After reading Franklin Evans I was shocked and in some ways proud of this book. I enjoyed it! It was interesting and it made me think a lot about how we as New Yorkers drink sociably and enjoy life. Some of us drink more wisely than others, but alcohol is a big part of our lives. It keeps our society in the city more sociable, connected, and networked. I think if Franklin Evans (Whitman) came to the city in this era he would have a different experience, he would have seen a different side of consumption. I do have to say alcoholism has a bad influence to our society. It has destroyed families and corrupted many lives.
Some of us in this generation are very aware about alcoholism and the consequences it can have on our lives, but I believe our generation is also more in tuned with life, technology and trends. I am not trying to ignore the matter, but simple state how I see this glorious city with alcohol. As a New Yorker, living in Manhattan I guess I see alcohol differently. Around my neighborhood there are bars on most corners which are full of life, happiness and energy. Most of my friends and family drink to enjoy, celebrate and have a good time. It is not depressing to me because my friends and family do not drink to hide problems or to drink their sorrows away, but to celebrate. I think Whitman would have seen the city through happier eyes; he would have been free to express and write the way he wanted to. In Whitman’s poetry he always expresses himself as united with his surroundings. He seemed to write about the city with expressions of love, and disparity for those who were helpless. He seemed to be the voice of those who were prisoners and slaves,( a little bit like himself at times). There was always a tone of patriotism in his voice when reading his work. In Franklin Evans, Whitman’s view of his city is a total opposite to Leaves of Grass.
“The novel is of Franklin Evans who is the country mouse who comes to ruin in the wicked city. Led astray by evil companions, he takes one swig of wine in a tavern and sets himself on the downward path. As wine bibbing leads to harder stuff, the hapless Evans becomes a puppet of the demon rum. His forays into low dives and dance halls cost him his job, wreck his marriage, contribute to his saintly wife’s death, and quickly bring him to a life of petty crime.
Evans is a maddening protagonist, utterly lacking in will or initiative; he’s a sort of moral polyp afloat in a bottle. Even so, the course of his downfall isn’t completely predictable. As if to show how low drink can bring a man, Whitman has Evans move to Virginia where he falls in love with Margaret, a “creole” slave whom he marries but comes to hate. In her “swarthiness,” Margaret embodies sheer animal appetite; she personifies Evans’s own thirst for drink. Interestingly, she’s the only character who pulses with a semblance of life. Maddened by jealousy, “the wretched Creole” poisons the genteel Mrs. Conway, a luscious widow whom Evans wants to take as his mistress. These are the ugliest chapters in the novel, made more distasteful by Whitman’s shameless attempts to play on race for sensational effect. But this is, of course, a tale of redemption. Evans takes the temperance pledge. He ends up inheriting a fortune from a benefactor. Whitman’s moral is clear: Sobriety isn’t just virtuous, it can be lucrative too”. http://www.nysun.com/arts/dominion-of-the-liquor-fiend/61491/retrieved on 12-08-09
The stanza I chose has ran with me through-out this class, from the first time I read this stanza and I fell in love with it. I did most of my projects surrounding it as well as this. I did two videos in different rooms reading the same part of the poem. The reason I chose this location to read my poem is that I felt very alive and happy at this location. It reminded me of little scenes which I saw while reading Franklin Evans. The part with me in the bathroom I felt signifies me celebrating who I am and how times have changed. Whitman always spoke of “ I Am, You” which brought the reader closer to him, but after reading some of his work and biography, I felt as though in some ways he was not being true to himself and who he was. Franklin Evans seemed to be a part of him that he never spoke about, a part that never came out (unconscious part). Being in a stall was liberating, I felt a little like Franklin Evans experiencing alcohol. Just in a better way. The second scene was in a velvet dining room while having dinner and drinks, it reminded me of a reading we did of Charles Dickens when he came to NYC and spoke of it in terrible ways. The remembrance was of the ladies in their bright clothing, the red velvet room felt like that, it was like an evil room of uncertainties. Just like Franklin’s experiences in the city.
My video may be a little different due to the location, but this is where I found Whitman.