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Amusing The Million Summary: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century
Amusing the million is a book that not only historians can read but even explorers. In the book, the author examines the historical background of the Coney Island and how it was constructed many decades ago. After the first world war most of the countries especially in Europe experienced tremendous economic, cultural and political growth. Before then, most of the countries or cities were not much developed except a few like the Coney Island. As Kasson examines the historical context of Coney Islands development in his book Amusing the Million, the city was popular because of its flourished amusement parks before world war I. the book depicts the American culture during the 20th century. He examines the cultural and social development that enhanced the growth and development of Coney Island.
According to Kasson, Coney Island was a social place which integrated variety of cultures; as he describes it that the place composed of mass culture that was never there before. Kasson argues that people who went to Coney Island concentrated on the good atmosphere of the region other than the different races or ethnic groups that were there. According to Kasson, Coney Island began as a small and undeveloped town but it managed to grow into a big and attractive city that attracted many people not only within the state but across other states. Coney Island offered a different set of leisure and entertainment from other places because it included variety of cultures. People never went there for the good atmosphere only but also interact with other people from various cultural backgrounds. The place composed of people from various cultural and social class backgrounds; for example some of the people who went to that place include; the critics, educators, ministers and even reformers.
According to Kasson, Coney Island during the 1970s was more comfortable and attractive than even England which by then was known with its development in terms of buildings and infrastructure. Most of these elites who went to Coney Island enhanced the development of the place. These people took the interest of developing Coney Island as their own and as a result it developed into various social and cultural aspects. Coney Island has varieties of leisure activities that resulted out from the hard work of the few American self-conscious elites as Kasson describes them. They build museums, symphonies and libraries that provided various leisure activities. The most attractive thing about Coney Island is not only the fact that it consists of many cultures but because the place is more based on the self-control where people are free from the strict conditions and regulations like other cities (pg. 44).
Kasson describes the publics visit to Coney Island as remarkable. According to Kasson, the urban public went to Coney Island and through their response; it was a nice experience that they loved. The author acknowledges the reformists role in promoting the citys development by constructing the institutions that acted as attraction sites for the urban-public. Kasson explains that the freaks and the sideshows played a major role in attracting the visitors in the city. The sideshows and the midway appealed the newcomers in Coney Island. The city composed of various entertainment activities; for example the Luna park which Kasson identifies as the most significant institution in Coney Island that provided the newcomers with various entertainment such as; theatrical entertainment. For example, the Afro-American dance and music which resulted from the black communities (pg. 7). Lunar Park also offered the new residents with the exotic atmosphere pleasure and experience. The use of technological innovations in Coney Island assisted in disseminating information through mass reproduction. It helped in the publications of the books, periodicals and lithographs. Coney Island attracted many people including the artists such as, P.T. Barnum who was later joined by other artists who were attracted with the favorable culture of Coney Island. Kasson says that most of the things that were amusing in the Coney Island only marked the beginning of cultural development.
Comparison of experience in Coney Island and Cruise ship
David explains his experience on cruise ship he boarded along with other passengers. The ship was boarded with different people; both young and old from various racial backgrounds. As David explains, he boarded together with a lot of people dressed on Caribbean clothes and they were looking like Jewish. He also says that on the board was the young kid whose T-shirt is written Sandy Duncans eye. Additionally, the author says that there were also some old fellows who looked like old parents. Most of people who boarded cruise ship were on their vacation and as David explains, some of them like the old fellows who sat next to him were frequently taking such trips.
The case is no difference to that we see in Coney Island. This is because, just like Coney Island people are going there for the entertainment purpose. People boarded the cruise ship with the aim of getting entertained; the same case applies on the Coney Islands situation. Although there is slight difference in the two situations; in Coney Islands situation people were self-driven and controlled, unlike the situation in cruise ship where David explains that people were given directives on what they should do and when they should do it. For example, people were expected to board the ship at exactly 1400hours despite the time you came. David arrived at the harbor at 1132hours and he has to wait until the boarding time. Additionally, before boarding one has to wait until his/her name is called. The passengers who boarded the ship are divided into subgroups as David calls them the subherd of cruisers (pg. 273). What people enjoy most while boarding the cruise ship is the freedom of just staying and doing nothing; almost everything is done for you. For example, David compares the luxury in cruise ship with a visitation to someones home and he/she does everything for you. He says that if one needs anything in his room, all he has to do is to hit the x72 button on the bedside and after some few minutes someone will be there with what you needed (pg. 295). Further, there are a lot going on in the ship based on learning; for example, those who would wish to learn something on the navigation there is a navigation lecture where the Captain Nico gives people insight of how the ship operates.
The case is no difference in terms of entertainment to that of the Coney Island. The difference with Coney Island is the freedom that exists in Coney Island and not in the cruise ship. In the cruise ship people are expected to abide by the regulations ranging from the time of boarding to the use of resources in the ship. For example, David explains on the directives on how people boarding the ship are expected to use the toilets. David Wallace argues that he was surprised with the way Americans were relating with one another. People were divided according to the group one comes from, unlike the Coney Islands case where the issue of race, ethnicity or gender was not available. Most of Americans are divided along the ethnic and racial backgrounds and every group has its unique behavior that separates it from the rest of the groups.
In conclusion, this paper has examined the relationship between two books Amusing the Million by John Kasson and A supposedly fun thing, Ill never do it again by David Forster Wallace. From the two relations, we can conclude that American culture has evolved over the past decades and found a new face. Leisure in American culture involves a number of activities ranging from the reading to sporting as explained in the two books.
Kasson, John F. Amusing the Millions: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century, American Century Series. New York: Hill & Want, 1978
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