The Snake That Started A Revolution

The Snake That Started A Revolution

The Importance of Icons in American Writing
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The front page of the July 7, 1775 edition of the Massachusetts Spy features a political article calling Americans to take action against the British. More rousing than the page’s text is the image of a snake printed beneath the paper’s title. Editor, Paul Revere printed a modified, yet still recognizable copy of Benjamin Franklin’s iconic “Join or Die” snake across the Spy’s front page for over a year leading up the Revolutionary War. Revere repurposed the cartoon to call Americans to revolt against England’s anarchy. The usage of the snake’s form as a headline on the Massachusetts Spy was an important moment in American literary history as it used the connotation from existing tradition to both call Americans to action and further establish an American literary canon.

Before it is possible for readers to fully appreciate Revere’s usage of a Snake paired with the phrase “Join or Die”, they must be aware of Franklin’s original form and the context in which it was published. Franklin had a particular interest in Colonial-Native American affairs in the early to mid 1750s. As a delegate at a meeting in Albany in 1754, which created a defense treaty with the Indian tribes of the Six Nations, Franklin was aware of the power that Native Americans could have over colonists if they formed a united front. (Severud 89). Thus, Franklin used his newspaper as a platform through which he advanced his political views.

In the May 9, 1754 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette Franklin published a drawing of a snake cut into 8 pieces, each piece labeled with a colony or region’s name, with the ominous caption “Join or Die”. “Often cited as the first political cartoon published in an American newspaper,” the snake was patterned with the markings of a map, representing the literal gaps between colonial leadership and the demise which it would lead to.” (Severud 88) This drawing symbolized the urgency with which Franklin believed the colonies needed to begin working together. Until the Revolution the 13 colonies all acted as very separate states and Franklin saw this as a vulnerability in the face of French and Indian forces, which formed an imposing front during the French and Indian War. Franklin’s drawing was a call to unity; a unity which twenty years later allowed the colonies to overthrow their English rulers.

Revere used a snake similar to Franklin’s in the Massachusetts Spy because he knew that Americans would associate a call to action and unity with the image. The Spy published many political articles that supported independence. As the movement gained more supporters, Revere used the snake as a banner, calling readers to arms. He knew that they would associate the revolutionary movement which they were reading about in the paper’s articles, with the snake’s demand for joining forces to defeat a common goal. Similar to the situation in 1754, Americans in 1775 were on the brink of war. Colonists needed to form a united front if they hoped to succeed in declaring independence from England, which is represented on the Spy as a dragon fighting the snake (Murrell 307). Progress had been made since the 1750s as political leaders from the colonies had begun corresponding as the idea of breaking away from England gained popularity. This increased unity is represented in Revere’s drawing as the snake is no longer broken into many separate pieces, but is whole, with only lines marking the different sections or colonies.

Another major difference between Revere’s cartoon and Franklin’s are the states which are labeled on the snakes. While Franklin’s drawing is only divided into eight sections and was targeted at colonies in the central part of the East Coast, where most of the battles in the French and Indian War occurred, Revere’s snake is divided into nine sections, including Georgia in its cry for togetherness. This total inclusivity establishes a permanency in colonial relationships. Revere was not calling for unity in face of a temporary threat, rather he was calling for unity in facing a common enemy which he represented boldly and prominently as a threat to the snake, or America.

While, the snake’s context in American history is crucial to understanding its place on the front page of the Massachusetts Spy, it is also important to understand how Revere’s use of the snake further enriched its literary tradition. Revere used the snake as a headline, a form in which it had not been represented before. In doing so, Revere gave the snake increased power. It served as a weekly reminder to Spy readers that unity against the crown was critical to American survival. Revere transformed the snake and the phrase “Join or Die” into a mantra which infused the paper’s articles as well as the reader’s thoughts in the months preceding the Revolution. The snake continued to effect American thinking through out the war itself as the cartoon was finally joined into one un-segmented rattle snake, bearing the emblem “Don’t Tread on Me” across Patriot flags (Murrell 307). It is important to recognize that Revere used a piece of literary canon that does not rely on written word to convey its meaning. In this way he was able to spread support for the Revolution to viewers of the paper who were not literate.

Revere’s snake was powerful because it was built on American literary tradition. It called readers of the Massachusetts Spy to action by reminding them of the successes they faced when they worked as a unified nation, rather than single colonies. While Revere’s snake called only for unity in revolting against the British, the literary pattern it followed suggested that unity would be called for in the future as well. The cartoon stood for more than a single event, it represented colonial sentiment in the Revolutionary Period- the idea that the colonies could not only survive without English citizenship, but they would be better off with independence.

The “Join or Die” cartoon printed across the front page of the Massachusetts Spy was more enduring than the paper on which it was printed. Revere’s use of the snake cartoon was a reminder to American colonies that they were stronger together than the sum of their parts; an ideology which prompted the colonies to form a confederacy and later a nation in wake of defeating the British and gaining independence.


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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
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The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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