Moreover, it stands for a different set from that of Clyde’s
His wife calls them “strange people” and reminds him that he also used to call them so (317). Nonetheless, Babbitt goes astray from his home and family engrossing himself in the Bohemian life, staying in bohemians’ houses, associating with people whose life is “dominated by suburban bacchanalia of alcohol” (292). Beyond any doubt, bohemianism is a foreign importation: “The sentimental term [of bohemianism] applied to a man of art and of unconventional or wandering disposition was brought to America from France” (Parry, 2005 , p. 8). It should be noted though that the use of the word “bohemians” is only metaphorical to imply foreignness.
In the same fashion, houses of bohemians in Main Street are depicted as places of looseness and lewdness: before her marrying Will, Carol was in one of those houses where she first encountered Bohemianism, turning “into a bacchanal” in a perplexed mentality: sometimes “demurely” and at other times “in dread of life’s slipping past” (14). Carol is delineated as a helpless victim in the following examples: she “was taken to a certified Studio Party,” where she was exposed to beer, cigarettes, bobbed hair, and a Russian Jewess. Feeling “ignorant” and “shocked by the free manners,” Carol’s only savior was home (13). This perplexed attitude indicates a split: she is lost between the new immorality and the preservation of the past. By and by, under the influence of foreigners Gopher Prairie undergoes a gradual change, but “[Carol] did not expect the town to become a Bohemia” (155).
Moreover, both Roberta and Clyde, the protagonists, are depicted as refined, which is equivalent to “nice” (/235)
Likewise, foreigners’ houses in An American Tragedy challenge Clyde’s morality and virtues. His foreign friend’s (Ratterer’s) house, is the exact opposite of Clyde’s “solemn and reserved” home characterized by “dogma and conviction.” In Ratterer’s home Clyde is able to meet other “girls and boys of the Ratterer, Hegglund, Hortense stripe” (54). This “stripe” alludes to foreigners because of their incorrect English and misconduct. Regardless of Clyde’s “certain strain of refinement which cause[s] him to look askance at most of this” (50), and wonder concerning Mrs. Ratterer’s “lackadaisical” and “indifferent” attitude, he is infatuated by such a world and the liberty it satisfies, free and unabashed love-making, easy chumminess between the sexes, card-playing and dancing. Thus, he is drawn and becomes part of the group notwithstanding “the rather wretched English they spoke” and which “he looked down upon.” Clyde’s mixing with this particular stripe blurs the boundaries between his set and theirs.
One evident distinction between foreigners and native-born Americans, which does not entail racism but rather xenophobia, is “Niceness” and “Refinement.” These terms are probably borrowed from the Bible 3 and they are typical of the old Puritan virtues. Nice girls and nice families (/) are click here for more info mentioned to show the difference between native-born Americans and foreigners or people with no clearly-defined origins. The situation is similar in The Great Gatsby Tom Buchanan says that Miss Baker is a “nice girl.” Yet he believes that her family “oughtn’t to let her run around the country this way” (22). Gatsby says that “[Daisy] was the first “nice” girl he had ever known” (158).
The prejudice against immigrants expands in An American Tragedy as most prisoners on Death Row are foreigners: “with twenty other convicted characters of varying temperaments and nationalities” (533). Even in prison, racism is present in the ethnic slurs the narrator uses: a “sinister-looking Chinaman in a suit exactly like [Clyde’s]” (525), and “The two dark-eyed sinister-looking Italians.” The former comparison, which equates Clyde with the Chinaman, is used to show the shockingly absurd situation in which Clyde has found himself: a criminal, precisely like the foreigner. In addition, the foreigners’ non-English style of speech is reported: “wid,” “Wot’s yer name?” (525) and “dis,” and “De” (526). Although Clyde is in the same situation as the other criminals-locked in a cell and wearing a prisoner’s uniform-he is aghast at their way of eating: “that reminded him more of hungry animals being fed than men” (526). Unlike Clyde, whose murder is made out to be circumstantial, the foreigners are premeditated murderers (535). Nicholson, Clyde’s new friend, who is obviously a white “native-born” American, is certain that one Hungarian is “more animal than man.” Contrary to the other prisoners, Nicholson is portrayed rather positively: he is educated (a lawyer), “intelligent,” and “respectable” (533), whereas the foreigners are “all so different,” evil, ignorant, and rough (535). Surprisingly, we are never told what Nicholson’s crime is.