Posted: June 23rd, 2021
The men, trying to hold on to human values and not succumb to their instincts, fail ascribable as they attempted to remove their guilt Of eating each other by justifying it through “Roberts Rules of Order. ” The cannibalism may seem an extreme symbol to represent what is often the product of the government’s legislative actions, there is little arguing that acts and laws have been passed that have been detrimental to the citizens of this nation, such as the black codes and Jim Crow laws.
Though the symbolic nature of the story may be hyperbolic, Twain vividly personifies the United States’ dubious legislative process by focusing on the demutualization of the subjects for which it was reared by illustrating selfishness, a lack of focus on the greater cause, and the inability to consider ulterior solutions. It is important to note the context of Twain’s work. This piece was written in 1868 during the era of Reconstruction, following the Civil War.
The government, at the time, was trying to reestablish the viability of the South, but was failing, which drew the focus away from the true needs required to reconstruct the South rather to government proceedings. At the beginning of Reconstruction, disagreement between the Radical Republicans and the more moderate Republicans such s Lincoln and Johnson led to the swift reconstruction of the South being thwarted. With the focus drawn away from the South, Black Codes, corrupt sharecropping, and organizations like the UK Klux Klan were established right under the government’s nose.
Twain had witnessed the tragic results of selfishness, lack of focus, and inability to consider workable solutions. “Cannibalism in Cars” offers numerous examples throughout that portray the self-serving paradigm from which the stranded passengers operate. “Gentleman: It cannot be delayed longer! The time is at hand! We must determine which of us shall die to furnish food for the rest! (Twain, 4). “Gentleman-?I nominate the Rev. James Sawyer of Tennessee. ” (Twain, 4).
On the seventh day of sitting in the cars without food, these were the initial statements. Quite obviously the passengers, or parliamentarians-to-be, as it were, faced imminent starvation, which is why they turned to cannibalism. Meltzer 2 Although everyone was in agreement that they needed sustenance for survival, no one seemed particularly ready to offer themselves as the main course. As was the case then and is the case now, legislatures are known to place self-preservation above all else.
For example, “pork barrel” spending as long been a tool to assure votes as tax dollars are funneled to specific districts despite much greater needs elsewhere. Additionally, gerrymandering, or purposefully shaping voting districts to gift wrap favorable election results for a specific party, is a partisan maneuver that ignores fair representation for the benefit of certain politicians. Examples of politicians choosing self over the greater good are innumerable, thus though Twain’s example may be grotesque, it is almost believable, and eloquently illustrates his point.
The greater cause for the men on the train was survival. However, the focus would teeter be;en sun. ‘vial and superfluous rules of order. Mr.. Sander, one of the many stranded passengers, found the proceedings to be flawed and said “Gentleman-?I protest earnestly against these proceedings. They are, in every way, irregular and unbecoming. Must beg to move that they be dropped at once, and that we elect a chairman of the meeting and proper officers to assist him, and then we can go on with the business before us understandingly. (Twain 5). Additionally, Mr.. Bell Of Iowa made it abundantly clear that the focus was on surviving and not the proceedings through his comments. Twain creatively paints a portrait of a group attempting to solve a problem, yet allowing the process and partisanship of politics to intervene. Meltzer Rather than work together as a unit to find an alternate solution to a highly complex and difficult situation, the passengers considered only the indignity of eating each other.
Though it could be argued that there could have been much less horrid conclusion, sans devouring human flesh, the discussion only centered around one potential conclusion based largely on the testimony of the conductor, who had assured that there was no path to lavational beyond the track. To eat a man that is dead is considered repulsive, but to kill a man then eat him for your own survival is inhuman. The parliamentarians took the conductors word as truth and never gave another thought to venturing out in the snow to find civilization.
Once the decision was made that the conductor’s word was to be taken as truth, the act of cannibalism was a forgone conclusion, and debate shifted exclusively to determining the process by which the unfortunates should be chosen. Twain was attempting to mirror the faulty logic often found in the halls of Congress herein those who have been given the responsibility to govern, fail to fully vet complex issues in order to find the most desirable outcome.
Unfortunately, for those who “won” the vote, consideration given any other method for salvation was quickly dismissed on the basis of one opinion. During the time Of Reconstruction, the United States’ government endured one it’s more dark periods with the Johnson presidency being an unmitigated failure because of his leniency, Ulysses S. Grant’s administration is historically known to have been wrought with corruption, while the government and entry, as a whole, was divided over the management of the South leading to strife among citizen’s nationwide.
Mark Twain brilliantly and deceptively shares his opinion of the government through his satire. The people on the train tried to construct a form of government to justly, in their mind, decide the next meal. However, constant distraction with disagreement over proceedings led to a failure to focus on the main purpose for which the quorum was established. Furthermore, selfish desires impacted the participant’s decision, a practice common today in our houses of government.
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