Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jane Addams, "House of Dreams" 1910

"Who Can Blame Them?"

Its amazing what an outlet of escape can do for someone going through a harsh reality with no hope of seeing a better life for themselves. Once you give that person that outlet, even for a second, they will want more and more of it to escape the reality that they are living. Now imagine if that someone was a child, where dreams and heroes are the top two priorities in their reality and their future.

Jane Adams wrote a piece called “House of Dreams” in 1910 that basically discusses the relationship between the “wage earning child” and the magical escape of the theater. A child naturally craves the possibilities that a life of flying people and happy endings exists. The theater, at the time, would give that to them. The theater was able to show children that a life of heroism could exist and this hope became a drug to most children.

But what children did not have was the mind capacity to decipher the images from right and wrong. They just see these images as their own prediction of what their future needs to be. For example, in the text, there is a theater showing about a boy that witnesses the death of his parents by five robbers. As the boy grows older, (from age 7 -10) he vows vengeance on the robbers that killed his family and winds up killing them one by one. After doing this, he prays to GOD and thanks him for the blessing of vengeance. To a child, this is viewed as a heroic action that needs to be done if that circumstance ever happened to them. But the underlying tone of that story is to kill to get “your reward”. And the fact that there was a religious reference to the story impacts the child as the “right” thing to do.

In another showing, there is a mother and three children, two young boys and a baby. The mother sees her crying baby and asks the two young boys to beg in the streets so they can get money to feed the hungry baby. As the two boys were begging, they spot a gun and steal it. They then use it on a store clerk and then shoot the man to steal $200.00. They rush home to drop down on their hands and knees to thank GOD for their blessing. Once again, the child sees that the two boys saved his family by getting the money for food, but in order to get the money, you must kill to get it…eliminate the obstacle. Never the less of their somewhat sinister undertones, this impartial reality was an outlet for children to escape the over-dense, industrial life that they had to serve.

When a child was taken away from their “House of Dreams”, they would try to get it back in the way their fantasy characters would have. In the text, there was a reported incident of a girl that was in jail for stealing flowers. She stole the flowers to make a fancy hat for herself because the boy that she was dating says that all girls should be pretty. This boy that she was dating also was the one to take her to the theater every week. She was so afraid that if she did not look pretty for him he would dump her and she would never get a chance to go to the theater again.

Yes, theater was an outlet for all to get a chance to go to a place where their gray colored world was transformed into the brightest of all colors. But at what price did they have to pay to get that rush of fantasy. Children misconstrued most of these theatrical showings and tried to apply them into their own reality. But who can blame them when your working in a mill for fourteen hours and bringing home enough a week to feed one out of a family of five.

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At 12:35 PM, Blogger A. Mattson said...

You need to re-format the second paragraph. It can't be read at the moment. Always check how the post looks after publishing.


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