America: God, Gold, and Golems Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Sturm's choice to make these stories into graphic novels fit with his overall goals?

    In writing these stories, it seems that James Sturm had a couple of ultimate goals: to inform his readers about little-known events in American history, and to bring the issues and glories of these events to bear on real life. The first of these goals could have been accomplished using a regular novel; plain text is usually the primary medium for relating interesting pieces of knowledge to readers. The typical audience for graphic novels, however, is perhaps something to take into account; these people probably are not those most familiar with these pieces of history, so making these into graphic novels could have reached and given the message to a completely different demographic.

    The visual depictions in these novels, however, make his second goal much easier and more strikingly compelling. By carefully illustrating each scene, Sturm has created a world that is both verbal and visual, drawing the reader into the story much more viscerally than would be achieved by simple text. The visual portrayal of each scene also makes the characters' thoughts internal, forcing the reader to engage with the scene in order to understand what each character is mentally going through. The additions are impactful, but so are the subtractions; leaving blanks to fill is one of the best methods of making readers interact with the text, making this world of historical fiction seem nearly real and thereby making its lessons more applicable to the modern reader.

  2. 2

    How is the theme of human greed seen across all three of these graphic novels?

    The theme of greed is present in all three of these very different novels, although it is more obvious in some than others. The first story, "The Revival," is perhaps the one in which the theme of greed is least obvious, but it is certainly still there (albeit in a different form than one might traditionally assume). Greed is essentially the desire to obtain more for oneself than might be necessary while placing an unhealthy focus on this expected gain. This usually takes the form of money, but in "The Revival," the Bainbridges exhibit a different type of greed: the selfish desire to have their daughter raised from the dead. This request is very unlikely, but Sarah has deluded herself into thinking it is almost an inevitable conclusion because of her overwhelming desire.

    In the second story, "Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight," the theme of greed is far more obvious. In order to acquire the mining town of Solomon's Gulch for themselves, a group of white Americans violently forces out the Chinese men who were already working their, killing many in the process. Most of these men, including Jem and Weeks, are incredibly greedy and will do almost anything for money. As Mae Harper exclaims, both of them would instantly trample a room full of babies if a gold nugget lay on the other side. "The Golem's Mighty Swing" likewise uses greed as a major theme: in order to increase profit, the team agrees to Paige's scheme to dress up Hershl as the Golem, a legendary creature from Jewish tradition. It's a deceptive and sensationalist move, and the team reaps the negative consequences when it causes the game to spiral out of hand, threatening the lives of the team members.

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