Rachel’s New Historical Analysis of the Song “Find the Cost of Freedom”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfd-Xmdu08Y[/youtube]

Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground. Mother Earth will swallow you; lay your body down.

“Find the Cost of Freedom” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young was written during the Vietnam War and a year after the Kent State shooting (which is referred to in the band’s song “Ohio,” published in the same album), during which four students were killed by the National Guard in response to an anti-Vietnam War protest on the college’s campus (“The Pacifica Radio”). I found that the lyrics could also be viewed from a New Historical perspective, due to the ideologies that the lyrics are portraying.

Firstly, it is important to note that the lyrics, which comprise only of two sentences, address two very different (albeit related) ideas. When looking at the first, it is important to remember that, when using the New Historical critical theory, it is important to understand exchanges of power; the phrase “find the cost of freedom” suggests that freedom is something that can be bought and sold. According to Tyson, “the exchange of ideas,” which in this situation would be the concept of freedom, would occur through “the various discourses a culture produces” (284). When looking at the entire sentence “Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground,” it seems that the discourse could be the idea that in the past, freedom has only ever been achieved through violent means, always resulting in death. Therefore, the band is stating an ideological view of the past, in which, for sake of freedom, the necessary power exchange has always been the lives of people.

The second sentence is very different, because it is no longer trying to make us aware of how we must view past occurrences. Rather, it tries to tell us what is happening “now,” or, in this case, the time to which it applies (the Vietnam War). “Mother Earth will swallow you; lay your body down” is vocalizing a discourse about the present situation. However, this discourse is not very concerned about what exactly should be done, besides the necessity of death; it may therefore apply to both the soldiers dying in Vietnam as well as the protestors dying in the United States. Regardless of who exactly is being referenced in this the song, it is accepting the ideology displayed in the previous sentence, acknowledging that, yes, one must die for the sake of freedom and one should not fight against this fate. Rather, as we are all part of the exchange of power, we must acknowledge that our fate is death, and we should not resist it, so we should willingly “lay [our bodies] down.” Mother Earth will swallow us and we will be buried in the ground alongside those whose lives were exchanged for freedom in the past. We too will become the cost of freedom.

The idea of self-martyrdom is not foreign to this time period of American history, which is why it is valid to consider it to be an ideology of the time. One of the most extreme forms of this ideology can be seen in acts of self-immolation by certain groups of protestors (this is most often done by setting oneself on fire). Such radical acts occurred at least eight times during the anti-Vietnam War riots and marches. It is important to note that this song is not suggesting that listeners burn themselves to death for the cause of peace. That being said, it is quite clear that, because one should “lay [one’s] body down,” the ideology of self-sacrifice in general, whether as violent as hurting oneself or as unintentional as being caught in crossfire, is the ultimate price for freedom. Therefore, in viewing the deaths at Kent State as martyrs, as well as continuing to participate in protests and riots against the war despite the danger to one’s life, very many people living and taking action during the Vietnam War took part in the ideology that, sometimes, death is necessary for the attainment of freedom.

(Additionally, I have shared the song “Ohio,” which is referenced above. Besides being a great song, the youtube video also contains a good picture compilation of the riots that took place in response to the Vietnam War, as well as the Kent State shooting.)

 [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCS-g3HwXdc[/youtube]

Work Cited:

“The Pacifica Radio/UC Berkeley Social Activism Sound Recording Project: Anti-Vietnam War Protests in the San Francisco Bay Area & Beyond.” Media Resources Center. Library, University of California, Berkeley, 10 May 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

 

Rachel’s Bridge to the Blog

In class, we briefly addressed the idea of authority and authority figures. I noticed that in Alice in Wonderland, authority over situations and over Alice, herself, switches very often between characters. When looking closer, I realized that there is a rather consistent pattern.

Whenever Alice is in the presence of other characters (no matter who they are or how intelligent they seem to be), she immediately looks to them for guidance, and gives them authority over the situation, as well as authority over her. In certain situations, it does not even take another character for Alice to transfer authority away from herself. For example, when she encounters the bottle with the label that says “‘DRINK ME,’” Alice is very eager to give the authority to the bottle, so to speak, and follow its instructions (she does so without much thought) (Carrol 10). Similarly, when the Rabbit mistakes her for Mary Ann and orders her to go back to the house to fetch gloves for him, “Alice was so much frightened that she ran off at once in the direction it pointed to, without trying to explain the mistake that it had made,” which reveals Alice’s strict habit of listening to authority figures, even though she is the one who allows these figures to have authority over her in the first place; why else would she feel obliged follow orders given to her by a rabbit? (26). Such situations arise with most of the other characters with which Alice interacts (so far, these characters include the mouse, the caterpillar, the pigeon, the Footman, the Duchess, and the Cheshire Cat).

On the other hand, Alice seems to be quite uncomfortable when she is on her own and forced to make her own decisions. This is made especially clear when she says, “‘I do wish they would put their heads down! I am so very tired of being alone here!” (16) Notably, this feeling of uncertainty would seem to be a natural instinct for a little girl who is very lost, so in most cases, such fear would not seem be worthy of discussion. However, the way she copes with this fear makes it appear that, when she is alone and finally forced to make her own decisions, she does not simply make the decisions and act upon them, as a normal person would. Rather, she seems to actively transfer the authority over her and the situation in which she is (usually authority that is controlled by somebody else) from the absent authority figures to herself in such a way that it seems as though there is a part of Alice that is in charge, and a part of Alice that is following Alice-in-charge’s orders. This is clear when she talks to herself: “She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it)” (12). She seems to adopt so much authority over herself that she even disciplines herself when she believes that she has misbehaved, such as the times when “she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game” (12). The situations in which she looks to herself for guidance occur very frequently within the text.

This vein of thought could get pretty interesting when psychoanalytically reading Alice’s double personality (is she transferring her parents’ roles onto herself and other characters in the story for some unexplored reason?), but do you think that it could also just be her subconscious’s final resort at attempting to find an authority figure in herself (or a portion of herself) when a reliable external one isn’t present?

Contradiction Between the Tyson Readings?

When I first started reading the Tyson essays, I thought that the different readings and interpretations of The Great Gatsby would contradict one another and become rather confusing. However, I feel as though the different forms of criticism are actually helping me to understand the depth of the text much better.

Nevertheless, it is a little bit difficult to see the same quotations used to try to prove rather contrasting points in neighboring chapters (an example of this would be New Criticism’s interpretation of the “valley of ashes” on pg. 151 as a portrayal of “the narrative tension between the corrupt world of the novel and its title character,” whereas, on pg. 72, Marxist Criticism interprets it as a “powerfully chilling image of the life led by those who do not have the socioeconomic resources of the Buchanans”).

Do you think that the differing critical reading strategies contradict or add to/build on one another in relation to your understanding of The Great Gatsby?

Gatsby’s Superficiality

Just putting a question out there:

Is it ironic that The Great Gatsby primarily portrays the narrator’s (Nick’s) study of a character (Jay Gatsby) who does not really seem to exist? He appears to be so incredibly superficial, and I’m trying to figure out the purpose for this. Is it meant to be a portrayal of the culture and shallowness of the time’s nouveau riche, or of post-traumatic stress disorder from the war (displaying that even wealth cannot cure psychological damage), or something else entirely?