggles with his sense of obligation to his biological father and his fondness for his friend and guardian, Chappie unveils a system of power that privileges white male authority. Chappie learns that a few rich white men rule the island, and that white tourists similarly have power over impoverished locals. One of th e leaders of this ring of power is n American expatriate named Doc . Americans like Doc assert their authority over the locals due to their affluence and their sense of ra cial superiority. As a biological descendent of Doc, Chappie must decide whether he wants to errand, and grow up to be as ruthless and corrupt as this man, or align himself with the compassion that he has come to associate with his black father substitute. Th is situation parallels the similarly divided loyalties that emerged during the Cold War. As many were family came under question .
213 By returning to the controversies over race in Cold War America, Banks highlights the interrelationship between domestic and foreign affairs. A blot on the US government in its initiatives in recently dec olonized areas of the world such as Africa, the race question conflict s Penny Von Eschen explains that of simultaneously not wanting to embarrass i ts white supremacist allies by pretending to empathetic portrayal of I Man allows readers to identify with a character that is ultimately crushed by a system of power tha t privileges whiteness. While the presentation of whiteness in Bone is rooted in the domestic issues surrounding racial inequality in the US, it also illustrates its effects on a global stage . For example, modern forms of US imperialism, particularly neoco lonial activities such as tourism and the drug trade, highlight the negative impac t US involvement can have on other nations. Contrary to the US rhetoric of familial love, this involvement does not always benefit the local population. By presenting the bla ck rather than the white father as the role model, Banks questions the authority that has long been associated with racial superiority. Whiteness in his narrative is not a guarantee of sound decision making; rather, it is a sign of corruption. In order to confront the system of power associated with fatherhood, Bone must first learn what it feels like to be part of a racial minority. In Jamaica, Bone finds himself in a world where his whiteness makes him more visible ; at the same time, his status as adoles cent contributes to his continuing invisibility. Stuck in this in between state, a product of his age, race, and legal status (Bone is an illegal alien during his stay in
214 might make a home in Jamaica. Bone initially believes that such a transformation depends on his ability to physically blend in. Indeed, as he works on the ganja plantation with I Man, Bone notes that his labors have physically changed him: I was standing alone dribbling water from a pail onto the plants like I dreadlocks swirling through the air in my shadow. Then I looked down at my arms and hands which were coffee colored and when I s look like a regular white kid anymore I put down the bucket and did a little Rasta dance right there in the sunshine. (313) changes to shape internal understanding of subjectivity : alter his subjectivit y (39). Such a belief Rule o f the Bone neglects significantly to his understanding of subjectivity. The fact that he is an adolescent, on the cusp of solidifying his subjectivity as a white male, plays a role in his belief that subjectivity is flu id , Eppler explains that fluid, and to interpret their existence as one dominated by change. Bone accepts this not ion of childhood , and believes that if he tries hard enough he can reform himself
215 physically as well as spiritually . The limitation of is that he fails to account for the fact that he cannot transform himself withou t the aid of an adult, I Man, whose authority allows him passage where Bone experiences his physical transformation, it is evident that it is prompted by I Man allows him to work in his ganja fields and he manages to grow dreadlocks because I Man rubs a liquid ctivity ; however, before he can do so, he must first accept his inclusion in the system of power that is predicated on whiteness. learns that his away from him. A rich white man who deals in hard drugs, Doc introduces Bone to a lifestyle that highlights racial difference. At the plantation where his father lives, there is a group of black men who Bone refers to as a atter , a term he learns from I Man) because they hang out with white women and are willing to have sex with them in order to share in the but he believes that what the natties a initially overlook s the hierarchy on the plantation, because he is so taken with his biological father. In his very firs a small child , ( fascination with his biological father has a lot to do with his memories of his life with his
216 mother and stepfat her. Blaming his failed relationship with his mother on his stepfather, to when I Bone further reflects supp osedly and never let me complain about him mother and stepfather, he builds up a fantasy image of his biological father, believing there to shelter him. his protection, initially enables him to ignore the treatment of the black men on the plantation. The plantation, owned and run b site for wealthy elites from the U.S. who are interested in having a good time. Drugs swap hands as quickly as sexual partners, and food and liquor seem to appear from nowhere. While Bone sees Evening Star as the sour ce of the sexual energy in the house, it is his father who underscores the system of ownership. Bone learns this lesson when he discovers Evening Star and I Man having sex : disturbed by this primal encounter confesses w hat he has Man banging Evening Star an confessing to his father will make him feel better and strengthen their bond ; however, I Man . The conversation between
217 biological fathe r and son shatters white father, who at last transforms into his true monstrous shape : Jeez. How come? I live by, Bone. And when some li has to pay. He has to pay and pay, many times over. And the only thing (302) Doc reveals the extent of the racial divide at Starport, on the island more generally , and in the contemporary world system . His belief in ownership, and a system of exchange where bodies function as currency, is one with which Bone is already well familiar. However, the conversation with his father forces Bone to confront the system of power in place in Starport and make a decision concerning his future . The se narrative developments return readers to questions of fatherhood that Banks raises from the beginning of the ening, grandmother declares, have this point that all his fathers have failed him . Drugs and hatred consume his biological father, whereas bus iness and sexual pleasure he cannot manage it. Such concerns about fatherhood and its ability to survive in the late ion, testament to the belief that a Merlin story, in which the wizard of legend is his ow n father, literally birthing himself. appears to follow a similar course. Like Merlin, Bone must also
218 decisions that change his position from son to fat her. As in the garden scene, Bone must act quickly in order to survive and make decisions that betray both his fathers, at once rendering him ing him with the guilt and shame associated with white fatherhood. Bone experiences this guilt and shame most strongly when he discovers I corpse. The death of his father figure makes Bone realize that his attempts to protect his family and play father have failed. I sticking out and his (339 340). As critics of fatherhood have noted , the power of fathers remains a constant source of interest. Citing severa l examples where fathers either abuse their wives or children, or considerable anxiety about fatherhood an anxiety that long predates the supermarket self help book and anxieties about fatherhood extend to metapho rs related to the making and breaking of national ties. As I noted previously, Singley argues that the adoption trope served as a way to work through been written about in terms of parent supposed to protect his weak and innocent children. Such rhetoric is dangerous because it legitimates forms of oppression ; however, it remains instructive as it
219 constitutes yet another way in which fatherhood is used to think through social ties, at once on an individual, national, and international scale. upon seeing I serves as one of the many instances where Bone is used to comment on white guilt (340). This guilt is related not just to the sla ve trade, but also includes the neo colonial practices of wealthier nations more specifically. In the landmark collection, Nation and Narration (1990), Homi Bhaba [are] like narratives. . . . [Nations] lose their origins in the nation emerges as a powerful hi (1). nation as narration is instructive within the American context. Cold War scholars, including Lewis and Miller, traveled to distant countries in experience that Amy Kaplan captures nicely Errand into the Wilderness : claims the Puritan errand did for American history; it founded the beginning of the beginning that giv es coherence to all that follows. From the remove of the vantage of the Congo Miller discovered himself at home with a coherent national identity; there, like the Puritans in the wilderness, he found himself left alone with America (4) Much like Mi ller before him , Bone travels his individual as well as a national identity
220 national self. This process of narration depends on notions of family, and in particular t he social construct of fatherhood, since it is fatherhood that has often been employed to narrat e the colonial projects of Western nations. him in the face in I ortem gaze, leads him to conclude , refusal of fatherhood is linked to his experiences on the island, 5 which solidify his suspicion of white fatherhood in all its past incarnation s . Th e final scen e is most telling in this regard as it provides a potential solution to the understanding. Having completed his journey and realigned himself with his black father by betraying Doc, Bone feels that he now understa nds what it means to be part of a family, a s both a father and a son. Watching the stars above him, Bone realizes that each constellation is like its own special family nd realization prompts him to search the sky for his family, an act that ultimately empowers him. Bone is now able to create rather than destroy in the final moment of h is journey. The shift suggests that perhaps he has at last escaped the system of power that he loathes. Yet even in this moment of triumph, Bone must also keep in mind his failures. The constellations that he forms are of those who died because of him , including his recently deceased father figure. 5 One of the scenes that most explicitly references the Cold War intervention in the Caribbean occurs when I Man explains how the locals reuse old tarps left from the US military invasion of Grenada in order to cover up their illegal ganja crops. According to I Man recognizes the benef its of the U.S. invasion, yet his words still emphasize the fact that the U.S. was invading rather than helping the islanders. It is only by mere chance that the rubbage left behind comes to good use.
221 The comfort of gazing up at those who served as positive influences in his life enables Bone to better understand his past and to come to terms with his origins. As he observes a constellation that represents I Man, Bone is comforted by the fact that his father substitute will s traditional conceptions of childhood and empower s the adolescent protagonist. Yet such a n empower ment comes at a cost: Bone is stripped of his family ties, and and survivor of tragic events. Having drifted out to sea after surveying the consequences of racial divisions and neo colonialis m , Bone returns to mainstream U.S. society. Even in the post Cold War society of the 1990s, Banks suggests, crossing racial boundaries has its risk s , and national belonging is still largely dictated by the color Such a conclusion challenges Cold War rhetoric of familial love that Native Fathers, Oriental Others, and American Discontent after September 11 In his most recent novel, Flight (2007), Sherman Alexie expands upon previous critiques of US policy, once more merging the domestic and the transnational . Focused primarily with policies that developed in respon se to the 9/11 attacks, Alexie returns to th e figure of the father to question the decisions of US leaders. Rejecting the image of the father as an upright and infallible character, Alexie inverts the power relation s that underwrite the errand into the wilderness myth. For Miller, fathers appear as strong, authoritarian figures that determine the future destiny of their progeny. The role of the son, in contrast, is to fulfill the mission set down by his father. A novel that revolves around the exploits of a troubled Native American adoptee, Flight re jects this model of father suggested , the father son bond is often more
222 complicated than Miller claims . Sons do not always admire their fathers, nor do they always follow the orders set down by their guardians. Moreover s doubts are not always unjustified; there are many cases where fathers fail to fulfill the role of the ideal father, thus creating scenarios where the son must make decisions about his life trajectory. In the Errand into the Wilderness , Miller suggests th ; however, Alexie suggests that it is in fact the fathers that are at fault. Flight is not the first novel where Alexie turns to the figure of the father in order to critique US actions. Ralph Armbruster Sandoval points out that obsession with fatherhood enables the author to develop critiques of national leaders. In wor ks such as his 1998 film Smoke Signals , Alexie creates fictional fathers whose actions parallel recent US presidents: The similarities are there first deny that they have a problem. They make up stories or lies to cover up or rationalize their actions. Arnold performs magic tricks and makes jokes, believing he can charm people into overlooking his behavior. Former Defense Secretary Ru msfeld and President Bush do the same thing today, smiling and laughing while making jokes about not finding run away, leaving behind destroyed lives and communities. (129) 7 Zits, the protagonist of Flight , is troubled because of his inability to find a replacement for his drunken father who abandoned him as a child. In Flight , much as in Smoke 7 Armbruster Bush. Rather, he is suggesting that the theme of fatherhood and forgiveness in Smoke Signals connects Sandoval frames his discussions with questions raised by his former undergraduate students: When Thomas asks, how do we forgive our fathers, is he talking about our biological fathers or he is talking about our founding fathers? Armbruster Sandoval makes a case for reading Smoke Signals
223 Signals , the narrative is not so much about reforming the father , as it is ability to forgive and transcend his father limitations. This requires a confrontation with of ed to relinquish his is part of a series of post 9/11 fiction that unde Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the wha t Ray Raphael names historians is to make the founders seem extraordinary by emphasizing what made them ordinary. 8 A ccording to Raphael , historical an . He further claims, celebrities, the founders have been humanized, personalized, and made accessible to with greatn activities of their famous subjects, they also never let readers forget the ir greatness. For example, Gordon Wood, in Revolutionary Characters d espite all c riticism and debunking of these founders, they seem to remain for most Americans, if not for most academic historians, an extraordinary elite, their achievements scarcely 8 An ex ample of this is when Joseph Ellis, in Founding Brothers (2000), devotes a long chapter to a dinner party hosted by Thomas Jefferson. By structuring his book around ordinary events like eating dinner, Ellis makes this celebrated national leader seem infini tely more human. The act of eating, drinking, and entertaining activities familiar to us all and a little more ordinary.
224 att ests to the continued potency of the figure of the father. No matter their flaws, these leaders appear as models of moral superiority. The Founder Chic movement testifies to the desire to recover positive images of fathers in times of national tragedy. Al biographical sketches demonstrate how in times of crisis the traditional associations of fathers as strong, wise, and capable leaders return as source s of comfort. As the head of the traditional nuclear family, the father is the one who brings the respective members of his family together. He gives a sense of unity to the family, and he also makes the hard decisions that will determine e. It is for this reason that the father must forgo selfish desires; he is responsible for the success and safety of his family, and so his actions must take into account the interests of all. y standards, remains integral to national ideology surrounding fatherhood. Since fathers occupy positions of leadership, it is imperative that they are subjected to standards that match their level of authority. In the case of the founding fathers, these m en must make decisions that not only affect their individual families but the families of everyone in the nation ; they are therefore subjected to standards that most fail to uphold. Even founders like Thomas Jefferson, perhaps one of the most famous of the founding fathers, had flaws that historians have uncovered over time ; yet national myth demands that these flaws are covered over in times of crisis in order to preserve the image of a healthy thriving nation. In Flight , Alexie chooses to recuperate the is beyond saving, but Zits himself, a troubled teenager who recently shot several
225 : in bearing witness to the crimes of the men who came before him, Zits can break a historical cycle of violence. Like the Sandoval identifies in his analysis of Smoke Signals , Zits es his father by learning from mistakes made in the past. He witnesses firsthand how those thrust into positions of authority can let anger drive their decisions, and in so doing hurt those least he develops into a figure far s tronger than the various fathers that populate the narrative. It is through this transformation of the lost, vengeful son that Alexie ultimately challenges the myth of the superiority of the father. Sons are capable of overcoming the damage done to them by negligent fathers, and even of surpassing them . By touting the son as the heroic figure, Alexie negates in the myth of national lead ers, such a critique suggests that those currently in power in the US are similarly unqualified to lead. Even before opening the cover of Flight , readers are reminded of recent events that challenged the abili ty of US fathers to lead the nation. The novel title invariably conjure up images of Flights 11 and 175 crashing into the World Trade Center, a connection that is emphasized further by front, along with a dark ened figure , presumably Zits , raising two guns in the air, hints at
226 impending terrorism. 9 The terrorist, described as an unknowable force of evil in post 9/11 propaganda, became a pretext for racial exclusion s from the national family. President George W. Bush declared in an interview with CNN on September 17, 2001 that the Al Qaeda terrorists were an enemy unlike any the United States had ever faced before. Bush readers about this rhetoric regarding terrorism and the response of national leaders to this threat to national security. In an effort to defeat in the U.S., even citizens , came under surveillance simply because of their skin color. B ecause they looked similar to a terrorist, or be cause they originated from the Middle East, their right to belong came into question. Flight underscores the injustice of these decisions . Through the adventures of his protagonist, Alexie suggests that the inability of non white characters to fit into whi te society is the result of a much longer cycle of vengeance and pain. While Alexie indicates that the pain of his non white characters is partly due to their participation in this cycle, primarily through the commitment of acts of terrorism, he also sugge sts that , are to blame. The decisions of past leaders, for example, led to the decimation of Native peoples, an act with long term consequences. By expertly drawing upon Anglo American associations with fatherhood, Alexie lau nch es a full scale critique of these national leaders . 9 Readers might also associate the cover image to the Virginia Tech massacre, which took place a mere eighteen days after Flight Columbine.
227 In order to achieve his goa ls , Alexie encourages his readers to identify with the son rather than the father. An orphan who finds it difficult to live with foster families, Zits is filled wit h anger directed toward his father. His mother died when he was six and his father abandoned him before he was born. His loss is compounded by the fact that he is left a drift in the social system for Indian orphans : protect half daddy gave me his looks, but he was never legally established as my father . (8 9) The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both The intent of the IC WA is to prevent children from being removed from their tribes so that they can maintain their cultural identity. However, because his father never claimed him, Zits is not covered by the law and he becomes an outcast from tribal culture. Zits similarly fe els alienated from with his orphan status, as well as the fact that his physica l appearance reminds him of his father. He feels he has no home, an experience common to Native peoples forced to live on reservations and that drives his own father to the streets. takes on especially troubling ramifications in a post 9/11 context. Svetlana Boym argues in The Future of Nostalgia (2001) that Americans possess a souvenirization of the past and the obsession with roots and identity here are
228 available , make remarkably intense demands ( The American Political Tradition 4 ). The need to colle ct and preserve history, a need driven by the search for roots, return s with a fierce passion in the aftermath of September 11. Books memorializing the Twin Towers began pouring out of publishing houses before the year was even over. Museum curators began collecting debris, biological material , and anything once owned by victims of the attacks. Clothes, shoes, backpacks, steel girders, cell phones nothing was considered too mundane for these collections. Oral history archives were also established, so that the families of victims could record their experiences, and these collections also collect ed the messages left by victims in their final moments. The desire to remember a contemporary historical tragedy thus launched an enormous effort to preserve history and to prepare for future generations. Such a move is not surprising considering the patriotic fervor that struck many in the nation in the aftermath of the attacks . However, these acts of national remembering exclu ded others based on racial difference. In her study of the effects of post 9/11 rhetoric on Muslim American youth, Sunaina Maira explains that young Muslim children faced harsh racism from other 10 reflects on the racially charged environment of post 9/11 America: I wish that thing did not happen on September 11, and I wish they [the terrorists] did not kill those people in the buildings. But I wish America did not send the bombs over there, t o Afghanistan. My father told me that I should not say these things outside, because people think that the Muslims had something to do with that thing on September 11. What did we do? ) study make similar remarks, attesting to the difficulties of being 10 In order to protect the privacy of her interview subjects, Maira uses pseudonyms.
229 racially different at this moment in American history. Maira considers the importance US famil ies as they attempt to gain citizenship. Although she does not extensively address the part national leaders play in the problems that plague Muslim American youth, Maira does at least hint at the long term impact of decisions made by these post 9/11 moment is not exceptional, but part of a longer history of U.S. imperialism and political (and cultural) repression is similarly directly related to the decisions made by fathers. While Alexie does not include any political leaders in Flight , he does invite his readers to think about the connections between the fictional male characters and those responsible for U.S. history. The conflict between fathers and their sons, while a recurrent theme in the novel, is linked to the tragedy of 9/11 in an early scene that involves Zits and one of his foster fathers. As Zits attempts to confront the many emotions that define the father son bond, he makes an association between faile d bonds and plane crashes. Zits begins by first about one of these foster fathers, Edgar, who was so upset when Zits beat him at a because he flew the other plane into a tree, to o. Crash. worth of model airplane. Crash, crash.
230 crashing into the two Wo rld Trade Center towers . Although Zits focuses on the economic loss, the readers recognize that it is not the planes that really recollection of the event, of handling the broken wings, bent rudders, and the missing head of the miniature pilot confir m the emotional and psychological damage done in this moment (10). Like the little plastic pilot in the plane lifetime of emotional wounds at the hands of father figures. He recounts numerous stories where his foster fath ers abuse him emotionally and physically, as well as the : fails to murder t hi his pent up rage and returns readers to the trope of the burning home , one that Alexie uses in earlier work such as Smoke Signals (1998) in order to signal discontent with the American family. 11 The wounding of the Indian child is a common trope in Native American Solar Storms (1995), for example, the female protagonist, Angel Wing, is physically scarred when her psychologically disturbed mother bites her fac e, ripping flesh away with her teeth , and burn s her skin. Hogan locates the origins of this violent act in and raped her as a child. Hogan attempts to find ways for Angel to work through this grief by reconnecting with her culture and tribal lands. Such work is made difficult because these lands continue to be desecrated by white s who view it only in terms of 11 Other instances of burning homes that im Housekeeping Sandoval also connects the burning of the house to the burning rage inside Native people. He remarks that the that it never completely removes the pain that derives from this traumatic past (132).
231 The Plague of Doves (2008) to make way for cheap housing ; Solar Storms is about the literal burial of tribal lands as a dam is built and flood Native communities. In addition to these forms of abuse , children in other novels by Native writers, such as Gardens in th e Dunes (1999), recount the brutal treatment of children captured and torn from their families in order to teach them the ways of mainstream American culture. Indigo , t he main this abuse, as she is beat en for speaking her language and forced to wear a n uncomfortable uniform. Alexie similarly weaves these issues into his father son narrative. He trace s emotional development while also placing these larger cultural problems into relief. Like the cycl es of violence that Zits experiences , the pain induced by failed father son bonds haunts the narrative. Readers are first made aware of this as Zits magically enters the body of a white FBI agent who assassinates Native Americans protest ing the destruction of their lands. Zits must watch as the partner shoots a young Indian man. He must then shoot the dead body when his partner threatens to kill him if he only to husband and father. He is one hundred different versions of himself, and only one of , that of a small Native American boy who is unable to speak because of a wound inflicted by a U.S. soldier. Zits is thrilled to be in this new body, since he at last has a s trong and loving Indian
232 father. But the image of his new father is troubled when he is asked to cut the throat of a teenage soldier captured during the Little Big Horn battle. Zits notices that his new this child is much like himself in that he is wounded and hurt, unable to speak out against his oppressors. Yet he also feels empathy fo r the white soldier, who he views as also imperialism . Like his own destructive father son bonds, Zits witnesses the consequences of failed ties bet ween two nations competing for the same land. Such competition influenced the meaning of childhood during the colonial period. According to Suffer ing Childhood 11). Duane argues that childhood was used as a metaphor for the changes associated with the violent process of nation and its colonized subjects (13). In his comprehensive study of the relations between the U.S. government and Native American tribes, Francis Paul Prucha contends that the relationship between these competing nations, like many other colonial relationships, was rooted in paternalism. The U .S. government treated grown Indian men and women like children, so much so that the indigenous people commonly referred to the President after 1880, but paternalism co does not ruminate at length on the Great Father rhetoric, t his narrative, like the Indian
233 motif more generally, is addressed obliquely (Salaita 34). Fathers like Hank Storm and the unnamed Indian warrio r from the Battle of Little Big Horn compete to gain the power and authority associated with fatherhood. Such power depends on their willingness to is integral to the cycles of violence tha t Alexie identifies. Alexie extends the family metaphor through a portrayal of fraternal rather than paternal love, a shift that plays upon the charged meanings of both relationships after the September 11, 2001 attacks. When Zits enters the body of a whi te flight instructor named Jimmy, he learns that Jimmy is haunted by visions of his dead friend, Abbad, an Ethiopian immigrant who dies while committing an act of terrorism . other flight instructor would work with him . Jimmy continually repeats the phrase , disturbing. The phrase signals ; however, its repetition becomes chant like, giv ing it religious undertone s that some might associate with Muslim prayer. Such words recall the stereotypical nature of Abbad and other th at in this way terrorists, but he simultaneously endeavors to undermine the causal fusion of Islam and orism, which always combines the actions and behavior of his Muslim characters w ith instances of
234 anti Muslim racism, so that the guilt associated with acts of vengeance are equally distributed. and Abbad passages depend on the fraternal metaphor. The u sefulness of the fraternal metaphor, as David Founding Brothers , is like a younger brother, cannot openly claim Abbad because of his betrayal. He refers to commits many brotherly acts, reassuring Abbad when he is scared and celebrating his t hat an older brother might feel. Jimmy feels responsibility for Abbad and his actions, and it is this feeling of responsibility, of brotherhood, that drives his pain. However, is limited by his perception of his f riend as an absolute other. Abbad is referred to as rivalry with Jimmy is rooted in their perceived differences. Abbad, for example, lectures Jimmy on masculinity, declarin however, a few minutes later he sheepishly admits that he is in trouble for forgetting to purchase a bottle of milk (114). Moments such as these occur frequently, so that readers can never trust the app arent differences between the two characters. Indeed, the fraternal metaphor encourages readers to not forget that Jimmy and Abbad have a commonality that overrides any conflict between the m .
235 Islam and the East more broadly rooted in the liberal principles of American multiculturalis 9/11 literature, and to Flight more specifically: 9/11 fiction renders Natives customary to American national identity by evoking the specter of Islamic terrorism as a standard marker of inalterable difference. Alexie complicates this simplistic formula by retaining a type of Indigenous autonomy through nominal comparison of Indians with brown skinned Muslims, but those comparisons never allow Muslims into the same philo sophical or national polity, and so he ultimately leaves that formula fundamentally intact. (37) Flight . As I mentioned previously, the scene with Jimmy and Abbad is unique not only because it is the only one that does not deal with white Indian relationships, but also because it replaces the paternal metaphor with a fraternal one. These changes mark it as un ique, so that readers will inevitably compare Abbad to the Indian characters in other sections. It is this comparison that touches on the liberal Orientalism that Salaita identifies in the novel. The Indian characters, while persecuted, are still part of t he national family, even if they is deemed dangerous because Abbad is so volatile. While so me rivalry is normal in a fraternal Jimmy, for example, notes that Abbad has lived in the United States for fifteen years, a fact that he brings up presumably because it should prove that Abbad has had time to become a part of the American family. However, Abbad retorts that he is only in the United States because his home has been destroyed (121). The scene with Abbad and Jimmy is important because it supplies reader s with a
236 point of comparison for the many scenes of family rivalry that fill the pages of Flight . It appears in the narrative when he enters the body discover the source of his inner pain, and to recognize its parallels with at the Battle of Little Big Horn se repeated references to shit pick up on a motif that is woven throughout the narrative. Indians not only smell like shit, they are treated like it as well. Alexie final evaluation of the hybrid nature of Zits is tragic . The story of this orphan ends with the promise of adoption ; however, this adoption is contingent on willingness to assimilate his white family . His new mother enters the bathroom in t he final scene and hands Zits some acne medicine, teaching him how to wash his face so that it will finally be clean. Such an act indicates that there is something unclean about Zits, and that he must wash himself in order to be reborn. This reading is con chosen name, he demonstrates that he accepts his position in white culture. The ending is thus one of loss since Zits must discard his Indian identity in order to gain his new earlier work such as The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993) and The
237 Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (2007), the message here is altered by the no th attacks , in particular the price for integration into the national family. As I will show in my final chapter global economy require a vision of U.S. national identity more flexible than ever before. willingness to become part child citizen has begun . By examining the effects of globalization on childhood, it becomes
238 CHAPTER 6 TION, AND THE NEW US IDENTITY In 1989, the United Nations passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child leisure, [and] to engage represented humanitarian efforts, especially in relation to child labor, the CRC also renewed conversations about the meaning of childhood. What does it mean to be a child in a global era, and how might we begin to define childhood in a way that respects both local and global experiences? While these questions are ones that all nations will need to address in the coming years, they are of particular relevance to twent y first century America. As Brian T. Edwards and Dilip Parameshwar Goankar argue in their study of global approaches to American studies, the end of the twentieth century signaled the ology of U.S. identity that are grounded in the belief in U.S. exceptional ism . B y crafting a form of U.S. identity that is not dependent on the myths of the twentieth century, and that in turn positions the U.S. as a part of a global community, it is possible to redefine the meaning more fluid in nature. That is, it is possible to move away from a national and towards a global form of U.S. identity. In order to make the transition from a national to a global form, it is necessary to once again refer to childhood. Courtney Weikle Mill s argues in her study of imaginary citizenship in the United States that t his relationship was founded on the principle that
239 the child could resolve many of the contradictions and limitations of U.S. citizenship. Mil citizenship for all individuals because childhood offered a way to explain and balance Weikle figure of the represent an in between state that has proved integral to definitions of citizenship in the past, and that contin ue to serve in this capacity in the present . Paula Fass points out in Children of a New World (2007) that the U.S. participates in a larger trend where life is affected by modern globalization, and where globalization in turn challeng es prior es a rethinking of these in response to globalization, a position supported by fellow social historian Peter Stearn . Stearn notes that many scholars believe that globalization will influence childhood around the world changes in childhood, in turn, will affect and at least help 1 central to the conversation regarding global forms of citizenship , and will continue to be an integral part of thi s conversation so long as we associate children with fluid form s of identity. Yet despite the scholarly consensus regarding the importance of childhood in the development of a global definition of citizenship, there is still a good deal of contention about the ways globalization effects national identity. David Rosen is one of 1 in the preface to a special edition of the Journal of Social History on the subject of globalization and childhood.
240 many to address international laws regarding child labor . 3 Rosen indicates that new defines as age categories by different international, regional, and local actors to advance particular international humanitarian efforts in large part because they provide a way f or policing others. By drawing upon Western conceptions of the child as innocent and vulnerable, it is possible to institute laws that urge others to adopt this position. Fass adds that children are not only passive subjects in a global system but also act ive participants in its development: c hildren move and are moved as a result of globalization. They might be sent by their parents to live with relatives in another country in order to gain citizenship, but they may also initiate global migration in an eff ort to better their chances may also challenge traditional notions of national identity, as children move between cultures and learn what it means to belong in more th an one place. All of these discussions highlight the way s childhood has emerg ed as an important point of debate for those invested in constructing global form s of citizenship. What I offer in this chapter is a brief engagement with some of the issues surr ounding globalization and childhood. If, as I argue in my former chapters, the child was integral happens to this child now that this power is dwindling? How will U. S. citizens define childhood now that the U.S. is no longer a leader of the global community? In order to 3 See, for example, Elias Dinopoulos and
241 better theorize the movement from a national to a global form of U.S. identity, I refer to a process that has been : ess whereby one casts off national modes of inquiry in favor of global ones. I then turn my attention to the transnational flow of ideas and material goods between the United States and Taiwan. y, Taiwan is not only a rich source for studies of globalization, but also provides a logical conclusion to my study of the effects of U.S. international interventions in the Cold War period . Finally, t hrough a case study of Chang Ta novel Wild Chil d [ Ye haizi ] (1996), I explore the way s that globalization impacts childhood and national identity, and specifically the way in which the child serves as a symbol of the promise of a globalized world. The child may not be able to fulfill the se promises, but can at the very least guide efforts to imagine what such a future might look like. The Child of Many Nations, or the Child of No Nation: National Identity in a Global Era In order to better understand how childhood operates within a global f ramework, and why this Christopher (Kit) Kelen and BjÃ¶rn Sundmark remind us that this reason that the child often becomes a representative of national identity (1). In the ir introduction to (2013), Kelen and Sundmark note , The idea of childhood pervades the rhetoric of nation an d citizenship. Etymologically, nation refers us to the idea of being born and thereby localizes and connects a prime term in identity to the personal origin of those individual subjects for whom the nation (their nation) is home . (1) Not onl y are children targeted by national rhetoric in an effort to secure the future of the nation ,
242 youngest citizens. For exampl e, during the Nationalist occupation of Taiwan, childr en were forced to perform flag raising ceremonies to honor their government. The raising of the flag was imagined to aid in the development of young Taiwanese citizens. There are many other examples that would similarly support the view that nation and chi ldhood are interrelated. For my purposes here, I am concerned primarily with the shift from these more traditional expressions of nationalism to other less visible activities that stretch the meaning of citizenship. These activities are changing the defini tions of citizenship, so that the global might now be included in it . As the primary symbol of the nation, the child is bound up in these changes. The child, as the in between citizen, is both a child of many and of no nation. between statu s is due to the fact that children are perceived as from Romantic notions of childhood, in particular the tabula rasa , or blank slate. The tabula rasa implies that a child is an empty surface imagined as empty, children are primed to be indoctrinated into national ideology. However, while t heir growth in to future citizens seem s inevitable , it is in fact a risky business. In order to secure the future of the nation, it is necessary to instill within the child a sense of national belonging. Children who participate in the activities of national ceremonies a re being prepared for their future role as citizens. Children may begin modeling active forms of citizenship at an early age, and, because of their fluid status, are often quite successful in their endeavors. These children not only serve as figures of an
243 nations of the world. The child who acts as multiple nations, a role that makes children valuable members of individual nations and emerging models of global citizenship. The participation of children in nation building activities demonstrates precisely how children model an active form of national as well as global citizenship. In her study of the Camp Fire Girls, a precursor to t he Girl Scouts of America, Jennifer Helgren explains how girls were encouraged to participate in community service in order to expand their notions of family. By committing themselves to their local community, girls w ould feel a sense of belonging that ext ended beyond their immediate family. This idea of family as a series of broadening circles biological family, local community, and eventually nation was important in the Cold War context, a moment marked , Helgren be in line with th is global agenda, organizations like Camp Fire Girls created programs and activities that encouraged children to think about themselves as global as well as national citizens. Helgren provides examples w here girls sent care packages to nations recovering from some catastrophe and participated in international awareness days, and one might also consider other similar efforts to transform children into world citizens. Ann Kordas explains how girl gymnasts n ot only acted as representatives of their respective nations Olga Korbut for the Soviet Union and Mary Lou Retton for the U.S. but also how, in some cases, girls national affiliation was through their presentation in the media. Kordas uses as her example the case of Korbut, whose love American
244 In contrast to traditional modes of citizenship, the Camp Fire Girls and Olympic gymnasts described here model a form of w orld citizenship: they are, in a very real sense, children of many nations. Anita Harris argues in her study, Future Girl (2004), that children who engage in activities that promote world citizenship are viewed as their home country and the potential to move beyond the divisions created by national identity (79 80). B oys too can play the industry, served as the poster child for humanitarian efforts to eliminate child labor. Masih condemned the harsh conditions of the rug factories in Pakistan before being killed in a tragic car accident while visiting his home country. According to Lisa Hermine are passive objects , exploited by adults) and their extraordinary power (they are powerful subjects Both the poster child for humanitarian interventions indicate some of the way s that children can defy national forms of identity and embrace world citizenship. While these examples underscore the way that children serve as emblems of world citizenship, they do not provide a model for theorizi ng a global form of identity or how the child might fit into this model. One remedy for this this methodological gap can be found in as developed by Edwards and Gaonkar . Edwards and Gaonkar maintain that in order to realize a global methodology we need to let go of the obsolete The key to this strategy is to think of America as a collective agent abroad, collective but not unified by the ideology of exceptiona lism. Rather, it is
245 fragmented by the materiality of the capitalist project to which America has become committed, perhaps unbeknown to its own (imagined) soul. This is America global. America global becomes global only by diluting the vernacular, and by s how to read the archives of America abroad . What is the American trace abroad, and how does that trace return to haunt the American vernacular? (17) While Edwards and Goankar do not consider main useful . In order to paying close attention to flows across borders. Additionally, in order to assess attentive to the relationship between the myth of American exceptionalism and older notions of national identity. this is no easy task, and there continue to be many effort s to reframe US studies within a global context. The contributors to E employ diverse Brent Hayes Edwards persuasively recasts Ralph Ellison as an internation alist, demonstrating that it develop a global perspective. Brian Larkin and Elizabeth Thompson trace the effects American commodities have had on cultures elsewhere in the world . Naoki Sakai examines the intersect ions between Japanese and American colonialism, while Claudio Lomnitz deconstruct s traditional notions of America by exploring the interactions with the culture of bordering nations like Mexico . My contribution to these efforts consists of building upon cu rrent understandings of the relationship between globalization and childhood and theorizing how this
246 Goankar identify as central to US studies as well as the centrality of childhood in conceptions of US national identity make childhood one of the best sites from which to imagine the future of the ways the child serves as a marker of the global flow of ideas, money, media, and technology the different 33) and in this system provide s from within a global framework. Globalizing the American Child: A Case Study of Chang Ta In order to do so , I have selected a s my case study a pular writers, Chang Ta Chun. If as Edwards and Goankar suggest, it is necessary to cast off the grip of the myths that predominated during the twentieth century, then it behooves scholars interested in developing a global methodology to study texts shaped by the Cold War. While published after the end of the Cold War , Wild Child (1996) bear s the imprints of these struggle s . Written during the transition from a military dictatorship to a democracy, Wild Child depicts the d War policies, especially its long term relationship with the United States. Chang locates the child within the political, cultural, and economic exchange s between the US and Taiwan, and identifies this figure as the one best able ifting national identity.
247 politics. 4 In order to challenge Communist China and prevent other Asian natio ns from economy. 5 A ccording to Nancy Bernkopf Tucker , between States provided an annual average of some $100 million to Taiwan in nonmilitary as sistance. This amount exceeded the per capita contribution made to any other $2.4 billion in U.S. military aid during the se 141) . The aid provided by the U.S. helped spur the rapid modernization of Taiwan and eventually led to its status as a major player in the world market. Moreover, w ith the help of the U.S., Taiwan received world recognition as the true government of China, and even held a spot in the United Nations until President Nixon decided to reestablish relations with the mainland government. 6 4 While in effect Taiwan is its own nation, it is still technically a province of China. Given back to China after the end of the Second Sino an is free to govern itself independently but must still remain part of China. Even though the Taiwan government and its people have considered independence, this position is controversial (and even dangerous) since China is still determined to keep Taiwan to imperialism, and it wants to reunite all of China once again. While this may be viewed as political propaganda, Melissa Brown, in Is Taiwan Chinese? ( 2004), argues that many Chinese on the mainland 5). 5 in Writing Taiwan history of migration and its varied ethnic groups (the largest of which referring to the many aborigine groups that still live in Taiwan (e.g., the Yami on Orchid Island). In order to 1945, after which it was returned to China. Shortly thereafter, the Nationalist Party (led by Chiang Kai Shek) took over the island, and t here was a sharp division between those who had migrated from China in previous democracy, some of these ethnic tensions are lifting, and it is possible that a sense of Taiwanese identity Is Taiwan Chinese? (2001). 6
248 7 Taiwan lost international recognition as a sovereig n nation. While t he U.S. continue d to support Taiwan militarily and honor ed policies such as the Taiwan Relations Act, 8 it c ould no longer recognize Taiwan as the even those seeking aid from the now wealthy nation were unwilling to cross Beij ing (Roy 137). investments in Taiwan during the Cold War established a long term relationship that resulted in political , economic , and cultural exchanges. In her study of U.S. Taiwan relations, Nancy Bernkopf Tucker describes some of the cultu ral exchanges that occurred in this period . She notes that Chiang Kai Shek and his wife, Time and Life magazine, a result the area (11). In 1937, the Chiangs were featured as man and wife of the year on the cover. The Chiangs also made several trips to the U.S. in order to promote a positive image of their nation . During an extended stay in the early 1940s, Madame Chiang ended her visit with a spectacular Hollywood event: On an expanded stage in front of the repainted shell in the [Hollywood] Bowl, Spencer Tracy introduced a parade of eighteen leading film stars, including Ingrid Bergman, Ginger Rogers, Marlene Die trich, Kay Francis, 7 attempt at diplomacy ultimately failed, however, as neither Beijing nor Taipei was willing to accept the others right to rule. 8 The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 was established in order to soften the U.S alliances and support Beijing as the legitimate government of China. The hope was that the Act would support for Taiwan.
249 Barbara Stanwyck, and Shirley Temple; these were followed by the Los marching song to detachments of American marines, infantry, sailors, and cadets from the Army Air C orps. As the servicemen presented arms, Mme Chiang was driven in an open Rolls Royce sedan to a place of honor in front of the stage and presented with a bouquet of roses by Mary Pickford. ( Spence) the beginning of a long term cultural exchange. The U.S. share of weapons and other goods desired by Taiwan. Additionally, the U.S. became for Taiwan youth the preferre d site for higher education. Many never returned , and t hose who did often achieve d high level government positions as a result of efforts to appease As we shall see, t he impact of these exchanges are evident throughout Wild Child . Sung sheng (Yvonne) Chang attests that 19), and that to status of national literature were established for Taiwan literature, it still cannot be comprehended as an isolated phenomenon, without being situated in Taiwan ese literature. For example, Fangming Chen stresses the importance of value system, had previously demanded that literary workers bow to the ideological through the efforts of Chiang Kai Kuo, made room for many
250 compound [ juancun 27). Xiaobing Tang adds that the rise of new voices in the literary scene raises questions about the nature of Taiwan literature that find their roots in the po litical turmoil of the island: Should it [ Taiwan wenxue , or Taiwan literature in the English translation] be rendered as Taiwanese literature? What, then, would Taiwanese connote? And what would be the relation between this body of literature and Chinese literature? More specifically, what, if any, relation is there among literatures from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China? (51) government. The many issues surrounding Taiwan literature indicate the difficulty in history into account. One of t he major writers from the Cold War generation, Chang contributes to the se efforts by focusing on the negative impact of the political, economic, and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan. Chang incorporates issues such as rapid modernization, Amer icanization, and governmental corruption in to his literary works. T he U.S. political and economic support of the Nationalist Party at a time when corruption was rampant including several well known cases of human rights violations during the period known a means that the U.S. is in part culpable focuses on Taiwan during the 1970s 1990s and makes visibl e cultural exchanges that may otherwise go unnoticed . He does so by closely following the day to day lives of , its children. Texts like Wild Child and his earlier novel, My Kid Sister (1993), acknowledge the Cold War global impact of the U.S., and in turn provide a foundation for thinking about how these exchanges might contribute to efforts to imagine a new
251 Wild Child [ Ye haizi ] takes place in the capital city of Taipei and addresses the anxieties associated with growing up in what Saskia Sassken call s a concentrated site of the trans national exchanges that define globalization (3 4). The novel follows the exploits of a young elementary school child, Shichuan , who, after receiving a phone call from his missing father, leave s home. Shic huan is the ideal figure of the global child , with baggy jeans, Chicago Bulls T shirt, and American shoes. As Shichuan struggles to survive in the streets, he finds himself caught in the web of commodity exchanges , money, drugs, prostitution, and other goo ds associated with the Taipei underworld. These exchanges are not immediately identified as global in nature, but When Shichuan is picked up by a local youth gang, he follo ws the experienced gang leaders and learns about corruption in Taipei, including the ways money, people, and other valuable commodities are exchanged in a game of power intended to keep mafia leaders and corrupt politicians in control . He also observes Ame rican companies alongside local ones , the most prevalent being 7 Eleven. The corruption and modernization of the city spur Shichuan and his new comrades to long for old Taipei. By how he migh t forget the troubles caused by the rapid modernization of his beloved city (256). embody the problems Chang identifies in modern Taipei. N ovels like Wild Child nstream views by pointing out the disintegration of fibers that are supposed to tie society together and by doing so register[ing] his deep disapproval of
252 the social and political realities of contemporary Taiwan (Ying 263). Kim Chu Ng adds that the autho r called truths pronounced by those in the know. All these factors reveal his unusual sensitivity with respect to the existing realities of present Wild Child combines s other literary works, including metafiction, wry humor, and a n unreliable narrator . Chang, like his fictional characters, does not trust the truths of those in power, and so he adopts a literary style that negate s before they can become fully established . Chang continuously plays postmodern tricks on his readers, and he relishes the moments whe n he can depart from traditional narrative form and challenge T in T tradition. 9 Chang is also well known for his themes of nostalgia and los t innocence . alter ego , young , series and is repres entative of the predominant themes in his work . In these novels, Chang explores what Taipei has lost in the process of gaining international recognition. O ne of the most striking economy occurs when protagoni st Hou Shichuan first introduces himself and describes his apparel : I put on a Chicago Bulls T shirt, on the front of which was the number 23 of course you know who that is. Not long afterward I began to be referred to as Bull man, that little Bull boy, Bull, Bull tail, and other related names, and it was all owing to this T shirt . (140) 9 Th e popularity of Chang can, in part, be attributed to a shared understanding of the restrictions of military rule that Chang and other Cold War writers experienced. Now, during a time of democracy, these writers can finally speak to the experiences of Taiwa
253 extent to which children now participate in the global econom y. Since the novel was originally targeted for a Taiwan ese audience, we can assume that Shichuan implies that Taiwan children have a familiarity with American culture and that they consume these products like their young counterparts who live in the States . Shichuan continue s to identify himself in relation to his American products, and demonstrate the extent to which children in Taiwan view these products as a sign of social status. In addition to made shoes: Auntie Jade Fragrance brought those shoes to me all the way from America, but printed on the label was MADE IN KOREA. They may not have been anything to show off, but at least they were better than Chen rs, which were really lame really hopeless . (140 141) dismissal of youth to American products, even those manufactured in other places opinion, it is the fact that his aunt purchased the shoes in the U.S. store and their association with American culture that most matters. By casting Shichuan as a commodity obsessed teenage boy, Chang highlights the contemporary Americanization of Taipei. Ban Wang argues t hat the globalization of Taipei has emotional, cultural, and ideological disadvantages that are bound up in the . However, Wang concludes that standardization and unequal relations that pave the way for the penetration of capital agonist serves as a particularly effective example of the results of this unequal economic relationship. In addition to
254 having the purchasing power associated with children of developed nations, Shichuan also prefers American goods. He is therefore the ide al consumer for U.S. corporations, wh ich e advantage of ties first formed at the beginning of the Cold War. also quite fu nny. Readers should laugh at the teen as he relates his many nicknames that originate from his T shirt and the mishap with his new sneakers. Yet Chang will quickly remove the fun from his narrative as he removes his protagonist from hi s middle class life st yle . As Chang makes this transition, he highlights the problems associated with modernization, especially the failed promises that Wang identifies (370). By contrasting Shichuan with his quick witted yet spiritually broken gangster friends , Chang demonstra tes that the wealth associated with modernization is not only unbalanced, but it does not bring the joy or freedom that one might expect. Such observations, while rooted in local experiences, also have a global component. Many of these instances appear in the form of economic exchange, but these exchanges always have a political undertone. For example, when Shichuan first encounters the members of the gang , he continue s to interpret the world through an America n cultural lens . When Shichuan first meets the gang leader Ahzhi, a boy he A fter Shichuan cashes out of the gambling store where Ahzhi is watching him, he describe s his feelings as he follows Ahzhi through the dark streets have walked all the way to the moon , or even America , but he was still roughly two or
255 (145). By the time Ahzhi reaches his destination, it is as if Shichuan really has arrived in America, as he stands at the corner of a 7 Eleven, with its green and orange electric signals the extent to which he is inculcated in American culture. way to America, a place that he suggests might as well be as far off as the moon, tes with the US. At the same time, the novel begins to highlight the unequal access in Taiwan to the benefits of modernization. Shichuan is the son of one of the most successful advertisers in Taipei, and he thus has access to the wealth and resources need ed to purchase the American commodities . Based on his easy reference to American popular culture, we can also presume that Shichuan also consumes these exports . But such activities are not accessible to all youth, something Shichuan learn s as he mingles wi The gang members are all on the streets because they have no choice , and not like Shichuan because they view it as an opportunity for adventure. Rather than discuss the latest trends in American popular culture, the se boys are consumed wit h worries about gang conspiracies and governmental corruption in Taipei. For example, when relating how his sister was murdered by a nother gang member, the character Old Bull, one of ce] talking American product as a form of self promotion, as Shichuan does in his narrative, Old Bull uses the Coca Cola reference in an attempt to free his sister from the s hame associated with drug addition. Moreover, the way Old Bull inserts his reference to the
256 Coca Cola places more emphasis on crime and corruption, and especially the false accusation of the innocent, rather than on the product itself. The commodity is the re by drained of the cultural power that Shichuan give s it, and instead functions as a minor part of a larger discussion about local politics. Chang will continue to contrast the privileged Shichuan with his less financially well off introduces a character whose facial features resemble that of an American. Xinjiang, with his wide set eyes and lighter skin tone, is immediately identified as ethnically different from his friends who are, most likely, Han Chinese. 10 These physical differences lead Shichuan to observe Xinjiang in awe as his new friend shouts out in Chinese: My gaze panned right where I also saw Little Xinjiang he really did have the mug of a foreig ner, a face almost exactly the same as an American. It was precisely at that moment that he called out in Mandarin with a thick Taiwanese accent a voice that was at complete odds with his features. (166) Wild Child sed to especially when he hears Xinjiang speak in Chinese. The mix of American physical features with the Chinese language is baffling to young Shichuan, who notes that about the Western features, one can begin to relate his response 10 population.
257 literary goals. Concerned predominately with the effects of rapid modernization in Taipei, Chang inserts a hybrid figure whose looks and actions combine the characteristics of Taiwanese and American culture. In this case, however, the boy strives to fit into Taiwanese culture yet fails to do so because of his Western physical features. Chang continue s to use American cultural references to indicate the loss of cultural identity that comes with life in the global city. For example, upon meeting the female members of the gang, Shichuan describes them in this way : If you were to ask me, What about Hoop? all I could do would be to shrug my shoulders and guess that she was probably something like American Indian. As for Annie, with that green mud mask on her face, she could pretty much pass for ET . (176) Like ET and American Indians, Hoop and Annie are separated from Taipei dominant culture. Yet, importantly, it is not this separation that Shichuan focuses on, but rather his describes them by drawing from his repertoire of Americ an cultural references. As he does so , he expresses a deep sadness due to his failure to remember. This l oss to recall troubles the boy, who begin s to see the difference between knowledge of commercial culture and th at of issues that define the city. In or der to be fully part of the city, one must be able to remember more than the names of the latest blockbuster hit, one must also have the capacity to recall the people and places one encounters. For Shichuan, th e ability to remember these details has been lost , replaced by a global cultural memory. He is a boy of the present, not of the past. By contrasting the narratives of Shichuan and the gang members, Chang weave s together the threads of his critique of modern Taipei. He shoes how rapid modernization
258 h usually given to them because of their status as citizens in progress. Instead, h e populate s his novel with disenchanted youth who no longer have the ability to envision a life beyond the pr esent. This inability to imagine a future conflict s with the promises of modernity. With economic progress, children are supposedly able to participate in activities that will make them n demonstrates that even the children most able to take advantage of the advantages of modernity are also negatively impacted. Chang indicates this through a disclaimer called the found d are gang leaders, good for (133). Chang asks his readers to consider the relationship between Shichuan and the adolescent gang members, and he continually includes cultural references that invite readers to make connections between the turmoil of the teenage characters and th ose that result from the uneven cultural, political, and economic exchange s that take place between the U.S. and Taiwan. Chang is concerned with the everyday experience s of Taipei teenagers, but he also fram es this experience within a global context. commentary culminate s in two pivotal scenes . T he first occurs when Shichuan discovers his face plastered on a giant billboard . Shichuan hid es out with his friends in a dirty old hotel in order to escape the wrath of the leader of another gang. JACK HANDS s the article detailing his last few days at home before running away, he discovers that he
259 is being used by his mother in a larger campaign intended to solve youth problems in Having experienced street life, Shichuan scoff s at these hollow gestures, especially article in general hi m to return home in particular with , a former reporter, Chang is well versed in the conventions of newspapers, and he is noted for his tendency to take real headlines and incorporate them into his literary works. In this particular scene, Chang puts this experience to good use. How can pe modernity? Later , he runs into a Through his inclusion of local headlines regarding Taipei youth problems, Chang appears to suggest the futility of trying to oppose t he commercial industry, especially by youth who lack the power to resist such pressures. Chang further support s this conclusion in the final pages of the novel, when Shichuan plays a storytelling game with his friend, Annie. The two player language game is determined by the scenario given by the first speaker (the prince/princess). The the second speaker prompts the first to provide more information about the scenario he
260 or she describes. The game for gotten, as evident in the following exchange between Shichuan and Annie: Later or was it actually before? I told Annie the story of the roaming prince and the smart man. But I played a trick on her I changed the prince into a princess. She really liked tha t story, perhaps because it was so short. After the story I played that game with her. The game was also very short; it ended almost before it began. re you went, I just want to know what you said Annie. W h en Annie mentions leaving home, Shichuan ignores this prompt and asks instead what she learned . In this manner, Shichuan helps Annie remember what it is she has forgotten. This game, Kim the game 68, 2 readers must be well versed in narrative techniques. That is, they must have the leisure to con sume fiction in order to appreciate the game. is compelling, it does not a ddress how the develops the game underscores how rapid modernization saturates youth with knowledge of commercial culture, while at the same time rendering them unable to remember details zation continuously raises anxieties about the loss of cultural memory. When children as the very symbols of the future are unable to remember, it does not bode well for the city loss of memory goes beyond these trivial examples, a nd has to do with the ability to
261 preserve their culture. Without the capacity to remember the past, the city will exist in a state of perpetual present. This is the reason why the conclusion of Shichuan and posed to conclude once the first speaker remembers what it is he/she has forgotten, yet Chang ends the game prematurely so that readers are left thinking about the process of forgetting rather than to know how you [Annie] experienced by Taipei. experience, the fact that his child protagonist respond s to the effects of U.S. intervention broadens the scope of his project. Wild Child is not just about modern Taiwan, it is also about modern America. As I have shown throughout this chapter, the traces Cold War polic ies in regard to and his tendency to refer back to America provide a foundation for re thinking U.S. identity, as is evidenced in moments where Taiwan and America collide, that make it consumption of American products and his whole hearted acceptance of the value of how he embodies the experience of childhood in a global era. This experience is one that is becoming familiar to more and more children as globalization impacts childhood,
262 and it is an experience that likewise transforms the earlier visions of childhood t hat develop ed during the Cold War. C hildren like Shichuan are not being coopted in an borders and boundaries, while important, hold less sway than they have in previous hi storical moments. If this trend continues, then the child will certainly play an integral role in the process of remapping U.S. identity from a global rather than a national perspective. As I ability to represent a global form U.S. national identity in particular suggests that there are specific advantages to placing conversations about the future o played a central role in the construction of U.S. identity , and will continue to do so in the future . Moreover , the politics surrounding childhood in a global era provide a useful entryway into the debates surrounding global citizenship, and will provide a bridge from older notions of national identity to new global forms. Political, economic, cultural, and other fo rms of intervention in foreign affairs during the Cold War have inevitably left a lasting imprint on a number of nations , and these can provide a foundation for rethinking U.S. identity in a global era. W e can position America within a global context preci sely because it has and continues to make an impact that resonates beyond the nation and associations that will shift in response to historical events and cultural cha nges.
263 is certain that the figure of the child will continue to play an important part in it .
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277 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Emily A. Murphy enrolled at the University of Florida (UF) as an undergraduate student in 200 5 . She majored in English for each of her degrees and received her B.A. in 2008 and her M.A. in 20 10. Upon the completion of her m her graduate studies , Emily plans to celebrate the end to her years of res idence in the Gainesville area and looks forward to having adventures (academic and otherwise) in the continental US and beyond.