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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

5. Masculine

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•  Using the Video
•  Authors
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•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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Activities: Author Activities

John Rollin Ridge (Yellow Bird) - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: What drives Joaquin Murieta to a life of crime? What groups are the targets of his criminal activity? What groups and individuals does he spare? What kind of code does he live by?

  2. Context: Compare Ridge's portrait of Joaquin Murieta to the corridos' descriptions of Latino bandits living on the border between Texas and Mexico. How do these texts participate in similar traditions? How do their descriptions of outlaws differ? How do these different kinds of texts (novels and ballads) use different strategies to shape their readers' attitudes toward the outlaws and border cultures that they portray?

  3. Exploration: In 1967, Chicano activist Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales published an epic poem which took the life of Joaquin Murieta as its subject. Compare Gonzales's I Am Joaquin--Yo Soy Joaquin with Ridge's earlier novelistic account. How does Gonzales's position as a late-twentieth-century activist and as a Chicano shape his portrait of Murieta?

  4. Exploration: Although Ridge's narrative of Joaquin Murieta's life owes more to fiction than to fact, it was quickly accepted by many readers and even some professional historians as an accurate historical account. Why do you think the figure of Joaquin Murieta (or at least Ridge's description of him) was so appealing that people were anxious to believe in his reality? Why has the story of his life become such an important myth within California history? Can you think of other outlaw figures who occupy similarly important positions within the mythology of other regions of the United States?

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