Monday, October 25, 2010

--On "Indians": Fuller struggles to understand Native Americans and their experience here, reading widely and studying them whenever she encounters them. In this period, it was common to either see Native Americans as either violent savages or ennobled and innocent victims. Does Fuller lean more heavily to one side or the other, or does she escape these limiting stereotypes altogether?

--The story of "Muckwa, or The Bear" tells of the problems of cross-species relations, but is also allegorical of male-female and cross-race relations. What are the lessons of this story for Fuller?

--Fuller rides the rapids on a canoe, but expresses some disappointment in it. Compare her experience here to that of Niagara Falls.

--Compare the final poem to the opening ones in the book. Has Fuller changed her attitude toward her work or not? Compare the ways in which the poems metaphorize the book and its work.

Finally, to what extent does Fuller get beyond a merely touristic view of the midwest? She is concerned with finding the deeper meaning of the scene, but do you think she really accomplishes this or does she only really experience it as an outsider taking in different landscapes?


  1. I think the story of "Muckwa, or The Bear" is particularly allegorical of relations between indians and the settlers, and it represents what people were under the impression would happen if one from each group became involved with one another. It details the story of a young bear hunter who ends up marrying and having children with a female bear. However, after he shoots his sister-in-law and experiences other discrepancies with the bears, his wife speaks of the fact that they've had "nothing but ill fortune" and asks him to return to his people.

    Fuller sees the tale as a "poetical expression of the sorrows of unequal relations" (Fuller 127) and I think it furthers her understanding that Indians and settlers do not see cross-race relations as a possibility. I think it's a cautionary tale for most, but the fact that Fuller sees the tragic element of it, that the Indian and the bear couldn't make it work, speaks for her differentiating views of the Indians throughout her journey.

  2. 1. If I had to choose one or the other I would say that Fuller leans towards viewing the Indian as an "ennobled, innocent victim", but to leave it at that would not be accurate. I think that Fuller takes more of an objective, unobtrusive take on the Indian, and though she does recognize the importance and the severity of the wrong done to the Indian, she views them more as an intelligent, sophisticated culture which should not be judged harshly or negatively for being different from the predominant white Anglo Saxon culture that has overtaken America. She does take time to examine the terse, prejudiced views that her white peers have towards Indians, such as when she describes the female friend of hers that remarks "do what you will, they will be ungrateful...the savage cannot be washed out of them", or remarks upon the moral corruption of the trader who gives the Indian damaged tobacco and rum laced with red pepper during the week and then kneels in the Church on Sunday and asks God to "purify" the Indian soul. I think Fuller wants to stay away from idealizing or romanticizing the Indian, but she also wants her white audience to understand the negative impacts that their prejudiced opinions and actions have towards the Indians.

  3. I enjoy poetry, although not very good at interpreting it, however I will try nevertheless. I feel Fuller's attitude changes in a sense. I really am not sure how to interpret the first two poems. I remember talking about them in class briefly last Tuesday. I feel they are similar to the ending one in that she believes there is something better if you work harder and risk more to attain it. However, I feel they disagree and she has changed her thoughts in that in the end, she's willing to "go the extra mile" where as at the beginning she's weary on if it's truly worth it.

    From the end poem, I thought two passages describe how she originally feels: "But, madam, you will tear that handsome gown;/ The little boy be sure to tumble down;/ And, in the thickets where they ripen best,/ The matted ivy, too, its bower has drest."

    And then how she currently feels: "If, undeterred, you to the fields must go,/ You tear your dresses and you scratch your hands;/ But, in the place where the berries grow,/ A sweeter fruit the ready sense commands"

    I may be completely off base and absolutely wrong, but I look at the first passage as, sure there's better fruit out there but it will come at a price of your clothes and is it really worth it. The second passage she says, I believe at least, that ya it's most definitely worth it if given the opportunity. I think that says a lot about where she has grown and matured through the story.

  4. The story of "Muckwa, or The Bear" is, in some ways, symbolic in how it was told, to represent cross-racial relationships with people. If we take a look at the bear as being a symbol of a completely opposite race than that of the Indians, the paints a picture of loyalty to one's own race, but also a tie to family once the two are mixed together. Muckwa hunted before then learned how to live with the bears, but it wasn't until after going back to hunting and accidentally killing his sister-in-law that he realized he could be hurting "people" that he might know. In deciding to hunt again, he was hunting bears he didn't know, but when he killed a bear that he did know, the experience served as an eye-opener that he probably shouldn't hunt bears anymore. In other words, in tying this into cross-racial relationships among humans, I feel that this story symbolizes the conflict between two races, acceptance by one race though the other may have had savage or malicious views toward the other, and then a bad experience that makes the person step back and actually value the other race that took them in; sort of an epiphany that helps the person (Muckwa) realize that the two races can coincide in peace (as offered by the chief of the bear tribe). I think that if he was allowed to still stay with the bears after killing his sister-in-law, that he would have stopped hunting bears altogether because of what that experience did to him. It's interesting that he returns to his people with his son that is like him and leaves his bearchild behind, suggesting that the story is saying that Indians and white settlers cannot live together, but can still live amongst each other in peace.

    I think one of the lessons that Fuller learns is that you can't hide your sins from other people; "thinking to hide his sin by silence, while it was at once discerned by those connected with him" (127). Fuller also reads the story as bears and Indians as relating to unequal relations between two different races, suggesting that there will always be some sort of hardship with unequal relationships, and she thinks this story is a "poetical expression" of that.

  5. When comparing the opening poems with the final poem of Fuller’s work, there does seem to be a definite adjustment with her attitude toward her focus. Fuller starts out with what I suppose I would define as a lazy unappreciative attitude towards nature and her surroundings. In her two opening poems, she uses the same imagery of ‘dried-grass,’ which leads me to assume that she just really likes that particular imagery, or that she cannot move past anything more beautiful than this image of dried grass that she finds so attractive. Toward the end of the poem addressed to a friend, we get this idea that she indeed knows that there is more to appreciate about the outdoor experience. She says, “In our dwarf day we drain few drops, and soon must thirst again.” There seems to be this acknowledgement, on her part, of relying on something bigger than herself that she does not yet fully grasp. The final poem is bit more appreciative of her new found love, nature. She appreciates those who appreciate it and has embraced its amazing abilities. “But the best pleasure such a fruit can yield, is to be gathered in the open field.” This quote comes from her last poem after she discusses picking berries. She talks of the satisfaction of being out in a genuine nature and obtaining something straight from the randomness that is the outdoors. To pick something that grew without the aid of human hand is much more satisfying. It is almost an acknowledgement that nature can take care of us. She mentions the thorns and that you must wear gloves for protection is you are to pick berries from their stem. Again, this is a clear depiction of respect. Nature is something that we need to be aware and cautious of.

  6. Fuller does not seem to have been blown away by any of the sights she saw while on this trip she took. When she went to Niagara Falls she was underwhelmed, and the same went for the canoe. I think the problem is that people build future experiences up so much, that when it comes time to actually experience them, they do not stand up to what we had anticipated. The same goes for Fuller. She already knew too much that when she experienced these things first hand, they could not compare to what she had made up in her mind. The trip was not a disaster, or a complete disappointment, but it was not exactly what she was expecting. She was able to visit and do things she had never seen or done before, and she was able to do a lot of thinking and learning. But, when you compare to the expectations she held for the trip prior, the experience falls short. But, especially now with technology, this happens most of the time for people.

  7. When Fuller tells us the story of Muckwa, it is a clear story of the relations between white men and the Native Americans. Muckwa, a bear hunter, marries into a bear family, has a bear child, and is seemingly assimilated into their culture and life, but one day when his family goes out, he gets bored and goes bear hunting, and kills his own sister-in-law. This is telling of the treatment of Native Americans by the white people. While they picked and chose which Native Americans they wanted to help them or the ones that they liked, they killed the rest or moved them to a different area because the white men had more claim on that land than the Indians did, which is not true, but was how they felt. This is no way to start a foreign policy, or how to treat people that were new to them, but it is still very common today.

  8. I find this experience very similar to the Niagara falls situation. She, again, is taking another's word for an awe-inspiring situation. And again she is disappointed. She still is not realizing that she needs to make the moment her own. She is looking for purpose in life in all of the wrong spaces and until she realizes that no space will bring that to her, she will never find a place to discover it. I suppose that she probably thought it would be a different experience because it was more of an action oriented experience. What she needs to realize is that its not where you go but the personal experience you have there and you will never have your own experience until you let go of trying to have someone els's.

  9. I agree that Fuller is not being blown away by awesome experiences. That's not really all that surprising. Fuller is obviously a skeptic, and what skeptics feed on is overvaluing and then being underwhelmed by the event itself.

    That's fine, but Fuller would have been much better off not talking to others, instead making her own adventure. I would venture to guess that she would garner more enjoyment out of that what she was getting.


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