The theme that I would describe with pictures would be the change in society and a person's role in it. I would first have a picture of a man in simple clothes walking down the street. This would be from some of our earlier works such as "Rip Van Winkle" or "Ben Franklin." My next frame would have a white man walking beside a black man who is in chains and carrying a sack of bricks for the white man. Of course, this would be related to slavery and come from the narrative from Douglass. Next, there would be a picture of a white man walking with his own sack of feathers. The black man in this picture would be loose from his chains but still be carrying a load of bricks. This change comes from "Pudd'nhead Wilson." In my fourth picture, from "O! Pioneers," there would be a white woman starting to carry the load of bricks. In my last frame I would have everyone, blacks, whites, men, and women, running around in circles with a heavy load of bricks on their back. This picture would come from our later readings of "The Street" or "Staggerford."
I chose the theme of the change in society because that was the one that I thought was very important in all of our readings. The picture of the white man walking down the street shows the pace that life seemed to move at. In the early works, it seemed like there were a lot less worries and people lived their lives in happiness. Ben Franklin make life seem almost like it was too easy. If a person wanted to be successful, he had to work hard. It was that simple. If a person wanted to live a less successful life, he only needed to put forth the effort to make sure that he had food and shelter. It also seemed like there were easy solution to problems in this time period. If trouble came about, you just solved it. It didn't take a genius to understand how to live in this time period. "Rip Van Winkle" also gives us a hint that life was much easier. Rip didn't work at all but still managed to live decently. m He went about his life at a very relaxed pace and was content about it. Society in Rip's time didn't think that it was necessary to work yourself to death. A person could be happy living a simple lifestyle.
A sudden change came about when we were introduced to slavery. The image of a black man carrying a white man's burden pretty much explains itself. While white men still had responsibilities, it seemed like slaves were the ones who were carrying out all of those responsibilities. The slave during this time in society was the one who kept the economy running in many states. Not only was a slave carrying someone's burden, he was also chained to the source of that burden. Slaves had no choice on how to live their lives. Society wasn't very fair for even free black people. There were still prejudices that make it hard for freed slaves to try and find their place in the world.
In my next scene, where a white man is carrying a small load and a black man is carrying a heavy one, society took a fast-paced turn. In "Ruth Hall" and "Pudd'nhead Wilson," we know that slavery was coming to an end. A white man finally had to carry his own load. He didn't have a slave to do it for him. However, this load was very small compared to the one that a former slave had to carry. When the slaves were dumped into society, they had no way of knowing how to make it in the world. This make it very difficult for them to be successful. They were immediately sent out to carry a very heavy burden, only it was their own. The white man knew how to make it so his was left carrying a small burden. Meanwhile, uneducated and untrained slaves were suffering to find their place in society.
Freeman and Cather gave me the idea for my next scene where women are carrying a heavy burden. Women during this time period were beginning to speak out and also take on new challenges that men had previously denied them. I used the illustration of heavy bricks to show the immediate challenge that women took on. They were starting a radical movement that took on great criticism from men and even some women. What they were doing was not going to be easy. This time in literature also showed us that women could succeed in the business world and work hard. Willa Cather wrote about the struggles that a women took on trying to manage a farm on the prairie. Many men were failing at farming but here we were given the example that a women could think for herself and make it during hard times.
My last picture would show the type of society that we live in today. Everyone is running around at a very fast pace and is carrying along with them many burdens and stresses. Some barriers have been torn down between men, women, and other races but now everyone shares the same burdens. No one takes time to slow down and enjoy life. In "The Street," we are introduced to an object that controls our society today; money. This story constantly tells us about Lutie's problem with money. She only thinks about money because without it she can't survive. Today, money is the only thing that people strive for. While the times aren't a hard, greed drives our society into thinking that possessions are the only things that matter. In "Staggerford," we still have to deal with the issue of racism, however, it is on a much smaller scale. Many people are settling their differences and not caring about what color someone is. This story, by Hassler, shows that we still have cases where there are conflicts between races. However, most of these disputes are shown to have a solution that can usually be solved easily.
Throughout American Literature, you can see that our society has picked up the pace. Many things have happened that have brought both good and bad things into society. Perhaps this change can be used to tell us a little about the future. Will life get more complicated? Will everyone eventually be considered equal? From what we have learned already, a person would have to believe that we still have a change in society that we are going to go through.