Home is where the heart is. It’s where my family is. It’s where I can relax, unwind, and reflect. It is my escape from the work, school, and the stress from the world. While each person is different, for many people, the home represents family, safety and escape. This image of home has its origins in the Civil War Era and with the rise of capitalism.
Before the war and the rise of capitalism, the home was a workplace and a place of productivity, as well as familial ties. Men were expected to build things while women were expected to sew, cook and tend to the house. However, during the war, men left their homes to fight on the front lines, breaking the home (Fahs). With the rise of capitalism, the home was broken once more, this time due to a new economic environment. Men began to work away from home. This change made the home a sanctuary, to escape a hard days work, rather than a place of productivity as it once was. While the rise of capitalism broke the home once more, the familial bond was not severed; men would still come home from work repairing the broken home home once more.
Similarly, the broken home that resulted from the war was not entirely broken. In a lithograph from Currier and Ives created between 1861 and 1865. The studium, or basic story, of the picture is a soldier has fallen asleep by a fire at camp while reading letters from home. While he is asleep, he dreams of returning home to his wife and child. His ties to his family are not broken, he still thinks of them fondly. And his family’s ties to him are still strong as they continue to write him letters. However, this image was not only intended to depict a heartwarming image soldier longing for his family, it was also a piece of propaganda. The soldier who still thinks of his family and still has his ties from home, the war has not changed him drastically. This image was a way to assure men and their wives or mothers that war would not dramatically transform men into a killer, so men should enlist and women should allow their husbands and sons to enlist. But illustrations often have much more to say than what first meets the eye. A punctum is “something in the image that punctures all the preconceived notions”, and in this particular image, the punctum is the soldier’s dream (Berghof). While most of the image is in color, the dream is in black and white with similar patterns of shading to that of the border, making the dream appear to be apart of the background rather than at the forefront of the picture. It may even suggest a disconnection from his family and his home. Moreover, in the colored portion of the image, the dream seems to be surrounded by dark clouds of smoke giving it an eerie feeling. It is also being fed by the fire below, rather than the mind of the soldier. Since fire is a very destructive force, its presence suggests the destruction of his familial bonds rather than the continuity of them.
This image undoubtedly deals with the ideas relating to the home and family, and suggests the soldier is presently unchanged by the war, however it also displays a hint of uneasiness about the effects of the war on men and their values.
The Soldier’s Dream of Home. 1861-1865. Lithograph, hand color. Dertoit, Michigan. Print.
Berghof, Alice. “Discussion 3.” University of California, Irvine. Intercollegiate Athletics Building 131, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA. 12 January 2016. Seminar.
Fahs, Alice. “‘A Harvest of Death:’ The Civil War as a Crisis of Meaning.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building 100, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA. 12 January 2016. Lecture.