In the mid-nineteenth century , the “penny newspaper” could be found on almost every American urban street corner. These penny papers, as they were popularly called, provided the American people for the first time in history with informative articles about local city events, incidents, and, more importantly, inner-city crime. These penny rags revealed an entirely new world to the American citizens; they were informed for the first time of the many heinous crimes and murders that occurred right in the vicinity of their own houses. At a time when America was first being introduced to such local injustices, it is quite understandable that penny papers claiming to present factual accounts of local life and crime would be a primary source of intrigue. Americans were known to daily purchase these papers for a penny apiece just to satisfy their hungry curiosities. However, the journalists of these penny papers, in hopes of increasing their paper sales, would frequently exaggerate or sensationalize actual incidents of murder or robbery to the point where they bore little or no resemblance to the real-life occurrences they initially observed. A simple accident, for example, would be spotlighted as a foiled attempt at a brutal murder, and a single murder would often be written up as a gruesome massacre. The more outlandish these articles became, the more likely Americans were to purchase them.
The demand for sensationalism became so popular among the American people, in fact, that many journalists often resorted to creating completely exaggerated stories of common everyday people when they ran out of actual crime related incidents about which to to exaggera…
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… to ridiculously invent a sensational crime where there clearly is no crime, Poe may very well be suggesting that the penny press reporters of the nineteenth century were not to be trusted because they, too, were nothing more than outright liars about common everyday incidents. In this light, it can be said that Poe’s short story “The Man of the Crowd”, is a story meant to suggest that the sensational, wild criminals who were so frequently presented in the articles of the penny press papers of his time were actually nothing more than everyday common people of the crowd.
Crawford, Nelson Antrim. The Ethics of Journalism. New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1969. 42, 46-47, 110-111.
O’Neill Edward. The Complete Poems and Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe With Selections From his Critical Writings. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973. 308-314.
Comparing the Role of the Black in the South in Clotelle and Absalom, Absalom!
Role of the Black in the Southern Family as Evidenced in Clotelle and Absalom, Absalom!
Southern Literature, more than anything else, is a discussion of the family. And in the family, particularly the Southern family, no question is as pivotal–or causes as many disputes–as “who belongs?” Southern Literature has been, in many ways, a canon of exclusion. From a culture built upon controlling and utilizing an entire race for the express purpose of advancing another, a canon of yearning and despair is left. And in no place is this as clear as within the family, the unit by nature designed to nurture and support–and ultimately overcome. Stereotypically, the family longed for by every Southerner is one of impeccable repute, a white triumph, clean of any African blood, with a heritage predating the Revolution and a lineage reaching beyond the next millennium. Clotelle, by William Wells Brown, is an appeal to the Southern ideal that African-Americans do not and can not fit into the traditional, lily-white aristocratic familial structure which ruled the South during his time–and reigned for many years thereafter. Traditional Southern canon emphasizes the Thomas Sutpens–of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! –who ejects African-Americans from his family (as he attempts to create a new one), and men like the Sheriff of Charles W. Chesnutt’s “The Sheriff’s Children,” who sells a pregnant slave–carrying his unborn mulatto child–into slavery. The advancement and protection of one’s name is also highlighted by Sutpen and by Clara Hohlfelder in another Chesnutt tale, “Her Virginia Mammy.” These are ideals which Brown understands and resists, and tries–ultimately in vain–to defy. Clotelle does not adjust itself to the tr…
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…ildren are born as a result–are disposed of as quietly as possible, in order to keep the familial superstructure as maximally pure as possible. A white man does not marry a slave, or make a respectable woman of her. He keeps her and his child in a shed outside of town, he sends them to New Orleans, or sells them to the rice swamps to toil under the whip for the remainder of their lives. Southern literature excludes the African-American from its families, thus robbing her of her identity and forcing her to become a mere brick in the base below the superstructure.
Brown, William Wells. Clotelle. Miami: Mnemosyne Publishing, 1969.
Chesnutt, Charles W. “Her Virginia Mammy” and “The Sheriff’s Children.” Collected Stories of Charles W. Chesnutt. New York: Penguin, 1992. 114-148.
Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! New York: Vintage, 1990.