Man vs The World

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A few questions were asked to be addressed in this blog and also a comparison between two versions of a song was requested.

In what ways was John Henry's story a tall-tale? Well of course this story was in fact a tall-tale as the true identity of which John Henry was THE John Henry was unknown.  There was no proof even of the exact location where this occurred.  Even though many people backed their theories up with evidence, no single theory was proven.  Although this is true, I have to agree with a speaker in Wade's report when he claimed that it almost does not matter.  The story of triumph is enough. 

How is it social commentary? John's Henry's story, no matter who John Henry is or where he came from, is a story about triumph for man kind, especially the man who has suffered from inequalities.  Such men, even today, can hold onto this story for hope and the strength to make changes in their own worlds. 

Is it primarily a story about technology or race? And is it too simplistic to just say "both"?
I think it is obvious that this story addresses both man vs. technology and man vs. white society, but I agree that it does not stop there.  I believe after reading his overall story, listening to Wade's report, and reading different versions of songs, that John Henry is a man that was going up against the world he was living in.  This statement actually leads me right into my comparison between my two songs. 

I compared the early version and the construction crew version.  I found that the later of the two did a better job at addressing more conflicts that man face in the world they live in.  The first one that jumped out was identity.  In this song, John Henry was introduced as a man first and a steel worker second.  In the earlier version, he was only mentioned as a "railroad man".  References to "white man" flooded the text in the construction version, which brought up the issue of race.  The idea of being faithful to one's partner could be found in this version as well: The early version had John Henry's lady claiming "I've been true to you" but in the construction version Henry's lady did not claim this until AFTER his victory, "I'll be true to you".  The final world issue in the construction crew version was religion when God was referenced in the concluding sentence.  This sentence also got the message across in order to be a good steel-driving man do not forget how you got there; "yo hammah an' yo" God"  The early version mainly focused on man vs. technology. 
 


3 Comments

Jeremy Barricj said:

I'm glad that you mentioned the social aspect of John Henry was about triumph. I sort of hinted to that in my blog. Overcoming suffering.

Katie Lantz said:

I agree Jessica. In fact, I posted something quite similar on my blog. John Henry cannot simply be summed up as a simple folklore, because his story is much more complex.

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