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Blue Highways


									 Blue Highways

William Heat Least-Moon
Background Presentation
       Blue Highways

Moon’s Life & Career
 Born William Trogden
  in Kansas City, MO
 Ethnic background:
    English, Irish & Osage
  Served in Navy: USS
         Blue Highways

Education: B.A., Journalism & Ph.D., English,
 University of Missouri
In addition to teaching at a few colleges, Moon
 has been a professor at U. Missouri.
Has won the Distinguished Alumnus Award and
 Mahan Award in Poetry from Missouri.
Other books: PrairyErth (1991) & River-Horse
 (2001), about a cross-country trip by boat.
         Blue Highways

Has published in such magazines as The Atlantic,
 Esquire, National Geographic, and Time.
The marriage referred to in book lasted 11 years.
 He did marry a second time.
Lives in the outskirts of Columbia, MO, near the
 Missouri River.
See also back cover and Afterword:
  What happened after Moon’s return
  The process of writing the book.
       Blue Highways
Hints for reading
 Study paragraph after contents page.
 Review p. 8: Ghost Dancing & list of
 Read afterword.
 Map p. 413 shows overall trip.
     Blue Highways
Use index to look up locations.
Mark unfamiliar words as you read.
  Then look them up.
  Most describe animals, plants & etc.
Keep Moon’s mixed ethnic heritage in
Moon holds back on analysis of
        Blue Highways

Authors Who Have Influenced Moon:
 Jack Kerouac—Beat Generation Author
 Walt Whitman—19th-century American Poe
 Black Elk—Native American Leader and
 Lewis and Clark—American Explorers.
         Blue Highways

Kerouac (1922-69)
 Born in Massachusetts to
 French-Canadian parents
 Dropped out of Columbia
 to join the Merchant Marine
 Traveled the country,
 experimenting with drugs and sex.
       Blue Highways

Main works:
    On the Road (1957), a fictional narrative
     based on his travels
    Its sequel, Big Sur (1962)
    Mexico City Blues (1959), collection of
     Lonesome Traveler (1960), collection of
     travel pieces.
      Blue Highways

Became leader of the Beat Movement,
 advocating alternative forms of writing and
 alternative lifestyles.
Married 3 times (2 short marriages)
Had troubled handling fame, died at age 47
 of alcoholism.
     Blue Highways

Traits of Beat Movement:
 Questioned conformity and suburban
   lifestyle dominant in 1950s.
 Interest in Asian culture, esp. Zen
   Buddhism and Haiku
 Attracted to Jazz
 Influenced by poet Walt Whitman.
         Blue Highways

Walt Whitman (1819-92)
 Born on Long Island, son of
 a builder, had 8 siblings.
 Learned printing trade
     stimulated love of words
     led him to read classics.
  Taught school for 5 years.
         Blue Highways

Became a journalist in 1841.
Working in New Orleans led to involvement in
 abolition movement.
Compiled his poems into Leaves of Grass in
During Civil War, Whitman devoted himself to
 caring for wounded.
         Blue Highways

In early 1870s, cared for dying mother but
 suffered a stroke.
Continued to write and revise his work until his
Discuss excerpt(s).
         Blue Highways

Black Elk (1863-1950)
  Born into Oglala Sioux tribe.
  Had first visions at age 9
  In Battle of Little Big Horn at 13
  Became medicine man in 1882
  Toured Europe with Buffalo Bill Wild West Show
           Blue Highways

Witnessed massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.
Converted to Catholicism Dec. 1904 after being cured
 of ulcers after receiving the sacrament in a hospital.
  By then Indians forbidden to practice their own
    religion & other customs.
  Better spiritually and physically, he gave up his
    career as a medicine man.
1930 shared his life story and visions with John
 Neihardt, who recorded them in Black Elk Speaks.
       Blue Highways

Meriwether Lewis   William Clark
          Blue Highways

Lewis (1774-1809)
  Reared on large Virginia plantation near Monticello.
  Showed an early interest in plants, stimulated by
   mother’s knowledge of herbs.
  1794 to 1801: Served in U.S. Army, 1794-1801.
  1801: became President Jefferson’s secretary
  1803-06: Led govt. expedition to explore the
   Louisiana Purchase.
          Blue Highways

Goals of Expedition:
  To chart the new territory
  To find travel routes, esp. a
  Northwest Passage
  To announce the transfer to
  new Native American subjects.
 Lewis served as chief recruiter, naturalist, and
 speech maker.
         Blue Highways
As one reward for this service, Lewis made
 governor of Territory of Upper Louisiana.
Discouraged in attempts to marry and to publish
 journals of expedition.
Depression led to alcoholism.
Slow in taking over his new post.
         Blue Highways
Discouraged by conflicts among Native
 Americans and American commercial interests,
 set off for D.C. for help.
Committed suicide during journey.
             Blue Highways

Clark (1770-1838)
 Reared on a Kentucky plantation near Louisville.
 1790s: Served in Army under Anthony Wayne,
    fighting in Indian Wars, esp. in Ohio.
      Met and impressed Lewis
 Left army for several years to restore family fortune
 1803: invited to serve as co-leader of expedition to
    explore Louisiana Purchase.
       Blue Highways
Was chief cartographer and skilled diplomat
 for expedition.
Offered a captaincy but mistakenly made a
After expedition:
War of 1812: Helped defend west against
 British and Native Americans.
      Blue Highways
Developed important map of American West
With Nicholas Biddle, completed and
 published journal of expedition in 1814.
Continued to work for govt. in relations with
 Native Americans, who respected him greatly
   Known as “the red-headed chief.”

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