Set In Sweet Water, In the western plains, where Captain Forrester could comfortably transport “friends from Omaha or Denver over from the station in his democrat wagon” (5) to his stately home, a story unfolds that pits two worlds against each other–that of an Ideal past and that of the grim present. The narrator assumes the perspective of a third person omniscient, able to provide Insight Into characters’ thoughts and motivations, and centers the novel on Marina Forrester and the men who surround her.
Yet what seems to Interest Catcher irately in this work is the conflict between two generations of pioneer men in the West and resulting redefinition of manhood during the lamina period between the late 1 9th and early 20th centuries. Largely, Nile Herbert fascination with Marina Forrester and the men whom she attracts drives the novel, for Nile observes Marina through the years–with an interest that mirrors that of Wintergreen in Henry Sesame’s Daisy Miller. Despite their age difference (he is 12 years old when he first meets Mrs..
Forrester), Nile becomes enthralled with Marina as an image of Victorian mysticism during his youth. She becomes an “angel of the house,” happily greeting visitors in a disheveled dressing gown, with her hair partially coiffed, or toting baskets of freshly baked cookies to the neighborhood boys playing near the stream on the Forrester grounds. While Nile is still a boy, the Captain assumes the role of a great protector who chooses not to drain his fields for more productive land, but rather magnanimously allows the creek to run through his pasture, because he can afford to and because he admires the beauty of the place.
This landscape becomes hemolytic, for when the Captain becomes ill and eventually dies, many changes take place at the homestead. For Catcher, the noble pioneer embodied by the Captain, who appreciates nature and values its beauty, finds replacement in the selfish modern man of Ivy Peters, who sees nature only In terms of resources waiting to be stripped and profits to be made. When Captain Forester’s health weakens, Ivy Peters moves onto Forester’s land and starts to assume his role as the dominant male In the household, replacing the grand, strong figure of the older railroad man.
Ivy makes the session to drain the Forrester’ meadowland, Instead planting wheat that will then be harvested and cut down. Catcher writes: “All the way from Missouri to the mountains this generation of shrewd, young men, trained to petty economies by hard times, would do exactly what Peters had done when he drained the Forrester marsh” (90). Here, Ivy acts as a symbol of a new generation of ruthless “shrewd young men” who ravage the landscape and strip the feminizes earth of her resources.
Yet Ivy will not only dominate the land; the beautiful woman, like the beautiful land, also Decodes a target AT exploration. Marlin Forrester Decodes Immediately Keenan to a bird when Nile returns after being away for two years from the Forrester and the town in which they live. When Nile first greets Marina, he does so by clasping her in his arms while she lay on a hammock, “like a bird caught in a net” (92).
This image of a bird becomes instrumental in Marina’s relationship to Ivy; if Marina is the bird, then is the cruel male who will mutilate her and show her his dominance increasingly. That Catcher would use this image of a bird in reference to Marina, after roving her reader with a dramatic scene of cruelty and abuse when Peters uses a tool from a taxidermy kit to slice the eyes of a female woodpecker he has captured in his hands, while calling her “Miss Female,” stands as something more than coincidence.
When the reader examines Ivy’s treatment of Mrs.. Forrester, one sees that she becomes more and more dependent on him and therefore must tolerate his disrespectful behavior. “Poison Ivy” will become the scourge that ravages the “forest” found in Marina Forrest(ere), subtly spreading and taking over her land. A casting image of Marina emerges from the story she tells about how she and Captain Forrester became married.
When Marina describes the scene in which she, crippled with two broken legs, is carried out of the ravine by men who took alternate turns in bearing her weight, an image of Captain Forrester holding the broken body of his wife reveals the Captain’s comfort in taking care of a dependent woman. Marina’s dependence does not threaten the Captain but draws them together. Marina submits to Captain Forrester and trusts that he will take care of her, for he represents the idealized image of masculinity that countered the Victorian “angel of the house” as the strong, dominant provider.
After her husband’s death, which leaves her disoriented like the blinded bird, without the Captain to carry her or give her a strong sense of noble masculinity from which to contrast herself, she must redefine her feminine female subject position against a new kind of male. Just as the new, modern male will exploit land and women, so will Marina learn to use her beauty as a commodity, in order to gain financial security within an increasingly commercialism world of men.
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