[Marxism] “Johnny Appleseed” and the Revision of American Masculinity - Los Angeles Review of Books

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Mar 24 07:26:08 MDT 2018

MOST AMERICAN FOLKTALES are characterized by violence. The American myth 
glories in the inevitability of westward expansion, venerating war 
heroes or men who wrangled the land into submission, subjugated the 
frontier piece by piece until it no longer existed. To be manly is to be 
strong, and strength is too commonly demonstrated by the physical 
domination of weaker parties. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett grew famous 
through hunting, trapping, and their conquests in the Indian Wars. John 
Henry and Paul Bunyan exerted mastery over nature by laying railroad 
track and clearing the forests, subduing the wilderness by fundamentally 
altering it. The traditional American folk hero adheres to an 
aggressively masculine stereotype, rooted in destructive traits like 
violence, coercion, domination, and mastery. In Johnny Appleseed, Paul 
Buhle and Noah Van Sciver present the life of a man who dramatically 
defies this characterization. Buhle and Van Sciver’s graphic biography 
is nothing if not timely: published in 2017, it appears at a moment when 
some Americans are rekindling and others rejecting the violent and 
oppressive narratives that have long underwritten the nation’s peculiar 
brand of patriotism.


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