Eponymous Blog Post (VIAL)

One or two things:

First, I didn’t explain eponymous correctly because of a brain malfunction. The character The Girl is eponymous because the novel The Girl is named after her. She is the title character.

But what I was looking to establish was that she functions as a kind of collective protagonist– not exactly an archetype, not strictly speaking an allegorical figure, but a character who stands in for an entire class of people. The Girl could be any girl from the same social stratum. This is why she has no name.

Again: in the language of another day– though this still doesn’t express it completely– The Girl is a type, a representative of her class, her kind. Le Sueur certainly had something like this in mind, because The Girl is a composite character– i.e., Le Sueur based The Girl on people she knew.

That character, then, embodies those young women of working-class origins confronted with a world that really doesn’t care all that much what happens to them. Like Carrie Meeber from Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, The Girl represents a set of social relations and identities: poor, poorly educated, female, vulnerable, yearning, up against a cold, exploitative society which views her as a body to be used for pleasure, as a worker who can be underpaid, as a commodity in essence rather than as a person. The Girl is disposable. She is not unique. There are thousands upon thousands just like her, struggling to survive and, with luck, thrive. Her only hedge against a social situation which would consign her to the ash heap lies with her ability to establish and cultivate connections with others, to locate a place where the life in her might grow. Again: she is a type. And, allegorically, she embodies a social situation and a principle or force. (The latter will become clear once you’ve reached the end of the novel.) You might (i.e. should) think about these ideas as you continue to read.

Second: Cultural memory. We could also call this collective memory or popular memory. It is a form of history, a memory that is held in common or shared rather than individual. Think about those historical events which are known by virtually everyone who is American by birth or adoption. Here’s an example. Which of these dates are the most familiar to you?

1. Dec. 7, 1941

2. Sept. 11, 2001

3. July 4, 1776

4. Dec. 10, 1898

5. Dec. 29, 1890

You got the first 3, right? But, odds are, not the last two. Why is that? Because the culture, the nation, prioritizes some aspects of history over others. Hollywood is infinitely more interested in Dec. 7, 1941– the date of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor– than in Dec. 10, 1898– the date the US and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris which turned the Philippines into an American colony.

But this isn’t simply a matter of dates. Most of us probably couldn’t recall the date of the Mexican attack on the Alamo, though surely we’re well-schooled in what happened there and what it might symbolize.

Cultural memory is a kind of informal and very selective history deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness of the nation. It is full of gaps, romanticizations, and distortions. Against the cultural memories of the nation– events and figures which are held to be significant, a significance which all of us are solicited to acknowledge, there are counter-memories or the cultural memories of groups who may inhabit a marginal position with regard to the rest of the nation. Does anybody know what Juneteenth is? What happened at the Stonewall Inn on the 28th of June in 1969? Who was Lucy Gonzalez Parsons? Big Bill Haywood? Ricardo Flores Magón?

5 thoughts on “Eponymous Blog Post (VIAL)

  1. Jessica Ross

    We just discussed Big Bill Haywood in my History of California class, he started the Industrial Workers of the World, a union that basically wanted to unite all workers, unskilled or not and he believed that if the workers had control of the means of production, they could push aside factory owners and have control of things (ie: wage control, safety regulations etc..) Seen as essentially communist, Big Bill grew up in a mining town in Colorado as an orphan and was blind in one eye. He even taught himself to read. He was later accused of murder in Colorado and fled the country to join the Soviet Union, where he is now buried. The first line of the Workers of the World constitution is “the working class and the employer have nothing in common.”

  2. Jessica Ross

    I think he lost it in a mining accident when he was just a kid but I could be wrong… want to elaborate?

    1. apciv Post author

      “Most of the boys in the camp had slingshots. I was going to make one for myself. I was back of the house trying to cut a handle from a scrub-oak, when the knife slipped and penetrated my eye. They sent me to Salt Lake immediately for medical attention, and for months I was kept in a dark room But the sight was gone.”

      — The Autobiography of Big Bill Haywood

      He was about 9 years old.

  3. Lauren Grace Gonzales

    We actually discussed Juneteenth and the significance of it in my Black Family Studies class. Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865 when the Blacks in Galveston, Texas finally knew of their freedom–more than three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted on January 1, 1863. Our professor discussed that this was a celebration of oppression not liberation, focusing on the harshness of Black Life.

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