As I Lay Dying English Extension Journal

This is the blog of Jeremy Martin of Year 11 English Extension Class (Phillips. It is being used for the purposes of completing Part B "Journal" of the research project given to Year 11 English Extension Classes. The novel chosen was "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Week Two

In this post I'm going to talk about the research which I've conducted over the previous week. I examined mainly internet sources for my context this week (along with brief looks at library books), primarily due to the accessibility and variety of sources avaliable to me on the internet. The internet sites wil be examining specific aspects of the context of the times - the library books have provided me with an adequate over-view of events/cultures at the time the book was published.

- Wikipedia's "Conservatism in North America" entry ( Although this entry has been flagged by users of the service for its neutrality, it nonetheless provides a decent overview of conservative attitudes and values. Overall the site has provided me with a good insight into conservatism across a myriad of aspects (social, political, fiscal . . .) and above all else has illustrated the point that conservatism isn't neccisarily dependent upon financial or social position, but on other aspects.

- Warren M. Hern's "Abortion: Medical and Social Aspects" - This essay relates specifically to Dewey Dell's repeated attempts to gain abortive drugs, one which gains her a lecture about morality and the other which sees her sexually used, but given fake drugs. As well as providing a brilliant insight into social values regarding abortions in America and the responses of individuals, families and communities to abortion, it revealed evidence about the "strength" of the pro-life movement.

In the United States, the majority of citizens think that abortion should be a matter between the woman and her physician. A small minority (about 12 percent) think that abortion should never be permitted under any circumstances. Polls show, however, that questions posing special cases (i.e. the woman's life is in danger, the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest) produce different responses (McKeegan 1992). Some who support choice would support certain restrictions (e.g., the need for parental consent for adolescents), and some who oppose abortion would grant certain exceptions (e.g., the woman's life is in danger)."
This revealed something which had not come across in my previous research, that the pro-life movement is just a vocal minority. However, this fact - although providing evidence to modern abortion isn't representative of the intial context in which the novel was recieved - abortion was outlawed. It did however reveal the conditions under which peoples views would waver - indicating the moral high-horsedness of characters in As I Lay Dying would perhaps shift under other circumstances.

- "Readers Companion To American History -- Abortion"
This site revealed the evolution of attitudes and views to abortion and further illustrated the changing of people's attitudes. It revealed the strength and efforts of lobby organisations such as the AMA (whose actions I'd never heard of) and the roots of 1930s attitudes towards abortion in the late 1800s.

"Led by Horatio Robinson Storer, a Boston physician, the ama and its affiliated medical societies worked in state capitals throughout the nation during the 1860s and 1870s to outlaw abortion at any stage of gestation, except when doctors themselves determined the procedure to be necessary. Though the physicians put forward scientific, social, and moral arguments, their professional aspirations to upgrade and regulate American medical practice also loomed large. The legal status of abortion was altered by state legislatures after the Civil War not in a religious context but in the context of who would be allowed to do what to whom in the practice of medicine.

The antiabortion laws and legal decisions of the second half of the nineteenth century, though seldom and selectively enforced, drove the practice of abortion underground. Substantial numbers of women, especially immigrant women with limited access to other (also illegal) methods of fertility control, nonetheless continued to have abortions. Surveys conducted under the auspices of the ama and the federal government confirmed the persistence of widespread abortion in the United States through the 1930s."

While over the course of the week, I have reviewed a wider variety of sources - it is these three which have greater shaped my understanding of the era and subsequently impacted upon the direction which my project will now take.

Images Relating To Part A

- This image is a graph of fertility rates throughout American history. While I'm unaware of its veracity, it serves as a good indicator of overall trends across American history - particularly once one factors in influences such as the avaliability of abortion, loosening of moral boundaries and influx of people (baby boom and reverbarations).

The following series of Images were sourced from and illustrate the cotton fields of Mississipi in the 1920s. Although the images do not specifically relate to the text, they provide a good contextual immersion - cotton and churches being the two dominant forces in Mississipi at the time of the publishing.