Okay, my tests are done for now, so I’m working on filling my queue and getting back on track. Thanks so much for your patience.
At the beginning of this section, the students and Marsh arrive in Chicago, Illinois. I like the emphasis that Crichton puts on the perspective on Chicago. It’s a good way to put the reader closer into Johnson’s and the other students’ shoes. In the late 1800s, Chicago was seen as a much different place than it is today. If I had to describe Crichton’s Chicago in one word, it would definitely be this: dirty. I don’t really see urban areas as the cleanest places on earth, but it’s nothing compared to the brief but poingient description of the city. I can’t help but wonder if mentioning the Armour meat packing plant is meant to evoke images of Upton Sinclaire’s The Jungle. It would make sense in the context of the chapter.
Now, like the previous few chapters, the one on Chicago is a little bit slow. There are some interesting descriptions of the city and the students’ experience, not a whole lot of plot happens here. And the plot that happens here isn’t much new. Johnson lets it slip again that they’re going to Wyoming, and not telling the story that they’re going to Colorado as he was instructed. Marsh gets upset with Johnson. It’s a little redundant, and I don’t think it adds a whole lot. Once again though, the fact that this is written posthumously does excuse some mistakes to an extent. If Crichton was still alive and this book had been published the usual way, this might have been fixed. But that’s just hypothetical, and there’s nothing anyone can really do except speculate.
In the next chapter, there is another brief description of Johnson continuing west. There’s only a few pages, but I appreciate that Crichton only takes as many words as he needs to say what he wants to say. The biggest thing of note is that Johnson is chomping at the bit to see some Native Americans. Soon enough, Johnson is going to eat his words. But that’s a story for another chapter.
Finally, after the students get past Omaha, Nebraska, they get to the real west. And here we see that these east coast college kids just don’t have any sense. They’re told to stay on the train if they value their lives. They get off the train to explore Sidney. And they’re disappointed that they don’t see anyone get killed. So far, this portrayal of affluent college students is very Lord of the Flies-esque.
Their lack of sense shows itself as well when they get to Cheyenne, Wyoming. In a town where people look at your hands before your eyes, they won’t stop grabbing at their pistols. Frankly, I’m surprised that nobody got shot in Cheyenne. Even the students themselves are once again disappointed that they didn’t see a shootout in the saloon.
It’s in Cheyenne that William Johnson meets Lucienne. Or, at least, that’s what she says that her name is. She’s a dancer that Johnson falls in love with. And by that, I mean that he tell her “I love you” after their very first meeting. He promises to come back for her. This is completely in character for Johnson. He’s impulsive, he’s cocky, he’s certain that despite his lack of common sense, everything is going to turn out completely fine.
Little does he know, he’s completely wrong.