Noah M Alexi and Erdrich

By analyzing Louise Erdrich’s poem, “I was Sleeping Where the Black Oaks Move” alongside “Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist-Fight in Heaven,” it can be seen that the depression that is so prevalent in Sherman Alexi’s novel is not a new thing. Alexi’s fairly modern depiction of Native American life depicts a depression which manifests in rampant alcoholism. However, the roots of Native American struggles precede Alexi’s account of life on the reservation.

In Erdrich’s poem, she describes the widespread devastation of Governmental action against Native Americans as a metaphorical flood. In the first stanza, she writes, “We watched from the house, as the river grew, helpless, and terrible in its unfamiliar body. Wrestling everything into it, the water wrapped around trees, until their life-hold was broken. They went down, one by one, and the river dragged off their covering.” This powerful imagery is mirrored in the first chapter of Alexi’s novel. “The Hurricane” that Victor describes is the same devastation as Erdrich’s flood. It is an anger that still resides in all Native Americans frequently bubbles to the top such as Victor’s uncles violently fighting.

In “Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist-Fight in Heaven,” there are many instances of Victor’s people longing to be Indians as they once were: free and true to their ancient traditions. This is displayed when Victor and his friends do some sort of drug and imagine they are dancing around a fire just as their ancestors did. This same longing is reflected in the Erdrich poem in the final stanza. “Sometimes now, we dream our way back to the heron dance. From the time White oppression began to present day, Native Americans have sought to return to their former way of life; a life of freedom and rich culture.

Though there are clear similarities in the Erdrich poem and Alexi novel; primarily, the anger and longing the Native Americans feel, the way these frustrations are expressed present themselves quite differently in the two literary works. Erdrich describes feeling sad and observing the “alone, hoarse-voiced, broken herons.” In Alexi’s novel, the characters mostly resort to drinking alcohol to deal with this sadness. Erdrich depicts a more metaphorical, internal sadness while Alexi portrays the very visible alcoholic tendencies Native Americans have turned to try and cope. Both Erdrich and Alexi reveal the sadness and depression felt by Native Americans and remind us that this is not a new problem, only different symptoms.

Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist-Fight in Heaven

I Was Sleeping Where the Black Oaks Move

Noah ‘s post #2

By Noah Merenbloom

Welcome to my second reflection! I found our most recent batch of literature and film analysis particularly interesting. The parallels I saw between Dave Chappelle’s stand up specials, the guest lecturer on comedy ethics, and the current political and mass media culture made me question what is appropriate speech and if there is harm in being “too sensitive” or “overly PC.”


Dave Chappelle was the initial figure to open my eyes to this subject. I generally think of myself as someone who is easy going and rarely, if ever, offended by anything. However, upon watching the Chappelle specials on Netflix, I realized that, as a byproduct of my environment, I too had become an uptight, sensitive liberal. Dave spoke about how some things are just funny, even if the speech is not politically correct. Professor Robinson, who spoke on the ethics of comedy, also made me question if I was living an overly sensitive life. She, without hesitation, dropped curse words and did not stutter when reciting the great line, “Kick her in the pussy!”

When I compared Dave and Professor Robinson to what I was molded to believe, I was surprised to feel a tension in myself. It seems that the general message of the mainstream, liberal media that I am exposed to is to refrain entirely from politically incorrect speech at the risk of being labeled a bigot. Donald Trump often speaks without a filter. Certain moments of his speech could easily be labeled as inappropriate or politically incorrect and he is in fact, often called a bigot. Trump responds to these claims by saying that the American left and the mass media it too PC or overly sensitive.

So, how is it that Dave Chappelle and the Professor Robinson,  who are both clear supporters of sweeping equality, tolerance, and generally align themselves with the political left, have the same views on speech as Donald J Trump? This troubled me until I realized that this is what makes Dave Chappelle such a genius comedian. The title of the first part of the special says it all: Equanimity. Dave has already mastered it. He manages to roast Donald Trump using the same language that those against Trump hate. The result is a show that is funny, thought-provoking, and can be enjoyed by anyone.

Now I must find a way to navigate the thin line between reckless and purposeful speech. By erasing the words that offend us, we may be missing some of the greater picture. This does not mean it is alright to be rude to people but I now feel that words are, to an extent, just words. If I balance my words with actions that uphold the values I believe in, then I too can live a life of equanimity and maybe even become a famous comedian.

Noah M’s Short Reflection #1

By analyzing the Craft Narrative, I learned about not only the stark social and cultural differences between Northern and Southern citizens in America but of some surprising similarities in attitude regarding race and equality during the years leading up to the civil war.

An interesting social concept that Craft did a good job at highlighting was the way Southerners during the 1800s acted around and towards each other. The text showed how traditional values such as respect for elders and honor were engrained in the southern social culture. I found it almost funny that many times the Crafts escaped being caught solely because of the southern culture of respect. Ellen Craft was acting as a sickly white man. Many times the couple made it through because other southerners were raised not to question a white, sick man or give him a hard time. It seemed that the Northern society was generally less hostile, but did not adhere to the same social code as the Southerners.

In contrast with my previous ideas about Northern attitudes towards slaves, Craft’s narrative did a good job at exposing the racism that permeated Northern society. The racism the Craft’s experienced in the North was more subtle than that of the South but it was definitely present. An inn in the North was extremely reluctant to house the Craft’s when they presented themselves as an interracial couple. In fact, almost no inn in town would house them. There was no proudly proclaimed vulgar language or violence but the North was pretty racist in addition to the South, something that I didn’t totally realize before reading this text.

Despite all of the injustices presented to William and Ellen, Craft’s narrative is tame when compared to other slave narratives like Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Craft chose instead to use excerpts and poems from other writers to describe the most graphic or disturbing moments. Craft may have chosen to do this in order to preserve his credibility regarding a narrative that is as educational as it is exciting. Craft’s story was not particularly emotional. He told the events of his journey and provided the reader with real local and state laws to paint an objective, didactic picture of slavery in the early 1850s. When Craft wanted to show the pain and disgust felt by himself and other slaves, he employed passages from the bible or used poems from well-known poets like Cowper.

The extra texts within the Craft Narrative add to the writer’s credibility and help readers to believe that his written story is true and not exaggerated by emotion.