This journal entry explores several texts that reflect the 19th century history. Notably, the texts under exploration are written by different authors despite the fact that they avail almost the same information regarding the history of the time. For instance, in the story Lullaby by Leslie Marmon, she explores the 19th century history regarding the Navajo Indians who are located in the United States. Other stories included in this journal entry include Things Fall Apart, A Sorrowful Woman and The way to Rainy Mountain, which all abound a message regarding 19th century history.
This essay explicates the 19th century history as depicted in several books listed below.
by Leslie Marmon Silko
In the short story ‘Lullaby’, Leslie does not only let the reader get an insight into her own tribal ancestry but also that of the Navajo Indians who form part of the indigenous Indian population in the United States of America. In ‘Lullaby’, Leslie reminds us of the cycle of oral tradition, history and the cycle of life from birth until marriage to the challenges and joys of life up to death. The writer therefore provides full proof in ‘Lullaby’ that culture, history and customs can be brought back to life through the power of narration even through the use of pen and paper hence book narration. The main character who advances cultural and historical output in the story is an old woman named Ayah. She revisits through memory some of the most tragic moments of her life which she can confidently relate to the intrusion of the white man in the lives of her native peoples (Marmon 7). Ayah can remember the loss of her son in a war started by white people, the forceful adoption of her children by white doctors as well as the brutal employment of her husband, Chato, by a white rancher. All these experiences bring to life the friction that were the hallmarks of the historical relationships that existed between the white people and the native Indian communities like the Navajo Indians highlighted in ‘Lullaby’. Most importantly, all these bits and pieces about their historical experiences were never put down on paper but were committed to memory hence the power of oral traditions. Ayah can remember that the frictions in her life caused by her people’s interaction with the white men marked a permanent alienation with her husband, Chato, even though as far back as she could travel into time, she was close to both her mother and grandmother. The person of Ayah therefore embodies the past, the present and comparative tribal history and the impact of continuous change.
Interestingly, the choice of the name Ayah, by accident or design plays well into the title ‘Lullaby’. Ayah is a word derived from Portuguese [aia] and Hindi [ayah] which stands for maidservant who were employed to handle domestic tasks majorly relating to taking care of children. .
Lullaby explores Navajo culture especially the concept of the deity of Changing Woman as well as Spider Woman which explain why even though Ayah is besieged by misfortunes still is a powerful individual and the history and culture of her community are still in her hands. The author’s choice of Ayah, a woman, as a narrator thus lays credence to the concept of women as custodians of culture, life and history of the society. Ayah who was brought up in an illiterate tribal set up is also equipped with a good memory which is sure to carry and pass on information and experiences to the next generation. Finally as the life of Chato, Ayah’s husband, comes to an end, Ayah sings to him a lullaby which marks the completion of the cycle of tribal life that traditionally began with lullabies sung for children. The author thus concludes the history and customs of her native Indian people in a full cycle.
A Sorrowful Woman
by Gail Godwin
It can be deducted from the story that the woman’s life revolves around her family, which leads her to become overwhelmed in the end. This leads the wife to start withdrawing from the family until they become completely detached from each other. It can also be assumed from the story that “…the woman was suffering from post-partum stress because it is indicated that she had recently had a child (Godwin 3).” However, her post-partum stress can be linked to the pain the woman went through during the birth of the child. This stems from the fact that the child in the story is already a toddler. Thus, the woman is pushed on the wall with the occurrences in his family since he has been pushed to assume the wife’s position and the engaging decisions pushed to him overwhelm him.
There is a link between this story and the 19th century history. This abounds from the fact that she is experiencing some post-partum stress that resulted during the birth of her son. Besides that, the woman I expected to carry out many roles that the family demands. This pushed the woman to a solitary life and a hate for her son that depicts surreptitiously. The connection between the theme in this story and the 19th century history derives from the fact that back then, the role of women was assumed to be the kitchen and availing sexual gratification for their husbands. This is what pushed the woman in the story to stress because “…she did not have another life besides that in her life (Godwin 4).”. It also highlights the need for appreciating women since it can be deducted by the end of the story that the child was happy to eat the food prepared by her mother only to realize that her mother had died. It is essential to mention that the author utilized simple vocabulary and sentences, which facilitates a reader to comprehend the message conveyed.
The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday
The text aptly explores and records the oral tradition culture of the Kiowa Indians who occupied the area north of the United States and to the south of Canada. Mamaday in The Way to Rainy Mountain manages to weave a believably genuine quest to discover and uncover the rich cultural heritage of the Kiowa Indians from whose decent he comes from on the paternal side while his mother comes from the better known Cherokee Indians. The Way to the Mountain is Momady’s self discovery having been brought up in the company of other groups of native Indians such as the Cherokee. Most importantly, The Way to the Mountain brings back to life the culture of oral tradition and narration as a source of historical information through the narrator (and author himself) who tells the story from first-hand accounts and vivid description.
Until his visit, a kind of pilgrimage he pays to Rainy Mountain, the narrator had never had any real contact with his fatherland and traditions and therefore much of his distant past. He draws historical inspiration from the grave of his own grandmother, Aho, whom he sought at Rainy Mountain. The oral tradition then confronts the narrator in the person of 100-year-old Kiwan woman named Ko-Sahn. Like in many cultures across the world, the older generation presents the richest database of oral tradition and history that is handed down from generation to the next through word of mouth and Ko-Sahn proves to be one such authority. The narrator wants the readers to be with him in the present though he is in the process of digging up his past. His journey takes him from the mountains near Yellowstone towards the southeastern part of Oklahoma to trace the same route his Kiowa ancestors followed on their transition from “the bend and blind woodland people” to the proud majestic rulers of the southern plains.
An interesting element of oral folk emerges in the form of similes. These were standout aspects of oral narration as well as speech among native and traditional folk. In this instance, the narrator recounts an occurrence of a dry spell by directly comparing the earth to iron. He says the earth was like iron’. He goes beyond that to bring us head-to-head with legends which are a famously notorious source of mystery propagated by oral traditional narration. This tale which was dated about two centuries prior comes from his grandmother. The Kiowa legend goes ahead to link the seven sisters to the skies thus advancing a story that the Kiowas have relatives in the sky. This cannot be proven but it is one of the myths attempting to explain Kiowas links to the skies as well as explain the origin of some of the stars in the sky. The theory nevertheless holds no water and cannot stand proof to logic but is undoubtedly one of the interesting aspect of oral traditions and their often very creative and far-fetched genius in attempting to explain their origins and the ,existence of phenomena, both natural and manmade. The narrator thus succeeds in proving he undertook a content-laden anthropological journey to shed light on his culture, their history and his people’s heritage in as colorful and as detailed a narration.
Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe abounds as a novel that was written in the early 19th century. This story explores the struggles that existed then between the Igbo people of Nigeria and the White colonial government. The story particularly centers on Okonkwo who abounds as a strong, hardworking protagonist who did not want to expose his weakness. This derived from his father’s tainted legacy as he was considered as cheap and a coward. Despite all this, a major theme depicts from the story and surrounds the ineffectiveness of men in the society. It can be deducted that despite Okonkwo focusing on building his wealth on his own, “…he fails to protect his half son “Ikemefuna” and strikes him to death in spite of Ikemefuna’s pleas to him for protection (Achebe 85).” This clearly shows that he failed in his role as a father. Unoka also depicts as a failure in the novel because it is indicated that he died a poor man and had debts of other people. The white men in the region, during that time, were focused with spreading Christianity something that did not go down well with Okonkwo and the elders.
Clearly, the plot of the novel reflects the 19th century history from the fact that men were cruel to their wives during that time especially in traditional settings such as the one depicted in the novel. Additionally, the plot of the story also reflects the 19th century history because it can be deducted that “…Africans were fighting for their rights, tradition and ancestral land (Achebe 65).” This is true with the occurrences in the African continent during that period. The white men effort to spread Christianity is also true with history. It can be deducted that when Whites came to Africa many societies had traditional religions before they were introduced to Christianity. There are many stylistic devices included in this text. This ranges from symbolism, imagery and other figures of speech. The author also utilized simple sentences and vocabulary, which promotes comprehension by a reader.
An Introduction to the Slave Narratives
by William L. Andrews
An Introduction to the Slave Narratives is written in the slavery period historical context. This stems from the fact that many slaves were transported to the American South in the late 19th century to early 20th century. Thus, most of the population of Blacks in the American South during that period comprised of blacks. From the story, it can be deducted that the large number of blacks was maintained as labor force in the post-slavery South and the population was not allowed to threaten the region’s character because it was considered as a white man’s country. The story also indicates that the slavery in the South resulted to an economic foundation that supported the dominant planter ruling class (Andrews). Additionally, under slavery, there was a hierarchical and patriarchal system that promoted white supremacy as it rested on the masculinity honor and privilege. Notably, blacks in American formed their own sense of identity, values, family relations and religion.
This story also contributes to the theme reflecting on the 19th century history. This derives from the fact that it is the same time when slavery was rampant in America and resulted to the shipment of many Africans to the South of America. Additionally, the story contributes to the theme of 19th century history since it also explores societal relationship whereby it is asserted that the American society was centered on a patriarchal mode that favored the males who tried to appear as huge plantation owners and had slaves to tend their land. “It is also reflected in the story how Africans were humiliated by whites (Andrews).” However, they strived to come up with their own identity that were identified through familial, religion and value set up. Despite all the aforementioned points, it is also essential to mention the point that the novel is easy to read and presents other themes within its plot. The author utilized simple sentences and vocabulary, which facilitates comprehension by a reader. Additionally, it is critical to mention that the author incorporated images and figures of speech in the writing. These were aimed for the clear depiction of the author’s meaning.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Penguin Books Limited, 2013.
Andrews, William L. An Introduction to the Slave Narrative . 20 May 2014. 21 May 2014
Godwin, Gail. “A Sorrowful Woman.” Godwin, Gail. A Sorrowful Woman. London: Penguine,
Marmon, Leslie, S. “Lullaby”. Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West 1950 to the
- Ed. McMurthy, Larry. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 2012.
Momaday, Scott. N. The Way to Rainy Mountain. New Mexico: The University of New Mexico