Robert Frost’s The Gift Outright is a classic example of his folksy, lyrical poetry based on nature. Rather than the typical format of describing the scene around him though, he reflects on who the scene belongs to. His choice to make the first line a sentence makes the first phrase seem factual and sets a serious tone for the rest of the poem. His opening sentence reads, “The land was ours before we were the land’s” reminded me of “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” introducing the interconnectedness between human life and the earth. Although I would like to believe this poem is meant to be about taking care of the earth and natural world, I think that it is written from the perspective of an imperialist. The consistent use of “ours” conveys the possessive nature of imperialists who claim the land as their birthright, their “Gift Outright”. The middle section of the poem addresses the aggressive theme of possessiveness of the earth. His repetitive use of “possessing” conveys the all-consuming greed that resulted from imperialism. “Possessed by what we now no more possessed” conveys that rather than cherishing the land, they were swallowed by their greed for something that was never theirs. In this way, the expansion of land made them “weak”. The weakness juxtaposes the idea that expansion creates strength. The combination of this contradiction and his deliberate choice not to punctuate creates a natural pause in the poem. “We were withholding from the land of the living” continues his rhythmic pattern of iambic pentameter and begins a series of alliterations that emphasize the consequence of greed. His second use of alliteration comes with “salvation in surrender” saying that the settlers were saved by their realization that wealth and prosperity was achieved not through pushing through progress, but by letting the earth do its work. That the earth was beautiful in its “unstoried and unenhanced”, pure form and would prove prosperous in time. Here he ends the poem with a classic ode to the beauty of nature in its untouched form, satirizing the idea that an industrial version would be preferable.
Heavens on Earth by Mark Holloway is great source for my research paper because it’s a comprehensive analysis of several utopian communities over many decades. Because the book is so comprehensive, I would consider it more of a secondary source which happens to be just what I’m looking for in terms of background information regarding the rise of utopian communities. Although specific references to and analyses of Brook Farm, in particular, were few and far between, Holloway covered many other similar utopian experiments and dug deep into aspects that made some successful and others unsuccessful.
Holloway proves that although utopian societies are very different in their ideals, goals, and varying levels of success, the recognizable continuity lies in the religious origins of the community. According to Holloway, utopian communities generally rise out of religion or a varying version of a religious sector. In particular, Brook Farm rose out of Unitarian ideals that George Ripley extracted after preaching Unitarianism. What makes Brook Farm different from other successful and unsuccessful utopian communities, it that members of were encouraged to practice whatever religion they chose to any degree they chose. Holloway also identifies the influence of Transcendentalism briefly, but fails to further elaborate.
Unlike the first source I used, Heavens on Earth conveys utopian communities as small scale versions of extremism, stemming from Socialist and Communist ideals. In this way, the source is weakened because Holloway makes this broad statement without addressing specific evidence. For instance, many ideologies of Brook Farm seem to parallel ideas of communism and socialism, it was neither truly a Communist, nor Socialist Community.
Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. Print.
Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. New Yok: Dover Publications, 1966. Front Cover. Print.
The article “Brook Farm” from the New England Magazine (Volume XVIII No. 4) backs my argument that Brook Farm was monumental event in social experimentation, changing the course of the functions of society.
The article seemed a general glance at Brook Farm, its ideals, and a description of its first settlers. However, the editorial was much more in-depth, making it a primary source rather than the secondary source I was hoping for. The editorial identifies Brook Farm’s founder (George Ripley), describes the (Unitarian/Transcendentalist) origins of Brook Farm, its education ideology, and paints the picture of the enormous property, the buildings, and the culture of their utopian lifestyle. The culture seemed the most researched part of the editorial. In some ways, Brook Farm was complex and detailed, but in other ways it was minimalist (the economic system and everyday life, respectively). Quotes from George Ripley, residents, and visitors enhanced the editorial and offered many perspectives that were further expanded upon in the by the author.
The editorial addresses the misconceptions of Brook Farm being a Communist or Socialist experiment, when in fact, Brook Farm was a utopian social experiment composed of “a company of teachers” who are “thoroughly happy”. This was the only section that the author’s bias was clear as he vehemently expresses his opposition to the idea that Brook Farm was a Communist or Socialist experiment. The only weakness I found in the editorial was this portion. The topic was addressed sporadically and not particularly clearly. Overall, though, the editorial was both meticulously researched and factual.
Citation of Editorial and Picture:
Cooke, George Willis. “Brook Farm.” New England Magazine Volume 0023 Issue 4 Dec. 1897: 391-407. Making Of America. Cornell University Library. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.
On June 30th, 1961 my paternal Grandmother was officially notified, via letter, that she had earned her Master’s Degree in Religious Education from the Princeton Theological Seminary. To put this all in perspective, she was a busy mother of two adolescent children (14 and 16), a caring North Carolinian housewife, and a fairly simple woman with generally traditional, Southern values. With my Grandfather’s support of her pursuit for further education, she began to attend classes at the Princeton Theological Seminary and was one of the first women to earn her earn a Master’s degree after a post-college teaching career.
Revisiting the context of time is essential to completely understanding this artifact. My Grandmother’s dissertation is 156 pages in length (typed by my father and uncle since my Grandmother didn’t know how to type), full of evidence from numerous studies and her analyses of them, finalizing her degree requirements. She completed her degree over an extended period of time beyond normal parameters as approved by Princeton due to her busy life as a wife and mother. While pursuing her degree, she cared for her two adolescent children, upheld her motherly roles, and ran the home. While content in her position as a wife and mother, “Someone outside myself has taken over, and step by step is teaching me into His will for my life.” she was compelled to continue her education. Not only had she felt a call from God to spread the gospel (through family religious education), but the call of society to pursue higher education, effectively relating to our prolegomenon Turner’s Frontier.
In our class discussion, we have talked about the “final frontier” being the United States’ Westward expansion but later concluded that there were many unforeseen frontiers after that. In my opinion, the rise of women in the workforce and the steady increase of highly educated women is a more abstract frontier and a continuation of the former frontier of women’s suffrage. In this sense we can compare these two phases to the multiple phases on Westward expansion over time in the United States.
Continuing on the theme of frontiers, I researched the “We Can Do It” poster campaign in relation to when my Grandmother earned her degree. The campaign, calling women to the workforce, began 18 years prior to her earning her degree. Although she was a part of the forging of a new path for independent and educated women, although she worked exhuastively through her course work, she chose to publish her dissertation under the name “Mrs. Archie B. Freeman”. It shocked me that she chose to remain so traditional rather than embracing her identity as Dorothy S. Freeman (her legal name). Thus, a competing narrative between traditional and modern: a woman who joined the workforce nontraditionally but didn’t completely embrace modernity for the sake of tradition.
The idea of the competing narrative was certainly a continuous theme through the analysis of the artifact. For instance, the dissertation is focussed on the way in which Christian families should be educated. Her thesis describes that families should be religiously educated together in church to spread the gospel effectively and to create further dialogue between adults and children on religious matters. Again, I noticed the competing narrative of traditional Christianity and the modernity of women’s education. Furthermore, I discovered through my father that her degree was a Master’s in Religious Education rather than its new title of Master’s in Divinity. This was because women were not permitted to earn Master’s in Divinity at the time, cycling back to the issue of competing tradition vs modernity. Although my Grandmother may not have been an exemplary model of the ultimately modern woman of the 60s, I remain thoroughly grateful for her resilience, paving the way for my generation to attain school unlike many women of her time.
The concept of the frontier, according to Frederick Jackson Turner, is the era of American exploration and expansion of the West with the idea that expansion results in distinct American, rather than European, territory. Although Turner’s article takes an authentic perspective and is well-argued, Turner fails to address women as important factors of Westward expansion; a topic similarly passed over in Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. While Grainier is portrayed as a hard-working, strong, self-made man, his wife is rarely mentioned and rarely significant. Gladys, Grainier’s wife, is not considered an important figure of frontier life as she is mostly described as doing mundane chores such as washing clothes and cooking (Johnson, 7). In reality, women were essential to the success of the frontier through hard-work, physical labor, and household concerns and were just as important as men.