American Writers And The SaccoVanzetti Case — страница 8

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(NEW, 50). Her violent anger is another kind of "sentiment," not sympathy but outrage, also taboo as an unseemly emotion. Unable to align herself wholeheartedly with either the women`s clubs, the anarchists, or the communists, Porter is exemplary of the fellow traveler who is committed in opposition to a specific injustice but not committed to a particular totalizing critique of its cause. This negative stance is both the virtue and the weakness of the fellow traveler, who remains uncontaminated but isolated and therefore powerless. Porter recognizes the explosiveness of Sacco and Vanzetti`s particular political loyalty, with its reputation for violence: "A fearful word had been used to cover the whole list of prejudices and misinformation, and in some deeply

mysterious way, their [Sacco and Vanzetti`s] name had been associated with it — Anarchy … not even the word `Communism` struck such terror, anger, and hatred into the popular mind" (NEW, 6). Sometimes Porter endorses an anarchist assessment of the ills of society, and at other times she voices the most stereotypical objection to the elimination of government, as in the following passage: Fascism, Nazism, new names for very ancient evil forms of government — tyranny and dictatorship — came into fashion almost at the same time with Communism … But Anarchy had been here all the nineteenth century, with its sinister offspring Nihilism, and it is a simple truth that the human mind can face better the most oppressive government, the most rigid restrictions, than the

awful prospect of a lawless, frontierless world. Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity; it brings out the old raiding, oppressing, murderous instincts, the rage for revenge, for power, the lust for bloodshed. (NEW, 7) This Hobbesian passage exposes the limits of Porter`s political thinking, assuming the worst of human beings` "instincts" and ultimately preferring oppression to freedom. In her memoir Porter imagines political engagement not in terms of a conversion narrative but of a fall from grace, from "youthful" faith in humanity and optimism about the future into "mature" disillusionment and pessimism. She affirms the value of sentiment but sees it as impotent, writing of Vanzetti`s final words, his

idealism: "It is very grand and noble in words and grand, noble souls have died for it — it is worth weeping for. But it doesn`t work out so well" (NEW, 61 ). The end of Millay`s poem situates the "we" in a posture of resignation; similarly, Porter describes the mood after the executions: " In my whole life I have never felt such a weight of pure bitterness, helpless anger in utter defeat, outraged love and hope as hung over us in that room" (NEW, 48). Porter and Millay`s written responses to the Sacco-Vanzetti case are personal and epiphanic, and in this they contrast with Upton Sinclair`s Boston, a novel over 750 pages long which attempts to detail every aspect of the case. Sinclair considered himself a socialist, but he had read and been

influenced by Kropotkin`s books, Mutual Aid and Appeal to the Young. [27] In the author`s preface Sinclair calls Boston "a contemporary historical novel" and acknowledges that it is "an unusual art-form," compounded of real and imaginary characters (B, xxxv). Boston is not a roman ? clef ; the historical characters – Sacco, Vanzetti, Judge Thayer, Governor Fuller, and others involved in the trial — are called by their real names. "The story has no hero but the truth," Sinclair explained, " and its heroines are two women, one old and the other young, who are ardently seeking the truth" (B, xxxvi). Howard Zinn refers to the novel`s "feminist impulse," explaining that Sinclair`s first wife, Meta Fuller, had given him Charlotte

Perkins Gilman`s Women and Economics which, along with subsequent feminist reading, led Sinclair to support birth control and pay for housewives, among other women`s issues. [28] His choice of an older (sixty-year-old) woman as the main character is particularly striking in light of the conventions of the novel: the German Bildungsroman, the young Frenchman from the provinces who comes to the city, the protagonist of the modernist novel who is, like Joseph K. of The Trial, a thirty-year-old man. Sinclair, who received a lot of hate mail, was attacked for his feminist beliefs; in a response to one, he wrote," I am grateful to you for your kindness in seeking to educate me, but I think I ought to explain to you that you are dealing with a hopeless case. I was one of the few