Courage in John Sayles’ Matewan and the Matewan Massacre Essay

Courage in John Sayles’ Matewan and the Matewan Massacre Essay

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Aristotle defined courage as “[fearlessness] in face of a noble death, and of all emergencies that involve death.” Mark Twain defined courage as “the mastery of fear, not the absence of it.” Both definitions stress the ability of an individual to overcome fear and to persevere through frightening and harrowing circumstances. While courage is generally viewed on an individual level, it can be applied to a group or the individual’s place within the collective group. Collectivism is any political, social, or economic system that places the group before the individual and stresses the importance of making decisions that benefit all people. In a collectivist system, power should be in the hands of the group and not the individuals with power. In conflict, “individuals [should] be willing to sacrifice personal interests for those of the group.” In John Sayles’ Matewan and the historical Matewan massacre, courage is seen in the sacrifices and risks taken by the coal miners and their supporters, while collectivism is seen in the way the Joe Kenehan figure led the group of coal miners and in the stereotypes placed on the groups of people.
The characters in John Sayles' Matewan exemplified courage when they stood up to the company and made personal sacrifices for the union. Few Clothes asks the men of the company what keeps the company from "jacking up the prices" on the goods that the miners were required to buy from the company. When Few Clothes asked this question, he challenged the authority of the Stone Mountain Coal Company, which was a dangerous thing to do and made himself a threat to the company. Joe Kenehan left the safety of his region to build up a union in the southern area of West Virginia. He soon became a threa...

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