Thursday, February 19, 2009

Moley Moley Moley

Commented on:
Brian Salato
Patrick Surbur

In Jennifer Toth's "The Mole People", she immersed herself in the community under New York to explore the life styles of the homeless. Through her various encounters, she witnessed events that would change her as a person as well as, in my opinion, provide a shock factor to the readers. I suppose she tried to keep her distance from the mole people primarily due to the fact that she was doing an ethnography and didn't want to be too deeply involved in any way that'll affect their daily habits. However, I felt that in their current condition, it wouldn't have been detrimental to her purpose had she shown a little more compassion or perhaps provided some additional help during certain times. Despite the pitiful conditions of those who lived in the tunnels, Toth's attitude within the book does not really show much sympathy. Very often I felt the writer was distant from those that she involved herself with even though she tried to gain their trust and acceptance. During some parts of the book, I thought the author came out as a bit stubborn and unreasonable. Many times, she would insist on going into the tunnels alone despite repeated warnings by the police and other tunnel dwellers. I understand that shes just doing her job, but she often would put other people in a difficult position just so she can get this ethnography completed. Had she been in real danger, mugged or murdered, who would take responsibility for her? I wonder if the author had been a man, would he have received the same reception from the tunnel folks as had Jennifer. Did they not treat her a little nicer because she was a vulnerable looking young woman? Either way, I admire her courage for going into the darkness to gather the data she needed and am surprised that she was able to pull this off without any real harm. Overall, it was an interesting read, as I have never personally witnessed anything of the sort.

EDIT: did I let so many grammatical and spelling errors slip by?


  1. You remark on her courage she puts forth because of the risk she put up with. While I am not trying to take this away from her, is it not possible this study also put the subjects way of life at risk. With these dangerous conditions being brought to the light of more people, could there be a larger push to shut the tunnels down? Now that more people know about them could they be kicked out of the tunnels because people think it is what is best for them even if the mole people don't agree?

  2. Going into the tunnels alone was ridiculously stupid. I think someone brought up the point in class of her giving them things. Like they said, I'm sure anyone would have given her a good story (true or false) for something in return. We don't really even know for sure that everything in the book is true. Who knows?

  3. It is probably best that she didn't show too much sympathy. Briggs (Never in Anger) showed way too many emotions, way too many. Half way into the book you stop thinking about the Utku and you start to just think about how Briggs will react and how what ever is happening will affect her. At the end of the book, Never in Anger, you feel like you just read a book about a women that lived with Eskimos and not that you just read an ethnography about Eskimos.

  4. I thought that she got more involved than she was supposed to. She met a lot of people and made a few friends, or at least allies. I'm sure she was probably showing a lot more emotion at the time than what she wrote in the book. It is still an ethnography and she was just supposed to observe, but without getting involved, she would certainly have gotten hurt or killed.