For my final post, I’d like to offer a quote from John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row: In Cannery Row, it is said that “It’s inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing.” (Steinbeck, 111)

People can be one thing to one person; and the opposite to someone else. People may portray themselves as a hero or a victim to one group and then the same rhetoric can be used to counter what they portrayed themselves as- such as with the idea of the savage in the captivity narratives. As much as the way others perform their gender or try to shape themselves in a certain way through telling their story in a specific way; it is up to the reader to decide for themselves what is really going on. The readers are like consumers. They can buy into the way people market themselves, or they can refute it. They can also come away with a different interpretation than what the person tried to market themselves as. They can criticize the way that the characters are presented, like in “The Lovers of the Poor” or “To Elsie.” People may try to market themselves as a specific type- such as a hero, or a victim or an exemplary ideal of black masculinity, but the audience has a part in it to.

I chose the title “Just not buying it” because the way people market themselves doesn’t work if we don’t “buy into” the way they portray themselves. It is not only about the individual, but American society as a whole.

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Sometimes, people tell the same story, but from completely different perspectives. In the Captivity Narrative of Mary Rowlandson Mary Rowlandson explains how she was taken captive by the indigenous peoples and watched her family die. She portrays herself as the victim, and uses the role of motherhood to form a connection with those who might be reading her narrative. She calls them “barbarous creatures”, “savages”, and says that “I chose to go with those ravenous beasts”. Dehumanizing them, she makes herself the victim as she humanizes herself. She also humanizes herself by using the role of motherhood. She mentions her children and she stresses how much her survival is not just for her, but for her “sick child in my arms, looking that every hour would be the last of its life.” (Rowlandson) Rowlandson mentions the indigenous women in the narrative, calling them “squaw” and mentions them only with the men- assuming that the culture of indigenous people follows the patriarchal society that she lives in.

I really, really have to ask- when we see stuff like this- well, not HERE but in the U.S- where they have their “Constitutional right to bear arms” (Trying to put aside all judgement of the laws and stuff) is it fair? And “The government will take care of you”; why shouldn’t they be allowed to have arms to defend themselves if others are? (Really, really trying to forget about the whole gun situation… Canada is smart!) There’s still the idea that the indigenous people are “savage”. They can’t “take care of themselves.” 

The Eulogy of King Phillip by William Apess  seeks to counter this view of the Puritans solely as the victims, and says of the Puritans that “these same men came to these Indians for support and acknowledge themselves that no people could be used better than they were; that their treatment would do honor to any nation; that their provisions were in abundance; that they gave them venison and sold them many hogsheads of corn to fill their stores, besides beans…Had it not been for this humane act of the Indians, every white man would have been swept from the New England colonies. In their sickness, too, the Indians were as tender to them as to their own children; and for all this, they were denounced as savages by those who had received all the acts of kindness they possibly could show them” The indigenous people helped the others to survive. He portrays a different perspective, that they treated them like children- (this could be problematic though. To treat someone like a child there’s a bit of a double edged sword here. I should go into it more in my other blog but here I’ll briefly say that Apess in saying that they are as tender to them as their own children, it could be very nice- and they could be seen as caring, but it also infantalizes them and assumption can be made that they can’t care for themselves.)

Back on track: Apess explains that “These Indians had not done one single wrong act to the whites but were as innocent of any crime as any beings in the world. And do you believe that Indians cannot feel and see, as well as white people? If you think so, you are mistaken. Their power of feeling and knowing is as quick as yours. Now this is to be borne, as the Pilgrims did as their Master told them to; but what color he was I leave it. But if the real sufferers say one word, they are denounced as being wild and savage beasts.” He humanizes the indigenous people, who had been dehumanized by texts such as Mary Rowlandson’s.

I think that they are each victims of the ideology: they play a part in the ideology that the land should be the Puritan’s because God gave it to them. They are each helpless to stop the ideology, and realize that their hatred for the other culture isn’t about the culture at all, but about wanting to know that they deserve the land.




  1. http://pangaeaarchivalnetwork.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/gun-indian-billboard-936p-photoblog600.jpg


  1. Apess, William. “Eulogy on King Phillip” http://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/apess-eulogy-speech-text/
  2. Rowlandson, Mary “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson”.
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Life is a fairytale

We’re often told that fairy tales aren’t true, or that they’re idealistic. When we think of fairy tales we usually picture princesses, princes, wicked stepmothers or witches. We think of heros battling dragons, or damsels in distress.

Instead of being the victim at the mercy of the wolf- even though Jacobs and Dr. Flint seem to go through that process…

So, my post is going to be a bit of a surprise for some people: The Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs is a fairytale. This is more than the novel just following Propp’s Functions. This is about the way that the way the characters are presented, and the way that the situations she describes mirror those of a fairy tale. “It has been said that fairy tales derive from the wishful thinking of poor people or those that have been unsuccessful or slighted.” (Luthi, 317) The very reason the slave narrative existed was to further the fight for freedom for those who were enslaved. The novels were sentimental and often were meant to appeal to the upper-middle class woman; who might be softened by the view of slavery presented in the narratives. “The fairy tale story isolates and unites: its hero is thus isolated and, for this very reason, capable of entering into universal relationships.” (Luthi, 323) When Dr. Flint then tells Harriet that “he was going to build a small house for me, in a secluded place four miles away from the town.” (Jacobs, 179) it is not only about keeping her under the control of Dr. Flint, but isolating her. “He talked of his intention to give me a home of my own, and to make a lady of me.” (Jacobs, 179) She does not wish to be a lady: in the sense of the fairy tale to be a lady would be to “trade her  independent selfhood for subordination…subjected to masculine supervision and denied any true independence.” (Rowe, 351) Harriet is expected to do this anyway as her identity as someone enslaved. To accept the role of a “lady” would be to accept her role as a slave. “The bound and silent figure of the slave metaphorically represents the woman’s oppression and so grants the white woman an access to political discourse.” (Sanchez-Eppler, 31) As women are also marginalized, the fact that as a slave she is marginalized would remind women that both groups are made less important and objectified.

…I like the think of Jacobs more as Puss in Boots and Dr. Flint as the ogre.

So, Harriet reconfigures herself as a hero. She goes on a hero’s journey, accepting help from “donors” like Peter who arranges for her boat ride north, and going on a quest for Fanny, the “family member” who also needs freedom. There are several times when Dr.Flint attempts a reconnaissance, trying to lure her back into his hands- through lying, making her feel a false sense of security that he is away, and threatening her. She regains her freedom which was denied to her at the end, and makes sacrifices, such as not allowing her children to know she is hidden in the house they are living in in the hopes of not only getting her freedom but her children’s as well.



IMAGES (In order of appearance. Everything else in alphabetical order)

  1. http://ve.torontopubliclibrary.ca/cinderella/images/12_little-red-riding.jpg
  2. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37529/37529-h/images/p005-illus.jpg


  1. Pow, Deborah “Narrative- Vladimir Propp” Web log post. RESPONSE AND REFLECTION. WordPress, 3 November. 2012. Web. 13 June. 2013. http://dlpow.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/narrative-vladimir-propp/


  1. Douglass, Frederick, and Harriet A. Jacobs. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.
  2. Luthi, Max. “The Fairy-Tale Hero: The Image of Man in the Fairy Tale”  Folk & Fairy Tales. By Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. 4th ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2009. 315-323.
  3. Rowe, Karen. “Feminism and Fairy Tales”  Folk & Fairy Tales. By Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. 4th ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2009. 342-358.


  1. Eppler-Sanchez, Karen. “Bodily Bonds: The Intersecting Rhetorics of Feminism and Abolition” Representations Volume 24 Autumn 1988 pp 28-59 (Article) University of California Press Web. June 15 2013
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From Girl, to Beast, to Hero.

The representation of masculinity in Western Culture is usually fairly straightforward. The ideology of hegemonic masculinity (men as powerful) is usually put forth. This means that men are seen as someone strong, independent, and self-sufficient. They are depicted as aggressive, and the figure of the soldier, as one who restores the order of normality is respected. When the order is disrupted, they restore it.

In slave narratives, these representations are changed- black masculinity is docile and men are feminized. However, “docile black masculine identity were simply a way to placate the masses.” (Humphreys, lecture) In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Douglass is feminized by his owner. Master Thomas “told me I could go nowhere but that he could get me…He exhorted me to content myself and be obedient. He told me, if I would be happy, I must lay out no plans for the future. He said if I behaved myself properly, he would take care of me. Indeed, he advised me to complete thoughtlessness of the future, and taught me to depend solely upon him for happiness.” (Douglass, 96) He is treated as a stereotypical female by his master- incapable of caring for himself and only capable of doing what is expected of him. There is hope and a contradiction of this when he is alone. During his leisure time “I spent this in a sort of stupor, between sleep and wake, under some large tree. At times I would rise up, a flash of energetic freedom would dart through my soul, accompanied  with a faint beam of hope, that flickered for a moment, and then vanished.” (Douglass, 68) Black masculinity was a performance. When away from the stage of the plantation and the role he needed to play, Douglass slowly transforms- first through his thoughts, then his actions. He is passive at first, accepting and then hiding his resistance of his fate. He then becomes active later. Through resistance, he is able to let go of the docile image, and instead be transformed into a beast. “I resolved to fight; and suiting my action to the resolution, I seized Covey hard by the throat; and as I did so, I rose.” (Douglass, 73) He overpowers Covey, who was once dominant and places himself more on Covey’s level. “The animal represents the unknown, a representation of the shadowy world of instinct.” (Hallett, 169) He can be a beast and fight when he has to- just like others can. He has several roles, “The fairy-tale hero…is sometimes a rollicking daredevil and sometimes a silent sufferer;  at times a lazybones and at times a diligent helper; often sly and wily but just as often open and honest. At times he is a shrewd fellow, an undaunted solver of riddles, a brave fighter; at others he is a stupid person or one who sits down and begins to cry every time he encounters difficulty.” (Luthi, 316) Douglass is a person, with several different feelings, he is not an object as the slaveholders try to position him as.

Through his transformation he becomes more humanized-he aligns himself more with the representation of masculinity instead of the image of “black masculinity” as a docile servant. He finds that he has power, and he realizes that in order to be free- he has to act like a beast. His master “raved and swore his determination to get hold of me. I did not allow myself a single word; but was resolved, if he laid the weight of his hand upon me, it should be blow for blow.” (Douglass, 98) Here there is a mirroring of the two men; they are no longer dominant/subordinate; they both have the same personality as the strong, male figure.

By presenting himself as a double of his master during, he reconfigures black masculinity as equal to white masculinity. He makes himself seem beastly to counter the image of docility, and through this regains his humanity. In order to counter the purity myth he has to bring out the ideology of hegemonic masculinity and follow it. He counters one ideology by following another.



IMAGES (In order of appearance)


  1. Hercules- Zero to Hero (English) Prod. defrankfurt YouTube. YouTube, 14 Sept. 2007. Web. 10 June. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRCteeZTrjE&gt;
  2. Mulan-I’ll Make a Man Out of You. Prod. XFliiy. YouTube. Youtube, 27, Nov 2006. Web. 10 June 2013 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSS5dEeMX64&gt;


  1. Douglass, Frederick, and Harriet A. Jacobs. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.
  2. Hallett, Martin, and Barbara Karasek. Folk & Fairy Tales. 4th ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2002. Print.
  3. Luthi, Max. “The Fairy-Tale Hero: The Image of Man in the Fairy Tale”  Folk & Fairy Tales. By Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. 4th ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2009. 315-323.


  1. Humphreys, Sara. Class Lecture. American Literature. Trent University. Oshawa. Ontario. June 3, 2013. “Ideology of Indiginaity, Whiteness, and National Belonging”
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I thought I would start once I got the okay on my proposal. Then I decided hey this is a good idea for a blog anyway! Whether or not it’s approved for my project.

Let me give you all a picture first! And a story! This happened just a little over an hour ago.

It starts with a twenty-dollar bill, my brother, and me, having a conversation.

My brother is infamous for his junk food obsession and his lack of concept concerning money. Naturally, he asked me if I would give him fifteen dollars for chicken. We ordered it online, and under the requests form we put this:


It says “put a smile on dat box right dere. Ryan”

I persuaded him to put that on the order. If I was going to be blowing money on something that: (1) I don’t eat (I’m a vegetarian and I hate fast food) and (2) would be gone in ten minutes (and it was) I was going to be entertained while that happened.

After making sure that it was cash, and not a credit-card we needed we ordered it and waited. I was excited. I doubted they would listen, but on the off-chance that they did, I was going to see it!

Since I know a picture lasts longer, I took my camera with me when the long-awaited for order came. I was greeted with my chicken thingy, the guy delivering it with a smile, and the box with a smile carrying the chicken thingy.


I was excited. I mean, I’d always heard that the “customer was always right” but I’d never actually seen that before. I now say that whenever we buy pizza, we are going to buy from a place that will give us a say in the request- as the consumers we are. It’s fascinating how, no matter how silly or rude or wacky customers are, the people working in places like Pizza Nova and wherever else are accommodating. It’s about the way that the company is presented. When Pizza Nova put a smile on the box, they didn’t just put a smile on the box. They put a smile on my face and gave themselves a happy customer who is going to go back happily for more.

They market and present themselves well, and as people we do that too. We make judgements about people, and we try to present ourselves in a certain way to be seen as agreeable, or a victim or something which suits us at the moment.

Then sometimes that image can be shattered by something else. A news report, or a bad reputation or review by a source which is “legitimate”. As people being marketed and branding ourselves, we are judged, much like Pizza Nova when they put a smile on my box.

In American Literature, there are several ideas of what a “person” is. Are they a certain race? “A good American following the American ideal”? Or is it all about perception? Can one bad review ruin a person no matter what they do to redeem themselves, or are they really damaged by other’s perceptions? Are they allowed to “sell” themselves as a type of person? What happens when others refute it? What happens when we think of not only things like pizza as commodities but people as well? How do people present themselves in literature to shape themselves as a certain person? 


Next time, Ryan says he’s asking them to draw a giraffe.

That’s what I want to find out- that and if the guy that drew the smile on my pizza box ever thought of going to art school!



IMAGES (In order of appearance, everything else in alphabetical order)

  1. They are all mine. Including the header image for this site.)
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