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Rachel-K
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Bread and Circuses

[ Edited ]
Since classical times, the circus has been a symbol of pandering to a public desire for illusions and the satisfactions of "rude" pleasures. Is there anything wrong with that? How are reality and illusion contrasted in the novel?

Message Edited by rkubie on 11-25-2007 11:52 PM
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fordmg
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Re: Bread and Circuses



rkubie wrote:
Since classical times, the circus has been a symbol of pandering to a public desire for illusions and the satisfactions of "rude" pleasures. Is there anything wrong with that? How are reality and illusion contrasted in the novel?

Message Edited by rkubie on 11-25-2007 11:52 PM




Well, I think it is a little crude, however, human nature gravitates to this. There may be some small circus' that still set up in an empty lot outside of town, but the big B&B is only shown in stadiums. They were just in Chicago a few weeks ago, they played the All State Arena and United Center. I would hope that people aren't as gullable as they were at the end of the 1800's beginning of 1900's, but probably some still are. Now I think it is about the animals and acts (clowns, gymnists and jugglers). This book speaks of past times. It is truly a bit of history.
MG
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IBIS
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Re: Bread and Circuses

An interesting thought I had is that train circuses helped our country develop a more shared national culture because it is such a democratic form of public entertainment.

In WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, Sara Gruen made it clear that the sight of trains pulling in and circus tents being set up was the highlight of the year for many American towns and cities throughout the Depression years; schools and stores closed and everyday life stood still.

Because it is such a democratic form of public entertainment, it had an enormous cultural impact in our cultural history; it’s a concrete representation of racial diversity, and gender differences (like hermaphrodites). And it presented an amazing variety of the human body like the bearded lady, the fat lady, the dwarfs; some acts turned human beings into animals, like the Elephant Man; while others made animals resemble humans by training the animals to behave like humans... four-legged animals are trained to walk on their two hind legs.

Individual circus acts and exhibits e.g., "fat lady” who was advertised as 800 pounds, (when in reality was probably no more than 400 pounds) challenged contemporary concepts of femininity; clowns and strongmen challenged everyday assumptions about masculinity .

Train circuses provided a vibrant, visceral forum for the era's cultural changes. They helped catapult our nation of loosely connected cities and states that were “cultural islands” into a modern nation-state with an increasingly shared national culture.

This continues today, in different forms, in places like Disneyland and Las Vegas.

IBIS
IBIS

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vivico1
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Re: Bread and Circuses

I think there is a division now that we need to consider since Jacob's time. As was pointed out, Circuses rarely are train circuses anymore that set up big tops outside of town but rather held in major city coliseums and such. You wont find Barnum's pulling into a medium or small town and setting up outside. So what has happened, is the midways that used to be with the circuses are now out there as traveling carnivals or state fairs, with rides, instead of animals, and the sideshows that the circuses don't have. Some of these that I have seen, even today, can be pretty seedy operations. There are even differences in illusions between the two. The circus may have some really cool magicians, or even illusions on their highwire or trapeze acts that can be pretty first rate, or be like Cirque Du Soliel which is very cool and lots of beautiful illusions.

The traveling carnivals still have the sideshows that pander to the other kind of illusion seekers. They still have the fat ladies, the bearded ladies. I remember one that was suppose to be like a real Mermaid or something it was just costume of course but also they had their freak show, none of which was anymore real than in the story when they saw the horse with a tail where its head should be, tho that was kind of funny lol. But the fact that we still go in to maybe get a change to see something weird or freakish, is about like going to the car races on a chance to maybe see a bad smash up. There is a baser side to man that is crude, vulgar, even wicked, that is what makes these shows still survive today. And tho no one has touched the one thread about some of the baser things, as mentioned in the book lol, I do think there are women such as Barbara in some of these carnivals, or hanging around them.

Maybe the contrast that we used to see in the circuses, the beautiful acts and animals vs the baser forms of entertainment have really split away from each other and become two separate things. Other than what we dont know behind the scenes, to the public the circus has actually become a "better class" of entertainment that the carnivals with sideshows.

As for how illusion and reality are contrasted in this book, all of what Jacob had formerly thought about a circus was pretty much an illusion, as it was to the public in general. And what others thought of the old Jacob for the most part was pretty much wrong too, they didnt see the real Jacob,so how many more older Jacobs are there out there? The title is used to show the difference in reality and illusion,

*****************spoiler warning for end of the book**************************

and to tell you the truth, I fear that what Jacob will find traveling with the circus since it is vastly different than the train ones of his day and he is old and can't do what even he may think he can and physically hold up. I fear that the reality of that kind of busy busy life may wind up not being anything like what Jacob thought of it, once again. It may prove to be too much or a disappointment, and his illusion that its like what he remembered will be gone.
Vivian
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Fozzie
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Re: Bread and Circuses



IBIS wrote:
This continues today, in different forms, in places like Disneyland and Las Vegas.

IBIS



Also, just turn on your TV. No need to wait for the circus train or even leave your house anymore to experience oddities.
Laura

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