Sunday, January 24, 2010

joaquin murieta: villian or hero?

Joaquin Murieta is vividly brought to life by the romantic, imaginative writing style of John Rollin Ridge. The nature of his essence is noble, generous and kind; however, racial prejudice spewed like venom from the Americans’ hearts and inflicted cruelty upon Joaquin and his beloved mistress on several occasions because of his Mexican origin. Throughout his novel, Ridge attributes Joaquin’s near death escapes, extraordinary victories and fearless pursuit of vengeance to an “invisible guardian fiend.” He intertwines the concept of Fate as though it is giving Joaquin permission to commit thievery and murder. Is he justified?

I found it interesting that Joaquin’s companion, Three-Fingered Jack, was almost always by his side. Their souls were as different as darkness and light. After Joaquin refused to take the ferryman’s money, Ridge wrote, “I mention this incident merely to show that Murieta in his worst days had yet a remnant of the noble spirit which had been his original nature and to correct those who have said that he was lost to every generous sentiment” (65). Yet, the passage I found to best illustrate Three-Fingered Jack’s character says, “He was in his element, his eyes blazed, he shouted like a madman and leaped from one to the other, hewing and cutting, as if it afforded him the most exquisite satisfaction to revel in human agony” (Ridge 133). The fact that Ridge kept these two so close together throughout their journey defines the core differences and their reasons to kill. Joaquin is on a quest for revenge for being wronged by his fellow man and Jack is enthralled by ruthless murder.

In this novel, it appears as though John Rollin Ridge is portraying Joaquin Murieta as a hero. He is above the ordinary criminal, with qualities and values that seem to be ‘superhuman.’ He is misunderstood in the purpose of his endeavor, but continues to fight for what he believes in until death. Although he leaves a path of bloody corpses and destruction everywhere he goes, he remains faithful to his ‘moral code,’ thus only killing people for the following reasons: if they have injured, wronged or betrayed him; if they are a source for monetary gain; to conceal his identity or whereabouts; for survival or protection. He often reprimands those (usually Three-Fingered Jack) that do not follow his own laws of moral conduct. For instance, when Reis kidnapped a fair, beautiful woman from her lover and mother, Joaquin was enraged and returned her home safely at once. This event depicted Joaquin as a heroic man, at least in the eyes of Rosalie, for “…she thanked him in a dignified manner for his noble conduct and told him that she respected him from the bottom of her heart, robber as he was” (Ridge 106). In another event in which he spared the lives of innocent men, they were “…showering blessings on Joaquin, who had become suddenly transformed into an angel in their estimation…” (Ridge 79). Joquain Murieta, although a criminal in the eyes of the governmental law, is illuminated in a glorious light by John Rollin Ridge (and narrator).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

flawed human nature.

“It was our purpose—a generous one, certainly, and absurd, no doubt, in full proportion with its generosity—to give up whatever we had heretofore attained, for the sake of showing mankind the example of a life governed by other than the false and cruel principles, on which human society has all along been based” (19).

The Blithedale Romance entertains the idea of an experimental socialist society. Its attempt to uphold the ideals of Transcendentalism falters due to the egotism and selfish pursuits of the people involved in the community. In the passage above, Miles Coverdale describes their noble purpose; however, this proves to be sustained merely on hopes rather than action. One idea the Transcendentalist Movement upholds is that the essential nature of humans is good. Humans should be guided by feelings, which naturally turn toward goodness rather than by rigorous logic and rationality. This innate innocence is only corrupted by society. In Blithedale, however, each person portrays themselves deceitfully, and their community falls to shambles as their secret motives begin to shine through. Although they begin with a benevolent purpose, Hawthorne illustrates the flawed human nature, thus making this utopian society impossible in the story.

In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature he writes, “Standing on the bare ground, —my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, —all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God” (996). In The Blithedale Romance, no one truly interacted with Nature to have a spiritual experience of being “one-eyed and pure-hearted.” Aside from the necessary duties in the natural world that were required for their survival, there was little to no real attempt to achieve this experience. I believe that Hawthorn mourns and satirizes this idyllic life in The Blithedale Romance, which ultimately led to a tragic end.