March 30, 2012
Only The Strong Survive
An Examination Of Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid
(The Oakdale Affair)
As Created By Edgar Rice Burroughs
Background And Sources
E.R. Burroughs: Out There Somewhere (The Return Of The Mucker), 1916
Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid (The Oakdale Affair) 1917
David A. Adams: ERB/London Connection, ERBzine #1298, 2005
Philip R. Burger: Whatever It Is, Gets You And Me, ERBzine 1412, 2005
R.E. Prindle: Only A Hobo, ERBzine #1329-34, 2004
Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid, published as The Oakdale Affair was written shortly after Burroughs posed for the famous picture of himself standing on the rock above the sea in Santa Monica in 1916.
Let’s take a moment to put these titles into perspective with Burroughs’ career. Let’s try to identify some of the changes he’s going through. It is safe to assume that in 1911 at 36 years of age when he sat down to write A Princess Of Mars he was in a state of terror that life had passed him by, that he had failed the big test from which there is no recovering. If he says that he considered writing to be an unmanly occupation then he was desperately grasping at the last straw. If he failed as a writer then he would have had an excuse as it was a sissy occupation but he still would have been psychologically destroyed.
But Princess sold and then too did Tarzan Of The Apes. Buoyed by these successes he continued to write achieving during the year 1913 a pinnacle of success achieved by few writers. Most importantly Burroughs could for the first time in his adult live perceive himself as a somebody, as the man he always thought he was or should be.
The miracle of 1913 continued and with the confidence of a seemingly inexhaustible pen promised to continue. Burroughs indulged his whims during those fantastic years between 1913 and 1916. He apparently bought everything that he had ever wanted. When he left on that fabled drive from Chicago to L.A. in addition to a car, a truck and a driver he had 2 1/2 tons of, pardon the expression, junk.
He was living in a dream. I envision the surreal picture of this caravan pulling to the side of the road away out there on the road to anywhere with Burroughs pitching his white and blue striped circus tent while the kids aged about eight, seven and three cranked up the record player. They didn’t need electricity in those days, you would wind the record player up. Then as the horn blared out ‘Are You From Dixie’ singing lustily the family danced in the moonlight. Place the picture against a rising full moon.
Imagine a country rube happening along on Old Dobbin to see such a scene. It’s just like Toad and his caravan from Wind In The Willows, isn’t it? What Memories the children must have had.
And all the time Burroughs’ personality was unraveling as he metamorphosed into a new persona.
Let’s take a look at that picture by the seashore closely. It is revealing. There is no reason not to believe that this picture was carefully thought out and posed by ERB. The photo is frequently cropped so as to put Burroughs in the center but in its uncropped state the sea stretches far to the left making the subjects of the photo both ERB and the feminine sea. Burroughs is standing on the right on a rock high above the water. Let us believe that was his intent. In his novel Somewhere Out There written from January to March 1916 the theme is the poem by H.H. Knibbs also titled Out There Somewhere in which the dream lover is waiting in the South by the sea. Obviously ERB has an idea fixed in his mind.
As he finished the novel he began his tramp South to San Diego and the sea. Thus the sea, the waters of the subconscious, the fructifying water of the female represents both the destructive and constructive aspects of the female. Standing on the rock, as opposed to the shifting sands, high above the waters represents Burroughs’ hopeful reunion with and dominance of the Anima.
Burroughs’ persona itself, his Animus is equally interesting. He is very expensively dressed. That overcoat is a very new one, either a Kuppenheimer or a Hart, Shaffner and Marx, as Burroughs combines the two names in a reference in Bridge And The Kid. It is also unnecessary in California at any time of the year. His shoes are shined, top quality also, probably Florsheim. His hat is pulled low over his face as he stands above the photographer looking down on him or her with a wry, bemused hint of a smile with which he endows his creations. His hands are in his pockets with the thumbs, the sexual symbol exposed. Thumbs are a sexual symbol of potency, as in ‘under my thumb’ so he is feeling confident in his success if not cocky. He is the Mysterious Stranger. The Shadow. The lurker in every mind. He is at the very height of his success and yet facing the problems his success has brought. This photo represents the high summer of his life. It is never going to be this good again.
Out There Somewhere pointed to a resolution of his psychological problems while Bridge And The Kid apparently resolved them, at least, for the moment.
There is an interesting numerical relationship in Burroughs’ visits to the coast. His first was in 1913, the second visit was in 1916 and he would move permanently to California in 1919- three year intervals, and each time he stayed about nine months- time to be born again. These are stress points. One wonders at what time in his life he began his California dreaming.
Thus Burroughs began Bridge And The Kid in a state of exhilaration. It took him nearly six months to finish it which for him was a long time.
His period of extreme fecundity was also over. In the future he would be driven to work because he needed the money but his psychological release was finished with these two novels.
Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid is one of Burroughs most finely crafted novels. It is extremely rich in content. Because of the apparent ease with which Burroughs writes one disregards the components of the tale and there are many in what I consider the most detailed and intriguing novel.
ERB began the hobo theme in vol. 1 of this trilogy, The Mucker, developed it in the sequel Out There Somewhere (The
Return Of The Mucker) and continues it not only in the character of Bridge and the Kid but in the criminal gang and throughout the novel. The hobo obviously intrigued ERB and why not? Rather than just discuss the hobo theme as elements of the story let’s look more closely at the subject.
Just as today the so-called homeless occupy an amazing amount of social attention so in Burroughs’ time the hobo was an inescapable phenomenon. He was ubiquitous, he was everywhere as a reading of Out there Somewhere and Bridge and The Kid indicate. Burroughs found the hobo fascinating and even to a degree identified with him.
Every town of any size had a Main Stem on which the Hoboes congregated. Chicago itself with most rail lines converging on it from all directions was the Main Stem of hoboing while Madison was the Main Stem of Chicago. As it chances the offices of the American Battery Company were on Madison Street thus the young Burroughs would have had plenty of opportunity to observe and study the hobo.
As a yard policeman in Salt Lake City in 1904 he would have had further opportunity to familiarize himself with the species. His first writing effort- Minidoka- in 1908 or so gives the Hobo a prominent place actually siting Chicago as the Hobo capital of the country.
In both these novels he give a very unflattering picture of the Hobo. In both novels the Hoboes figure as criminals, even murderous criminals. In Bridge And The Kid they are responsible for the crime wave in normally placid Oakdale.
When the Kid stumbles upon a lair of six hoboes all are willing to rob her while an actual cold blooded attempt on her life was made by Dopey Charlie.
Burroughs associates one, the General, with Coxey’s Army of 1894. Eighteen-ninety-three was the beginning of a severe depression perhaps equal to the depression of the thirties. In 1994 Jacob Coxey organized a march on Washington of the unemployed seeking relief. The host was known as Coxey’s Army.
Burroughs who was frequently unemployed and hard up yet always found jobs to scrape by, exhibited all the pride of the resourceful by condemning the ‘soldiers’ of Coxey’s Army as bums who wouldn’t work, hence the General had never held a job and never would. He preferred to rob and kill rather than work.
One of the more memorable episodes of the book is when morning dawns on Jeb Case’s farm and the hoboes come streaming out of the barn and haystacks as Case takes up a shotgun to make sure they move on.
Burroughs who had no use for the IWW- the Industrial Workers Of The World- or Wobblies, introduces them also in the character of Sky Pilot. As the Wobblies were composed almost entirely of the hobo class they might easily have been classed as hoboes pure and simple. The Sky Pilot is I believe based on Big Bill Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners, the WFM, and then when he was expelled from that organization for being too aggressive, of the IWW where you couldn’t be too aggressive.
Big Bill is one of the great figures of the era, he has a great autobiography, and he figures indirectly in the history of the Burroughs Boys so ERB would have concentrated on his career. The battles of the hard rock miners in Colorado, Idaho and the West in general with the mine owners were ferocious. The resistance to their just demands by the mine owners forms one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history.
Big Bill was at the center of the dispute. In Idaho the governor who resisted the WFM was Frank Steunenberg. He had appointed Harry and George Burroughs as delegates to a mining conference so the Burroughs had an association with him.
When Steunenberg left the governor’s chair in 1905 he was blown to bits by a bomb placed in his mailbox. Big Bill didn’t place the bomb but it does seem likely that he planned the bombing. ERB thought so. In one of the most famous trials of the era Haywood was defended by Clarence Darrow who got him off with lamest defense ever.
Thus Burroughs describes the Sky Pilot as the man who planned the crimes but was always somewhere else when they were committed. He made people ‘disappear’ in the manner in which Steunenberg disappeared.
From the WFM Big Bill went on to be the leader of the Wobblies. There can be no doubt that Burroughs was opposed to the Wobblies. In book after book in this period he denounces the outfit. After the Great War broke out in 1914 the IWW became especially active leading to the speculation that their activities were funded by the Kaiser’s gold. This was never proven at the time but it seems very probable as the Germans wanted to disrupt American productivity while Big Bill and the Wobblies wanted to take over industry and the government on behalf of the ‘working’ man, who had nothing to do with them. The crime wave of Oakdale caused by the hoboes may have been a fictionalization of a wave of IWW activity which resulted in a large number of violent strikes in 1916 shortly before this book was written. Thus Burroughs wove Big Bill Haywood, Coxey’s Army, The Western Federation of Miners and the ‘16 Wobbly actions into the story in ‘a highly fictionized’ manner.
If fact Burroughs may have been recapitulating several decades of labor history as he introduces the great Chicago
detective Burton. Obviously based on one level on Allan Pinkerton of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency which was employed to control labor unrest. In fact the Pinkertons had kidnapped Big Bill as operatives against the WFM turning him over to Idaho after Steunenberg was murdered. One of their operatives, Charlie Siringo, was instrumental in breaking up the miners in the Coeur D’Alene area. Wonderful story he tells in his A Cowboy Detective.
Not only does Burton represent the Pinkertons but after withholding his first name throughout the story, as an inside joke, Bridge who knows Burton hails him as Dick. Of course slang for detective was a ‘dick’ as in Dick Tracy but also Dick is short for Richard. So Burton was Richard Burton. Richard Francis Burton was the famous African explorer so Burroughs weaves in another historical reference.
By the time the book was finished on 6/12/17 the United States was involved in the war with Germany so at that point the activities of the IWW were treasonous.
Burroughs’s novels are always more complex than they seem on the surface. Like any novelist he has to have a story to tell but that story arises from conscious and subconscious motives. Some of the conscious motives are in the relation of his disguised feelings about unskilled labor, the hoboes and the IWW. The subconscious motives emerge in his depiction of his heroine, Abigail Prim and the hero, the Happy Hobo, Bridge. As this is an Anima/Animus story it should be clear that Abigail Prim represent ERB’s Anima and Bridge represents his Animus. The two characters are not original to this story but a variation on all his heroines and heroes whose adventures are a variation of the adventures of all his heroes and heroines.
Burroughs entered the hobo theme in the first novel of this trilogy, The Mucker, then developed the theme in the middle volume, Out There Somewhere, which introduces his stellar character Bridge, the Happy Hobo.
As it chances one of Burroughs’ literary heroes was Jack London. London (1876-1918) was an exact contemporary, Burroughs being born in September, London in the following January. He was actually born eleven days after Emma.
It has been suggested that the death of London in 1916 influenced Burroughs’ writing of Out There Somewhere. As the book was written between January and March and London died in November of that year the connection seems unlikely.
It does seem likely that Burroughs read everything he came across of London’s. He seems to have thought he knew enough about London’s life to write a biography of him. If he was that familiar with London that is an interesting detail. It is impossible to know for certain what he read of London’s as there are no London titles in the Library as published on the ERBzine. While ERB seems to have made little attempt to fill in his library with titles that he read before he came into money it would seem likely that between 1913 and 1916 he would have picked up some London titles.
London was a very prolific writer penning dozens of novels, some few volumes of non-fiction and hundreds of short stories that appeared in dozens of magazines. It would seem highly probable that Burroughs would have read as much as he could find.
While London made a circuit of the United States and Canada in 1894 as a knight of the road not a great deal of his hobo writing had made it to print by 1916. The most significant of his hobo writing was a volume titled The Road of 1908. It would seem probable that Burroughs read at least this if he associated London with the road.
Perhaps more importantly London was uppermost in his mind in 1916 since W.R. Hearst had hired London to cover the Mexican Revolution in 1914. Bridge is introduced in Out There Somewhere on his way to Mexico. So that if Bridge is to be associated with London his despatches from Mexico were probably the immediate reason.
Even though Burroughs admired London as a writer they were at opposite poles politically. London claimed to be a confirmed socialist although he doesn’t write like one. As a revolutionist which he claimed to be he was in opposition to ERB.
Their views of the hobo were also in opposition so one wonders exactly what Burroughs was thinking. Burroughs makes Bridge the only honest hobo on the road while all others are depicted as violent criminals. In the first hobo scene in Out There Somewhere Bridge and Byrne are accosted by murderous hoboes who are defeated by the pugilist Byrne. The whole cast of hoboes in Bridge And The Kid are hardened criminals of the first water.
London on the other hand apologizes for his hoboes. When not victims of society they are philosophers who can astonish college professors with their learning. Thus London tends to whitewash the criminal aspects of the hobo. So, the question might arise as to whether Burroughs was correcting the image presented by his hero attempting to give him his take on the tribe. Remember London was still alive when Out There Somewhere was written and published in magazine form. It could have been meant for his eyes.
London was only eighteen when he made his tour of the country. He had already shipped out on a tour of the orient when seventeen. His moniker was Sailor Jack. He enlisted as a recruit in a clone of Coxey’s Army known as Kelly’s Army which left for DC from California.
As Burroughs mentions Coxey’s Army in Bridge And The Kid while he associates the Army with the IWW, then Wobbly activities may have called to mind London’s hobo experience. Obviously all these elements are interconnected.
If George Mc Whorter of the BB and Philip Berger are right and the L. in Bridge’s name refers to London Bridge that would be in keeping with the punning on the name Dick Burton.
London could be an element in the character of Bridge but not necessarily the dominant one while Byrne would also represent Jack London. It seems clear that Burroughs had been fascinated by the character of the hobo from an early age. As noted, the hobo appears as a significant character in his very first attempt at writing, Minidoka.
Burroughs may have affectionately joined his persona with that of London as Bridge is a declassed aristocrat which is almost a necessity for a Burroughs hero. In this case Bridge is a ‘Virginian’, a natural gentleman as well as a cultivated one. The Virginian in American history is the antithesis of the Puritan.
The Virginian was thought to be an innate gentleman, one of the ‘quality’ as opposed to the ‘equality’. The prototype of the manly man. Nearly all of Burroughs’ heroes are Virginians. Jack London didn’t have that distinction so in my opinion he represented Burroughs in his declassed state.
As a Virginian gentleman Bridge, apparently an unconventional sort, ‘volunteered’ to be a hobo because he rejected the settled life but he can reenter the aristocracy at will as he does at the end of the book. Hence while all other ‘boes are criminals or at least suspect Bridge is honest and above board. He’s known far and wide to the authorities as the only honest hobo. He’s the hobo who has Burton’s confidence.
In Out There Somewhere he is in search of the woman of his dreams. In Bridge And The Kid he finds her.
‘She’ is obviously Abigail Prim. Gail is a Cinderella figure. Her mother died. Jonas Prim, her father, remarried. Her stepmother, Pudgy Prim, while not conventionally wicked nevertheless does not wish the best for her step-daughter.
As the story opens, this is kind of hard to follow, Pudgy has sent her daughter to live with the man she has chosen as Gail’s future husband to see if she couldn’t learn to like him a little better. I’m sure I must have missed a connection somewhere but that is how I read it.
The man Pudgy has chosen for her is more than twice Gail’s nineteen years with the attendant infirmities. They used to age rapidly in those bygone days. ERB doesn’t tell us how old Gail was when her mother died but it seems strange that her father wouldn’t do more than grumble about this odd plan of his second wife.
While Gail appears to accept her step-mother’s decision to the extent of getting on a train bound for her suitor’s town she gets off early returning to Oakdale where she disguises herself as a boy then burgles her own property to take up a life on the road as a hobo. Of course ERB conceals from us that the girl Gail and boy burglar are one and the same.
Having looted herself of a fairly good sized fortune, a necklace alone was appraised by the General, a hobo, at fifty thousand dollars while she was carrying at least two thick wads of bills worth thousands as mixed in with the greenbacks, few of which were ones, were many yellow backs. There’s some currency information for you. Researching currency on the web it appears that yellow backs were hundred dollar bills while other denominations were all greenbacks. Completing the burglary she heads on down the road as night falls. After a couple misadventures with a dog and a bull Gail falls in with six criminal ‘boes in an abandoned shed.
A true innocent she flashes her fortune in front of the startled eyes of the ‘boes, hardened criminals every one. Mocking her naiveté one of the ’boes claims to know her as the Oskaloosa Kid who is out robbing and murdering at that very moment. Gail doesn’t know this, misses the joke and assumes the character of the Oskaloosa Kid.
After a failed robbery attempt by the ’boes Gail runs down the road in a gathering storm with the hoboes in pursuit. As she comes to a fork in the road she encounters the Happy Hobo, Bridge, who is apparently oblivious of the coming storm. He is merrily tramping along reciting some of his favorite poetry- out loud. The meter comes through better that way although the practice might raise comment from casual observers.
Bridge and the Kid join destinies.
So what is Burroughs talking about here in the psychological sense? He is following the same scheme he follows in all his Anima stories. Usually a sudden storm takes place on a yacht at sea and the survivors find themselves on a desert island. The plot develops that ERB used in the Outlaw Of Torn also. In that plot the little Prince’s nurse was murdered by a fencing instructor who then dressed as a woman to serve as the little Prince’s Anima. The Prince in Outlaw Of Torn was torn from his secure position in the world as Burroughs was in his.
In this story Gail has a wicked step-mother who wants to marry her off to an undesirable man. Gail voluntarily dresses and poses as a boy so that fencing master and boy serve the same function with the sexes reversed so that Gail is prepared to reveal herself and assume the role of Burroughs’ Anima returned to female form.
In Outlaw the Prince who becomes an outlaw, or outcast, Norman, is torn from his high station where he is declassed as an outlaw. In this story Bridge voluntarily declasses himself because he ’prefers’ life on the road among the criminals.
This book was written four years after Outlaw so Burroughs psychology has evolved. The emotional problem centers on Burroughs’ confrontation when he was eight or nine years old with a bully on the way to Brown school. ERB was so terrorized by the incident that his Animus was emasculated and his Anima was nearly annihilated. (The fencing master kills the nurse Maud and assumes the identity of the Anima.) As I have pointed out this means that Burroughs in his terror was hypnotized into accepting certain beliefs about himself. These are prime psychological facts which control one’s behavior. While under the influence of the hypnotist (John the Bully in this case) certain suggestions (Burroughs subconscious interpretation of the terror, his psychotic response) were fixated in his subconscious. These suggestions then influence or control the actions of the subject so long as they are active. They may be exorcised in the course of time, resolved in some manner, or they may control one’s actions for life as improbable as that seems to some people.
The purpose of analysis should be to locate these suggestions and resolve them. Freud called this ’the talking cure.’ Burroughs is doing the same thing in his writing, discussing the fixation (embedded suggestion) from many angles in an attempt to resolve it thus freeing himself from its control. All of his writings from 1911 to this novel contributed to its solution. In the Bridge Trilogy ERB succeeded in understanding his fixation but apparently lacked the follow through to eliminate it as a spirit of malaise followed him throughout his life.
In meeting his reconstituted Anima in boy’s disguise at the fork in the road or street corner, the crossroads in Outlaw, the original scene of hypnosis, he has recreated the original hypnotic incident. The hoboes pursuing Gail represent the bully. Symbolically they will all be joined in the haunted house during the storm. In this case the house takes the place of the desert island.
Thus Bridge leaves the broad, well-traveled road of happiness, (the yacht sinks) to join his destiny with the Kid on the less traveled hazardous road.
They enter the abandoned farm house which represents Burroughs’ self after the confrontation with John the Bully. Thus ERB’s Animus and Anima are once again together in his self or house although his Anima is disguised as a male and he doesn’t recognize her.
In this unresolved state the real Oskaloosa Kid drives by. He throws a woman from an open tonneau in a driving rain storm no less, firing a shot after her. The shot misses, the girl is stunned but otherwise uninjured. Thus ERB’s previous Anima is returned to him but unlike Maud she is unconscious but alive. The three are joined by the dual aspects of the bully spending the night together with them in a room of the farmhouse. So that is the set and setting.
ERB is accused of being unduly influenced by his readings. This may be true. As a dependent personality as a result of his encounter he is highly influenced by those he admires. He has a high level of suggestibility as a result of his hypnosis. He seems to have been very willing to accept suggestions from his publishers such as Metcalf at All Story who suggested a medieval story which ERB undertook against his better judgment as Outlaw Of Torn.
However imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. ERB was a very flattering sort of guy. In this book he mentions several influences whose manner he imitates to some degree. But he always has a very original story.
The first issue is that of why a hobo hero. The hobo was an unacceptable topic for literature at that time, still is. In fact Burroughs’ two hobo novels are rather daring departures from tradition. There may be a genre of hobo novels, if so these two stories are bedrock of the genre. They may have been the first hobo novels published.
They were certainly intended as a tribute to Jack London. Although Burroughs acknowledges deep respect for London none of his volumes are found in Burroughs’ existing library. The library seems to consist of childhood books and volumes Burroughs purchased after he came into money. He doesn’t seem to have gone back and picked up old favorites. In such case we can’t know for sure how much of London’s Burroughs actually read.
London was prolific writing dozens of novels and collections of short stories along with some few non-fiction titles. Among the last was a record of his hoboing experience entitled: The Road. Published in 1908 there is a good chance Burroughs may have read it. An indirect proof might possibly be found in the sobriquet the Oskaloosa Kid. There is an Oskaloosa in both Kansas and Iowa. When London took his hobo trip from Oakland across the US and back by way of Canada in 1894 as part of Kelly’s Industrial Army he makes mention of incidents in Oskaloosa Iowa. If Burroughs read The Road the name Oskaloosa may have stuck in him memory.
London himself had difficulty getting The Road published as his publishers didn’t believe the hobo a suitable subject for treatment. If London ever intended a hobo novel he never wrote it. He did author several hobo related short stories. One can’t be certain which of the short stories, if any, Burroughs read. Certainly he couldn’t have read them all.
London was also sent to Mexico by the Hearst papers to cover the Mexican Revolution in 1914 so it is very possible that Out There Somewhere deals with the Mexican Revolution. Burroughs may have been more directly inspired by London’s Mexican dispatches.
In any event these two volumes are generally agreed to have a direct reference to Jack London with which conclusion I agree.
I did discuss the Bridge Trilogy in my Only A Hobo which elicited the response from fellow writer David Adams that I should have read Martin Eden if I wanted to understand Burroughs’ The Mucker. I had read it. I read it again. Unfortunately David failed to refer to the passages that would have enlightened me.
Reinforcing the hobo image of the two books is Burroughs use of hobo poetry throughout Out There Somewhere and the first half of Bridge And The Kid. Central to the first volume is HH Knibbs poem Out There Somewhere after which ERB’s story is named. The theme of that poem most important to Burroughs is that his dream woman or Anima awaits him in the South down by the sea. Weaving through these images and through Bridge And The Kid is Robert Service’s The Road To Anywhere. It doesn’t hurt to be familiar with these two poems.
If writing a hobo novel was avant garde, building one work around the work of another writer was no less daring. One can only say that ERB was fearless.
There is a possibility that Burroughs may have intended Out There Somewhere as an introduction to both Knibbs and London. He left for an extended stay in California shortly after completing the novel during which he may possibly have intended a trip North to Sonoma to visit London but his favorite author chose this unpropitious moment to cash in. November 22 is also the death date of John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley although forty-seven years later. If Jack hadn’t been in such a hurry he might easily have made it a three way termination.
It is noteworthy that Burroughs did extend an invitation to HH Knibbs who wrote the poem around which the novel was built and who did accept the invitation.
The hobo theme may also have been suggested by an increasing feeling of restlessness which resulted in the familial hoboing across the country after Out There Somewhere was completed in 1916.
Assuming the hobo influences of the IWW, London, Knibbs and Service, it would not seem necessary to look for others but Burroughs was able to cram more into a hundred fifty pages than any author I have read. On page one of Bridge And The Kid he mentions Sherlockian which refers to Conan Doyle, Raffleian which refers to the Raffles of Doyle’s son-in-law E.W. Hornung and the Alienist which refers to psychologists of some type.
Doyle was an ever present influence on Burroughs. His admiration for Doyle’s detective, Sherlock Holmes, permeates his work. He is forever trying to write a good detective story of which Bridge And The Kid is an excellent example if not the most perfect example of his Holmsian stories. A great many of his other novels have detective stories concealed within them.
Bridge And The Kid is one of the best. I’m sure everyone is able to guess that the Kid is a girl in disguise before the story ends but the question is how early? I don’t know exactly when I did but by the time the Kid went out to ‘rustle grub’ his relationship with Willie Case gave it away for sure. Still, even knowing did not diminish enjoyment of the rest of the story. Both Bridge and the Kid are excellent characters as was Burroughs’ detective Burton. Loved all three. Actually I loved all the characters including Beppo which were all drawn vividly.
One wonders if Burroughs knew that Hornung was Doyle’s son-in-law. If so the union of the two in one story is clever and piquant. Hornung and Raffles are probably not so well known now but Raffles was a very popular character for a long time. Whereas Doyle created the master detective his son-in-law created a mirror image master thief. Doyle didn’t take kindly to Hornung’s character, Arthur J. Raffles, for that was his name. Raffles was a gentleman thief or ‘amateur cracksman’ who stole from his hosts on country weekends. His sidekick was named ‘Bunny’. The Kid, Gail in disguise, is of course a counterpart to Holmes’ Watson and Raffle’s Bunny.
As a further inspiration then we have Holmes and Watson and Raffles and Bunny for Bridge and the Kid. Pretty amazing, huh? You can see why Philip Farmer got carried away in Tarzan Alive.
Then later in the book in a fit of exuberance Burroughs mentions H. Rider Haggard and Jules Verne although I can’t find references to their work in this story. Just ERB liked their stuff.
Finally we have to mention the Alienist. This certainly implies that Burroughs took more than a passing interest in psychology. As wide ranging as his interests were one is forced to believe that he knew who Freud and Jung were by 1917. What he knew of their work is open to conjecture although the story Tarzan’s First Nightmare of this period follows Freud’s dream theory pretty closely.
I would imagine he knew something of William James and I am convinced of FWH Myers. Beyond that I can’t say. It seems clear to me that Burroughs is attempting some careful psychological portrayals in this book.
Having discussed the preliminaries let’s see how Burroughs develops set and setting in this very delightful story of times, places and landscapes that will never be seen again.
March 14, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Accreted Personality
Time may fly but life seems long. Long enough for circumstances to alter your personality more than once. Consider for instance the National Guardsman secure in job, wife and family who is jerked out of his ideal existence to take a tour of duty in Iran or Afghanistan, foreign wars which betray the promises of his enlistment which were to defend his home state. Do you think a personality change didn’t occur when he received his notice? If he was kept in for several tours of duty over a period of years so that his former existence doesn’t appear to him as a dream that took place in a parallel universe? And if he comes home without an arm or a leg or, perhaps, both, that he doesn’t suffer from reminiscences or have a dual or multiple personality. You can bet he does. Nor does your life have to be as hard as the National Guardsman for your own personality to acquire personality accretions over your lifetime, all of which are stored in your mind and may be reassumed at any time.
As I said in the first part, these various existential states don’t disappear, they become part of your reminiscences whether suppressed or remembered and as possible fixations or idees fixe they influence your daily actions.
So now, let’s turn to the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs to illustrate the idea of the accreted personality. Psychology is simple if you don’t make it complex by mystifying it. I hope I can make Burroughs’ story clear without unnecessarily complicating it. I will try to use Occam’s Razor judiciously.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, who would become very famous as a fiction writer, entered this world of pain of pleasure on September 7, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. He was parented by George T. and Mary Burroughs, he of Anglo-Irish ancestry and she of Pennsylvania Dutch, that is say, German. Eddie always considered himself pure English at a time when being English meant something, a much depreciated coin these days.
George T. was an upright man who had been an officer on the Union side in the Civil War a scant ten years previously. George Custer had not yet gone down at the Little Big Horn nor was Sitting Bull yet starring in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. George T. had two other sons, George and Harry, who were born just after the Civil War.
George T. was a whisky distiller while at this time the Whisky Trust was coming into existence. George T. was an independent sort who needed the Trust less than they wanted him. I don’t say the Trust was responsible but George T. was burned out. Chicago loved a good fire.
The relationship between Ed and his parents was not a warm one. His father made his life difficult, seemingly on purpose, while his mother seems to have been rather cold. Burroughs seldom mentions her nor were any of his characters named Mary, or George for that matter.
Nevertheless, born into a world of creature comforts with high expectations in a fine house on Chicago’s West Side with two Irish maids Ed began life in a happy state of mind walking down the street singing Zippity Do Dah or the equivalent. He stayed that way for about eight years until his first personality changing event occurred.
Eddie attended Brown School in his neighborhood. I haven’t been able to find out much about Brown but the schools stands out as special in Ed’s mind. The school had several prominent graduates one of which was the showman, Flo Ziegfeld. As Ziegfeld was Jewish it is quite possible the school was close to Maxwell St. Maxwell St. would figure prominently in Ed’s later novel, The Mucker.
One day when Ed was eight he found a big twelve year old Irish kid by the name of John belligerently blocking his way. It isn’t known whether he was walking with future wife Emma Hulbert or not but I suspect he was. At any rate John threatened to beat him up. Thoroughly terrorized Ed took to his heels and as he did so several suggestions entered his terrorized mind. To be in terror is to enter a hypnoid state in which all ones psychic defenses are lowered or discarded. Suggestions are easily fixated in your mind. Thus at the age of eight Ed’s original personality was submerged, he assumed his central childhood fixation. Not only was he emasculated on his Animus but, perhaps because he shamed himself in front of Emma, he transferred his Anima to John; he then set up John as his ideal of manhood wishing to be just like him.
The result was that John became his favorite name. In his future novels he named a disproportionate number of characters both good and bad John. His two key characters were both named John- John Clayton, aka Tarzan Of The Apes and John Carter of Mars. Both have the initials JC referring to Jesus Christ, one supposes. Thus on the masculine side their names commemorate John the Bully while on the feminine side Jesus Christ. Ed also wore a book under the assume name of John McCullough.
As Ed was shamed by running, defenses against cowardice are liberally sprinkled throughout his works with justifications for the advance to the rear maneuver, or running.
Particularly troubling to him was the occupation of his Anima by a male. Probably not very usual but given the limited range of responses available to humans, probably not that uncommon. But this result of the fixation was particularly troubling to him appearing in a succession of his initial output of the ‘teens.
The clearest exposition of the results of this fixation was reproduced in the pages of Ed’s second novel, The Outlaw Of Torn. The hero of the novel is a boy of Ed’s age on the street corner, who is the king of England’s son c. 1400 AD. The King has a quarrel with his fencing instructor, De Vac, who then avenges himself by kidnapping the son, Norman.
The scene is that Norman is playing in the garden under the watchful eye of his nurse/Anima when De Vac appears outside the garden gate- I. e. Ed’s mind- luring Norman to him. Norman has passed the gate when his nurse who had been chatting with another woman notices. She rushed through the gate where De Vac struck her dead. Thus his Anima was outside Ed’s mind when she was destroyed.
Now, this is the replication of a dream story. The meaning is that Norman/Ed was safe inside when De Vac/John caught him, as it were, with his pants down, killing and assuming the role of his Anima. The nurse represents his Anima or right brain which was then disabled.
So, as an eight year old boy Eddie has an emasculated Animus, left brain, and destroyed or shattered Anima, right brain. This has to be dealt with in some way so he can carry on and survive.
What Burroughs does then is create a myth to repair the damage as well as he can. De Vac now on the run with his prize who he must conceal takes Norman to a three story house in the slums of London built on stilts out over the water of the River Thames. The two live in this attic/mind for three or four years. During this entire period De Vac is dressed as an old woman. So, here we have the emasculated Animus combined with the dead Anima with the waters of the feminine flowing beneath the house, I.e. Burroughs’ self.
The two live this way for three or four years, Norman never leaving the attic. At the end of this period De Vac dons men’s clothes and takes Norman to a ruined castle in the Shires. The remarkable thing about this castle is that on one side, the right side, the roof has completely fallen in, can’t be used.
The interpretation is that Ed so identified himself with John that he had to put his own life on hold until he turned twelve, the same age John had been. At that point he recovered or began to recover some control of his Animus while his Anima remained destroyed.
De Vac then began to train Norman in the manly arts to be a killing machine to attain physical vengeance for De Vac on the King.
One can’t be sure of what effect the encounter had on his personality but the next year after the confrontation his father took him from Brown transferring him to an all girl’s school. George T.’s reason for this was that there was a fever going around and he wanted to protect Ed from it. How one would be safe from a communicable disease in a girl’s school isn’t clear so perhaps Ed’s father had another reason.
In Ed’s psychological state it is not unlikely that he went into a fairly serious depression while emasculated and crippled he may have become very effeminate. The placement in the girl’s school may have been one of disgust and to teach the boy a lesson to act like a man.
The humiliation on top of the emasculation was difficult for Ed to bear. He pleaded and pleaded to be transferred from the girl’s school. His pleas were heard although his father didn’t send him back to Brown but a couple miles across town to Chicago’s Harvard Latin School where Ed stayed through what would have been his Junior High years. During this period, the date isn’t clear, Ed fell off his bicycle banging his head against the curb; it isn’t known whether it was the right or left side. This left him dizzy and walking round in circles for three or four days, then the obvious effects disappeared. George T. then jerked him out the Latin School and sent him West to his brothers’ cattle ranch in Idaho. He doesn’t seem to have attended any school for the year he was in Idaho. However he learned to be a cowboy and had a great time.
Even without school the period was not without intellectual stimulation. George and Harry Burroughs were graduates of the Sheffield Scientific School attached to Yale University but not yet integrated with it, along with their partner Lew Sweetser. Sweetser was a fairly remarkable guy deeply interested in psychology when the subject was just beginning to assume its modern form.
William James had just published his two volumes on Psychology but I haven’t been able to discover who Sweetser’s teachers may have been at Yale. Departments of Psychology were rare at American Universities in the 1880s. However, as Sweetser apparently studied whatever psychology was available it seems certain that he would have been at least aware of Charcot’s experiments at the Salpetriere that were world famous. It is also clear that he was familiar with the idea of the sub- or unconscious. However much Ed may have retained, as he himself was relatively well informed on psychological matters when he began writing the foundations of his knowledge were probably formed at Sweetser’s knee.
Having left Ed in the wilderness for a year, George T. then moved him to the East Coast to Massachusetts’ Phillips Academy. Ed was now being moved around almost with the frequency of a military brat with its devastating personality consequences. Having consorted with a rough bunch of fellows for a year, Ed was now in an elite school without a great deal of preparation.
He was in Idaho at the end of Wyoming’s Johnson County War when the big ranchers squeezed out the small ranchers. Many of the small ranch soldiers whose shootings were classified as murders had fled to Idaho where Ed knew one or two; from the company of murderers, or killers at any rate, he was now in with a bunch of elitist schoolboys.
When his brothers had attended Yale their father had refused them an allowance that would have allowed them to associate with their richer school fellows as equals. If he continued the practice with Ed at Phillips then an extra burden was placed on the kid that would help explain his behavior. At any rate he assumed the posture of clown to gain acceptance while neglecting his studies. Naturally he was requested to leave.
Certainly he could have expected to return home and attend school in Chicago but this was not his father’s plan. His father enrolled him at the Michigan Military Academy outside Detroit billed as The Paris Of The West which is most laughable. This was the second great psychological trauma in his life adding another major accretion to his personality. Ed rebelled at being sent away again.
This was not merely rejection but also a condemnation of him by his father. As Ed saw the situation, with a great deal of accuracy, the Military Academy was just a holding pen for juvenile delinquents whose parents didn’t know how to handle them so they put them away in what was essentially an asylum or reform school where they could get some ‘discipline.’
Ed was horrified at these suggestions about himself coming from his own father. He rebelled at the rejection and its implications. He left the academy to return home or as his biographer Porges puts it, he ran away. George T. wasn’t going to put up with that. He collared Ed and dragged him back to Detroit, told him to stay put or…who can say or what? At any rate crushed and rejected Ed had no choice but to obey, but his mother and father died for him that day, slain by their own hand. Thus when Ed’s literary alter ego Tarzan came into existence in 1912 his parents had been slain by murderous apes and Tarzan was an orphan as Ed imagined himself.
Ed stayed at the Academy into 1896 when he was between twenty and twenty-one. He took the Commandant of the Academy, Charles King, as his surrogate father and mother. Because King was a captain in the Army, later a general, Ed decided he wanted to be an Army officer too. It is also noteworthy that King was a successful author of novels which Ed may have wanted to emulate when he too chose to become an author. One of King’s first novels was An Apache Princess while Ed’s first commercial effort was titled A Princess Of Mars.
Ed attempted in vain to win an appointment to West Point but failed. Then in 1896 while serving as an instructor at the Michigan Military Academy Ed foolishly abandoned his post choosing to join the Army as an enlisted man before the school term ended.
By now twenty years old his past with its many personality accretions had formed him. His original personality had been destroyed to be replaced by that caused by John. The accretions accumulated as he was shifted from school to school and West to East to MidWest leaving him dazed and confused while the final accretion of that youthful period was the devastating rejection by his parents all of which left him depressed and fatalistic. The high expectations of his childhood had been completely eliminated. The bright young boy had been transformed into a gloomy young man. But no former personality had disappeared; they all lived on in his unconscious where circumstances could revive any or all at the appropriate moment.
But, one is still alive and one must toddle on. Ed was not lazy or adverse to work. His intellectual interests were vast. He was a great wide ranging reader.
In the next part then, let’s turn to his personality forming accretions from reading and his general intellectual , social and political milieu.
March 6, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Accreted Personality
The post-French Revolution period begins the rapid development of the Aryan mind. The Enlightenment laid the foundation of that development. Shortly after mid-nineteenth century the French astronomer, Camille Flammarion, was able to announce that Astronomy and Psychology would be the key disciplines of the future. The break with the religious consciousness of the past ten thousand years or so would be fraught with immense dangers, dangers which we are still combating.
The social ideology of the present asserts that all people are of the same stage of mental development. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. There are still hundreds of millions if not a billion or two who still maintain a stone age view of the world. Nor are all of them in other parts of the world, a vast number are here in the Americas and Europe. In addition there are billions still enmeshed in a religious consciousness while only perhaps a hundred million or two have actually evolved into the scientific consciousness. Hence we have the terrifically repressive attempted subversion of science by the Semitic religions.
So, it should be clear at first glance that not all people are equally developed or endowed nor are all cultures of the same value.
The French scientist and neo-romantic novelist Camille Flammarion noted mid-nineteenth century that the two most important intellectual disciplines for the future would be Astronomy and Psychology. I think that has proven true.
A major discovery of the century was the notion of the split or multiple personality. A term currently in use is Dissociation. Neither is accurate. I advance the term Accretive Personality. That is one’s personality is made up of many personality variations as a result of growth and experience. In periods of stress it is quite easy to escape oppressive reality by slipping into what is essentially an alternate reality or a parallel personality, if you will.
This was not a new phenomenon, merely the shock of recognition. In Greek mythology, for instance, when the stress of the mid life crisis hit, the hero went through a period of madness, that is to say he adopted a parallel personality until he was able to reorganize his mental attitude to new realities.
In Europe, under the stress of an insane quasi-Semitic religion in which Satan took a prominent role, it was common for the stressed to become ‘possessed’ by demons or, in other words, to split the personality. That is the person showed a parallel personality. The transition point to the beginning of secular understanding came when Dr. Anton Mesmer matched his secular method of exorcism against the ecclesiastical method of exorcism and won. So one might say that modern psychology derived from the problem of the dual personality- the Jekyll and Hyde effect. However dual or multiple personality was not recognized as such until announced in Jean-Martin Charcot’s clinic at the Salpetriere hospital in Paris in the mid-eighties.
Charcot studied hysterics. Hysterics are dealing with a lot of stress, hence escape through an alternate personality would be an easy choice. Charcot and the Salpetriere aren’t exactly household words so let’s take a moment to explain the situation in which modern psychology was born.
It is also necessary to bear in mind changes in scale. What is good for one stage of growth is not good for another. As the scale of things progresses from tiny to small to medium to large to huge to gigantic new forms have to be adopted to suit the new circumstances. These transition points are difficult to adjust to but once adjusted to are considered so normal that those who resisted the old change are equally resistant to adapt to the next level. Of course the young of each scale is born into it and has no adaptation to make although they will at the next change of scale.
Thus the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era masked to a very large degree a major change of scale so that after Waterloo a seemingly complete break with the past had taken place. It was a new world in the morning. So in the years leading up to the Great War another change of scale had taken place that masked the new world that popped into place in the twenties. I picked up the concept from that astute observer, H.G. Wells, who noted the emerging change in scale at the turn of the century. That great ship, the Titanic, that went down in ‘12 may be considered as representative of that change.
Thus with the change of consciousness that actually took place in 1795 the new consciousness became clear after Waterloo. Gone was the religious notion of ‘possession by evil spirits’ to be replaced soon by the concept of multiple personality. Thus whereas in the past the insane had been treated as raving beasts, chained to walls and whatever a Dr. Pinel at Paris’ Salpetriere began a more humane treatment with an attempt to understand the causes of insanity. The approach was parodied amusingly by Edgar Allen Poe in his story The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether in which the inmates revolted and took over the asylum.
The Salpetriere was a large compound of several acres with thousands of residents, mainly women from whom the subjects who became the hysterics that the great Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot began to study as a neurologist, as the early psychiatrists were known. The field of Psychology is divided in two. On the one side psychiatrists who must be MDs and who believe mental ailments are biologically derived and hence to be treated medically with drugs or, one shudders to think of it, operations like pre-frontal lobotomy or electric or insulin shock ‘therapy.’ Psychologists, who are PhDs with little or no medical training treat neuroses and psychoses as malfunctions of reason caused by experiential traumas.
Charcot as an MD originally sought biological causes for the hysteria he studied although he was coming around to a psychological viewpoint just before he died in 1893. Thus from being chained before Dr. Pinel released them these women, hysterics, while being confined to the Salpetriere were given freedom of movement within the hospital with its flowers and walkways making for a much more pleasant environment for them and one unobtainable to them on the outside.
Now, the great Dr. Anton Mesmer introduced hypnotism to Europe as a discipline in the years just before the Revolution. Naturally something so new and seemingly revelatory did not find immediate acceptance, indeed, it was treated as nonsense. Nevertheless people of learning, doctors, persisted in experimenting with it. Thus, when Charcot came to be the director of the Salpetriere, to the dismay of his profession he introduced the practice in his treatment of his hysterics and thus legitimized its use. Hypnosis, too, was new and little understood.
The essence of hypnosis is suggestion and Charcot did not understand suggestion. The rival hypnosis school led by Auguste Liebeault and Hippolyte Bernstein at Nancy to the East of Paris was aware of the effect of suggestion but not necessarily the nature of what it was. Actually suggestion is whatever enters the mind and is accepted. If one wakes to a beautiful sunny morning it is suggested to oneself that the day will be a good day. Acting on that suggestion, post-hypnotic one might say, one will try to make the day a great one to hang onto that feeling. The mind is naturally open to suggestion as it must be; in an active mind one can discriminate to some extent as to what suggestions will be accepted and which rejected. Under hypnosis in which the mind has been put into a passive state the ability to discriminate and reject has been greatly reduced so that a hypnotist can plant a suggestion that then becomes what Charcot’s associate, Pierre Janet, called an idee fixe, or in other words, a fixation that will remain in your mind until executed. This notion may be imparted by a human agent, books, movies, radio or any medium that is capable of influencing the mind. One must be aware of this. It isn’t necessary to have a hypnotist standing in front of you saying ‘look into my eyes.’
As I say, Charcot was convinced that hysteria was biological, that is to say caused by a lesion to the brain, so that while he hypnotized his female subjects at the Salpetriere he wasn’t aware of the nature of suggestion.
Now, the eighteen seventies and eighties were terrifically exciting at all levels. They did things differently then. As has been said: The past is another country; they do things differently there. The past is never to be judged by current standards although the latter are useful for comparison. Thus when Lister suggested that antiseptics ought to be used in the operating room his suggestion was stoutly resisted although true and nearly universally accepted today. On the other hand Evolution although true is more stoutly resisted today in a religious reaction than it was in the last quarter of the nineteenth century so don’t feel all that superior.
While Charcot was arguing with himself as to whether hysteria was biological or mental, in the mid-eighties two of his associates easily grasped that hysteria was a mental problem. These two were Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet.
Freud at that time, 1886, was making the transition to psychology from medicine. He was an MD. Charcot was not alone in dealing with mental matters. The understanding of dreams for instance was developing rapidly. When Freud published his Interpretation Of Dreams in 1900 he cited dozens of competent researchers dating as far back as the 1860s. In 1886 alone two novels dealing with the subconscious and split personality were published, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde and Marie Corelli’s Wormwood. Corelli cites Charcot as an influence so she very likely had attended his semi-public presentations of hysterics under hypnosis at his hospital.
Going back further, Freud, a German Jew, was undoubtedly familiar with the psychological work of the German romantics. At any rate he spent about four months at the Salpetriere studying Charcot’s work and methods. It is likely that the foundation of his psychoanalysis was laid there. While Charcot was struggling to determine whether hysteria was biological or mental, Freud, himself a neurologist, was able to perceive that, as he later put it, hysterics were suffering from reminiscences. In other words they fixated on past experiences which dominated their minds and behavior.
Pierre Janet, Charcot’s student and associate, came to the same conclusion probably at the same time. He expressed the problem more accurately when he determined that hysterics suffered from one or more idee fixes, that is a fixed idea or, in other words, a fixation centered around a specific past event or events.
Indeed, all the women at the Salpetriere had been battered and brutalized by life with no means of self-assertion or resistance. Unable to express their own will they retreated into ineffective hysterics finally ending up as semi-insane in Charcot’s hospital.
Now, split or multiple personality. No one, especially these women, have the personality they are born with. Over the course of our lives circumstances require us to respond in different ways, sometimes a personality is overwhelmed with a consequent personality adaptation or change and in extreme cases, insanity.
All very well, but what happens to the original and/or various personalities that were submerged. It is impossible for them to vanish from the mind so they must live on submerged by a more powerful personality impulse. Depending on the individual then, everybody must have at least one alternate personality. Stevenson and Corelli were demonstrating this in their novels.
The good Dr. Jekyll had had a wild streak in his youth that he forcefully repressed to become the totally respectable man of medicine. But, he longed for his rough and rowdy days so in Stevenson’s story he invents a potion, I’m sure whisky would have been just as effective, that allows him to free his original personality. In the course of his experiment the earlier personality suppresses the later one assuming control of Jekyll’s mind. Much the same thing happens in Corelli’s novel. Thus we have personality accretion.
Charcot’s hysterics, because of the side show atmosphere the Good Doctor created, became world famous, a sort of show people. Charcot even took them on the road for demonstrations and, heaven forbid, loaned them to other doctors for experimentation.
It was during one such loan in 1888 that Jules Janet, Pierre’s brother, made a startling discovery. He was experimenting on Blanche Wittman, the Queen of Hysterics, when having hypnotized her into what Charcot called the first state, instead of progressing to the second state, he decided to put her into a deeper trance. At that point Blanche was able to dissociate her personality from her normal state to what I assume was her original personality. She turned into a happy effervescent bubbly girl. In other words she had stripped every accreted personality adjustment to return to the period before society violated her womanhood.
One might ask where this personality came from? It is not necessary to assume either the supernatural or the paranormal. The personality did not come from outside her but was merely an early personality that had been submerged and denied existence by repeated abuse. If Jules Janet had pressed on he might have found three, four or more variations of Blanche Wittman. Indeed, when Charcot died in 1893 Blanche ceased having hysterical attacks and became quite normal assuming yet another personality although it was not recognized as such. She then took responsible employment at the hospital until she died under tragic circumstances.
Thus during one’s life one assumes many variations as one’s personal circumstances dictate. And one expresses them in many different ways. As an example of personality accretion I am going to use the history of the American fantasy and science fiction writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs. He has especial value as his biography is well developed and he has talked voluminously about his mental states through his large body of fiction which is all autobiographical in nature.
Part II follows.