The Civilizing Machine

THE CIVILIZING MACHINE Gertrude Bonin’s “The Civilizing Machine” deals with the issues that arise in the authors life as a young Native American leaving her family and way of life to be educated at a Quaker school in the 1800’s. Being a Native American and then being immersed into an European education system that existed to “civilize” her in the ways of the white culture caused much confusion in the author’s struggle as a teen to develop a since of who she was, “Even nature seemed to have no place for me. I was neither a wee girl nor a tall one; neither a wild nor a tame one.” Other conflicts arise in Gertrudes life that deals with her mother’s ability to relate to her daughter’s feelings of unhappiness, “She was not capable of comforting her daughter who could read and write.” In this essay Gertrude is trying to show the effects of her schooling to be one of a negative nature, which she fails to do. Gertrude while seeming to despise her schooling, “It was inbreed into me to suffer in silence rather than to appeal to the ears of one whose open eyes could not see my pain, I have many times trudged in the day’s harness heavy-footed, like a dumb sick brute.” Yet she still yearns for the benefits of her education when she wishes to be taken along to her cousins party. Another issue that takes away from her ability to show her schooling to be a negative experience, is that without it how would she have been able to express these feelings about the effects of the way she was educated.

While I feel she failed to truly show her education to be all that bad of thing for her to go through, she did an excellent job of showing what emotionally Native Americans had to deal with while their culture was being deprived and another way of life being forced upon them.

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