Thursday, 28 March 2013

Under the Lion's Paw Analysis

Here's the reflective analysis that involved writing with an emotional draw. (But hah for Garland, he did not get me; I saw through it, and here you are.)

Evaluate the Menacing Before Rushing

            Lions are menacing, and it would be terrible indeed to be under one’s paw.  Oppression would turn to depression, and any ambitious hopes of life that had previously stirred would abruptly halt.  Desperation would also be prevalent in this scene, but from whose point?  We do not always perceive what we think we perceive, and whether others should sympathize with the lion or the one under the paw remains to be seen.  Can we always be sure as to who should be justified?  Hamlin Garland’s short story, “Under the Lion’s Paw” (written in 1889 and published in 1891), follows the plight of a young family through three years of exceedingly difficult toil. A short story portraying his skill pertaining to using emotion, Garland (1860-1940), who grew up in rural poverty and later moved to Boston to escape the deserted farm life, wrote powerful realism, which flows directly from his experiences (Baym 736).

              Opening with a man plowing on the “last day of autumn and the first day of winter,” readers are introduced to the feature family, the Haskins, who arrive at a door in Iowa, hoping for shelter for the night (Baym 737).  The Councils, a friendly, near elderly couple, accept the family with open arms, and help Haskins find farm work under a certain Mr. Jim Butler.  After working to improve the land for a seemingly endless three years, Haskins endeavors to discuss buying the farm. However, the betterment of his once property has not gone unnoticed by Butler, and he sets the value of the farm at a considerably higher price than before.  Haskins, angry because he feels cheated, threatens Butler, who “backs off in wild haste” (Baym 746).
               While reading Garland’s story, I smiled at his vivid descriptions of work.  Garland’s Realism is evident in that for something to be realistic, it should provoke thoughts and images of the essence that is being described.  When my family bought a farm, it was not as in such a state as Butler’s land, but we did have to improve it, and various parts from this story brought many instances of extensive projects to mind. Haskins not only worked fiendishly, but he “rose early and toiled without intermission till the darkness fell on the plain, then tumbled into bed, every bone and muscle aching with fatigue, to rise with the sun the next morning to the same round of the same ferocity of labor” (Baym 742).   I understand the cycle of rising early and working followed by fatigue and tumbling into bed.  Garland wrote realism depicting realistic images that provoke powerful pictures and irreversible memories.

               As a reader on the outside looking in to the characters and their lives, I failed to notice one detail, but I read to the end and was quite upset at Butler for not being rational. I perceived that Haskins, who toiled fiendishly, should be rewarded with a reasonable consequence, that is, a fair price for the land he worked for.  The story ends with Butler announcing the price to be three times what he had originally stated, which made me slightly upset, and I thought him a scheming nemesis of healthy labor until I noticed Garland’s subtle message.  In that particular age, writers portrayed farmers as a lower class, which involves provoking emotional sympathy for the situation of the lower-class farmer, Haskins (Smith 248).  However, as I thought about Haskins and Butler while driving home one day, Garland was suddenly the sneaky one. He had used writing techniques of familiarity, sympathy, and relation in order to place my favor upon Haskins, when in actuality, Butler is justified in his actions.  Though Haskins had toiled three years, Butler reserved the right to place any price on his land, regardless of whether or not he was “wearin' out his pants on some salt barrel somewears” (Baym 741).

                I read the piece, enjoyed the piece, and will probably recall the piece when doing some sort of work that falls under the category of toil. Garland's descriptions were exceedingly colorful, and the pictures he presented were expressly clear that I could not help wonder if something was hidden under each piece of clarity.  However, I do not think this piece will rest in a forgetful area of my mind, most certainly because it possesses realism of genuine origins.

                A story that captivates because of its mark of struggle, “Under the Lion's Paw” is a tale of one striving to rise above.  Oftentimes, readers cheer for the so-called little man, and Garland took advantage of this in that he wrote clearly and realistically, but he also allowed readers to take an armed stance with one character (Haskins) while not advancing the case of the other. Historical contexts are important, and Garland realized that, in writing realism, it was easier to capture a person's emotions rather than his or her sense of perception.  The lion may seem menacing, but we must be willing to evaluate before we rush to the side of the one under his paw.

Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: Norton, 1998. Print.
Smith, Henry Nash. Virgin Land; the American West as Symbol and Myth. Cambridge: Harvard UP,     1950. Print.

Thanks for reading!

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