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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

"Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," was written by James Agee and Walker Evans. The story is about three white families of tenant farmers in rural Alabama. The photographs in the beginning have no captions or quotations. They are just images of three tenant farming families, their houses, and possessions. "The photographs are not illustrative. They, and the text, are coequal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative." (87) The story and the photographs contain relationships between them; in the essay I am going to inform you about the interpretations of the relationships between the readings of James Agee and some of the pictures by Walker Evans.

As a reader of the section "A Country Letter", I interpreted the lamp to represent life, hope, and security.

I sit at a table, facing a partitioned wall; and I'm looking at a lighted coal-oil lamp which stands on the table close to the wall. I am entirely focused on the lamp, and light. (102)

The picture (31) looks exactly how it is described in the reading. The table which the lamp is upon in the photograph is placed in the kitchen. The lamp appears to be clean and the oil looks full, but the oil looks separated from the coal. The lamp is placed in the center of the table which shows significance to the focal point while dining at the kitchen table.

"The glass was poured into a mold, I guess, that made the base and bowl, which are in one piece."(102) The mold could be considered as their family; strong, united, and closely involved with one another. Agee states the mold is strong, yet fragile, and formed in one piece. I studied two particular photos (45, 65) that made me see frailty, but yet closeness and a strong bond. The mother and child (45) illustrate they are happy and enjoying life, which is a good indication that they have a strong bond by having smiles on their faces. The mother holding the child in her lap shows a special closeness between the two. On the other hand, you can clearly see though that the mother is badly hurt with the bandage on her right foot. The family in the carriage (65) looks to be going on a family trip together. The reason this photo shows closeness, is as if they were molded together as one. To me they are close because they are all doing something together. Their clothing looks a little worn as a direct reflection of the hardships of their life. Both these pictures give sense to the ideology, of how these families can be so strong, yet fragile.

This oil is not all oleaginous, but thin, brittle, rusty feeling, and sharp; taken and rubbed between forefinger and thumb it so cleanses their grain that it sharpens their mutual touch to a new coin edge.(102)

In the picture on page (31) you see a small, wooden room, in the middle of this room is a sturdy table with a peculiar tablecloth upon it; on this sturdy table is a small, glass, oil burning lamp. The lamp's oil, interpreted to be their lives, hopes, and dreams. This oil is either half full or half empty; surely I believe it is half full. In the reading, the lamp's oil signifies life, hope, security and safety. James Agee places these things at the center of the family's existence. This shows that the author of "The Country Letter" places high respect towards these aspects in life. Their goals were to live life to the fullest, no one else, but themselves could make them happy.

Of such ultimate, such holiness of silence and peace that all on earth and within extremest remembrance seems suspended upon it in perfection as upon reflected water: and I feel that if I can by utter quietness succeed in not disturbing this silence, in not so much as touching this plain of water, I can tell you anything within the realm of God. (104)




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