Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Ox-Bow Incident, The Archer, & The Question Mark

An Ox-Bow

Congratulations to Ox-Bow and all of his connections, winners today of the Preakness Stakes.

As luck has it, I was just reading the current issue of Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine (May, 2013), which features Walter Van Tilburg Clark's 1940 novel, The Ox-Bow Incident, certainly an American classic:

  • "Most men are more afraid of being thought cowards than of anything else, and a lot more afraid of being thought physical cowards than moral ones."
  • "You can't go hunting men like coyotes after rabbits and not feel anything about it. Not without being like any other animal. The worst animal." - Walter Van Tilburg Clark, The Ox-Bow Incident
  • Thomas Cox's THE OXBOW (1936)  Note the question mark.

    The ox-bow of the title refers to a geographical phenomenon (where, in the novel, the hangings take place), which has nuances of "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats.  The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

    It also alludes to Thomas Cox's famous 1836 painting, The Oxbow, which illustrates the division between nature and civilization--at least pastoral civilization.  The oxbow circles creating a question mark between them.  The birds wheel and circle too.

    The division can be seen as Aristotle vs. Plato, or as Apollo vs. Dionysus, or as control vs. anarchy, as men act cowardly in their vain attempt to prove their courage, their manliness.  The mob misappropriates for itself a monopoly on virtuous masculinity and castigates all opposition as unpatriotic weakness and femininity.
    The Ox-Bow of a noose

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