Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Never Touched Cuban Soil

Journal No. 9
English 48B
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I Chose: Kate Chopin

From "At the 'Cadian Ball"

I. "Calixta's slender foot had never touched Cuban soil; but her mother's had, and the Spanish was in her blood all the same. For that reason, the prairie poeple forgave her much that they would not have overlooked in their own daughters or sisters."

II. Kate Chopin writes of indiscretions that are considered forgivable simply because a woman was born with Spanish blood. She is a "racy" woman who doesn't mind being obvious in her coquettish ways. For this, she is forgiven since she was born into those ways.

III. Calixta is a beautiful cuban woman whose hair is kinked and unkempt. She has brown skin and wears dresses as thin as gauze. Her ears are apparently quite nibble-able (is that even a word?!) and has a contrast of feminine qualities mixed with the wildness of an untamed bronco. Calixta is, essentially, what I believe many women might want to be like. I think that all women are conflicted just a little bit with remaining feminine while maintaining a home or being successful at their career or involving themselves in activities. It is a hard thing to do, to juggle the roles that you partake in while still remaining feminine and sexy. Calixta is able to maintain all of these roles more openly than other women since her brassiness is excused by her family's heritage. So do we still put these stereotypes on women today? Do we "excuse" certain behaviors because of someone's heritage or skin color? I believe that we most certainly do. Today's roles have changed much for both men and women. However, we still do make exceptions for certain types of behavior and/or cultural practices. This is often necessary in living in a multi-cultural society, though. There are definitely negatively-toned instances where people are unfairly treated as though their cultural differences should be used as an excuse for their bad behavior, but for the most part I think that our society (here in the Bay Area) has done a decent job of realizing that different cultures do encounter different behaviors. Has anyone seen Borat? When do those behaviors become acceptable?! :)

Sarah Wyman Whitman

Sarah Wyman Whitman is a name mentioned in the Norton Anthology headnotes for Sarah Orne Jewett. I was curious to find out who she was. So of course, I asked our trusty instructor. Since he seems to know of all that is literary, I figured that he would surely know who she was. Unfortunately, it seems that even he was puzzled by the woman so briefly mentioned in passing. So of course, I took Dr. Lankford's well-given advice and quickly looked her up on Google once I got home. I was fascinated by what I found- and also by what I did not find. I was able to find (just from deduction, unfortunately) that not only was Sarah Wyman Whitman a close friend of both Annie Fields' and of Sarah Orne Jewett's, but she also was an artist of many different talents. Whitman's works were most commonly found on the covers of books that were made for many authors, some of which included Sarah Orne Jewett, Henry David Thoureau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bret Harte, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and many others. This craft of hers came along during a time when bindings and bookcovers were becoming overwraught with ornate decoration, so much that it was becoming a bit much for many authors and publishers. It seemed to be a bit of a challenge to find a book cover artist who was able to express the author's intended beauty while preserving the mystery of what would appear on the interior pages.

While Whitman's talent was quite visible on the exteriors of some of the most famous literary works, she found other ways to express herself as well. Whitman's ability to capture beauty in many differnt types of media made her more accessible for the everyday person. Whether it be oil on canvas, pastel on board, or (amazingly so) stained-glass monuments, Whitman found many different ways to capture light and beauty and to share these with her fellow humankind. To read some of Sarah Wyman Whitman's correspondance with Sarah Orne Jewett (and many other personal letters), please visit The Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project. You will find many other interesting topics on Sarah Orne Jewett at the main page for the project, as well.