Date of Award

8-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Advisor

Charney, Mark

Committee Member

Naimou , Angela

Committee Member

Bushnell , Cameron

Abstract

The Man On the Postcard is the tale of a generational struggle against 'history' itself, in which one family attempts to discover the identity of a hero long ignored by the US.
On one August afternoon in 1916, the USS Memphis capsized off the coast of the Dominican Republic after being caught in a massive tsunami. Howard Weaver, just seventeen, was nearly lost to the unforgiving ocean before being saved by a native fisherman. Decades later, Weaver would leave his sons, Frank and Nathan, with a single remnant of this unknown hero's legacy: a faded postcard bearing his likeness.
Now, in 2011, Frank and Nathan--with the help of Frank's son, Travis--conduct their own investigation to solve the mystery. Their search yields shocking realizations about American occupation, military atrocities, and the unfortunate willingness of an entire nation to seemingly overlook one of the bleaker eras in its history (including the part it played in inciting dictator Rafael Trujillo's rise to power). But will it lead them to the truth? Will all stay committed to the course? Or, will they falter after learning that their country was capable of an injustice that persisted twice as long as the First World War?
The narrative fluctuates between WWI and the contemporary to offer a striking contrast between history as it's been recorded and how it actually unfolded.
What exactly is 'history,' though? This is the central question my work addresses. History is not necessarily what's happened; it is, also, what is said to have happened. It's an authored depiction of time, place & people. Consequently, storytelling is perhaps the most enduring means of passing down, and honoring, our pasts.
I do not offer an exact rendition of August 29th, 1916 or the events that followed. The Man On the Postcard is, rather, an imaginative response that attempts to 'fill in the blanks' left by historians and to give resonance to the actions of a forgotten hero.

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