Happiness and Drought

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It is interesting to think about why our ancestors decided to include the pursuit of happiness as an American’s unalienable right, as opposed to the previously considered, right to land. To live a life without happiness, it seemed to them, is to live a life without meaning. Edgar Lee Masters’ poems commonly reflect on the quality, or lack thereof, of happiness in the afterlife of dead countrymen (and women). The diction, word choice and imagery in Fiddler Jones by Masters expresses the seemingly inherent joy of a lackadaisical man as well as the value of perspectives and the ability to posit happiness over fortune and land. As many of Master’s poems in his Spoon River Anthology, the title “Fiddler Jones” refers to a man who is not only a fiddler but is now deceased. Many of the poems in the Master’s Anthology are penitent stories told by dead souls reflecting on their past lives. At first glance the title presents us with the life of a man now dead and Fiddler Jones has taken center stage in this conversational and lyrical narrative. In the first two lines we are given the stage in which the dead man’s story is to be told. “The earth keeps some vibration going There in your heart, and that is you.” (ll. 1-2) This portrayal of Earth as a natural force can be read in two ways. On one hand, the Earth can be viewed as a natural source that produces the life of a human. But one cannot ignore the fact that Masters deliberately placed the words your and you in these lines. With these words Masters sets up a dialogue between the reader and the speaker of the poem. This dialogue that Master’s puts forth further contributes to the poem’s intent to capture the value of perspective because the purpose of dialogue is to promote a convers... ... middle of paper ... ....” (ll. 25-26) It is here that the fiddler reflects on his life as in the previous lines, he stated he ended up with the land and broken fiddle it is at this point he has entered the end of his life. Upon having a broken fiddle and nothing to show for his success he believes the poem suggests that he is happier than a man who worked the land and held a fortune from his profits. A broken laugh is also known as a snicker. A snicker I believe is a choppy, contained smile that doesn’t show emotion though boisterous and grandiose show but rather reveres it’s emotion through internal contentment. This coupled with the thousand memories and lack of regret show that although the dead fiddler did not work hard throughout his life, he is much happier than his fellow grave mate, Cooney Potter, who worked and profited his whole life only to leave the world unhappy and alone.

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