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Textaufgabe 1

Aufgaben
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1.
Outline the situation at home and at school.
2.
Examine how Senator Joe McCarthy is seen by the narrator, her father and Miss Stanforth.
3.
TeenInk is an online literary magazine for young people. This month's topic is Arthur Miller's The Crucible - one of America's most frequently performed plays. The magazine has asked its readers to submit articles discussing whether Nocerino's text should be read alongside Miller's play. Write this article.
#shortstory#thecrucible
Material 1
$\;$

Excerpt from Kathryn Nocerino, "Americanism" (1999)

The incidents referred to in this autobiographical short story take place in the 1950s during the McCarthy era when thousands of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government panels. The congressional hearings conducted by Senator McCarthy were shown on TV.
"What's a Communist?" I said.
My mother didn't even look up; what was going on was much too interesting. She said, still fixated on the shouting man, "Did you find the oatmeal cookies? They're in the bread box."
"Communist." That word was all over the place. Related terms, equally mysterious to me, also came up a
5
lot in conversation. Instead of "communist," someone could be, say, a "Russia Firster", a "pinko[1]," a "fellow traveller," a "Red Pepper." The man who was currently the Vice President had originally run against a woman who, he claimed, was "pink right down to her underwear." You'd open up a newspaper or a magazine, and they'd be in there too:
"Your Child Could Become A Communist" by Herbert Hoover. Hoover ran the FBI, which was always on TV
10
in a baggy suit, firing off revolvers.
The man on the TV screen in our living room went on, seeming to get more and more excited: “Fifth Amendment Communists … pinkos everywhere you look …”
If the weather was bad, I’d just go into my room and do the homework. On good days, I’d go outside and look for adventures. (…)
15
[One] night, both of my parents insisted on watching their favorite incomprehensible program, The Table Show[2]. “How dare you talk to me like that, you pinko?” the man in the center was howling; “I’m a war hero.”
“War hero my ass,” my father said.
“Teddy …,” went my mother.
20
“Some war hero. ‘Tail Gunner Joe[3].’ The way he drinks, I bet he couldn’t hit a palm tree if he used a cannon!”
My father knew what he was talking about. During World War II he was in ROTC[4] and they trained him to be a marksman[5]. He could shoot as well as Buffalo Bill[6]. Or even Geronimo[7]!
The man on the set was continuing: “Do you know what a ‘pixie’ is, sir?”
25
The man on the other side of the table answered, “Yes, I believe I do.”
Mr. Eyebrows said, “Is this statement true or false: is a ‘pixie’ closely related to a ‘fairy’?”
I didn’t know why they watched this nonsense. I was especially disappointed that night since I was counting on Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or at the very least, Walt Disney, to help me forget the rotten afternoon I had. Naturally, I was still ticked the following day when I showed up for Assembly. Nothing much
30
to look forward to, here. Assembly, which used to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys, had become as routine as the Andy Devine Show. We’d sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by “America the Beautiful”; then, if Miss Stanforth was feeling particularly energetic, “The Street I Live On.” Then we’d all stand up, clap our right arm over our chest diagonally, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
I enjoyed doing all this the first few times, but eventually, I could sing the songs and do the Pledge in my
35
sleep. I started thinking, involuntarily, about the Elbow Grease incident. Now, assuming—just for the sake of conjecture, you understand—that there was a monster in the swamp, what color would it be? Would it be a murky pea-green like the dinosaurs which were starting to appear, in absolutely hair-raising artist’s renditions, in the pages of Life magazine, or would it be a dusty gray like the elephants in the Central Park Zoo? Would it make noises? Could you teach it to say things like the kitten on the Andy Devine Show who I
40
was actually sure was a ventriloquist who taught Andy to do his unvarying assortment of dim-bulb routines?
Next thing I knew, a very loud voice was calling my name: “Miss Nocerino, you shall come up on stage. Immediately. And you too, Allen!”
I looked around me. Everyone else was in his or her seat. And they were all looking straight at me. I was still upright, my hand diagonally over my chest.
45
Miss Stanforth took each of us by the collar. “Look at these students, children!” she said. “They, by their reprehensible behavior, have shown deliberate disrespect for the flag of our country!”
“But Miss Stanforth” I squeaked, “I was only thinking!”
“I know what you were thinking,” she said. “You were thinking this is all a big joke. Well, it’s not a joke. Senator McCarthy, one of our greatest war heroes, is putting himself on the line to fight for our basic
50
freedoms …”
“He’s no war hero,” I piped up. “My father said he couldn’t hit a palm tree if he used a cannon!”
Miss Stanforth changed colors under her makeup: “Your father is a Communist!
Wow, I thought, so that’s what a Communist is; no wonder he won’t let me have a Captain Video Club Ring…
55
Miss Stanforth continued, gasping for breath, “You are going home right now and you will not come back until your parents, both of them, have spoken to the Principal. You will learn what it means to be an American!”
Allen, she merely gave a light cuff upside his head. He’d been shooting pellets again out of a straw. Allen would just go out the front door and maybe visit the Five-and-Dime to shoplift something. His mother, one
60
of the two divorced women in our community, was away in Manhattan, Land of Mystery and Danger, at work.
Allen and I walked out the front door of PS 214. “Hey, Allen,” I said, “you want my lunch? I’m not hungry.” I took it out of its Minnie Mouse lunch box, a cream cheese and jelly sangwidge on Wonder Bread.
“Sure,” he said, and immediately began wolfing it down.
65
“Hey, wanna throw rocks?” he asked, between bites.
I waved goodbye to him and trudged home. Oh, boy, I’m in for it now, I thought, anticipating the look that would be on my mother’s face as I showed up from school five hours too early.
The apartment was very quiet for a while. When my father came home, the two of them went into a back room and talked. Then my father patted me on the head. “You’re my daughter,” he said. “No child of ours is
70
un-American!”
I smiled. My father was the smartest person in the world. He’d prove I was an American: he’d walk into PS 214 the next day with my birth certificate. I’d seen it once. It said, right there in black and white, that I was born in St. Raymond’s Hospital in the South Bronx …
“Let’s put the damn TV on,” he said.
75
After he adjusted the rabbit ears and whacked the set once or twice for good measure, the image flickered into place. Oh, no, I thought, it’s all those people at the table again. The man with the eyebrows that met in the center of his forehead was jogging up and down in his seat and bellowing, “There are 6,791 Communists in your toilet bowl. America, wake up!”
My father said something under his breath and, for the first time in months, changed the channel.
Quelle: Kathryn Nocerino, “Americanism” in: Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan (eds.), Growing up Ethnic in America (New York: Penguin, 1999), pp. 77-81.

Annotations
[1] pinko: here: an insulting term for a communist or a socialist
[2] The Table Show: the girl’s term for the televised hearings
[3] Tail Gunner Joe: nickname for Senator Joe McCarthy
[4] ROTC: army training program for college students
[5] marksman: a person who is skilled in accurate shooting
[6] Buffalo Bill: famous American scout, bison hunter, showman
[7] Geronimo: famous native American chief
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$\blacktriangleright$  1. Outline situation
The 1999 short story "Americanism" by Kathryn Nocerino focuses on the author's own childhood in the McCarthy-Era. Being especially dreamy, Kathryn finds herself in a rather dangerous situation.
Introduction
The excerpt starts with the daughter coming home and finding her mother as always watching McCarthy hearings on television. At a young age, she already learns terms like "Russia Firster" or "pinko" and has to watch the congressional hearings conducted by McCarthy if she wants any kind of attention from her mother. However, she doesn't really understand what these hearings are about and considers them unreal, like a show. Usually, Kathryn would just go into her room and do her homework or go out on adventures. Hence, she doesn't get a lot of attention from her parents. One night, both her parents watch the program about the hearings and her father comments rather negatively on McCarthy - he can't believe that McCarthy claims he is one of the greatest war heroes when in fact, he doesn't even know how to shoot a gun according to Kathryn's father.
The next day, she daydreams during the school Assembly where they usually sing patriotic songs and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. All of a sudden, the teacher calls her up to the front and she and her father are called un-American by the teacher due to Kathryn's being disrespect for the flag of the country. She is suspended and has to go home for the day. Apparently, her mother is deceived in her because they don't talk with each other until her father comes back home. Her parents obviously discuss something without Kathryn and her father only tells her that he is proud of her and that she definitely is American. Afterwards they watch the usual TV program; yet, her father changes the channel for the first time in months.
Main Part
To sum it up, Kathryn is punished for something she neither is nor understands. She is just a daydreamer and yet, she is treated as a communist even though she is a child. This shows how serious McCarthyism used to be.
Conclusion
$\blacktriangleright$  2. Examination of perception of Senator Joe McCarthy
In the excerpt of the short story "Americanism" by Kathryn Nocerino, Senator Joe McCarthy is perceived very differently by three different persons - the narrator herself, her father and the teacher Miss Stanforth.
Introduction
First of all, there is the narrator herself. She is just a child, hence she doesn't know who Senator Joe McCarthy is nor does she know what he stands for. She also only sees him on TV in the "Table Show" as she calls the congressional hearings. Thus, for her, McCarthy might represent an actor, nothing that is real (l. 15-16). Nocerino reduces McCarthy on his outward appearance and beahviour as it is the only level she is capable of understanding in this context. She calls him "Mr. Eyebrows" (l. 26) for instance since "[his eyebrows] met in the center of his forehead" (l. 76-77). Also, she only sees him yelling at people and the author only uses negatively connoted words to describe this such as "shouting man" (l. 3), "seeming to get more and more excited" (l. 11), "the man in the center was howling" (l. 16) or "[he] was jogging up and down in his seat and bellow[ed]" (l. 77). Hence, she just seems him as an angry man on TV.
Her father instead shows contempt for McCarthy's war achievement and also ridicules him. This is made visible by the serious offense he uses: "War hero my ass" (l. 18). Thus, he believes that McCarthy never experienced real war like he did. In addition to that, the father mocks McCarthy's skills with firearms and mentions that he wouldn't even be able to "hit a palm tree if he used a cannon" (l. 20-21). What is more, after his daughter was suspended from school, he turns on the TV, watches the hearings for a few minutes, apparently issues a swear-word and changes channels afterwards. The reader doesn't know for sure whether the father is a communist or not, but he can definitely be seen as a opponent of McCarthy.
The teacher stands in stark contrast to that. She worships him as a war hero downright which can be seen when she scolds the girl for daydreaming: "Senator McCarthy, one of our greatest war heroes, is putting himself on the line (…)" (l. 49). She also considers him a defender of American freedom who puts his life at risk for the American citizens (l. 49-50).
Main Part
To sum it up, there are three different perspectives on Senator Joe McCarthy - the girl who perceives him merely as a TV figure, the father who ridicules him for claiming something he is not and the teacher who is a blind follower of the Senator.
Conclusion
$\blacktriangleright$  3. Write an article
The Crucible is one of the most frequenty performed plays in America. It focuses on the witch trials in Salem 1692 and the mass hysteria that broke out due to that. However, The Crucible can be seen as an allegory for anti-Communism - it was published during the McCarthy era and shows parallels to what happened during that time. The short story "Americanism" by Kathryn Nocerino shows a situation where communism affects not only adults, but can also be imposed upon children. The question here is whether Nocerino's text should be read alongside Miller's play.
Introduction
The play The Crucible by Arthur Miller deals with the issue of how far a denunciation can go. Because some girls danced naked in the forest and didn't want to be hold accountable for their sinful doing, they simply claimed that they were bewitched to do so. This led to several denunciations of presumed witches and ultimately their deaths. During the McCarthy era, similar interrogations or hearings led to denunciations of other communists in that case. Nocerino's short story also deals with McCarthyism and can be read alongside Arthur Miller's play.
First of all, people can get a better understanding of what happened in Salem back then and of what McCarthyism and the constant threat of being called a communist felt like. Every little thing that a person did could turn into evidence of being a witch or a communist. This can be seen by the fact that the protagonist in "Americanism" only daydreams during the Pledge of Allegiance and all of a sudden, she is being called to the teacher and is being suspended from school for the day. The short story thus displays a comparable situation in a different context which means that something like that can happen anytime and is not dependent on a historical context or historical circumstances.
Additionally, "Americanism" offers different perspectives on the hearings. There is the daughter who doesn't understand at all what is going on with the people on TV and she doesn't know what kind of consequences can be carried along if you denounce someone without having had the intention to do so. Then, there is her father who ridicules McCarthy and who can't take him serious. In contrast to this is the teacher Mrs. Stanforth who is a true follower of McCarthy. In The Crucible, the girls (except for Abigail Williams) don't understand the consequences of their doing as well. Rebecca Nurse or Giles Corey can be compared to the father of the girl - they don't consider themselves witches and condemn the idea of witchcraft.
Furthermore, the language and situation are more contemporary. Being read alongside The Crucible, it might provide more insights for young readers because it creates a better understanding for the historical context. In addition, it offers a deeper understanding of the play and it conveys the implementation of a real-life situation on something fictitious.
However, there are various aspects on why it is not directly recommended to read "Americanism" alongside The Crucible. It does only focus on one aspect for instance; yet, the play is much more complex than that. It is not just about the witch trials, it is also about the affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor. The play also deals with the power of mass hysteria and the consequences thereof. In addition, the play revolves around the unresolved conflict that Proctor is accused of theft on wood on land that he doesn't own. In order to get rid of Proctor, Thomas Putnam accused him of witchcraft.
In addition, the characters find themselves in a completely different situation than the characters in "Americanism". They deal with different consequences - the characters in The Crucible are losing their life because they are considered witches whereas communists during the McCarthy era only lost their job or their career perspectives. Also, the Salem inhabitants feared their own death as well as the one of denounced family and friends. They could save themselves by denouncing other innocent people.
What is more, reading "Americanism" requires specific historical background knowledge. Without knowing about McCarthyism, it is hard to draw parallels and to understand what the short story really is about. Additionaly, there were no actual witches or devil-worshippers in Salem, whereas there definitely were communists in that era. Communists were victims of what they were accused of to a greater extend than accused witches.
Main Part
In conclusion, "Americanism" provides a good insight on the consequences of being a wrongly accused communist during the McCarthy era. Since the play was written and published during that time and as it definitely mirrors the hysteria and trials during McCarthyism, secondary literature that matches the topic is always a good way to understand the themes better. However, it should not be the only text of secondary literature to consult, the movie The Crucible also helps grasp the topic better.
Conclusion
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