James Audubon: the making of an American
James Audubon: the making of an American
James Audubon the making of an American is a book by Richard Rhodes that gives its audience a detailed biography regarding Jon James Audubon. Rhodes is a renowned writer with several other books under his name such as the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner. Rhode’s most remarkable biography regarding Audubon also doubles up as a love story. It is a story about Audubon’s fascination with birds, his love for his wife and the fledging US. Besides this aspect, the book provides a natural history for audiences interested with this aspect. Rhodes gives the reader an intimate feeling of the lifestyle back then by using intricate details. Author Richard Rhodes won the Pulitzer award on a previous book. He is revered for writings on the atomic bomb and technology aspects. Readers of Rhodes’ earlier works should expect a well-crafted literature. This book unfolds Audubon’s life through a manner that engages the reader as characters come alive.
The reader learns how a young United States expanded westwards with the first step that began with floating down Ohio River to New Orleans and Mississippi. Rhodes takes us through the economic crisis that hit young America before and during the war in 1812 and how these two issues affected Audubon. The reader also discovers the implications of disease in this era and how fast society was changing in the eighteenth century. Primarily, the wildlife and the countryside are the principle surroundings of Audubon’s life. He settled in an environment where civilization was beginning to change the world. Rhodes takes us through market hunters who shot 48,000 Golden Plovers in New Orleans in one day.
Through this biography, Rhodes creates a detailed portrait of Audubon as a rather outgoing and mercurial man. He exhibits dramatic mood swings, perhaps many times than when he was residing in England. The reason is probably that he is 4,000 thousand miles away from his wife whom he considers a ‘dear friend’. To quench his interests in birds, Audubon went around America- from New Orleans to Philadelphia through the border of North Dakota. Along the way, he seemingly was acquainted to everyone who resided in the country. Audubon is described as flamboyant. He held dancing classes in Louisiana.
Readers going through this book would recognize names of people Audubon met, surnames that went on to identify various birds. Such birds include the Swaison’s Hawk, Henslow’s Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren and MacGilivray’s Wabler. These people played fundamental roles in the life of Audubon, and the birds named after them were presented in Birds of America. The book is a rich and rewarding delight for the audience who are fascinated by history and birds.
Primarily, this book is intended to cover the life of James Audubon in the form of an autobiography. Rhodes achieves this objective and gives the reader a detailed review of Audubon’s early life and expeditions in the United States. Audubon’s biography creates an engaging story and Rhodes chronicles all features of it in a thoroughly researched storyline. Rhode’s achieves his objective by applying a subtle style that presents a picture of a man who appealed to almost everyone he encountered. Moreover, Rhodes manages to shed light on Audubon’s ability to capture life and emotion when depicting birds.
One unique concept that connects the book to the course is the use of historical aspects to lay out the livelihood of James Audubon. As the subtitle implies, the author uses American history as the backdrop for his story. The result of this concept is a book that sheds light on Audubon in a unique way, and uses his experiences to show the reader the experiences of living on the frontier before the Civil War began. For example, instead of focusing on Audubon’s business ventures and the mythology that surrounds his failure in this field, Rhodes applies an informed approach. He reveals the economic patterns that benefited Audubon in his youth. However, Rhodes pointed out the crisis that affected and ruined many people’s lives including Audubon in 1819 in page 224.
Like many residents in Kentucky, Audubon owned slaves, another unique concept highlighted in the story. Slavery in particular was rampant in the eighteenth century in America. Rhodes observes this fact and goes on to highlight the fascinating background that provided livelihood along the Ohio River. For example, the reader learns that Audubon lived in a log cabin when he resided in Henderson. The format of this building was adopted from the Finns who lived across the Baltic in the 1650s. Scotch-Irish pioneers introduced this tradition to America.
The third unique concept that connects this book to the course is the use of imagery. Rhodes uses this concept to foster picture development into the minds of his readers. He constructs a sensitive picture of Audubon that puts him in a cultural and historical context. In particular, this book is replete with detailed descriptions of what Audubon observed on birds. It also offers an informed description regarding how he evolved as an expert of birds in page 302. Additionally, Rhodes uses imagery to give the reader a feeling of natural community that dominated this era. Plenty quotations from Audubon’s letters and Journals also animate the story. Additionally, Rhodes also uses various manuscripts to support his views. For instance, he uses the widespread correspondence of Napoleon’s nephew Charles. Historians of science and those who are fascinated by ornithology can find this book interesting.
The fourth concept that Rhodes uses is that of physical, political, and social analysis of the environment Audubon lived. The author includes the many series of events that occurred in this era and tries to interpret how they would have affected Audubon. Some of these events include the expedition of Lewis and Clark, the War of 1812, and the earthquake that hit the Midwest in page 76. Additionally, Rhodes fills the reader in on the political and economic realities of this time. This concept allows the reader to see the elements Audubon endures.
Rhodes also uses the concept of personal ambition in his book. As such, this concept resonates with the course since it relates to innovation. In this regard, Rhodes allows the reader to understand how a young Audubon embarks on the livelihood of a business merchant. Audubon has a personal interest in birds and is determined to use this interest to earn a living. Most of the early history in this book provides enough details regarding his business practices and schemes rather than personal history. Ultimately, this runs through the entire book as the economic crisis ruined Audubon. Nevertheless, he was never discouraged as he kept on pursuing his interests by painting birds. Rhodes also depicts home life using this concept. The reader understands that his wife is talented and headstrong with energies equal to her husband’s. She depicts this by maintaining the household physically and financially by teaching.
The sixth concept applied in this book is that of product development through exploration and artistry in a developing America. The reader highlights how Audubon endures hardships and braves tough elements to see birds. At certain times, the reader is appalled by the destructive nature of people in this era. Furthermore, one understands their poor attitude towards the environment and wildlife. Nevertheless, such was an era that had large forests with a vast array of animals, plains filled with buffalo and bird-dominated skies. At such an era, no one could comprehend the thought that the extinction of these animals was possible.
At one point, Audubon confirms that he does not consider it a good day if he kills less than a hundred birds. Ultimately, this issue brings out the concept of comparison and evolution. Current society cannot relate to Audubon’s values when this was long the before environmental concern was considered. The development of society together with rapid population growth has compromised the well-being of the environment including wild animals and their ecosystems. Current society is conscious of the detrimental effects of engaging in careless living. For this reason, numerous movements have developed over time as they look to protect the environment from destruction. These scenes can be traced between pages 132 and 167.
The concept of advancement also comes into play from Rhode’s book. Discussions in my course reveal that humanity is a being that evolves constantly. People strive to make their lives easier and enjoyable and hence create new inventions to facilitate this. For example, photographs had not yet been invented in Audubon’s era. Back then, he had to capture or kill a bird to draw a correct rendering. Furthermore, the reader learns how Audubon developed his skills from bird watching to drawing and painting. He also combined numerous media to create life-like images. He was always improving.
Notably, the reader is amazed by Audubon’s ability and tenacity in enduring obstacles and setbacks to achieve his goals. Most astounding is his management skills as he juggled creating enormous portfolios and various practical necessities. He also marketed and sold them personally to influential and wealthy clients. Audubon also dealt with the problem of having his works printed and distributed while continuing to produce more creations. Such qualities of determination were rare to find among people living in the early eighteenth century. These scenes can be traced between pages 287 and 302.
Audubon is well known for his old-fashioned works of birds. Nevertheless, James Audubon: the making of an American by Richard Rhodes gives readers an intrinsic view of the man behind these scenes and his times. Rhodes’s book suggests that Audubon became a personification of the adventurous, energetic, self-made and optimistic American. Similar to other autobiographies, Rhodes starts by talking about Audubon’s parents. The reader learns that Audubon was a bastard son to a naval officer in France. His father later realizes that France is not a suitable for an aristocrat’s son, and he is eventually taken to America. Audubon is traumatized by various economic, social, and political issues. He however, overcomes them to find his destiny.
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