Disability in Chicamagua

A disability can be defined as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities”.  One’s disability can change perception of the world around them.  This is exactly what happens in Abrose Bierce’s Chicamagua.

In this short story, the main character, a little boy who is a deaf mute, has no idea that his entire world is  crumbling around him until he walks into his dead mother and sees his house on fire.  Bierce does well to portray the boy as a normal child enjoying a  day of make believe in the woods throughout the tale.  When the boy falls asleep, he cannot hear the war that is going on around him.  His world is peaceful.  When he awakes and stumbles upon the wounded men crawling toward his plantation, he does not hear the chaos of the battle or their cries of pain.  He can only rely on what he sees, and all he can relate their crawling to is a “horse play” game that workers on the plantation would play with him.  He uses the soldiers as a means of fun and plays alongside them as they are dying around him.  They are an exciting new development that allows him to join in and “play fight” alongside them, leading them into battle as  they crawl slowly behind him.

It is only at the end of the tale that the boy’s disability is made known and that he discovers that his world is crumbling.  He finds his plantation in flames and his mother fatally wounded by a shell. Had he been a abled boy, he might have heard the battle happening as he played in the woods and come home in time enough to warn his family.  Unfortunately his disability also highlighted his lack of awareness of the situation and that he had no idea of the tragedy occurring around him.  He experienced a moment of joy and fun while those around him were dying.

The boy with his impairment is constructed to be thought of as able. as the plot goes on, making his jumping on the bodies of dismembered and disabled soldiers seem even more grotesque.  His disability highlights his innocence and the innocence of children in general, especially during the violence of war.  In the end when he discovers his family home is destroyed, he becomes an object to be pitied, as many disabled persons are portrayed in narratives.  His naivety due to his deafness is “true” of many children as a whole during times of war.

The Other in Sherman Alexi’s work




Above are the links to the works of Sherman Alexi  which I will be discussing.

In his novels, Sherman Alexi focuses a lot on the concept of “otherness”.  Though he doesn’t out right mention this term, for the purposes of this post I will define it as being or identifying as  anything other than society’s accepted normal.  Sherman uses his stream of consciousness narrative form in these works to portray the thoughts and experiences of those who are perceived as different.  In my opinion that is a monumental part of why middle schools implement teaching his work in their curriculum, or at least why mine did.

Sherman wrote The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian from the perspective of a high school boy’s thought diary.  This boy was native american, and had a condition called Hydrocephalus which gives him a bit of a handicap, vision issues, and is overall an awkward underdog.  The novel highlights how he is bullied and mistreated, and how making any headway in life is harder for him systematically.  Alexi comments a lot on privilege in his works.  The main character in this novel becomes good enough at basketball that he is transferred to an all white school off the reservation where he meets a girl who is also an other.  She has bulimia.  Sherman highlights that being in a mixed relationship caused even more issues for the protagonist.  Everything was harder than it could be based on the kid’s identity.  Pointing out these differences in ability like he does through wit and sassy, sardonic monologues from the mind of a teenage boy draws in a young audience and makes them more willing to recognize and learn the lessons he is highlighting.

In his second work, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, Alexi pays even more homage to life on an indian reservation and how difficult it is to be non whites in a society that has systematically set “others” up to fail.  He highlights a corrupt BIA, and a history of poverty and alcoholism as well as the cycle of hope and apathy regarding the youth of the reservation.  Alexi provokes thought regarding those who identify in different ways in american society.  He emphasizes racism and need for change where there is no effort to make one.  He uses his narrative style to say some heavy things about how terrible society and life can be to and for Native American’s while providing comic relief that makes you cringe, sweat, and laugh all at the same time.  The jokes and comments made in his works are funny, true, and eye opening. He doesn’t provide means to or suggestions as to how to fix these situations.  That is not the point.  The point is to make his non “other” audience cringe and feel just as helpless to change as the Indians he write’s about.  Through the jokes he leaves them hanging hoping for something to smile about rather than laugh nervously about.  It is intended to provoke thought and the inspire the change necessary to better those who are different. He provides no answers for free just as society gives those who are different nothing that they don’t work twice as hard for.


In this blog post I will be discussing the marxist commentary within the short film Shift by Jonathan Yi.  This film can be found below:

Yi, Jonathan, director. ShiftShift, vimeo.com/25707410.

I want to bring to attention the description posted with the film on the director’s (Jonathan Yi’s) website.  The film is described as

“An award winning film about the rich, the not so rich, and the poor, and how a privileged middle class kid begins to understand someone else’s suffering. It also explores the false assumptions we bring to class, race, friendship and hatred”.

The film follows Alex Ye, as he works a night job surrounded by blue collared workers, in order to pay for his acting head shots.  The most striking and obvious comparison is made between Alex ad his co-workers.  He is working the job by choice, and doesn’t necessarily rely on it for a living.  The other workers surrounding him throughout the film work multiple jobs each.  Alex gets to see quite literally “How the Other Half Lives” as Jacob Riis, the famous American photographer demonstrates in his book (1890)  of the same name.

Riis, Jacob A., and Hasia R. Diner. How the Other Half Lives: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.

The compilation of photos vividly depict the slums of New York City at the time the book was published.  The book forced the elite to see the half of the city that they otherwise were blinded to.  Similarly, Alex shows up to his night shift at the mailing center just as blind to the “hard knocks” other’s live with.  We as viewers are able to see this when the conversation comes up about acting classes.    The other workers cannot understand why he would spend that much money on acting classes that are cheaper elsewhere.  The concept of money is blatantly different for the two classes.

Alex recognizes his privilege at the end of the film by not knocking on his rich friend’s door.  He has connections to help get him work elsewhere.  When he sees the gardener in the yard of his friend, he is reminded of what he has learned from his job and opts to find work himself.

The pendulum swings both ways in the film with regards to opening eyes.  The other workers learn not to assume things about Race as well.  I found this a bit ironic for how diverse the staff was as a whole prior to his arrival.  The workers are shocked that Alex does not eat rice or particularly asian dishes all the time.  Even though the Chinese employees opt to do so. I believe that Jonathan Yi is trying to educate the audience of his film about how much we depend on and use race to make assumptions (though many times inaccurate) about someone we have just met.  These assumptions, though unintentionally so in many cases, are racist microaggressions against others.  I believe that through presenting some of the most cringe worthy assumptions in a “day in the life” style film, he forces people to examine how these assumptions play into their own daily interactions.

The film director  (the character)  trying to get Alex to act the role of a Japanese person, played into the stereotype and  the exoticism  that dictates that Japanese people are to be feared (a racist mentality that dates back to WWII).  By requiring him to wear black face there are many layers of criticism at work within this one scene alone.

Hannah Neumann post 1 “I Am a Free Man Not a Slave”

I am writing this post on a short film I found titled “I am a Free Man Not a Slave.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ6MQ5Dyfow

This short film in summary is about a white slave owner walking his slave through the woods (Ain’t no grave can hold my body down is sung in the background).  The slave  (Named Jeremiah) is weak and falls.  When his master yells at him to get up Jeremiah argues back that he does not own him and that he is not a slave.  The master retorts that he is the god and that the slave is the devil, Jeremiah wrestles the master’s gun from him and the short ends with Jeremiah pointing the gun at him and cocking the hammer.

This film brings to light many of the ideas we discussed in class.  The idea of whites thinking they are superior is not new, and sadly in today’s society it is not completely gone.  This false sense of superiority reminded me of the evaporation of the white race in the Anglo African gallery piece we read.  Whites held slaves and became lazy and lost their humanity and physicality and through a lack of use of their “persondom” they vanished, and the world appeared to be a better place because of it.

The artist, Bernice, also overpowers his former master and imprisons him, turning the tables and reversing the roles.  This is typical of slave narratives, those telling the story of successful escape overpower, or outwit their masters leading to a life where they can be their own people and make their own rules.  Jeremiah is a particularly “pure” looking African character.  Many slave narratives such as that of Frederick Douglas mentioned in class, include a particularly strong and “pure” person of African descent.  This character often rebels and fights back overpowering the white masters, just as it is suggested that Jeremiah does in the short.  The “pure characters” in slave narratives hardly ever reverse the role as Bernice does in the Afric Gallery, physically imprisoning his former captor for the rest of his days.  Jeremiah is also an extreme case if we are to assume that as the hanging ending suggests, he kills his former master as well.  Both of these pieces add very radical ideas.  For the time in which it was written, particularly Bernice’s narrative within the gallery,  it shows the extreme retaliation no doubt linked with the frustration and suffering brought upon his race as demonstrated in the Gallery pieces as a whole collective.