Were the Twenties Roarin’?

In the 1920s America was at its highest point. It was the roaring twenties. There were parties going on, people were spending money on extravagant things, having a great time and just enjoying life. It was post war and everything was going spectacularly. But, that was America. What was going on in other countries? How were people responding to the newly ceased war? What was daily life like in countries other than America? Were there underlying issues that are hidden in the chaos of the time? Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf provides a strong perspective of what it was like to live in this time. While reading this story, I took the liberty of comparing the stereotypes we learn about the roaring twenties in America and comparing them to what was going on in Mrs. Dalloway.

To begin, it is important to establish some background information on Virginia Woolf. She was a modernist writer in the early 19th century and spoke at many universities. However, she was mentally ill and would eventually commit suicide. She also questioned her sexuality and was exposed to radical feminism in the UK.

Several of the issues Woolf faced in her own personal life appeared in Mr. Dalloway. The story gave a more dismal aspect to life, despite the underlying plot of preparing for a party. This could be due to the way the story is written. This story is told through many different character perspectives and employs the use of stream of consciousness. Mainly, we get the perception of Mrs. Dalloway who had relations with another women and Septimus who is suffering from a mental disorder known as shell shock. Mental disorder was a very prevalent issue in Woolf’s life and is seen as a major problem through Septimus’ character.

Through these characters and deeper thoughts, are we obtaining a more accurate depiction of what life was really like in the 1920s? Or are we seeing a more biased perspective from Woolf and her personal experiences? We are certainly receiving a biased opinion from the characters.

After reading Mrs. Dalloway, I feel I have a different perspective as to what life was like in the 1920s. It seems to me now that there were many underlying issue of the time that I had not been aware of before. Comparing Mrs. Dalloway to stories such as The Great Gatsby and other stories of the 1920s provides the reader with two completely different perspectives.

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VERSUS

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Family Ties

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My Family and Me On Move In Day at Colgate University

In the book Between the World and Me by Ta-Neshisi Coates, he discusses at one point that it makes him sad that his children feel the same pain and sorrows he feels. These pains and sorrows have to do with racisms. Because racism is still a current issue in the United States, people of all ages feel the adverse affect, which can result in fears as large as fear for their life. One reason that particularly struck me about this passage and Coates’ disappointment in learning his children feel the same as he did, is the fact that every parent wants their child to grow up in a better environment than they did. Parents always want what is best for their children and strive to do what they can to ensure the success of their kids. I know in my own personal experience, my parents always did what they could to assist me in my life in order to ensure my success. They always encouraged me to do well in school and to strive to be what I want to be. They also encouraged me to independent. I always found this very important. Don’t let people define who you are. Don’t let it affect how you live your life. But the fact that Coates sees his children dealing with the same problems he had to deal with growing up and even in the present day must be difficult to cope with. As a parent, it would be very concerning to watch a child have to grow up with an issue as large as racism burdening them as they face the every day challenges of simply growing up. This added burden seems to have an affect on the way the children mature. Because Coates acknowledges this in his book (page 21), it is clear that despite changes that have been made recently in attempt to reduce the amount of racism, not much as much progress has been made.  On another note, Coates’ quote “but race is the child of racism, not the father” also struck me (7). It has the same parent child theme in it. The way I interpreted this quote was that race is innocent, as a child; therefore it has not be affected, or, more severely, corrupted by life like a grown father has. Race is what is being attacked for no good reason. This part of the reading regarding the current status of racism particularly struck me and the conversation in class reiterating the importance of it made it clear that this is an important issue, not only for adults, but children as well.

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Freedom in Dance

Duane Lee Holland is not only passionate about dance; he is passionate about the message behind it as well. Performing in front of students at Colgate University, he emphasizes major points regarding the freedoms of dance and individual. His brief history pertaining to hip-hop provides insight to its African roots. In the language used in West Africa, “hippy” means “knowledgeable” or “conscience” and “hop” literally means dance. This is very telling and can relate directly to some of W.E.B. Du Bois’ writing in Souls of Black Folk. In his writing, Du Bois emphasizes the importance of great success. For example, in the chapter “Of The Training of Black Men”, Du Bois supports that if a white man has access to a higher education so too should a black man. Education should be made available to those who work for it, regardless of race. The meaning behind the word “hip hop” does a good job encompassing this. Since it means knowledgeable dance, those who dance clearly have the ability to understand how the movement works. According to Holland hip-hop “is a universal thing.” Du bois argues that education should be viewed in the same way. Hip-hop is not restricted to one race and neither should education. Additionally, Holland emphasizes the importance of not allowing others to define who you are as a person. Du Bois talks a lot about a veil being placed over black people. This veil is a symbol of the view society had on the African Americans and possibly even some African Americans themselves. Some may have let society define them, especially in the oppressive time they lived in. In a sense, Holland was encouraging the students of Colgate to refuse to allow the veil to cover them. Holland also highlighted how important it is to not be satisfied with what we are given. It is important to strive for great things and always push for the next best thing, which is exactly what Du Bois was pushing for in his writing. One thing that was interesting about Holland’s performance is he mentioned a few times that there were some words in the hip-hop culture that were misused. This made me personally realize that not everything is what people make it seem. Some labels are misused, for example, “break-dancing” is not actually called “break-dancing”, but rather “breaking”. This is important because it shows that society can use a label that is not accurate, and often times it does. In this video, throughout it is seen that when Holland is dancing, there are always people around, helping him in his moves and supporting him.

During his performances he reiterated the importance of support from both the audience and the dancers.  This support in true in society as well.  Du Bois single handedly could not gain equal rights for all African Americans, he needed support from those who would help.  Social support is important in defining who an individual is to give them strength to be who they want.  After reading Du Bois and viewing Holland’s performance, it is clear the importance of being able to think for oneself and not allow anyone/anything to define you.

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