Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Austin, The Land of Little Rain, Day #2

--Consider "My Neighbor's Field" and the contrast between land ownership and the land itself.

--Compare Austin's descriptions of the mesa and the mountains to her descriptions of the desert. Aside from the obvious differences in the landscapes, what do her descriptions share and/or how are they different?

--Consider the depictions of the Native Americans here, Winnenap and Seyavi. How do they compare to the depictions of Native Americans in the romantic literature we read earlier in the term?


  1. There are several differences between Austin's depictions of Native Americans and Thoreau and Fuller's depictions of them. Although they are all outsiders looking in, Austin appears to have more intimate knowledge about them, interacting and slightly becoming an insider. The Native Americans are idealized to an extent by all of the authors, but Austin sees them more realistically. Thoreau and Fuller romanticize the Native Americans' oneness with nature, manner of utilizing every part of the environment that they can, and defeat in the fight for their land. Austin has similar opinions, but takes a more practical approach. Naturally they have a close relationship with nature because that's their home, it's where they live their lives. Thoreau and Fuller tend to have the perspective that white settlers manipulate and destroy nature with waste, but Native Americans do not. Austin mentions the remains of Native American camps that are left when they move, that blemish the land for a long time. They use all the parts they can, of an animal for instance, because they have to to survive. The only resources they have to live off of are what they can find. Seyavi, for example, had to sustain herself and her son on any plant or animal within reach to stay alive. White settlers forced them off their land, but Austin has a different opinion of how they see the situation. With their acquired resourcefulness, they could probably live anywhere with the same level of hardship. But, they are homesick for the sight of the unique landscape that is their home. One similarity is all of the authors critique of their violent behavior, their incomprehension of it. Austin writes about the sacrifice of Winnenap, her feelings of disagreement and irrationality of it. Fuller relates the story of a Native American who shoots his bear sister-in-law. There always is some lack of understanding between the Native Americans and white Americans.

  2. In "My Neighbor's Field," Austin examines how what people do to their land affects the land, a problem that is looked at but often ignored in our society today. She speaks of the land's many owners and criticizes them for damaging the land until it is revealed that "Naboth expects to make town lots of it" with the field. Austin writes, "it occurs to me that though the field may serve a good turn in those days it will hardly be happier. No, certainly not happier." I think she believes that no matter how much using the land for its resources might benefit mankind, it is still bad for the land and in a way perhaps unfair. I think this dichotomy is present today. We may complain about the sprawling suburbia, but we still enjoy the convenience of Wal-Mart or Starbucks and many build homes in the "cookie-cutter" housing that suburban towns offer. This does make me wonder how Austin would view our world today. I think the idea of all of the land eventually being developed (as it often seems we're getting close to today) would absolutely horrify her.

  3. Looking at "My Neighbor's Field" and the contrast between land ownership and the land itself, my attention is drawn towards the affect of Native American's on the field compared to ownership and greed for the land. First the idea that Austin states in, "all this human occupancy of greed and mischief left no mark on the field, but the indians did, and the unthinking sheep." In this aspect, I think as if the land is personified in a way to have "feelings." The land does not care who owns it, or how much money it's worth, it simply cares about who cares for it, who uses it for personal need as opposed to who uses it for personal pleasure and gain. Then, as Amanda states with her passage, I feel this theory is backed up entirely by the very last paragraph in the section.

    Although one other passage I thought also depicted my thoughts of how Austin perceives the land ownership compared to land itself is the passage from p. 51 about Naboth putting up a fence, "Naboth has put a fence about the best of the field, but neither the Indians nor the shepherds can quite forego it. They make camp and build their wattled huts about the borders of it, and no doubt they have some sense of home in its familiar aspect."

  4. I agree with with what Rachel said, I feel like when you compare Austin to Thoreau and Fuller, you get a more insider view. I think she compares them more within in nature rather than just writing descriptions which helps you understand the relationship she has with them. Its obvious that this land has more meaning to her than in the stories we have read before. You can see how indifferent Austin is when speaking about the land being developed. You can really understand that Austin has a relationship to this land when she begins to describe what it use to be like and how you can still see some of what it was before and what it is now. Whenever reading I feel like she's describing it with a sense of loss, that she knew it would always turn out that way but she still disagrees with it. I think that something we all can agree with, that no matter how pretty a part of land is and how much we enjoy it, there's always a sense of loss when we come back and its not the same way.

  5. i like Austin's view of the native americans better than thoreau's or Fuller's. she doesn't seem to have an idealized view of them as the other two do, and therefore i believe we get a more realistic depiction of the indians, which i find more interesting. perhaps no one who wasn't an actual indian living on the plains can ever give a completely accurate depiction of the indians but i believe Austin does a better job than Thoreau or Fuller

  6. It seems to me that Austin looks at her neighbor's field as something that would be better off without the influence of humans. She begins the chapter by describing the different people who have owned the field and have changed it in some way, whether it be the introduction of animals to the field, or the removal of native plant life. Right away she tells the reader that human interaction with the land is not beneficial to it at all, humans simply destroy the natural beauty that it did/can hold. She then goes on to describe the field in it's natural state under Naboth's care. Austin describes the plant life saying that plants are "unobtrusive in their material processes" which is a big contrast to the human interaction with the land. She then goes on to describe the way the plants in the field have their own blossoming time, unlike the human grown plants within the gardens around the field. She uses this comparison to state that the land would be much better without human interaction and that humans have a tendency to ruin the natural order of mother nature, which causes the natural world to lose it's true beauty.


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