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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,John Garst Origin Of John Henry--part TWO (240* d) RE: Origin Of John Henry--part TWO 20 Apr 08

Guest writes:

"To me, the core of the story is the triumph of spirit - of human dignity and courage - over mindless machine and repressive and controlling men."

I cannot, and would not wish to, disagree.

At the same time, it should be acknowledged that is unlikely that the historic John Henry, if there was one, was thinking along these lines when he raced the steam drill. David Mamet commented, as I recall, to the effect that John Henry could not have been dumb enough to believe that beating a steam drill could stop the mechanization of rock drilling.

I suspect that John Henry raced the steam drill because his boss, Captain Dabney, asked him to. Pride must have been a factor - John Henry is said to have been a champion steel driver. Also, Captain Dabney is said to have offered financial incentives, perhaps $50/$100 and a new suit of clothes. Finally, I think friendship played a role. Captain Dabney was about 15 years old when John Henry was born, a slave to Captain Dabney's father probably, or perhaps to his uncle.

Such details don't change the message of "John Henry" as received by Guest and the rest of us.

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