Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Girl of the Golden West, by David Belasco

I have now finished reading the novel by David Belasco called The Girl of the Golden West. I read it on my Ipad Kindle. And it would have been a much more enjoyable read if it was not littered with slurs like injun, greaser etc.

The Indians Wowkle and Billy Jackrabbit are stereotyped and are never allowed to have an agency of their own. The Girl (Minnie), who are 90 % of the time called only Girl ("Hello, Girl!" / "Hello, boys!") has Wowkle as her servant, calls her "my squaw" and does not think much of her other someone to talk to, mostly give orders. Minnie does not see Wowkle as a full human being. Of course, it is "mighty Christian" of her to insist that Wowkle and Billy should marry as they have a small child together. Wowkle has naturally "full hips" etc. and Billy Jackrabbit is in the habit of stealing whiskey and sigars etc. Who has to sing the homeland hymn about the Pilgrims in the Academia? Wowkle and Billy Jackrabbit "in their high-pitched voices" and as they sing about how the Pilgrims took their native lands, the miners comes with their comments, no sympathy for Indians here.

The greaser, I could not understand who or what the word meant. But Kindle on Ipad means a push and you can find out that it is US offensive for Mexican. Wow, I am not Mexican but I hated it whenever it came in the text (and that was often). Luckily the word injun did not come up that often, but I detested it. And then why is Sheriff Jack Rance called a china man.

Even without the slurs, it is still a bucket full of stereotypes. To be American that is Good, anything else is less. Minnie is a natural beauty with blue eyes and golden hair. But every time she talks we are reminded that she is not well educated and she is called just Girl all the time in the text. It is not before Johnson asks her name in her cabin that we learns her name is Minnie. Other times it is Girl, Girl, Girl. And I am thinking she is a bar owner so she is most probably no longer a girl but a grown woman. Her name is MINNIE, not Girl.

Dick Johnson, the road agent, has a Spanish father and American mother. How pleased she was when she heard that he had an American mother. Then he was not only good-looking but also half good (half American). That was in the beginning of the novel when they met and that set the tone. Not my favorite tone. Naturally the Mexicans are so exotic when they are not just robbers etc.

Still, I enjoyed the read despite all that was wrong. The racism, the slurs and that no character was really well developed. I guess I should say except Minnie and Dick Johnson. But still. Set against the novel the opera LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST by Puccini is actually better and one feels more for the characters than in the novel. If only Puccini and the librettists had just cut out Wowkle and Billy Jackrabbit, then some of the worst stereotypes and racism would be cut out, too.

For reviews from my travels, see

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