Monday, June 9, 2014

The Economic and Social Themes in The War Against Spain

Frederick August Wenderoth 1875, Little Terrier
Image from the Wikipedia
Jules' dog, Bandito,  probably looked a lot like this
If Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain is really about what I say it's about, namely,  patriotism, unrequited love of country and how war should be financed, why is it that those themes come to the fore in the second half of the novel much  better than they do in the first? A reader asked me this, and it was an intriguing question that I had to think about for a moment.

I mean, the story starts with a boy, a dog, a mother and father, and a rebellious teenaged stepdaughter. At first, the larger themes are obscured by the daily grind of family life, the small conflicts that come up between husbands and wives, children and parents, and even dogs and their masters. Why did I do that? Because what I'm really interested in is what it means to be free, what slavery consists of, how best to achieve justice, and how this affects all people in their every day lives. So the War Against Spain is really not about the War Against Spain, so much as the war within each person against what is keeping him down. Then, once we understand what we want as individuals, we can band together with our natural allies to try to get that.

Minor themes that feed into the larger ones are:

  •  What is piracy and how does it differ from privateering? What is cannibalism and how does it differ from eating? What is taxation and how does it differ from looting?
  •  What is marriage and the place of women in a family? Why does society favor wives over daughters? How best to protect a family? 
  •  What is justice? Why must it be swift? Why was dueling helpful? What sorts of wrongs should not be litigated?
  •  What does the corporate structure of businesses have to do with our current problems in an industrialized society?
  •  How did the Panic of 1819 come about?  How was it related to the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812?
  • What is wage slavery and why was the North in favor of it?
  •  What did Jean Laffite and Karl Marx have in common? 
  • Why is the idea of egalitarianism so different today from what it was in the 19th century?
I am going to be addressing these themes in this blog from time to time, and when I do, I will link to the relevant blog post in this list. So if you want to see how all the minor themes relate to the big theme, come back and check for links.

For the time being, here is an interesting link to an article that gives us a small hint on how Das Kapital has been reinterpreted over the years.

Jean Laffite considered himself a champion of  "liberal" thought. But  "liberal" back then meant something considerably different from what  "liberal" means today.


  1. To be honest I am tired or what liberal and conservatism mean today. For years I considered myself a liberal, but after a time I realized these factions are just created to get ordinary people to argue, whereas the politicians are really not all that different in the perks they share with each other.

    1. The terms liberal and conservative cause a lot of confusion, especially when seen from a historical perspective, as the context changed completely. One of the things I hope my novel will do is open people's minds to the actual issues, while discarding some of these labels.