December 10, 2010
In drafting the inside and outside space/place essay, my main focus was to give a vivid description of a place near and dear to my heart. Though essentially I spoke about the same place in both essays, there was no shortage of description involved within the analysis. Though more description than analysis proved to be somewhat detrimental to the overall outcome of my score, I couldn’t help but notice similarities in description to those of Thoreau in his readings we covered this semester. Being that it proved detrimental the first two attempts, I would rather focus more upon the correlation of analysis with Cable’s Belles Demoiselles Plantation than the descriptive nightmare that is Thoreau. Through literary works of Hubbard and Cable, we can analyze not only the similarities with my inside and outside space/place essays, but also decipher what makes this place a place.
Phil Hubbard personified the course from day one when we first read his essay describing space and place. From the beginning of the course, the focus was to define space and place within our various readings. The two terms, after all were posed as sort of a brain buster to the class as we were asked what we thought the two terms meant. As various answers were given, we would learn that the two terms often had close to the same definition. According to Hubbard, this is indeed the case for the most part when trying to differentiate their meanings. Hubbard tells of these two terms as being “fuzzy concepts” that are often “used interchangeably”. Many times throughout the course we saw these two terms used similarly in instances, much like in Cable’s Belles Demoiselles Plantation, or maybe a home, landscape, or a region. Hubbard defines a place as “typically understood as a distinctive (and bounded) location defined by the lived experiences of people”. When sampling from an essay of Yi-Fu Tuan, Hubbard seems to take the next step into this analysis of what makes a place a place, describing the “emotional attachment” exclusive only to that of a place, not a space. The emotional attachment between house and home and family are what led me to analyze the story of Belles Demoiselles plantation against my own places I’ve written about.
There is an enormous emotional attachment within the story of the Belles Demoiselles Plantation. Within the first four paragraphs of the essay, the story is defined as Hubbard had said
On the plantation stood a great mansion. This mansion was Belles Demoiselles, “the seven beautiful daughters for whom their home had been fitly named Belles Demoiselles”. The house itself was old.
“The house stood unusually near the river, facing eastward, and standing four-square, with an immense veranda about its sides, and a flight of steps in front spreading broadly downward, as we open arms to a child. From the veranda nine miles of river were seen; and in their compass, near at hand, the shady garden full of rare and beautiful flowers; farther away broad fields of cane and rice, and the distant quarters of the slaves, and on the horizon everywhere a dark belt of cypress forest”
Ah yes, the description. Much like myself before ever realizing the similarities in passion and beauty of such a description, there is, just like in my own place, a house. This house, to me is nothing short of the key to my childlike heart. Much like this house, it was merely a house until it was named. For the Count it was Belles Demoiselles, beautiful. For me, it was Tante’s house, my little German aunt in the country.
Belles, meaning beautiful, characterizes the Count’s beautiful daughters. So beautiful, in fact, that he so fitly named an entire estate after them. This goes as far as to suggest that though there was a family tie to the estate, that the bond between daughter and father is what made the estate what it was, more so than the shear size of it. To the Count, there was no place like it, as was the case for me. This would prove true as the Count attempted to purchase Charlie’s home.
“Now the long-standing wish to buy out Charlie troubled the Colenel. He had no desire to oust him unfairly; he was proud of being always fair; yet he did long to engross the whole estate under on title.”
Charlie lived in a house owned under the De Charleu family. Charlie is a new generation of the family, living under the name De Carlos. The point of buying out old Charlie was to keep the name of De Charleu alive. It was never about Charlie’s house however. His house was just a house. As opposed to the plantation home, there was no significant value to that of old Charlie’s run-down home on the estate. Yet it was the family tie; the upholding of the old family name that drove the Colonel to want to buy the estate from Charlie. Charlie, aside from all the tries of the Colonel would always decline because he was content with his home. See, to the Colonel, Charlie’s home would best be classified as a space, nothing more than what Hubbard describes as simply a landscape. To Charlie, this was a place, his home: the object “expressed in the landscape” (Hubbard 43). What is interesting about the situation between the Colenel and Charlie is the aspect of family. Without family, both homes would essentially mean nothing besides a place of rest. Other than family and rest, the estate itself is essentially falling apart, seeming to mean that family is the only thing holding it together.
“Belles Demoiselles, the realm of maiden beauty, the home of merriment, the house of dancing, all in the tremor and glow of pleasure, suddenly sunk, with one short, wild wail of terror –sunk, sunk down, down, down, into the merciless, unfathomable flood of the Mississippi.”
At first sight, this brought the Colonel to his knees in tears, as it seemed his livelihood was sinking into the Mississippi along with his home. The plantation itself stood for pride and identity. Outsiders looked it at as a positive welcoming place, very symbolic of a family atmosphere. It is something that could never be traded or bargained for much like the houses of De Charleu and De Carlos.
My place is simple. It might not be a mansion sitting on top of a hill next to a river, but I, at one time called it home away from home. The town itself was simply nothing compared to the house itself. The house itself was one of the nicer ones on the block, but if nobody had known that house and what it stood for, it would be another house. By understanding what the house meant and what it stood for, one would have had to live there and interact within it to fully understand the emotional toll that comes with giving that house the meaning it has. The differences between these two essays is on sort of a deeper level. Where the house itself was lost, but family was preserved in Cable's story, the family was what was lost from my place. This is not to say that this loss now means my place is now a space, but rather that the nostalgia associated with myself and that house still holds that sense of placeness within my heart.
I chose to relate my writings to that of Cable's Belles Demoiselles Plantation because of the relation between place and family. The emotional tie that binds the two, as defined by Hubbard are what truly distinguish these essays as places. Just as a house is merely a house, or simply a placeless space with no attachment, emotion and warmth, followed by security and authenticity are what distinguish it as a place.