36.4: Men Are Like Plants; They’re Weak
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Farmer James is likely the most indecisive author I have ever encountered. America is a safe haven for the miserable, except when it’s not. Americans are respectable and self-governing, except when they’re not. In the middle of the reading, he personifies America, “Welcome to my shores, distressed European; bless the hour in which thou didst see my verdant fields, my fair navigable rivers, and my green mountains!” (27). He believes that America is the answer to the prayers of poor and starving European men. However, as the story progresses, he seems to negate his original points. He implies that hunting destroys Americans character. He says that once a man is removed from civilization, and left by himself, he leaves his identity behind. “These new manners, being grafted on the old stock, produce a strange sort of lawless profligacy, the impressions of which are indelible” (25). So they are not self-governing at all, it seems that they are completely subject to their settings.
My favorite example of his wishy washiness is the expression “men are like plants”, which has different connotations throughout the story. He’s straightforward the first time he uses it, “Men are like plants; the goodness and flavor of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow” (21). I believe most people agree that one’s upbringing doesn’t matter as much, people with bad childhoods, and/or who grew up in bad neighborhoods, can still be good and happy people. Here, this guy is saying that men are super influential and defenseless to their surroundings, like tiny dandelions. Don’t men have like, backbones and inner strength? Not according to Farmer James. He hints at the expression a couple of other times, but it doesn’t really add up. After reading, I tried to come up with what he really meant. I came up with something like this; men are like plants, they are diverse in origins, and they have specific purposes. However, they are both concerningly weak and easily manipulated by their surroundings. They have the potential to grow and thrive, or they wither and die.
He becomes very sad towards the end of the reading, when he realized what we all already knew; colonial America was the worst. On page 34, he talks lovingly about his family, and how they make him sad, because he knows that they are just as miserable as he is. This guy really thought America was going to save him.